Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.
Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
The preceding verses place us in eternity. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (vv. 29, 30).
On that basis, assurances are given to us whom God has called to faith in Jesus Christ and conformed to the image of His Son.
Nothing can be against them (vv. 31, 32).
Nor, according to the verses we consider here, can anyone condemn them.
The holy writer asks, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect…. Who is he that condemneth?” These are rhetorical questions, the answer to which is obvious. None can condemn the elect, because it is God who justifies them.
This is especially true in light of the fact that God justifies the elect in Jesus Christ, who died, who is risen, and who sits at God’s right hand to make intercession for them.
A Terrible Accusation!
The word of God before us speaks of God’s elect. The elect of God have already been described in verses 29, 30. There the holy writer, Paul, speaks of those whom God did foreknow in love and did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.
Being born in sin, mankind bears the image of the devil, so that he is desperately wicked. But there is a people whom God has known eternally in His love. These He did predestinate (predetermined) to be conformed (and thus transformed) to the image of His Son.
This is the decree of election.
The apostle Paul points out in the next chapter (Rom. 9:11-13), in connection with Jacob and Esau, that this election was not based on foreseen good works. Election and reprobation are determined by God’s sovereign good pleasure. Those whom God did predestinate He also calls. The call refers to the saving call of the gospel to faith in Jesus Christ. All those whom God did predestinate He irresistibly calls to faith in Jesus Christ. By their faith in Jesus Christ they are conformed to the image of Christ. That is their salvation.
The word of God speaks of a charge being laid against these elect and condemning them.
When we who belong to Jesus look at our lives, it is clear to us that charges could easily be brought against us, resulting in our condemnation. True, we have been conformed to the image of God’s Son by a new birth. Yet, the work of salvation is only begun, so that there is much sin in our lives. Sometimes the sins are shocking.
That the elect of God sin daily is the clear testimony of Scripture. The apostle Paul acknowledges this about himself in the previous chapter. “The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom. 7:19). And we read in I John 1:8, 10, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us…. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
Every elect believer freely acknowledges this. To confess his sins is one of the marks of his faith.
Many step forward to lay charges against the elect and condemn them.
Satan has done that. In Revelation 12:10 he is called “the accuser of our brethren,” who “accused them before our God day and night.” All through the Old Testament, Satan had access to heaven, and he charged, before God, that the saints had no right to be there on account of their sin. Thankfully, Satan has been cast out of heaven with the exaltation of Christ.
The world, under Satan’s control, also accuses the elect and condemns them.
They did that to Jesus, who had no sin. They constantly charged Him with blasphemy because of His claim to be the Son of God. Finally, the Jewish Sanhedrin condemned Him to death on that charge.
The servant is not above his master. The world also accuses the elect of God in Jesus Christ. Sometimes they condemn the elect for their righteousness. The saints are criticized and even condemned by the world for their large covenant families, their Sabbath-keeping, as well as their stands against divorce and remarriage, abortion, and homosexuality. And the world delights in every opportunity to condemn the elect when they in their weakness stumble into sin.
Even our conscience accuses us. Our conscience is the voice of God testifying that we have done good or evil. One can in unbelief sear his conscience, so that he does not hear the testimony of God about his sin. But the elect believer hears the testimony of God in his conscience. The testimony of God in his conscience is the same as the testimony of God in the written word. He is a sinner. And so his conscience accuses him of his sin. More accurately, God, through the sinner’s conscience, accuses him.
A Glorious Justification!
But it is God who justifies.
Justification is the verdict of God, our Judge, that we are righteous before Him and without sin.
God is the Judge of heaven and earth. He knows all that we do. He hears every word we speak. He even knows the inner thoughts of our heart. And He passes judgment on our life. His verdict is either guilty or righteous. If He sees so much as one sin for which we are responsible, He will declare us guilty and condemn us to horrible punishment. He reserves the verdict of righteous for those only who can stand before Him without sin and in perfect obedience.
Justification is the verdict of God that, in His judgment, one stands before Him in perfect righteousness and without sin.
God justifies the elect.
The elect are those who are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, being joined by Him to Jesus Christ.
These elect, however, are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ only partially, so that sin clings to everything they do.
These are the elect whose consciences testify to them that they are sinners.
These elect God justifies. In spite of their many sins, He declares that they are perfectly righteous before Him.
And so the question arises, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Who is he that condemneth?”
Again, these are rhetorical questions, the answers to which are obvious. And the answer is, no one. No one can effectively lay a charge against God’s elect so that they are condemned. The elect certainly have sins that make them worthy of condemnation, but no one can come forward with any charge against them that will result in their being condemned—not the devil, not the world, not even their own conscience. This is because God, who knows all their sins, has justified them.
In light of God’s justifying verdict, who would even dareto step forward with a charge against the elect to seek their condemnation? The devil has done so. The world does so. Under the influence of the unbelief of our sinful nature, our consciences would condemn us. But how dare they? God has justified us!
And, being justified, we are heirs of eternal life.
A Sure Basis!
The basis for our justification as God’s elect is Jesus Christ.
Interestingly, our works and efforts are not mentioned at all as being the basis of our justification. Let all those who would present their own works to God as the basis for their justification, either partially or entirely, take note. The word of God calls our attention solely to Jesus Christ.
It is Christ that died. By His death on the cross, Jesus took upon Himself the curse of God due to all the elect. And He did so in perfect obedience. Through His atoning death, Jesus obtained a perfect righteousness that serves as the basis for our justification.
Not only has Christ died, He has risen again. This is the seal of God’s approval on Christ’s atoning work. Had Christ not fully covered the sins of all the elect, which sins were also on Him, He would be still in the grave. But now is Christ risen. And His resurrection is the proof of our justification (Rom. 4:26).
But there is more. Christ is at the right hand of God and makes intercession for us. As our intercessor, Jesus is our Advocate with the Father (I John 2:1). As our advocate, Christ establishes our innocence before God on the basis of His perfect sacrifice. In response, God justifies us, so that we are justified also in our consciences.
All this must be understood in the context of faith. We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ.
God brings all His elect to faith. This faith believes all that God has revealed in Scripture. This faith also embraces Jesus Christ as the only ground and hope for salvation. It is by this faith alone that we are justified. This is because faith joins us to Christ. And, because we are joined to Christ, God imputes to us the perfect righteousness of Christ.
Let us then cling to Christ by faith.
Let us not advance our good works as the basis for our righteousness before God. This is not the faith to which God calls the elect. Those who in unbelief advance their own works as the basis for their justification forfeit the benefit of Christ’s work and perish in their sin. Do we not read, “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4)?
Let us by faith cling only to Jesus Christ to find the justification of God that makes ineffective all charges that may be brought against us to condemn us.