The Lord's Day Morning
August 16, 2009
“If God is For Us” (2)
Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas
Now turn with me to the eighth chapter of Romans once again as we continue our study of what we've called The Best Chapter in the Bible. We’re at the peroration of it, the closing section of it. There will be one more sermon as we finish off Romans 8, but this morning our attention is to be drawn to verses 33 and 34 — Romans 8, 33 and 34.
As we said last time, Paul asks four questions at the end of Romans 8. All of these questions are designed to cultivate assurance in the heart and soul of the believer. The first question is in verse 31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul was probably thinking of Psalm 56 — “This I know: God is for me; and if God is for me, who can be against me?” And the second question as we pondered it last week in verse 32: “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, with Him, graciously give us all things?” Our Father did not spare His own Son, and if He gave us what was most dear and what was most precious to Him, what is there then that He will not give us? And this morning we come to a third question as we find it in verses 33 and 34. Before we read the passage, let's look to God in prayer.
Father we thank You for the Scriptures. We thank You that they’re always able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ our Lord. We ask now for Your blessing. We need Your help and we need Your benediction even as we read the Scripture. We pray O Lord for insight. We pray especially that this Word might be applied to the hearts and lives of all Your children and we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
This is God's holy and inerrant Word:
“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.”
Amen. May God bless to us the reading of His Word.
There is a dramatic moment in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Christian has lost his burden. He has come to Mount Calvary. His burden has rolled off his back, down the hill, into the tomb, and disappeared. And he goes on as you’ll recall, through Hill Difficulty, through Palace Beautiful, and he comes to a place called The Valley of Humiliation where he meets with Apollyon — Satan. And Satan has a charge, an accusation. Christian has lost his burden, he is a Christian, he is forgiven, he is a child of God, he has been justified by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. And Satan comes and he has a charge.
Satan is always here. You know, he visits First Presbyterian Church every Sunday, especially up in the balcony. (laughter) And he makes this charge: You have been unfaithful in your service to Him — that's the charge. And it stings. Some of you are here this morning and you hear that charge. He's been telling you this perhaps all week and especially now. You bounced along as the choir sang that beautiful song of Mack Wilberg, but now that voice has returned and it's saying to you: “How can you, a sinner, possibly be acceptable to God? How can you, a sinner - and you have sinned in this way and that way — how can you possibly be acceptable to God?”
In Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress there is a fight between Apollyon and Christian. It's a very dramatic story. If you haven't read Pilgrim's Progress this year yet, this afternoon would be a good time to do it. Go to that little section just after he's lost his burden — the battle with Apollyon is a very dramatic moment. And the moment when Apollyon receives one of Christian's stings, Christian exclaims, quoting from Romans 8: “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
I want to read to you a quotation and it comes from Charles Haddon Spurgeon:
“Christ did not love you for your good works. They were not the cause of His beginning to love you. So, He does not love you for your good works even now. They are not the cause of His continuing to love you. He loves you because He loves you.”
He loves you because He loves you. Spurgeon has a point, doesn't he? Oh, we're all convinced, at least we should be — we're all good Presbyterians here this morning and we know our Catechism, and if you've been listening at all to the preaching from this pulpit, we all know that we're not saved by our good works — we don't get into the kingdom by our good works. It's Jesus. It's His work. It's His finished work. But here's the rub — we tend to think that we continue in the Christian faith…Jesus and my good works. This is the accusation that is made.
Who is the one who accuses? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It's the language of the law court. It's the language of arraignment. You’re being brought before the judge and you are being charged with a crime, a felony. You have sinned this week. You have sinned badly this week. And it gnaws at you like a worm within your mind. John Owen says:
“There are two great pastoral problems. One is to convince the unconverted that they are sinners. The other is to convince Christians that they are in union and communion with Jesus Christ and that their sin is forgiven.”
Let's look at this accusation. Who is the one who accuses? Well, it can come from all sorts of quarters. It can come, first of all, from our conscience. Conscience will accuse. Conscience will say to a Christian, “You’re not good enough.” You see, it's like, it's like this — we get into the kingdom by the work of Jesus Christ. It's like, imagine with me a step ladder, and God puts us on the first rung of that ladder. It's not through anything we do — it's not through our efforts, it's not through our works — God does that. This is all entirely God's sovereign doing. But the rest of the ladder, it's up to us. And some weeks we come, and we are two or three rungs up that ladder, and some weeks we come, and we are two or three rungs down that ladder. It's like snakes and ladders religion. Our conscience will sometimes accuse us. It will say to us — “Who do you think you are? How can you call yourself a Christian? How can you call yourself a child of God?”
There was a Scotsman. His name was David Dickson. He once said - he made a pile of his sins, a bundle of his sins, and he ran away from it and he ran to Jesus Christ, and he made a bundle of his good works and he said, “I ran away from them and ran toward Jesus Christ.” Conscience will sometimes condemn us.
Sometimes it's not so much conscience — it's God who condemns us. At least it's our imagination of what God does that condemns us. It's like the parable of the prodigal son. You know, the boy who came running up to his father and said, “Father, I've sinned against heaven and against you. I'm no more worthy to be called your son.” And the father received him, killed the fattened calf, and do you remember the older son? What did the older son say? “All these years I have been slaving for you.”
I wonder this morning, is that how we view God? We’re slaving for Him. We’re trying to earn His affection. We’re trying to do one or two things to merit His smile and His approval.
It's not just conscience that condemns, it's our view of God that condemns. Of course behind all of this lies the accuser. Zechariah 3 and verse 1 says — his name is “Satan,” Satan — it means “accuser.” He is called in Revelation 12 “the accuser of the brethren.” That's his name. He's here. He prowls about. He looks for a little space where he can sit down and whisper in your ear and he accuses. He makes you think that God is reluctant in His love for you — that He doesn't love you as much as you’d like to think He loves you — that God is given to fits of moodiness. He's the accuser.
There was a famous editorial. It was on the front page of a French newspaper 110 years ago or so. There was an accusation made against the French president. It was a turning point in French political history. The banner headline on the front page of Le Monde was J’accuse — “I accuse.”1 It's a very famous editorial. Satan is accusing. He's accusing you, brother, sister. He's saying you’re not worthy to be a child of God. You haven't lived up to your own good intentions, let alone the good intentions of others.
I want you to look at the answer and it takes your breath away. It is God who justifies. It is God who justified. Paul runs from that accusation and he runs to the gospel. He runs to the source and foundation of our salvation — that we are justified by the work of God alone, that it is God who puts us in a right relationship with Himself. This is like Atlas — it holds the universe on its shoulders. It's like as Calvin says, “the hinge on which the whole door of salvation swings.” God justifies. It's His judicial verdict and I want us to look at the fourfold aspect by which Paul now explores what this means. What does justification involve?
First of all, Christ died. He died. He died for us. He died as our substitute. He died in our room and stead. He took upon Himself all of the guilt of our sin. God judged Him. What did we think about last week? He did not spare Him. He freely delivered Him up for us all. He was made sin — reckoned sin for us who knew no sin that we might be reckoned the righteousness of God in Him. He died. He died on the cross of Calvary. The just, spotless Lamb of God was made sin for us. We sang just now “In Christ Alone.” There is a line in that hymn that says, “The wrath of God was satisfied.” The wrath of God was satisfied.
You know, I'm told there is a famous theologian in the world today who wrote to the author of that hymn asking the author to remove that line. He didn't like the expression, “the wrath of God was satisfied.” He asked that that line be removed — they did not remove it. I looked around as we sang it this morning. I saw how meaningful that line was to some of you. The wrath of God, what sin deserves, has been satisfied. It has been fully met. The unmitigated wrath of God was poured out upon His Son.
Augustus Toplady, one of the great hymn writers wrote a hymn - we don't sing the hymn anymore — but it contains this extraordinary set of lines. I want you to listen to it, especially those of you who are lawyers. “Payment God cannot twice demand - once at my bleeding surety's hand and then again at mine.” Do you see what he's saying? My sin, not just my past sin, my present sin, my future sin — Jesus died for that sin. He paid the penalty for that sin. He bore the wrath of God for that sin. That sin cannot be punished again; not now, not tomorrow, not next week, not on the Day of Judgment. That would be double jeopardy. “Payment God cannot twice demand — once at my bleeding surety's hand and then again at mine.” Christ died. Christ died, and He rose again. He rose from the grave. It was the vindication of His righteousness. It was God's approval of His own Son. It was the Father saying, “Well done, Thou good and faithful servant.” And He sits — He sits at the right hand of God. It's a regal term. It's the idea of a king sitting on his throne. He sits — you stand in the presence of majesty — and Jesus sits. He sits because His work is finished. Because on the cross He uttered those words “It is finished.” The work is done. It is complete. There is nothing more that can be demanded for sin. It has been atoned for. And there He sits. And He intercedes.
In verse 27 of Romans 8 we read of the intercession of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. But we have two intercessors — one in our hearts and one at the right hand of God. Jesus intercedes on our behalf before His Father. Not, you understand, before a reluctant Father. The Father did not spare His own Son. There is no reluctance on the part of the Father, but He intercedes. What does He say? Can you open your ears and listen for a minute? What does He say to His Father in heaven? He says, “This one whom Satan is accusing is mine. He's mine. She's mine. I died for him. I died for her. I shed My blood for this one. Atonement has been made for this one.” Payment God cannot twice demand. He says, “I desire that they also whom You also have given Me be with Me where I am, that they might behold My glory.” That's His prayer in John 17. You want an insight about what Jesus intercedes before the Father about? “I want those whom You have given Me to be with Me where I am to behold My glory. I want this one who's struggling. I want this one whom Satan is accusing. I want this one to be right here in My presence beholding this glorious vision that I am beholding.”
That's how Paul began this eighth chapter of Romans — “There is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” If you’re in Christ, there is no condemnation — not now, not tomorrow, not ever.
Donald Grey Barnhouse preached a sermon on this text and I want to quote a little bit of it to you.
“You do not have a problem too great for the power of Christ. You do not have a problem too complicated for the wisdom of Christ. You do not have a problem too small for the love of Christ. You do not have a sin too deep for the atoning blood of Christ. One of the most wonderful phrases ever spoken about Jesus is that which is found on several occasions in the gospels — it is that Jesus was ‘moved with compassion.’ He loved men and women. He loves you. Do you have a problem? He can meet it. It does not matter what it is. The moment that the problem comes to you in your life, He knows all about it. If there is a fear in your heart, it is immediately a sorrow in His heart. If there is a grief in your heart, it is immediately a grief in His heart. If there is a bereavement in your life or any other emotion that comes to any child of God, the same sorrow, the same grief, the same bereavement is immediately written on the heart of Christ. We find written in the Word of God — ‘In all their afflictions, He was afflicted.’”
We do not have a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He knows — brother, sister — He knows what it is to be accused. He has heard the voice of Satan and He intercedes for you. Do you think for one minute, do you think for one minute that the Father will refuse a prayer of His own Son? He will not. He ever lives to intercede for you.”
Some of you were raised in homes where there was no encouragement. You were never encouraged as a child. You were never encouraged as a teenager. It's made you a little cranky. It's made you a little bitter. It's made you a little critical. It's made you doubtful. You’re hard-wired for paralysis. I want you to hear — I want you to hear the sweet, refreshing air that breathes in this text. You hear the voice of accusation and here's the answer: it is Jesus. It is Jesus died; it's Jesus rose; Jesus sits; Jesus intercedes. I've told you before and I’ll keep on telling you because I think about it almost every day.
I was told this thirty years ago by a sweet, elderly lady who loved Jesus. And I recognize those who were raised in homes where there were problems and difficulties — I know all about it and it's hard-wired me for paralysis I'm pretty sure — and I needed to hear this little sweet message she gave to me one day. She said — and it sounds a little twee, a little mushy — “See no one in the picture but Jesus,” she said. And she said it in that schoolmistressy, authoritarian sort of way and I can — she's in heaven now — but I can still see her saying it to me. It was meant half as a rebuke and half as an encouragement - more of a rebuke than an encouragement at the time. See no one in the picture but Jesus when that voice of condemnation comes. You have been so hard-wired that you are constantly critical of others. It may be just a camouflage of the fact that Satan is always accusing you. I want you to hear the sweet notes of the Gospel in this text this morning. Who is it that accuses? - Because it is God who justifies. It is God who declares you, sinner, to be as righteous and as holy as Jesus is. Hear that, Christian, and believe that, Christian.
Some of you are always looking for approval. Oh, there's probably an explanation for it. Hear the approval of God the Father as He looks down upon you and He looks at you through the lens of His own Son. Because no matter how sinful you may be, in Jesus Christ, you are as white as snow, and there is no greater approval than that.
Father, we thank You for the Scriptures and we thank You especially for the eighth chapter of Romans. We want these words to live and breathe in our lives that we might be Gospel focused and Christ-centered for Your glory. Amen.
Grace, mercy and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
1. J'accuse http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%27accuse_(letter)
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