July 10, 2017: Verse of the day


Persons Who Might Seem to Threaten Our Security

If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (8:31b-34)

Paul begins with an all-encompassing rhetorical question, If God is for us, who is against us? The word if translates the Greek conditional particle ei, signifying a fulfilled condition, not a mere possibility The meaning of the first clause is therefore “Because God is for us.”

The obvious implication is that if anyone were able to rob us of salvation they would have to be greater than God Himself, because He is both the giver and the sustainer of salvation. To Christians Paul is asking, in effect, “Who could conceivably take away our no-condemnation status?” (see 8:1). Is there anyone stronger than God, the Creator of everything and everyone who exists?

David declared with unreserved confidence, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?” (Ps. 27:1). In another psalm we read, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. … The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold” (Ps. 46:1–3, 11).

Proclaiming the immeasurable greatness of God, Isaiah wrote,

It is He who sits above the vault of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. … Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power not one of them is missing. … Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. (Isa. 40:22, 26, 28)

In Romans 8:31 Paul does not specify any particular persons who might be successful against us, but it would be helpful to consider some of the possibilities.

First of all, we might wonder, “Can other people rob us of salvation?” Many of Paul’s initial readers of this epistle were Jewish and would be familiar with the Judaizing heresy promulgated by highly legalistic Jews who claimed to be Christians. They insisted that no person, Jew or Gentile, could be saved or maintain his salvation without strict observance of the Mosaic law, and especially circumcision.

The Jerusalem Council was called to discuss that very issue, and its binding decision was that no Christian is under the ritual law of the Mosaic covenant (see Acts 15:1–29). The major thrust of Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia was against the Judaizing heresy and is summarized in the following passage:

If you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. (Gal. 5:2–6; cf. 2:11–16; 3:1–15)

The Roman Catholic church teaches that salvation can be lost by committing so-called mortal sins and also claims power for itself both to grant and to revoke grace. But such ideas have no foundation in Scripture and are thoroughly heretical. No person or group of persons, regardless of their ecclesiastical status, can bestow or withdraw the smallest part of God’s grace.

When Paul was bidding farewell to the Ephesian elders who had come to meet him at Miletus, he warned, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28–30). Paul was not suggesting that true believers can be robbed of salvation but was warning that they can be seriously misled, confused, and weakened in their faith and that the cause of the gospel can be greatly hindered. Although false teaching cannot prevent the completion of a believer’s salvation, it can easily confuse an unbeliever regarding salvation.

Second, we might wonder if Christians can put themselves out of God’s grace by committing some unusually heinous sin that nullifies the divine work of redemption that binds them to the Lord. Tragically, some evangelical churches teach that loss of salvation is possible. But if we were not able by our own power or effort to save ourselves-to free ourselves from sin, to bring ourselves to God, and to make ourselves His children-how could it be that by our own efforts we could nullify the work of grace that God Himself has accomplished in us?

Third, we might wonder if God the Father would take away our salvation. It was, after all, the Father who “so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). If anyone could take away salvation, it would have to the One who gave it. We might argue theoretically that, because God is sovereign and omnipotent, He could take away salvation if He wanted to. But the idea that He would do that flies in the face of Scripture, including the present text.

In answer to such a suggestion, Paul asks, He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? How could it possibly be that God would sacrifice His own Son for the sake of those who believe in Him and then cast some of those blood-bought believers out of His family and His kingdom? Would God do less for believers after they are saved than He did for them prior to salvation? Would He do less for His children than He did for His enemies? If God loved us so much while we were wretched sinners that He delivered up His own Son … for us, would He turn His back on us after we have been cleansed from sin and made righteous in His sight?

Isaac was an Old Testament picture of Christ. When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the only son of promise, both Abraham and Isaac willingly obeyed. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac is a beautiful foreshadow of God the Father’s willingness to offer up His only begotten Son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Isaac’s willingness to be sacrificed foreshadows Christ’s willingness to go to the cross. God intervened to spare Isaac and provided a ram in his place (Gen. 22:1–13). At that point, however, the analogy changes from comparison to contrast, because God did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.

Isaiah extolled the wondrous love of both God the Father and God the Son when he wrote,

Surely our griefs He Himself [Christ, the Son] bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God [the Father], and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. … But the Lord [the Father] was pleased to crush Him [the Son], putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering. (Isa. 53:4–6, 10)

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross not only is the foundation of our salvation but also of our security. Because the Father loved us so much while we were still under condemnation, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Because the Son loved us so much while we were still under condemnation, He “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal. 1:4; cf. 3:13).

Jesus promises all those who belong to Him: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2–3). The Lord makes no allowance for any of His people to be lost again, but promises each one of them an eternal home in His eternal presence. Jesus also assures us that the Holy Spirit will be with us forever (John 14:16), again making no allowance for exceptions. What power in heaven or earth could rob the God-head of those who have been divinely saved for eternity?

Beginning in verse 8 of chapter 12, Paul speaks almost entirely in the first and second persons, referring to himself and to fellow believers. It is the same spiritual brethren (us) he speaks of twice in verse 32. If the Father delivered up His Son for us all, he argues, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? In his letter to Ephesus the apostle is also speaking of fellow believers when he says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). If God blesses all of us, His children, with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” loss of salvation is clearly impossible. All believers receive that eternal inheritance.

Freely give translates charizomai, which means to bestow graciously or out of grace. In some of Paul’s other letters the same word carries the idea of forgiveness (see 2 Cor. 2:7, 10; 12:13; Col. 2:13; 3:13). It therefore seems reasonable to interpret Paul’s use of charizomai in Romans 8:32 as including the idea of God’s gracious forgiveness as well as His gracious giving. If so, the apostle is also saying that God freely forgives us all things (cf. 1 John 1:9). God’s unlimited forgiveness makes it impossible for a believer to sin himself out of God’s grace.

In order to assure His people of their security in Him, “in the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:17–18). The two unchangeable features of God’s unchangeable purpose are His promise and His oath to honor that promise. What greater proof of security could we have than the unchangeable purpose of God to save and keep His elect, the heirs of promise?

Fourth, we might wonder if Satan can take away our salvation. Because he is our most powerful supernatural enemy, if anyone other than God could rob us of salvation, it would surely be the devil. He is called “the accuser of [the] brethren” (Rev. 12:10), and the book of Job depicts him clearly in that role:

And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face.” (Job 1:8–11)

Satan accused Job of worshiping God out of selfishness rather than out of reverence and love. Although Job at one point questioned God’s wisdom and was divinely rebuked (chaps. 38–41), he repented and was forgiven. From the beginning to the end of Job’s testing, the Lord affectionately called him “My servant” (see 1:8; 42:7–8). Although Job’s faith was not perfect, it was genuine. The Lord therefore permitted Satan to test Job, but He knew Satan could never destroy Job’s persevering faith or rob His servant of salvation.

In one of his visions, the prophet Zechariah reports: “Then he fan angel] showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’ ” (Zech. 3:1–2). Although “Joshua was clothed with filthy garments” (v. 3), that is, was still living with the sinful flesh, he was one of the Lord’s redeemed and was beyond Satan’s power to destroy or discredit.

Satan also tried to undermine Peter’s faith, and Jesus warned him of that danger, saying, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.” He then assured the apostle, “but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31–32).

Because every believer has that divine protection, Paul asks, Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? The world and Satan are continually bringing charges against God’s elect, but those charges amount to nothing before the Lord, because He is the one who justifies, the one who decides who is righteous before Him. They have been declared eternally guiltless and are no longer under the condemnation of God (8:1), the only one who condemns. God conceived the law, revealed the law, interprets the law, and applies the law. And through the sacrifice of His Son, all the demands of the law have been met for those who trust in Him.

That great truth inspired Count Zinzendorf to write the following lines in the glorious hymn “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness,” translated by John Wesley:

Bold I shall stand in that great day,

For who ought to my charge shall lay?

Fully absolved through Thee I am

From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

It is not that the accusations made against believers by Satan and the unbelieving world are always false. The fact that we are not yet sinless is obvious. But even when a charge against us is true, it is never sufficient grounds for our damnation, because all our sins-past, present, and future-have been covered by the blood of Christ and we are now clothed in His righteousness.

Fifth, we might wonder if our Savior Himself would take back our salvation. Anticipating that question, Paul declares, Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. It is because Jesus makes continuous intercession for all believers, God’s elect, that “they shall never perish” and that “no one shall snatch them out of [His] hand” (John 10:28). For Christ to take away our salvation would be for Him to work against Himself and to nullify His own promise. Christ offers no temporary spiritual life but only that which is eternal. He could not grant eternal life and then take it away, because that would demonstrate that the life He had granted was not eternal.

In verse 34 Paul reveals four realities that protect our salvation in Jesus Christ. First, he says that Christ Jesus … died. In His death He took upon Himself the full penalty for our sins. In His death He bore the condemnation that we deserved but from which we are forever freed (8:1). The death of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf is the only condemnation we will ever know.

Second, Christ was raised from the dead, proving His victory over sin and over its supreme penalty of death. The grave could not hold Jesus, because He had conquered death; and His conquest over death bequeaths eternal life to every person who trusts in Him. As Paul has declared earlier in this letter, Christ “was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25). His death paid the price for our sins and His resurrection gave absolute proof that the price was paid. When God raised Jesus from the dead, He demonstrated that His Son had offered the full satisfaction for sin that the law demands.

Third, Christ is at the right hand of God, the place of divine exaltation and honor. Because “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, … God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:8–9). David foretold that glorious event when he wrote, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet’ ” (Ps. 110:1).

There were no seats in the Temple, because the sacrifices made there by the priests were never finished. They were but pictures of the one and only true sacrifice that the Son of God one day would make. The writer of Hebrews explains that “every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He [Christ], having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:11–12; cf. 1:3).

Fourth, Christ also intercedes for us. Although His work of atonement was finished, His continuing ministry of intercession for those saved through His sacrifice will continue without interruption until every redeemed soul is safe in heaven. Just as Isaiah had prophesied, “He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12). Jesus Christ “is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

If we understand what Christ did on the cross to save us from sin, we understand what it means to be secure in His salvation. If we believe that God loved us so much when we were wretched and ungodly that He sent His Son to die on the cross to bring us to Himself, how could we believe that, after we are saved, His love is not strong enough to keep us saved? If Christ had power to redeem us out of bondage to sin, how could He lack power to keep us redeemed?

Christ, the perfect Priest, offered a perfect sacrifice to make us perfect. To deny the security of the believer is therefore to deny the sufficiency of the work of Christ. To deny the security of the believer is to misunderstand the heart of God, to misunderstand the gift of Christ, to misunderstand the meaning of the cross, to misunderstand the biblical meaning of salvation.

Even when we sin after we are saved, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” because in Him “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 1:9; 2:1). When we sin, our Lord intercedes on our behalf and comes to our defense against Satan and any others who might bring charges against us (see Rom. 8:33). “God is able to make all grace abound to you,” Paul assured the believers at Corinth (2 Cor. 9:8). Through our remaining days on earth and throughout all eternity, our gracious Lord will hold us safe in His everlasting love by His everlasting power.[1]

Our Wonderful Mediator

Romans 8:34

Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Up to this point our study of the last part of Romans 8 has taught the doctrine of eternal security by presenting what God the Father has done on our behalf. This was particularly clear in verses 28–30, where it was a case of God’s working, God’s choosing, God’s predestining, God’s calling, God’s justifying and God’s glorifying. It was also the case in the following three verses in which Paul began to ask his unanswerable questions: (1) “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (2) “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” and (3) “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?”

Even when the death of Jesus was mentioned, as it is in question two, it was mentioned from the viewpoint of God’s giving up his Son.

With the fourth of these five questions, Paul’s approach changes, as the work of Jesus Christ himself is suddenly brought forward. “Who is he that condemns?” Paul asks. Again there is no answer, because “Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

In other words, having just said that God justified his people, Paul now speaks of the ground of that justification and offers four reasons why those who have been justified can be assured that they are forever free from condemnation. These reasons, all of which have to do with Jesus Christ’s work, both past and present, are: (1) Christ’s death, (2) Christ’s resurrection, (3) Christ enthronement at the right hand of God, and (4) Christ’s continuing intercession for us.

Christ’s Death for Sin

As soon as we reflect on the teaching in this verse we are immediately impressed with how much doctrine Paul has compressed into it. He has done this with an economy of words, and nowhere is this more evident than in the first of his four statements. “Christ Jesus, who died” is all he says.

Why did he not elaborate on this a little bit?

The answer surely is that he has already done so in the earlier parts of the letter. In those earlier chapters we learn that Jesus died for sin, making an atonement for it. By means of his atonement he propitiated or turned aside the wrath of God, which sin deserved. Moreover, since Jesus had no sin of his own for which to atone, we learn that he did this on our behalf, or vicariously. Some years ago the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth was asked what was the most important word in the Bible, the questioner no doubt thinking that Barth would say “love” or some such godly quality. But instead Barth answered, “Hyper.” In Greek, Hyper is a preposition, meaning “on behalf of” or “in place of” another. Barth called this the most important word because it signifies that the death of Jesus was in our place and for us. He died so that we might not have to die spiritually.

I suppose the most common response to this, particularly from a Christian congregation, is that we already know all about it. Indeed, we have known it for a long time. Why do we have to keep saying it again and again? Why repeatedly bring up the death of Jesus Christ?

Well, if you really do know this and really do live by faith in Christ and his atonement, there probably is no need to keep on repeating it, although those who know it best generally are those who love hearing it most often. Katherine Hankey’s hymn says rightly, “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best/Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.”

But I suggest that we do need to hear it (and often), for the very reason Paul is repeating himself in Romans. Remember, he is writing about assurance. And the reason he is writing about assurance and at such length is that we tend to waver on this subject and doubt our salvation. This is particularly true when we fall into sin, whether outright sins of commission or those more subtle sins of the mind or spirit, perhaps even the sin of doubting God’s word about salvation. In such a frame of mind we find ourselves wondering whether we really are saved or are still saved, assuming that we were saved once but have perhaps fallen away.

If you find yourself thinking like this, you need to hear that “old, old story” again. You need to hear what Jesus did for your sin, bearing the punishment of God upon it in your place.

“But suppose I sin?” you ask. Don’t say “suppose.” You have sinned and will continue to sin. That is not the right question. The question is rather, “Did Jesus die for my sin or did he not?” If he did, then the punishment for that sin has been undertaken by Jesus in your place, and there is no one (not even God) who can condemn you for it. Jesus took your condemnation.

“But suppose I question this?”

This questioning of yours—is it a sin or isn’t it? If it is not a sin, if it is only a mere intellectual puzzling over the full meaning of what Jesus Christ has done and why, there is no problem. Christians are free to ask God questions and state what they do not understand. If it is a sin, that is, if it is outright disbelief of God’s Word, even then why should this sin more than any other separate you from God’s love and condemn you—if Jesus has, in fact, died for it?

I do not mean by this that your sin is covered by Christ’s blood if you are among those who reject his atonement and scorn it. That is an unbelief that has never known faith. If you do this, you are not regenerate. I am speaking to those who are born again and love Jesus but who have doubts concerning their salvation. To them I say, as Paul does, “Christ died.” He died for you.

When he hung on the cross, Jesus said of his atoning work, “It is finished” (John 19:30). And it was! It was finished forever. There is nothing that can ever be added to it or be taken away.

Christ’s Resurrection

The second reason why we can be assured of our salvation on the basis of Jesus work for us is his resurrection, which Paul introduces with the words “more than that, who was raised to life.”

That is a strange way of introducing the doctrine of the resurrection, because it is linked to Christ’s death as if it adds something to it. And how can that be, if the atonement is a finished work, as I just said? Once again, this is something Paul explained earlier in Romans when he was dealing with the work of Jesus more extensively. Think back to what the apostle said at the end of chapter four, as he brought the first great section of the book to a close and prepared to move on into the second great section, which we are now studying: “He [Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4:25).

What does that mean, “raised to life for our justification”? As the Bible describes them, both the resurrection and justification are works of God. So the verse is saying that God raised Jesus from the dead in some way that relates to his work of justification. Since justification is based on Christ’s propitiation, the connection between resurrection and justification is not one of cause and effect. Rather, it must be one of demonstration. The point of the resurrection is to verify the justification, which is based upon the death. It is God’s way of showing that Jesus’ death was a true atonement and that all who believe on him are indeed justified from all sin.

Let me put it this way. When Jesus was alive on earth he said that he was going to die for sin, becoming a ransom for many. In time he did die and was placed in a tomb where he lay for three days.

Had he died for sin? He said that was what he was going to do, but the words alone do not prove his death was an atonement. Suppose Jesus was deluded? What if he only thought he was the Son of God and the Savior? Or again, suppose he was not sinless? He claimed to have been sinless. He seemed to be. But suppose he had sinned, even a little bit? In that case, he would have been a sinner himself, and his death could not have atoned even for his own sin, let alone for the sin of others. The matter would remain in doubt.

But then the morning of the resurrection comes. The body of Jesus is raised, and the stone is rolled back from the opening of the tomb so the women and later others can see and verify that he has indeed been raised. Now there is no doubt, for it is inconceivable that God the Father should thus verify the claims of Jesus if he was not his unique Son and was not therefore a true and effective Savior of his people.

As the great Bible teacher Reuben A. Torrey said in one of his writings, “I look at the cross of Christ, and I know that atonement has been made for my sins; I look at the open sepulcher and the risen and ascended Lord, and I know that the atonement has been accepted. There no longer remains a single sin on me, no matter how many or how great my sins may have been. My sins may have been as high as the mountains, but in the light of the resurrection the atonement that covers them is as high as heaven. My sins may have been as deep as the ocean, but in the light of the resurrection the atonement that swallows them up is as deep as eternity.”

“Who is he that condemns?”—who could possibly condemn us if Jesus has died for us and has been raised as proof of our justification?

Christ’s Enthronement at God’s Right Hand

We are climbing a grand staircase in studying these four phrases that speak of the saving work of Christ, both past and present. But we are likely to miss a step at this point if we are not very careful, because the third step deals with the ascension and enthronement of the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is not something heard a great deal about in most churches. (In the more liturgical churches there is a special day known as Ascension Day on which the doctrines associated with Jesus’ return to heaven are often noted.)

There are two chief teachings involved. The first is Jesus’ glorification. This was God’s answer to the prayer Jesus uttered just before his arrest and crucifixion, recorded in John 17. He said, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:4–5). Jesus laid this glory aside in order to become man to accomplish the work of redemption. But now, contemplating the end of his work, he asks for that glory to be restored.

And it has been! According to Acts, at the moment of his martyrdom Stephen saw the glorified Jesus “standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56), and Paul was stopped and redirected by Jesus’ voice while on the way to Damascus to persecute the early Christians (Acts 9:3–5). The apostle John later had similar visions of Jesus, according to the Book of Revelation.

The other teaching associated with Ascension Day is the one Paul seems chiefly to be concerned with here. It is Christ’s “session,” his being seated at God’s right hand. Since the “right hand” was considered the place of honor, for Jesus to be seated there involves his exultation. That alone is significant in regard to our eternal security, for it means that the One who has achieved it for us by his death has been honored for precisely that achievement.

But there is more to the doctrine than even this. The most important thing about Jesus’ being seated is that sitting implies a finished work. As long as a person is standing, there is still work to do. But once it is finished, the person rests from that work, as God rested from his “work of creating” (Gen. 2:2).

This point is developed carefully in the letter to the Hebrews, where a comparison is made between the work of Israel’s earthly priests, according to the pattern of temple worship that had been given by God, and the work of Jesus, who was the high priest to come. This theme dominates Hebrews, beginning as early as chapter 4 and continuing as far as chapter 10. The point is that Jesus’ priestly work is superior to and replaces the preparatory work done by earthly priests.

Then comes this important statement in chapter 10: “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Jesus Christ] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Heb. 10:11–14, emphasis added). The Jewish temple had no chairs in it, though there were other articles of furniture. This signified that the work of the priests was never done. Indeed, even the great sacrifice offered on the Day of Atonement had to be repeated year by year. But when Christ offered himself as a sacrifice, that sacrifice was the perfect fulfillment of the prior types and a true and utterly sufficient atonement for sin. It did not have to be repeated. Therefore, when Jesus had offered this sacrifice and it was accepted by God the Father, he showed that the work was completed by sitting down at God’s right hand.

Where is Jesus now? He is seated at God’s right hand. So whenever you doubt your salvation and are becoming disturbed by such thoughts, look to Jesus at the right hand of the Father, realize that he is there because his work of sacrifice is completed, that nothing can ever add to it or take away from it, and that you are therefore completely secure in him.

What would have to happen for you to lose your salvation, once you have been foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified by God? For that to happen, God would have to throw the entire plan of salvation into reverse. Jesus would have to rise from his throne, go backward through the ascension (now a descension), enter the tomb again, be placed upon the cross, and then come down from it. For you to perish, the atonement would have had never to have happened. Only then could you be lost. But it has happened, according to the plan of God. And the fact that Jesus has been raised from the dead, brought to heaven, and been seated on the right hand of God the Father is proof that it has been accomplished. Your security is now as certain as the Lord’s enthronement, which means that it is as unshakable as Jesus himself.

Christ’s Present Intercession

The final reason why the believer in Christ can be assured of his salvation based on the work of Christ is Jesus’ present intercession. Paul says that Jesus “is also interceding for us.”

In light of the ideas of accusation, judgment, and acquittal that have appeared throughout this section, it is natural to see this intercession as Jesus’ pleading the benefits of his death on our behalf in the face of Satan or any other individual’s accusations. Bible teachers have often spoken of the verse that way, and I have done so myself on occasion. But this is probably not quite the right idea. Why? Because Paul has introduced the verse with the question “Who is he that condemns?” and the answer to that is “no one,” as long as Jesus has died, been raised, and is now seated at the right hand of God and making intercession for us. There is no need for that kind of intercession, because in view of Christ’s finished work and God’s judgment no one is able to accuse us.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “There is no need … for our Lord to defend the believer. He has already done so, ‘once and for ever.’ But, in any case, it is God the Father himself who sent his Son to do the work. There can never be any query or question in God’s mind with regard to any of his children.”

In view of that, what does intercession mean here? In this context it must refer to Jesus’ prayers for his people, much like his great prayer of John 17, in which he prays for and receives all possible benefits of his death for them for the living of their Christian lives.

It means that there is no need you can possibly have to which the Lord Jesus Christ is indifferent.

It means that there is no problem to which he will turn a deaf ear or for which he will refuse to entreat his Father on your behalf.

Let me share a paragraph on this subject from the writing of Donald Grey Barnhouse, which has blessed me:

You do not have a problem too great for the power of Christ. You do not have a problem too complicated for the wisdom of Christ. You do not have a problem too small for the love of Christ. You do not have a sin too deep for the atoning blood of Christ. One of the most wonderful phrases ever spoken about Jesus is that which is found on several occasions in the gospels. It is that “Jesus was moved with compassion.” He loved men and women. He loves you. [Do] you have a problem? He can meet it, it does not matter what it is. The moment that the problem comes to you in your life, he knows all about it. … If there is a fear in your heart, it is immediately known to him. If there is a sorrow in your heart, it is immediately a sorrow to his heart. If there is a grief in your heart, it is immediately a grief to his heart. If there is a bereavement in your life or any other emotion that comes to any child of God, the same sorrow, grief or bereavement is immediately written on the heart of Christ. We find written in the Word of God, “In all their afflictions he was afflicted” (Is. 63:9).

Jesus intercedes for us in precisely those things. Moreover, he is heard in his intercession, and he ministers to you out of the inexhaustible treasure house of his glory. That is why Paul was able to write to the Philippians, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19).

Bobby McFerrin, the popular singer and entertainer, has a little song called “Don’t worry; be happy.” It made him famous. I like the song, even though I know it is misleading for anyone whose sin is not atoned for by the blood of Christ. A person in his or her sin should worry. There is no happiness for one who stands under God’s dreadful condemnation. But “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”! That first verse of Romans 8 tells us what the chapter is all about. There can be none because Jesus has died in our place, been raised for our justification, is seated at the right hand of God, and is even now carrying on a work of intercession for us.

Should people with such an intercessor worry? In their case, “don’t worry” is a proper thing to say. And so is “be happy,” though those words are undoubtedly too weak. We should rejoice with joy unspeakable.[2]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 502–509). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 975–982). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

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