NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson XLVI)
It is upon the basis of the work of Christ on the cross that the acquittal of all those whom the Father gave to His Son stands. It was His act of choosing them that became the reason for which the, “not guilty” verdict, from the Father. Now, after Paul said that it is God who justifies those who have been redeemed, called, and chosen, he then proceeds to give the reasons for their freedom from condemnation. Four grounds are stated here: First, Christ’s death on the cross; Second, His resurrection from the dead; Thirdly, His enthronement at the right hand of God the Father; and, fourthly, His intercession in heaven on our behalf.1 What more would a believer need to have in order to be assured of their salvation against all who would try to convince them otherwise?
Albert Barnes makes note that there are another three things to consider as reasons why Christ is not there to condemn us. This gives Christians an even greater sense of security. These are: fifthly, He is robed with all power in heaven and on earth; sixth, He is exalted to honor above all things in heaven and on earth; and seventh, He is placed at the head of all things in heaven and on earth. It is this solemn enthronement and endowment with power over the universe that is taken as an express reference to the power of salvation for His church and His people.2 Every Christian then is under the protection of Christ, and, therefore, secure in knowing that God will not turn and condemn them.3 Barnes encourages us to think of Christ’s intercession in the words of the writer of Hebrews: “He is able to save completely all who come to the Father through Him. Since He will live forever, He will always be there to remind God that He has paid for their sins with His blood.”4
Charles Hodge defines Christ’s role as intercessor by saying that He came to suffer and die to save those who put their trust in Him. Therefore, on their behalf He presents to the Father the evidence and merit of His work as their Mediator, proving to His Father that forgiveness and salvation are theirs because of all He did to make a new covenant of redemption between He and them. Remember, He is our patron, in the Roman sense of the word. The one who undertakes our case as an advocate. One whom the Father always hears first. How solid and complete is the security of those He defends! Hodge reminds us that this language by Paul is figurative, meaning that since His resurrection and ascension, Christ continues to secure for His followers the benefits of His death and resurrection. This should remind us that everything comes from God through Christ, and for His sake.5
Frédéric Godet notes that this verse should read: “Who will be the condemning one?” He goes on to say that this supposes there will only be one Judge, while the previous question, “Who will accuse?” admits a plurality of accusers. Godet wants us to know why this difference. When it comes to making accusations, there are many that may raise their voices, as they did when they yelled before Pilate, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” But when it comes to approving the charges, only One is appointed to that office. It was Peter who said that Christ was the One ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.6 So Godet feels that the question that the critics are really asking is this: Will Christ, on the day of judgment, condemn us? Godet says the answer is absolutely, No! The acts done by Christ on our behalf that Paul enumerates here are more than enough to guarantee our justification.7
Puritan preacher Charles Simeon wants us to ask ourselves, “How much are we indebted to the grace of God?” We are talking about the grace that chose us out of many, the grace that holds the treasure for us of all that is in Christ Jesus! What do we owe to Him, He had who passed by angels by just to choose us as His own? And when it appeared that we were beyond the limit of mercy, He went beyond the boundary without fear of any condemnation to reach us. Surely, if we don’t pour our hearts out before Him in earnest gratitude, even the stones may cry out against us.8
And let us not only render to Him the testimony of a thankful heart, but let us also glorify Him by living a holy life to the honor of His name. Have we not been chosen to do our very best for Him?9 And were we not saved in order to bear fruit for Him through sanctification?10 Therefore, we must prove that our election was not a mistake if we plan to enjoy its final blessing. Let us then walk worthy of our high calling, and cultivate all the features of God’s elect. And let us gain the knowledge of His Word so that we can avoid all grounds of accusation to escape the miseries of condemnation itself.11
John Stott sees multiple aspects of how Christ’s dying for us keeps anyone from charging us with impersonating God’s children. He says there’s more to it than what’s seen in the saving work of Christ. For instance, after He died He was raised to life. It’s not just that He rose from the grave, although this is affirmed in the Final Covenant, but that it was His heavenly Father who did it. By doing so, God demonstrated His approval of His Son’s sacrifice as the only legal basis for our justification.12 And furthermore, the crucified and resurrected Christ now stands at the right hand of God, resting from His finished work.13 There He occupies His place of supreme honor.14 This allows Him to exercise His authority to save.15 He is waiting for the signal to complete His final triumph.16 He also intercedes for us as our heavenly advocate,17 and High Priest.18 The fact that He now stands at the Father’s right hand is proof that when it comes to His work of atonement, it is finished! By being our intercessor it means that He continues to guarantee the benefits of His death to those who believe in Him.19 By knowing this, we can accept Him as our Lord and Savior. Therefore, we know, there is now no condemnation for those who are united to Him. As far as Stott is concerned, this will allow us to confidently confront the universe, with all its inhabitants human and demonic, and challenge anyone who thinks we should be condemned. They will never get hear God say, “You’re right!”20
One Christian Jewish scholar suggests we should not imagine Yeshua always being seated at the Father’s right hand. This would indicate that His work is finished. That’s because the High Priest did not sit in the Holy of Holies except on Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. That means He is now acting as our intercessor/advocate. The prophecy in Isaiah puts it this way: “Therefore, I will assign Him a share with the great, He will divide the spoils with the mighty, for having exposed Himself to death and being counted among the sinners, while actually bearing the sin of many and interceding for the offenders.”21 Then the Apostle John adds his words of encouragement: “My children, I am writing you these things so that you won’t sin. But if anyone does sin, we have Yeshua the Messiah, the Tzaddik (Righteous One), who pleads our cause with the Father.22”23
Verses 35-36: What can then separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can trouble or problems or persecution separate us from His love? If we have no food or clothes or face danger or even death, will that separate us from His love? As the Scriptures say, “Because of You Lord we are in danger of death all the time. People think of us as sheep ready to be sacrificed.”24
Now Paul lines up his most potent defense against anyone or anything trying to undo or make void the unity that exists between the Redeemed, Called, Justified, Chosen, Sanctified, and soon to be Glorified believers, and the One who did all that for them. The Psalmist gives us a hint as to its impossibility: “The mercy of Adonai on those who fear Him is from eternity past to eternity future, and His righteousness extends to His children’s children, provided they keep His covenant and remember to follow His precepts.”25 Yes, this was the promise to those under the first covenant given to Moses.
But Paul declares that it equally applies to those under the final covenant given by Christ. As Jeremiah reported: “Long ago the Lord had said to Israel: I have loved you, O my people, with an everlasting love; with loving-kindness, I have drawn you to me.”26 Jesus Himself validated this same promise when He said this about those who believed and followed Him: “I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. No one shall snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and He is more powerful than anyone else so no one can kidnap them from me.”27
This gave the Apostle Paul the courage to write the believers in Thessalonica and tell them: “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting comfort and hope, which we don’t deserve, comfort your hearts with all comfort, and help you in every good thing you say and do.”28 In other words, believers must have no fear that God’s love for those whom He redeemed, called, justified, chose, sanctified and will glorify through Christ His Son, will ever be broken or displaced because of any circumstance or what others may say or do.
Then Paul goes on the list those things he feels may be contenders for voiding God’s love from reaching and keeping those He chose and justified. However, it is the type of circumstances that Paul mentions that may give believers some reason to believe that although God will never stop loving them, He may be forced to turn away from them as He did to the children of Israel who disobeyed Him in the wilderness. But the real truth is that they turned away from Him and refused to let Him save them and bring them into the Promised Land. The same is true today. God will never stop loving those for whom His son died, but they will only be lost because of these things they do or say to become estranged and alienated from the One who wants to save them.
1 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 414
2 Matthew 28:18-19; John 17:2; Ephesians 1:20-23
3 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
4 Hebrews 7:25
5 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 449
6 Acts of the Apostles 10:42; cf. 17:31; Romans 14:10
7 Frédéric Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
8 Luke 19:40
9 Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14
10 2 Thessalonians 2:13
11 Charles Simeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
12 See 4:25; also Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14ff
13 E.g. Hebrews 1:3; 10:1ff
14 Philippians 2:9ff
15 Acts of the Apostles 2:33; 5:31
16 Psalm 110:1
17 E.g. 1 John 2:1f
18 E.g. Hebrews 7:23ff
19 As mentioned by Charles Hodge above
20 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
21 Isaiah 53:12
22 1 John 2:1
23 Messianic Bible: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
24 Ibid. 44:22
25 Psalm 103:17-18
26 Jeremiah 31:3
27 John 10:28-29
28 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17