"Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us."
Romans 8:33-34 (ESV)
In writing to believers, Paul wants us to be free and confident, full of faith and full of the Holy Spirit. God is both the one who judges us and the one who justifies us - a scary thought but also a comforting one. Paul asks us the rhetorical questions in these verses: Do I believe this? Is it true for me?
A courtroom can be a foreboding place. A decision is coming and when the judge makes that decision, it is final. This imagery helps us to understand the passage. In the Old Testament we see a prophetic vision of a courtroom in Zechariah 3:2. The accuser stands in God's courtroom bringing accusations against Joshua the high priest (standing on behalf of Jerusalem), one who was trying to restore the temple following exile. The Lord rebukes Satan, saying He had chosen to save Jerusalem. There is nothing the accuser (or the prosecutor) can do or say to change the judgement if the judge chooses to show mercy.
The things that the accuser says of the people, that they have not lived up to God’s standard and rejected Him, is just as true of us. God has justified us, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not guilty. All have sinned (Romans 3:23) and rejecting God is not some rule that can be bent but a law. We can’t go against the laws of gravity or the law of sin which leads to death. God is still just but, in His kindness and mercy, Jesus took the sentence for us. He died in our place.
Therefore, in the courtroom scene of Paul, the accuser is again silenced. Jesus is the only one who could condemn, but He doesn’t. He has died, risen, and ascended for us and now stands in the courtroom interceding on our behalf. As our advocate, He will not turn on us to bring condemnation, so there is simply no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).
This should fill us with awe of God: the holy, righteous judge who showed us kindness and mercy (Romans 11:22). Ask yourself these crucial questions:
Have I fully embraced God’s kindness and mercy?
Is His kindness and mercy transforming the way I live?
It is sad that there are people who believe God died for them as a punishment for sin but who still accuse themselves over the past or listen and agree with the accuser when he reminds them. God’s kindness and mercy is supposed to change how we think about ourselves. Jesus is your defense lawyer – listen to what He says about you, not the negative voice. God is on your side and He wants you set free.
This isn’t to say that we can continue the old patterns of sinful behaviour. God’s kindness and mercy should lead us to something different (Romans 2:4). We are made righteous through God’s justification, but we are also transformed and enabled by the Holy Spirit to live a good and Godly life. We receive His forgiveness through repentance which means to “turn around”, not just get a guilty conscience. Confess to God your problem behaviours and ask for His help in changing these things so that you can be free of them. All through this journey of transformation Jesus is interceding for us. The one who God has justified and been transformed by His Spirit can be confident before God.
The Roman church Paul wrote to had a problem with judging each other. Before you judge someone else, remember what God has done for you (Romans 14:10). This was an act of grace we did not deserve, the provision of His Spirit is an act of grace we did not earn. We are no longer condemned and should not judge others.
SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT
- Share if you are willing, when you realized that life in Christ could not be earned. What did that feel like as a “defendant found guilty of sin”?
- When Satan tempted Jesus, He fought back with the Word. What are your favourite verses for silencing the accuser (Romans has many good ones)?
- Make plans for celebrating communion on zoom with us next week. It is important to keep reminding ourselves of just how much God did for us.
- Are there people in your world who feel they have “made too many mistakes for God to love them” or that God’s love must be earned? What are some of the ways we can support them in grasping the truth for themselves? (eg. Philip Yancey’s book “What’s so amazing about grace?”)