“Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” (Romans 8:33,34).
It is the great hope of the believer in Christ that he will one day arrive in heaven, at last safe from this world, which is fading away, and facing the sure judgment of God. God has provided for him an inheritance, which is indestructible and unspoiled, which will never fade away. But in the mean time, life must be lived here, and the believer with any self-awareness knows that he is weak and easily distracted and worn down. There are times when the pleasures of sin that are within reach seem to eclipse the pleasures of God and heaven which feel intangible and distant.
But, God has not left us alone, He has never left us to our own devices. The fact is that scripture tells us that God planned for us before we even existed by “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world“ (Revelation 13:8). It was not for those who are strong or who love God that He acted; “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son . . .” (Romans 5:6, 8, 10). And further, if we are in Jesus Christ it is God Himself who put us there. “. . . by His doing you are in Christ Jesus. . .” (1 Corinthians 1:30), and again “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again . . . ” 1 Peter 1:31.
But there is more. God has not left us to ourselves in this world. Our passage in Romans 8 tells us that Jesus intercedes for us. By His very presence at the right hand of God He presents an unassailable defense. Jesus died. The spotlessly pure Son Who is of infinite worth to the Father, has borne our sin to death and hell. He was raised from the dead because He had no sin of His own, and in discharging the curse for our sin, God is forever satisfied! At the right hand of the Father Jesus reigns (Matthew 28:18). So who can successfully accuse you who are found to be “in Christ?” As Isaiah 50:9 says “It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?” There is no higher appeal than God! If He says of you “not guilty,” though angels or principalities or Satan or your neighbor next door should accuse you, you are free before God. Period. God averted His own wrath through the death of His Son. You are immensely blessed in what you have received, and God is greatly glorified in what He has done.
Does having Christ as our intercessor mean that we can expect no hardships, or sickness, or sin, or pressures, or persecution, or that we need not face death? No, God has His purposes in all the trials of this life. But we have this confidence: because of the finished work of Jesus Christ all things in life will have a blessed and priceless result. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the (the preeminent2 ) among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30). We are works of grace in progress. Like an acorn that is planted to bring about in time the full, mature, majestic oak, we will finally be glorified. And what will that glory be? To be conformed to the image of Jesus. And in so being we will eternally glorify the Son Who eternally glorifies the Father, Who unceasingly loves the Son, and unceasingly loves His redeemed brethren.
For God’s purposes trials will come. But God is almighty. Jesus’ cross, death, resurrection, and exaltation guarantee without fail that nothing will separate us from the love of Christ. Not “. . .tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword.” (Romans 8:35). We may die to the glory of God (v. 36), but “. . . in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I (Paul) am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39). This is our confidence and firm hope. We shall see Jesus, and our glory will be our likeness to Him.
In the mean time, we live, we serve and obey, and we pray. In all these we receive help from God because we are but dust. After all, if God “. . . did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). We “. . . ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:23). And “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26,27). We hope for what we presently do not see, but with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. For we can say with the apostle Paul that “(We) consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18).
“The Epistle to the Romans has sat around in the church since the first century like a bomb ticking away the death of religion; and every time it’s been picked up, the ear-splitting freedom in it has gone off with a roar.
The only sad thing is that the church as an institution has spent most of its time playing bomb squad and trying to defuse it. For your comfort, though, it can’t be done. Your freedom remains as close to your life as Jesus and as available to your understanding as the nearest copy. Like Augustine, therefore, tolle lege, take and read: tolle the one, lege the other-and then hold onto your hat. Compared to that explosion, the clap of doom sounds like a cap pistol.”
— Robert Farrar Capon, From The Romance of the Word
“When they refused to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their evil minds and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, fighting, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They are forever inventing new ways of sinning and are disobedient to their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, and are heartless and unforgiving. They are fully aware of God’s death penalty for those who do these things, yet they go right ahead and do them anyway. And, worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.” Romans 1:28-32, NLT.