MESSAGE FOR NOVEMBER 21, 1999 FROM ROMANS 8:33-39

         

          Our text this morning is Romans 8:33-34.  Paul writes, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”  We said last week that this glorious text is part of Paul’s concluding comments to a major section of this letter he began with chapter five.  One reason why this text occupies such a precious place in the hearts of so many believers is it treats a very important issue for us, Christian assurance.  To put it simply, this text responds to the critical question, “is there, for the believer in Christ assurance that they will go to heaven when they die?” 

This text offers a resounding “yes” to that question.  Any time you deal with this topic of assurance in the context of  the “cheap grace” so prevalent in today’s church, its important to give a biblical context for this topic of assurance if we are to be balanced in our Christian lives. The biblical witness on assurance has often been thought of as having three foundational elements, all of which are important to know if we are to have a more comprehensive understanding of the Bible’s teaching here.  This tri-part foundation of assurance is often illustrated by the use of a three-legged stool. 

          One leg of the stool, or one supporting truth to this issue of assurance is the objective work of Christ.  Christ died on a cross to save sinners and all who place their faith in Him will be justified.  That is, they have placed on their spiritual ledger the very righteousness of Christ.  They are made right with God and are therefore, through Christ, given eternal life.  This is so precious and reassuring and the other two legs should never undermine this leg, only clarify it.  The problem in many quarters of the church today, is not that this foundational element of assurance is not taught.  It is rigorously and repeatedly presented.  The problem is, this is often the ONLY line of biblical evidence that is taught and that gives us a three-legged stool with only one leg.  The results are disastrous for the church. 

The second leg of assurance or, the second line of biblical teaching touching on assurance is the inner witness of the Spirit.  We saw this in verse 15 of Romans eight. “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by Him we cry Abba, Father.”  Those who are Christians will have an internal witness that they are a child of God.  This is experiential or subjective.  It is also a ground of our assurance.  If we do not have this internal witness, we need to seriously ask the question, “Why not?”  because Paul indicates it is a normal part of Christian experience.  It can be counterfeited, but that does not mean that this subjective element of salvation should be dismissed. 

A third leg of assurance is the line of biblical teaching which discusses the necessity of spiritual fruit. This is seen in a raft of places in the Scriptures, but especially in the gospels, James and First John.  These texts teach that true biblical, saving faith is accompanied by evidence of a changed life.  If that evidence of a changed life is not present, then it is wise to reexamine your experience with God.  This “leg” or line of biblical evidence also includes the teaching on perseverance.  It is “those who endure to the end who will be saved,” according to Jesus and other biblical authors.  The Bible presents all three legs of evidence and we must know that if we are to think about assurance with any depth.

The text before us this morning in Romans eight deals exclusively with the first leg of the stool.  Here Paul sets forth the objective, justifying work of Christ and the quality of His undefeatable love for the believer. As we rightly rejoice and bask in these glorious truths at the close of Romans eight, we need to remember for the sake of balance that this text is only part of the full biblical picture on this issue of assurance.  This text follows on the heels of Paul’s teaching in verses 29-30 where Paul emphasizes that salvation is initiated, perpetuated and completed by God.  Salvation is ultimately dependent upon God, not humanity. 

In 8:33-34 which we read, Paul is bringing assurance to the Roman Christians as it relates to the day of judgement.  The language in these two verses is strictly legal.  Paul here intentionally uses the language of the courtroom.  Because the verbs are in the future tense, He clearly envisions the work of God in Christ as it relates to that moment after we die when we stand before God’s Court of Justice.  To help us more fully appreciate these glorious promises, I want to first try to draw a picture for you of a very different courtroom scene than the one Paul envisions here in Romans 8:33-34. 

Though the account I will give is intended for illustration, it is based on solid, biblical theology as it relates to the depth of our sin before a holy God.  So, before we get into the text, peer with me into a fictionalized account of that moment when you stand before the judgment seat of God.  Try to put yourself into this story if you want to more fully understand the glory of Paul’s promise in Romans 8:33-34.

The scene is the heavenly courtroom.  You are the defendant and appear as a tiny ant before the Judge of all judges.  His Judge’s robe, not black, but a blazing white, fills the court room with almost blinding light.  Emblazoned across the front of his bench, seared into the front of the massive marble structure are the words of the Ten Commandments.  Above and below those words are chiseled the inscription, “Be Holy even as I am holy.”  At the desk of the prosecution is Satan, appearing as an angel of light.  He is disarmingly handsome and indescribably smug.  He is, in his mind prosecuting an utterly open and shut case. He briefly glances at you with glee, the kind a starving man displays as he looks at a plate of food.  Mingled with the glee is disgust, the kind of disgusting look a conquering hero would direct toward the dead body of a vanquished enemy who put up a dismally poor fight.  

He comes before the bench and says, “Your (he chokes to say) Honor.”  The matter we have before us today can be quickly and easily dispensed with.  The felon who stands before You is guilty of the most heinous crimes against…You.  According to your law,” the soul who sins shall die.”  And “the wages of sin is death.”  It is well understood in this court that even one sin against your (choking again) “holiness” is sufficient to eternally bar any human from your presence and brings your wrath upon them resulting in eternal torment in hell.  Is that not correct?  The Judge of all judges nods in affirmation. 

          Satan continues, Though it is incumbent upon me, under the previously stated legal stipulation, to prove that the felon who stands before us is guilty of but one offense, I will bring before the court, not one, not one million, but an indescribable number of offenses against your (choking again) holiness.  If the court will turn its attention to exhibit “A.”  Before you on the viewing screen is an unabridged list of the felon’s sins.”  You stand in terrified horror as you see before you a parchment 200 hundred feet high and 100 feet wide and on it are written, arranged in column after column of print, your offenses against God.  The print is so small that you, who are seated only a few feet away, can read only those sins which are at eye level.  The rest are so small as to be a blur. 

Of the ones you can make out, you notice that the vast majority of them are sins that you did not even know you had committed.  That is, when you did them, you were blind to the fact that they were sins. These sins, you didn’t even realize you were committing, appear just as prominently on the list and stand to condemn you just as potently as those you remember committing and which were particularly troubling to you—the hatred, the lust, the cheating, the stealing, the lies.  These other sins that you didn’t even know about, but which make up the majority of the list are recorded as things like coveting your brother’s notebook in second grade,”  “judging the intentions of Mrs. Smith when she did something nice for you,”  “taking God’s name in vain by singing hymns and choruses without thinking about the words.”  “Spending time at church when you were prompted to stay home” and “Staying home with your children when you were prompted to minister to the homeless.” And there are scores of references about “doing something in the name of God to show others how pious you were.”  All of THOSE sins you were never even sensitive enough to be convicted of, but those sins comprise the majority of those listed.  The size and scope of this list, most of which comes as a complete surprise to you, takes your breath away.  It is a crushing weight to bear.

          The devil excitedly and methodically continues with his damning evidence.  He says, “Your (choking) honor, please notice that this mountainous record of treasonous offenses only represents what you might call sins of commission.  If you will now turn your attention to exhibit “B” you will see an unabridged record of the felon’s sins of omission.  You look at the now brightly illuminated awesome display.  There is once again, this same towering type of list, but there is not only one massive parchment, there are three which span the horizon. 

You scan the list to see what is close enough for you to read and, squinting, you make out entries like, “failed to listen to the Holy Spirit’s inner prompting to share the gospel with John Abrams on the DTA bus on January 12, 1996”  “failed to give Margaret Jones a hug when prompted by the Spirit on March 22, 1974”  “failed to pray for Mike Barton’s health when awakened by the Holy Spirit at 2am on June 11, 1962”  “Failed to show love to next door neighbor after they admitted to sexually molesting your daughter during in the Winter of 1987” “Failed to confront his best friend about a sin for fear of losing the relationship” “Failed to practice spiritual discipline of fasting prompted by the Holy Spirit during the week of Jan. 1-8, 1993”   You are astonished as you recognize that these sins you can see are only a very few, representative number of your sins on these towering lists.

You crane your neck to stare up to the top of the mammoth displays which contain condemning evidence against you, almost all of which you were utterly oblivious to and unaware of.  You are reeling from your newly found awareness of the depth of your sin.  You are emotionally disintegrating as you, collapsing, reach back for your chair to catch you.  You are paralyzed by the overwhelming gravity of your sin. 

          The prosecuting attorney proceeds with an air of resounding confidence.  Your (choking) honor, this list is overwhelming evidence that the guilt of the felon standing, excuse me, now...sitting before You is beyond question.  But just to seal the case, and because I deeply enjoy doing it, let me draw your attention to the felon’s guilt from a different perspective.  Please note Exhibit “C” which graphically illustrates the level of so called (wincing) love the felon has for you.  I will remind the court that your word commands this felon to (wincing) love you with all His heart, soul, mind and strength.  First, to illustrate the felon’s incredible spiritual blindness, let us unveil a graph which accurately depicts the amount of love he wrongly believes he has for you.” 

You sit there and before you on a huge wall is a pie graph with the inscription “My love for God” written above it.   The pie is cut into two pieces, one section, colored in white covers 70 percent of the graph and is labeled, “How much of my heart is fully devoted to God.”  The other section, shown in black and making up the other 30% of the graph is labeled, “How much of my heart is not yet fully devoted to God.”  As you look at this graph you are struck that, though you have never thought of your love for God in this graphic manner, it is doubtless an accurate representation of what you believed about yourself the moment before your heart stopped.

          After you have looked at the graph long enough to understand it, Satan abruptly breaks into a loud, diabolical laugh riddled with sarcasm.  As he moves toward unveiling another graph, he says in disgusted tones, “Now the court will observe the ACTUAL state of the felon’s heart as it relates to his love for you.”  With great delight, Satan moves to another massive wall and unveils another graphic with another pie graph.  Marked above it are the words, “How much of the felon’s heart, is ACTUALLY (“actually” is in large print) fully devoted to God.”  What you see on the wall is a massive black circle with a tiny dot in the center.  The black section is labeled, “heart not fully, consistently devoted to God.”  The white dot in the center is marked in miniscule letters, “heart fully, consistently devoted to God.” 

As you look at the graph, your mouth involuntarily falls open and your eyes, now wide with amazement, begin to pour out tears.  Intense shame floods your soul as you realize that you are not only desperately wicked in God’s sight, but intensely self deceived about the state of your soul.  Satan looks at you in your pitiful state and again breaks into a sadistic laugh as you sit before a holy Judge with your chin riveted against your chest.  You are, at this point in full emotional meltdown.  With Satan’s laughter still ringing in your ears, you hear him say with arrogant finality, “the prosecution rests.”

For those here today who truly believe in Jesus Christ, this scene will never occur.  And the reason is stated by Paul in verses 33-34 in Romans chapter eight.  He says, “Who will bring a charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”  In this text, Paul gives four reasons why that scene in the courtroom is purely fictional for the believer in Christ.  The first reason is because “The Judge of all judges has already ruled in the case and has declared the defendant not guilty”  This is what Paul means when he says, “Who will bring a charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.”  For those who, through faith in Christ have been justified by God, the gavel has already been lowered and the verdict rendered, “Not guilty.”  Not only are the justified not guilty, they stand before God with the same righteousness as the Judge of all judges.  THEY are clothed in the robes of righteousness and manifest the blinding glory of God.

A second reason why true believers will, on the day of judgment not be charged or condemned is  Our sin has already been condemned at the cross of Christ and his payment validated by the resurrection.  The glory of the atonement of Jesus Christ as it relates to this courtroom scene is that it already occurred.  Romans 8:3 says, “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in sinful man.”  When Christ agreed to take the sin of God’s children on himself, God passed his judgment and vented his holy wrath on the One who bore our sin.  He brought down the gavel and pronounced his sin-laden Son, “GUILTY.”  All of the Accuser’s live ammunition—the full power of sin to bring condemnation--were totally spent on the Person of Christ at Calvary.  Satan still accuses us, but he is firing blanks.  The only power his bullets have to condemn us is the power we give them through our lack of faith in the finished work of Christ.  His charges may sound valid enough, but Jesus took all his live ammo upon himself at Calvary.

But even after Jesus died, the question remained, “Would God accept the sacrifice of Christ as full payment for the sins of the church?”  Three days later, He shouted his validation of Christ’s atonement by raising Him from the dead.  The cross is Christ’s offer of payment to the Father for our sins and the resurrection was God’s glorious way of forever legally pronouncing “Payment received and accepted in full.  There will be no charges against the church and no condemnation issued, because Christ has taken it all and God has accepted it in full.  The courtroom scene has already taken place 2000 years ago and the matter is eternally settled.  God closed the book and has recorded the verdict forever.

Third, Christ sits at the right hand of God. Paul cites this as further proof that we are forever protected from condemning charges, not only from Satan, but from anyone else, even our own consciences.  The question is, how does the fact that Christ sits at the right hand of God relate to our assurance of salvation?  The right hand position speaks of Christ’s authority.  Paul writes in Ephesians 1:20 that the “Christ…was raised…from the dead and [was] seated at [the Father’s] right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and ever title that can be given… Christ is seated far above those who would make accusations against believers.

When Satan comes before God to assail us with charges against us now, or if it were possible in the age to come, Christ can look down at his feet and say, “Oh yes, I remember you.  You emptied your gun at me on the cross and I defeated you through my humility.  I would never entertain an accusation against one of my brothers or sisters from an enemy I defeated and who, when he is finished serving my purposes, I will throw into the blazing furnace prepared ages ago for you and your workers.” 

A fourth reason the believer has no fear of charges being leveled against him or her in God’s courtroom is Christ is interceding for us.  Christ stands before the Judge of all judges as our advocate, our High Priest, our Defense Attorney.  If Satan were to get into the courtroom to accuse us, he would find the court stacked in the believers favor.  The Father who serves as the final Judge has decreed before the foundation of time that believers would be transformed into the image of His Christ and the Defense attorney is our brother and the Son of the Judge.  What kind of hearing could the Accuser hope to get in that venue?  He couldn’t get a traffic ticket validated in that court, much less raise a valid charge against one of God’s elect.  And that leads us to a final reason why we never have to fear condemnation if we have been purchased for God.

That is, true believers were chosen to be God’s people before the creation of the world.  Paul begins verse 33 with this point. “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?”  Or, more accurately, “against God’s elect?”  Satan cannot, nor can anyone else re-write the already-written story of our salvation etched in the mind of God before the world began.  The glory of election and predestination as far as the interest of our souls are concerned is this.  God has already set his affection on us, predetermined that we would be with Him for all eternity, called us effectually to himself, justified us to make consistent with His character and glorified us to make us like Jesus, without spot or blemish.  And all of that took place in the mind of God before time began and because He is totally sovereign, the entire story is written in non-erasable ink.  Satan or anyone else would have more luck changing the outcome of last Sunday’s football game or declaring the Germans the winner of World War II than he would to try to change the eternal destination of anyone who has been chosen by God.  That is assurance!!

What this means is simple.  Those who have truly accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord (and don’t forget there are three legs to this stool of assurance) never need to fear that when they stand before God, some Perry Mason like figure will stand up and turn up new, late arriving evidence that will condemn us.  That simply will not happen and in THIS life when Satan comes firing his blanks of condemnation at us, we simply need to tell him that his accusations are legal matters and we have a defense attorney He can address his charges to.  And if our hearts condemn us, we need only remember these glorious truths in Romans 8:33-34.

If you are here today and have not committed your life to Christ—if you have never trusted Christ for your salvation, the horror of the scene we heard earlier will be only a faint whisper compared to that which awaits you.  Satan will not be there—he will not need to be.  The towering list your unforgiven sin will be enough to convict you before the Judge of all judges.  If you haven’t accepted Christ, you are responsible to pay for your sins, but if you trust Christ, then His payment, his shed blood can cleanse you and give you assurance that you will be Christ forever in glory.  

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