“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?” Romans 8:33, 34

In the context, the Lord has chosen a people from before the foundation of the world. And these people rejoice in the midst of the world because of wonderful things. We hear them say that all things work together for good. And this: God will grant us all things for sake of His Son, for “he that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Indeed, with uplifted head they walk unto the city that has foundations.

However, it is as though the apostle hears protests all about him. Indeed, the enemy cries out to us: the Lord will grant you all things, while you are sinners? And, intercepting these evil protests, which also very really are cast at the people of God, Paul cries out in this text, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of Gods elect?” Indeed, that God will grant us all things lies rooted in the fact that He has justified us. Hence, who shall condemn us?

Justification—what is it?

Justification is the primary concept in this text. Fundamentally, the word refers to our right relation to God’s will and law. We can speak of this relation in a spiritual sense, in the sense of sanctification. Then we are spiritually in conformity with the will of God. Then we are holy. However, we can also speak of justification in a judicial, legal sense. This refers to our state. Then we deal with the guilt of sin. To be righteous legally means that, from a legal point of view, no charge or accusation can be brought against us. This, then, is a legal concept. It is this legal concept which is meant in this word of God. That this is true appears from the fact that we read here that no charge can be lodged against the elect of God.

To be justified means that we have completely fulfilled the law of God and continue to fulfill it. God declares us to be in complete harmony with His law, that our legal position over against the law is one of absolute innocence, so that there is nothing between us and the Lord. We must not confuse justification with sanctification. Sanctification refers to our condition; justification refers to our state. Sanctification is a spiritual work of the Holy Spirit; justification is the declaration of God as He is the Judge of all the earth. Justification is that declaration of God that we have completely fulfilled the law and continue to fulfill it, so that our legal position is not that of a guilty one but of perfect obedience and righteousness. And this justification is, of course, strictly dependent upon and determined by the living God.

Now, first of all, we must not confuse God’s justification with pardon. This does happen in our civil life. A prisoner, sentenced to life imprisonment, may receive a pardon from the governor because of good behavior while in prison, because the governor judges that this prisoner has been sufficiently rehabilitated and can now function as an asset to society. With God, however, this is impossible. No sinner receives his freedom without the full payment of all his sin. Neither must we confuse this justification with forgetfulness. The Lord does not, cannot forget. That we are justified means, first of all, that we are declared by God to be completely innocent. However, this judgment rests upon holiest justice. The Lord, we know, gives no pardon; He never forgets a wrong. All guilt must be paid, and that in the way of the complete satisfaction of God’s justice. When we are justified, however, we are also declared to be heirs of everlasting life and glory, entitled to the life of fellowship with God in everlasting glory and heavenly immortality. This justification is for God’s church and people the basis of their salvation. This determines one’s eternal weal or woe. The fundamental question is: how do I stand legally before God; am I guilty or innocent, worthy of life eternal or of everlasting damnation?

No charge to be laid against us! No condemnation! How amazing!

What an amazing shout of triumph we have here in this word of God! The apostle sees the church as in the midst of the world, always accused by the world. Let us visualize a trial in a courtroom. Three parties are represented here: the judge, the accused, and the accuser or accusers. Had not the apostle spoken boldly in the context? Had he not written that there is no condemnation for us, that all things work together for good to them that love God? And now the child of God is attacked. Many are his enemies. And now the apostle declares, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” He challenges them to bring forth their charges. No condemnation? How is this possible? No charge can be lodged against us, no sin? Let us understand the implication of this challenge of the apostle. The apostle does not utter this question in fear, as if he were afraid that such charges can be brought against the people of God. However, this question of the inspired apostle is a glorious challenge, a shout of triumph, rooted in the conviction that such an accusation is impossible. But, how can this be? The idea, we understand, is that nothing can be lodged against us. Nothing? I cannot be accused of any sin? But, am I not full of sin? Do we not sin every day, in thought and in word and in deed? Is it not true that whoever would say that he had no sin deceives himself and the truth is not in him? And yet the question is asked, triumphantly, “Who shall lay anything to our charge?” What an amazing cry of triumph we have here in this word of God! We may well ask, how is this possible?

Indeed, apparently this cry of jubilation is surely unfounded. Look at all the charges that can be lodged against us. First of all, the world accuses us, led by Satan, the prince of the powers of the air. They refer to our sins. Fact is, that ungodly world and the devil are surely acquainted with our sins. And they accuse us with a formidable witness, the law, the law of God. And that law of God demands obedience, and also the punishment of everlasting death upon our sins. Secondly, also the flesh testifies against us. And this flesh is far more formidable than the world. The world is familiar only with our outward sins. But this flesh witnesses in us. It speaks of our intimate thoughts, also of those prayers that are displeasing to God, the sins whereof we alone are conscious.

What shall we answer these accusers? On the one hand, we must not deny these charges. We must never try to refute these accusers, enter into debate with the devil and our flesh. We must never defend ourselves. As far as the devil and our flesh are concerned, let us by all means agree with them concerning our sins. It is so true what they say of us. In fact, we should answer the devil that we are much worse than his presentation of our sins. I know how great a sinner I am. I know this through divine grace. In fact, I am evil in all my walk, from the morning until the evening. Even my best works are as filthy rags. But, what then? We are sinners and we sin always. How is it, then, that no one can bring in any charge against us? Why is this?

Indeed, this cry of jubilation is well-grounded. Fact is, we read, God it is Who justifies. This appears in our text with all emphasis. God justifies. He is God, and He alone. He is the only Judge of the heavens and of the earth. Next to Him or above Him there is no other, no higher appeal. God, Who alone is God, Who alone has all power and authority, Who also alone determines my lot and destiny, has declared, I find no guilt in them. And He has declared us righteous upon the ground of perfect and unchangeable justice. And when God, the only Judge of heaven and earth, declares us righteous, that judgment is unchangeable, irrevocable. It can never be annulled.

However, this is not all. Can one never accuse me of any sin? This is indeed possible. It is certainly not difficult to accuse me of sin. This we acknowledge and confess every day. But, the text does not say this. We do not read that no charge can ever be lodged against us. But we do read this: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Against the elect no charge can ever be lodged. Why not? Because the elect are God’s people as the Lord has known them from before the foundations of the world. The elect are God’s people as He has known and loved them in Christ Jesus. The elect are they who are clothed, eternally, with the righteousness of Christ Jesus. It is for this reason that the Lord does not see any unrighteousness in Jacob or iniquity in Israel. It is for the elect that Christ has suffered and died and is risen again. Our Lord Jesus Christ took upon Himself all our sins and trespasses, bore the wrath of God, the eternal and infinite wrath of God, in full consciousness and in perfect love and obedience. He paid for all our sins and trespasses and merited for us everlasting life, perfect fellowship with God in heavenly immortality. In Christ we glory, never in ourselves. He alone is our salvation. We are saved by grace, through faith, and never out of works. We must glory, never in ourselves, only in the grace of God. God’s people will sing forever the song of Moses and of the Lamb.

Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? None! Shall we take this cry of triumph upon our lips? Shall we say this, jubilantly and triumphantly? Shall the devil, the world, our flesh ever point to any sin and demand of the Judge of all the earth that He condemns us? Shall anyone plead against us, demand of the Judge of heaven and earth that He condemn us? I repeat: we must never argue with the devil. We must never attempt to defend ourselves. We must never try to place over against all our evil the little good we perform only in principle. We must embrace this word of God, carry it in our hearts and upon our lips. We must take God at His word. Indeed, let the Judge of all the earth speak. And, HE HAS SPOKEN. He has spoken here, in Romans 8:33-34, and throughout the Word of God. This word of God is sufficient? It is more than sufficient. Shall we, then, continue through our earthly pilgrimage, with dejected hearts and minds and souls? God forbid! Let us embrace this word of God through faith, this testimony of our God concerning His elect.

Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?

God it is Who justifies.

None can therefore condemn.

We are justified, now and forevermore.