“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8: 31…
“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8: 32…
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Romans 8: 33…
J.I. Packer closes his book Knowing God with four verses from Romans. After discussing the implications of Romans 8: 31 and 32 in the two previous posts, it is time to comment on his use of Romans 8: 33.
It is a very personal verse since it deals with an idea that all Christians struggle with—assurance. When Christians give their lives to Christ, they are “made right” with God, their sins are forgiven and they are “born again.” Christians who are born again want to make the effort to live their lives for Jesus as much as they can.
What does all of this mean? Some Christians may take their salvation for granted. In my Bible I have the date March 1, 1998 which is the date I got out of my pew and walked to the altar of my church. I gave my life to Christ that day. I could list other important dates where I felt the pull of Christ on my life, dates that proceeded March 1, 1998. My salvation was a process, a life changing process. In those days, I knew I needed to change; I needed something more in my life. I needed to have guidance, inspiration and discipline. I was lost.
Gradually God began to make sense. He provided answers that I sorely needed. I felt peace for the first time in my life, lasting peace. The more I learned about God, the better life felt.
I was ready to make a commitment.
I have never taken my salvation for granted.
In my early “born again” days, I was the classic new Christian that Paul describes in First Corinthians 3:2: “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” I was a baby. I was super happy because I was in love with Jesus. I had a new purpose in life, but I was living on milk, not meat.
And I had a problem…
I was still sinning like I did before I was born again.
That is what Packer addresses with Romans 8: 33. What was going to happen to me when I sinned and I knew better? Was God going to take His love away?
Romans 8: 33 is the Apostle Paul’s effort to assure us that God understands our weaknesses and He will not desert us. Packer thinks the idea is so important for our knowing God that he concludes his book with this discussion. “There are two sorts of sick consciences, those that are not aware enough of sin and those that are not aware enough of pardon” [Packer 272]. Romans 8: 33 ministers to the latter. The Apostle Paul knew how hard it was to be joyful when there is fear that justification is provisional, that God is going to declare one day that you are no longer “made right” with Him. Paul knew that Christians “fail and fall” and memory of sins committed after becoming a Christian are more painful than thoughts about sinning before being born again.
Paul denied that lapses can endanger our station with God.
First of all, Paul knew that people are not chosen for salvation in a haphazard fashion. God has a plan when the “merciless sinner” becomes born again. “Those whom God justifies now were chosen for eternity for final salvation, and if their justification were at any stage revoked, God’s plan for them would be entirely overthrown. So loss of justification is inconceivable” [Packer, 272].
Secondly, Packer points to Paul’s idea of sovereignty in judgement. In short, this means that God has ultimate power over decisions about salvation. “God justified you with (so to speak) His eyes open. He knew the worst about you at the time when He accepted you for Jesus’ sake; and the verdict which He passed then was, and is, final” . When the Apostle Paul wrote Romans, his model for sovereign power was based on the concept of the “royal judge.” The Royal Judge had all the power of the legislature, the judiciary and the executive and when the judge made a judgment about a person, they became that person’s “champion and protector.” Our Sovereign God justifies us and maintains that justification. Packer goes further: he says God intends us to enjoy our justification in full. No one can question the decision.
Third, lest we forget, we have a powerful intercessor who is working on our behalf. Jesus Christ is sitting at the right hand of God interceding for us. Christ died and was raised from the dead for us and this act was designed to save us from condemnation. Jesus bore the penalty of our sins. He was our substitute. Packer writes “[Paul expressing] the idea of Christ condemning us is absurd….He died…He rose and was exalted…Now by virtue of His enthroned presence at the Father’s right hand, He intercedes with authority for us…Shall He now condemn us?” [Packer, 273]. Christ is our mediator who loves us and gave Himself up for us. He wants us to enjoy the “full fruits” of redemption. “The idea [of our Mediator condemning us] is grotesque and impossible” .
To know God is to know that He is our sovereign protector. He is for us, so why fear anything?
To know God is to know that He gives us all that we need and we should not want more than He provides. He graciously gives us all things.
To know God is to know that He gives us salvation and once He gives that, He does not take it back. Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
It is God alone…