NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson XLV)
Bible scholar John Stott examines Paul’s argument by noting that this question and the next two (who will accuse us, and who will condemn us) ushers us into an imaginary court of law. But in this tribunal, no prosecution can succeed because the God who pardons is the sitting Judge. Furthermore, none of those brought before Him can ever be condemned because Jesus Christ is their defender. He is the one who paid the price for sin; was raised by God from the dead; is at God’s right hand constantly interceding for us.1 Stott goes on to say, that while many may point an accusing finger at us and charge us with wrongdoing, none can do so when it comes to whether or not we are the part of the called, the chosen, God’s elect, because God has declared it so. Stott exclaims that this is why all the arrows of accusation thrown against us fall harmlessly to the ground. They glance off us like arrows off a shield. He wonders if the Apostle Paul may not have had the words of Isaiah running through his mind: “He who gives me justice is near. Who will dare to fight against me now? Where are my enemies? Let them show up!”2
Verse 34: Who can say that God’s people must still be punished? No one! Jesus the Messiah died for us, but that’s not all. He was also raised from death and now stands at God’s right side, pleading on our behalf.
So Paul continues his challenge to Satan and his horde of unbelievers. As Isaiah said, let the enemies of The Chosen come out in the open. Even one of Job’s friends, Elihu, wrestled with how Job’s plea of innocence could be countered. He said: “If God remains silent, who can accuse him?”3 In other words, since God is the omniscient Judge, if He was not accusing Job of wrongdoing, then how can mere humans do so? That’s why David later proclaimed: “The Lord will not let these evil men succeed, nor let the godly be condemned when they are brought before the judge.”4 David goes on to tell the people of God not to be impatient for the Lord to act! Keep traveling steadily along His pathway and in due season He will honor you with every blessing.
Paul wants the believers in Rome to also know, Christ is not the head of the Church and the one and only Savior because He is the best out of many. No! No! No matter how far back in history you may go and examine all the gods and divine beings that have become objects of human worship, Jesus of Nazareth is the only one who died on a cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to stand at God’s right hand as a high priest and intercessor for those He died for, and who believe in Him as their Lord and Savior.
But even in Job’s day, there were some who expressed such faith. His friend Elihu told Job: “If there is for him an angel, a mediator, one among a thousand, who confirms the man’s uprightness; then [God] is gracious to him and says, ‘Redeem him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom.’”5 Jesus removed all doubt about Him being that Redeemer when He said to His disciples: “I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.”6 This gave Paul all he needed to tell the Galatians: “The Messiah redeemed us from the curse pronounced in the Torah by becoming cursed on our behalf.”7
The writer of Hebrews saw this when he looked at Christ: “God’s Son shines out with God’s glory, and all that God’s Son is and does mark Him as God. He regulates the universe by the mighty power of His command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honor beside the great God of heaven.”8 And the Apostle Peter adds his imprimatur: “Christ also suffered. He died once for the sins of all us guilty sinners although He Himself was innocent of any sin at any time, that He might bring us safely home to God.”9
When we get to know the magnitude of the divinity, power, and glory of Christ, it adds that much more impact to the knowledge that it was He who died for us. But it was because He knew that was the only way to reach His ultimate goal. Mark tells us about our Lord’s last hours here on earth as He spent time encouraging the disciples to go out and win souls for the kingdom of God, “When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, He was taken up into heaven and sat down at God’s right hand.”10 After the disciples went back to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit as a signal of Christ’s arrival in heaven, no doubt there were some who wanted more evidence. They received that validation when Stephen was being stoned, and Luke tells us, “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily upward into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at God’s right hand.”11
The Apostle Paul, who was there at that stoning of Stephen, was able to tell the Colossians with much certainty: “Since you became alive again, so to speak, when Christ arose from the dead, now set your sights on the rich treasures and joys of heaven where He sits beside God in the place of honor and power.”12 The writer of Hebrews announced the same truth: “What we are saying is this: Christ is our High Priest and is in heaven at the place of greatest honor next to God Himself. He ministers in the temple in heaven, the true place of worship built by the Lord and not by human hands.”13
Paul knew in his day what we have also experienced in our day and that is when someone proves themselves to be a great champion of any sport or science, their championship spirit and gravitas is looked on with great admiration. We tend to seek their advice and approval because of its value and weight. The prophet Isaiah sees the Messiah in the same light: “When He sees all that is accomplished by the anguish of His soul, He will be satisfied; and because of what He has experienced, my righteous Servant shall make many to be counted righteous before God, for He will bear all their sins. Therefore, I will give Him the honors of one who is mighty and great because He has poured out His soul in death. He was counted as a sinner, and He bore the sins of many, and He intercedes with God for sinners.”14
Jesus clearly outlined how this intercession works. He does not say the prayer for us, but He is there to vouch for what we pray and our privilege to ask the Father for His help and support. He told His disciples: “You won’t need to ask me for anything, for you can go directly to the Father and ask Him, and He will give you what you ask for because you use my name… Then you will present your petitions over my signature! And I won’t need to ask the Father to grant you these requests, for the Father Himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from the Father.”15
Leo the Great, an early church Bishop of Rome, who later became Pope, spoke on how in the Church, which is Christ’s Body, and announced that work of the priests are not valid, nor are any offerings we may bring of any value unless we first understand that it is our High Priest in heaven who made atonement for us, and the true Blood of this spotless Lamb is what makes us clean. Even though He now sits at our heavenly Father’s right hand, yet in the same flesh which He received from the Virgin He carries on the work of atonement.16 And no one else can take His place or be a substitute for Him He’s the only one with the nail scars in His hands, the wound in His side, and the thorn prints on His brow.
Then another early church scholar tells us that in the context of what Paul says here, we see that there is one Person who intercedes for us and another Person who hears that plea. So it is not improper for the Son of God to ask, and for His heavenly Father to grant His request for our forgiveness and acquittal. This is how the complementary relationship between these two Divine Persons is maintained. This early church scholar Severian feels that all believers should know that this text teaches us that there is a distinction between what the Father did and what the Son did and they must not be confused.17
Reformer John Calvin offers his insights on Christ’s intercession for us before the Father. He believes that Paul purposely added this so that the divine majesty of Christ does not alarm us. Although from His elevated throne He places all things in subjection under His feet, yet Paul represents Him as a loving, caring Mediator. We should not be so awed by His presence that we would hesitate to approach Him. He not only invites us to Himself in kindness but welcomes us as our Intercessor before the Father. But let us not define His intercession with human logic. Let us not suppose that Christ humbly pours out His supplication before the Father on bended knee with outstretched hands.18 In other words, Jesus is not a beggar. He does not slouch before the Father and soulfully pleads with Him to have pity on us and forgive us of our wrongdoing. No! See Him as standing with authority next to the Father and with a simple wave of His nail-scarred hand dismisses any charge brought against us that we are not God’s true children. He does this so that the Father need not bother with such trivial matters.
Robert Haldane speaks about why believers being condemned to die is not permitted. In the preceding verse, we find this question: “Who can bring any charges against God’s elect?” Furthermore, “Who is in any position to condemn them? If you cannot accuse someone of doing wrong, then how can they be condemned? Paul tells us that God is more than happy to justify the elect. He enjoys removing them from condemnation. Not only that, but He looks for reasons to find them innocent instead of searching for causes to declare them guilty. So when realizing that God sees things this way, how could anyone dare try and condemn them?
Is it really because they’ve done nothing wrong or committed an error? No! In fact, they’ve done both. But no one can dig up a single sin by which to accuse them under the curse of the law? You see, they have been delivered from the Law by what their Divine Judge did in handling their case. The Law could condemn them, but not forgive them. But God’s Spirit convicts them and God’s grace forgives them and removes the condemnation. Haldane notes that Paul was echoing what the Prophet Isaiah, said, “He is near that justifies Me; who will contend with Me?”19 These words relate to Isaiah’s confidence that his Father in heavenly will support him in his cause as a righteous and faithful servant.
1 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
2 Isaiah 50:8-9
3 Job 34:29a
4 Psalm 37:33
5 Job 33:23-24
6 Matthew 20:28
7 Galatians 3:13 – Complete Jewish Bible
8 Hebrews 1:3
9 1 Peter 3:18
10 Mark 16:19
11 Acts of the Apostles 7:55
12 Colossians 3:1
13 Hebrews 8:1-2
14 Isaiah 53:11-12
15 John 16:23, 26-27
16 Leo the Great: Letter 80, II
17 Severian: Pauline Commentary, op. cit., loc. cit.
18 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
19 Isaiah 50:8