Friday, October 7, 2011

God's challenge to the universe - Romans 8:33




Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies... - Romans 8:33

One of the church’s names is “elect of God”; and each of its living members is one whose name is written in the book of life from the foundation of the world (Revelation 17:8). Of these chosen ones the history is thus summed up: “Whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Romans 7:30).
The state in which each one of these is born into the world is that of “condemnation”; the state into which each one is brought, in believing, is that of “no condemnation” (Romans 8:1). Forgiveness of sins—present, conscious, complete forgiveness—is that into which faith introduces us, and out of which unbelief alone can keep us. Justification from all things—certain, immediate, and unchanging justification—is our portion here. It is respecting us, as men forgiven and justified, that the apostle asks, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” On believing the gospel of forgiveness, they were placed beyond the reach and risk of any charge or impeachment whatsoever; they are brought by God into such a state as to render condemnation an impossibility; for the forgiveness is irreversible, and the righteousness in which they stand is divine.
Not that they cease to be sinners. But they cease to be treated as guilty. Iniquities prevail; but there is continual forgiveness to cancel these, and a perfect righteousness to cover these, and the ever-flowing blood of the everlasting covenant to wash all guilt away as it comes up, and to prevent their peace with God from being broken. They do sin; but they have an Advocate with the Father; and who can demand the execution of the penalty in their case? Who shall condemn? Who can do it? Who dare do it? Who has the right to do it? Not angels. They are too glad to welcome back the sinner, and to take the side of those whose sight God has taken. Devils would, if they could. But they cannot. The prey is taken from the mighty, and placed beyond their grasp. The law might have done it; but it has been satisfied; nay, magnified. It has therefore no claim, and could gain no object by accusing us; for our acquittal is a righteous one—an acquittal in which law itself rejoices.
Mark, then, how complete and how satisfactory the challenge is; for the words of our text are not so much a question as a challenge—a challenge thrown down before the universe!
I. It is a righteous challenge. It is not the challenge of one who, through might, had baffled right, and triumphed over law. It is that of one who sees all righteousness fulfilled, and all good confirmed, by that very sentence which acquits himself; who, unable to contribute aught toward his own acquittal, has recognized God’s righteous way of justifying the unrighteous, and in doing so, has found deliverance from condemnation. It is a challenge so righteous, that every righteous being responds to it; so righteous, that his own conscience, even when most fully awakened and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, rests satisfied and unalarmed; so righteous, that none can undertake to answer it, save those who are prepared to reject God’s way of saving the lost, and forgiving the condemned.
II. It is a holy challenge. it is not that of one who was seeking to sin that grace may abound, but of one who saw that this is God’s way of delivering him from sin, and making him hate sin. God’s way of forgiveness brings out all the loathsomeness of sin, shews it to be the enemy both of God and of the sinner. Thus the man who says, “Who shall hay anything to my charge? who is he that condemneth?” is the man who is also saying, “Now I have some hope of being holy; now I shall be delivered from sin; now sin has received its death-blow; and now love and a free pardon will do what terror and uncertainty, and an unsatisfied law, could never have done. Being delivered from the first and great matter of seeking a forgiveness, by having got that question for ever laid to rest, I am free to attend undistractedly to the one question, How shall I be holy, and by a holy life serve and glorify God?”
III. It is a joyful challenge. The question, and the way of putting it, shew the exulting gladness of the soul. It is the joy of a soul delivered from an infinite fear; from overwhelming foreboding of wrath; from the uncertainties of the future, and the dreaded vengeance of an angry God. What gladness is this! To be forgiven all sin, and clothed with an infinite righteousness! To be as thoroughly assured of the favor of God, as formerly of His displeasure! To see the dark cloud of wrath which had wrapped the soul round rise upwards, and pass away, leaving the wide azure clear and bright, with not a mist to intercept the light of reconciliation and love, pouring down from the heaven of heavens! What joy unspeakable and full of glory is this!
IV. It is an unanswerable challenge. It is boldly put, and with no muffled voice. It is spoken aloud, that all may hear, and answer if they can. But no one can take it up. There is silence in heaven, and earth, and hell. It is Paul’s challenge to the universe. Nay rather, it is the Holy Spirit’s challenge. Who shall answer Paul? Who shall answer the Holy Ghost? Who shall condemn us? Who shall lay anything to our charge? Who shall trouble our conscience or break our peace? We ask aloud; we repeat the challenge to the devil and all his legions. But no answer is given. We hear only the echo of our own voice. It is unanswerable even now; for from the first moment that we believed, we were entitled to take it up. It shall be no less unanswerable when we go down to the tomb; and we may make the caverns of the dead re-echo with it. It shall be unanswerable in the day of the Lord; so that, even when standing before the judgment seat, surrounded with angels, or surrounded with devils, we may lift up our voice and say, Who shall lay anything to my charge?
Nor is there anything presumptuous in this challenge. It is one of simple faith. It is meant for every believing man; and there is something lacking in that faith which falters here. A believed gospel ought to lead him who believes it to adopt this bold and blessed attitude. For a believed gospel is meant to assure the believing soul of forgiveness and eternal life.
It is a challenge which God himself will own. He does not reckon it too bold or too decided. He puts it into our lips, and He will acknowledge it. In our believing, we set our Amen to His testimony; and in His giving us this challenge, He is setting His Amen to our faith. Nay, not only will He own it, but He will take it up out of our lips, and Himself proclaim it through the universe, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of my elect?”
Our right to take up this challenge is simply our having believed the gospel. It is not our graces or evidences that embolden us thus to speak. It is not as holy men, or old Christians, or deeply humbled souls, that we have a warrant to do so. Our warrant is simply our having believed the gospel. How much we lose from not seeing the sure and high standing into which a believed gospel brings us, long before we have time to consider our own selves, or number up our graces! It would indeed be presumption to rest an assurance like this, or a challenge like this, upon our own graces; but it is no presumption to rest this on the gospel of the grace of God.
—Horatius Bonar, Light & Truth: Bible Thoughts & Themes
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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