Our Wonderful Mediator
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.
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.
- 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.
34 The second question, “Who is he that condemns?” suggests the futility of such condemnation. Because of Christ no one can condemn the Christian. Christ will never renounce the efficacy of his own work on our behalf. Paul packs four aspects of that work into one great sentence (v. 34b): (1) Christ “died” and thereby secured the removal of sin’s guilt; (2) he was “raised” to life and is able to bestow life on those who trust him for their salvation (cf. Jn 11:25; 14:19); (3) he was exalted to “the right hand of God,” with all power given to him both in heaven, so as to represent us there, and on earth, where he is more than a match for our adversaries; and (4) he “is also interceding for us” at the throne of grace, whatever our need may be (Heb 4:4–16; 7:25).
34 That “who is the one condemning?” is not a fresh, independent question but a “follow-up” on the discussion in v. 33, is suggested by the fact that “condemn” and “justify” are natural contrasts. This question is, then, to be seen as an additional rhetorical response to the statement in v. 33b that it is God who justifies. The sentence beginning “Christ Jesus” consists of four clauses, the first two using participles in a way similar to vv. 33b–34a, the last two being relative clauses describing further aspects of Christ’s work. The sentence as a whole can be construed as a response to the question “who will condemn?”—“no one [implied]; for Christ Jesus …”—or as a preparation for v. 35—Christ Jesus has done these things for us; who, then, will separate us from the love of Christ? The continued use of judicial images in the sentence—especially Christ’s intercession—favors the former alternative. The enumeration of actions accomplished by, and through, Christ occurs in ascending order, with the emphasis falling on the last in the series. Not only has Jesus died to secure our justification—“more than that”36 he has “been raised” and has also ascended to the right hand of God, so that he may intercede for us, ensuring that the justifying verdict for which he died is applied to us in the judgment. The language of Jesus being at “the right hand of God” is taken from Ps. 110:1, one of the most often quoted OT verses in the NT. The language is, of course, metaphorical, indicating that Jesus has been elevated to the position of “vice-regent” in God’s governance of the universe. But it is not with the universe, but with Christians, that Paul is concerned here. Because Christ lives and has ascended, he is able to “intercede” for us, acting as our High Priest in the very presence of God.39
33, 34. Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? (It is) Christ Jesus who died, what is more, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who is also interceding for us.
Verse 33 is probably an intentional echo of words found in Isa. 50:8, 9a:
“He is near who justifies [or vindicates] me. Who is my accuser?… Behold, the Lord Jehovah will help me. Who is he that will condemn me?”
The rhetorical questions—“Who will bring any charge …?” “Who is he that condemns?”—amount to a vigorous denial of the suggestion that there could be any valid charge or condemnation.
Are these people not God’s elect? Is that not what is implied in 8:29: “foreknown … foreordained”? Surely, when, in the dispute between Joshua the highpriest and Satan, God defended Joshua and rebuked Satan, the latter was immediately silenced (Zech. 3:1–5). When God justifies a person, all accusations at once lose their validity.
The logical nature of this answer is brought out even more clearly by the words that follow, namely, “It is Christ Jesus who died … was raised from the dead … is at the right hand of God … is also interceding for us.”
Here note especially the phrase “what is more” inserted between the reference to Christ’s death and his resurrection. It probably expresses the climactic relationship not only between the first two items but between all the items in the series. To be sure, by means of Christ’s death the sins of his people were blotted out. But this fact was established beyond possibility of successful contradiction by the resurrection from the dead. See on Rom. 4:25, p. 161. And the exaltation of God’s Son to the right hand of God—Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33; 3:13; 5:31; 7:55, 56; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 2:9; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 1:21; 3:22; Rev. 5:12, symbolizing the honor, power, and authority given to him as a reward for his fully accomplished mediatorial work, strengthens this conclusion even more.
The climax of assurance is reached in the clause, “who is also interceding for us”—Isa. 53:12; Luke 23:34; John 14:16; 1 John 2:1; Heb. 7:25, for how would it even be conceivable that the Father should deny the intercessory prayers of the Son, who so fully, marvelously, and gloriously accomplished the task assigned to him (John 17:4)? Did not the Son himself say to the Father, “I knew that thou dost always hear me”? (John 11:42a).
8:33–34. Question 3: Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? This question is raised as a defense of what Paul taught in Romans 3:21–5:21 concerning justification—the legal position of believers before God. All have sinned, all fall short of the glory of God, but all (who believe) are justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. As the judge, God was perfectly just in paying the penalty for and declaring “free to go” the unjust (Rom. 3:23–26). As a result, no charge can be brought against those whom God has chosen (foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified).
Should a Roman emperor seek to bring a charge against a believer in Rome for worshiping a king other than Caesar, that charge would have no effect in the eyes of God. Should Satan seek to bring a charge against the elect of God in order to discredit their faithfulness, such a charge would go unregistered. God has already brought all the charges which could possibly be brought against the believer to the bar of justice and declared them erased: “Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:14, NASB). Therefore, Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? (for the Old Testament background on God’s defense of his chosen, cf. Isa. 50:8–9; 52:13–53:12; Zech. 3:1–5).
Question 4: Who is he that condemns? If no charge can be brought against the elect of God, then certainly no condemnation can be brought against them either. Again, Paul is summarizing what he has taught previously: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” because of having been set free through Jesus Christ from the law which condemns us from our sin (Rom. 8:1–2). Isaiah spoke prophetically of a day when God’s elect would condemn those who accused them: “ ‘No weapon that is formed against you will prosper, and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me,’ declares the Lord” (Isa. 54:17, NASB).
Continuing the legal motif which insures our freedom from charges and condemnation, believers have their own divine advocate who continually defends them before the bar of heavenly justice (1 John 2:1; Heb. 4:14–16).
8:33–34. The next two questions Paul raised and answered are forensic or legal in nature. Who will bring any charge (enkalesei, “make a formal accusation in court; press charges”; cf. Acts 19:40; 23:29; 26:2) against those whom God has chosen? Satan is identified as “the accuser” of God’s people (Rev. 12:10; cf. Zech. 3:1). His accusations are valid, because they are based on the believer’s sinfulness and defilement. But Satan’s accusations will be thrown out of court, because it is God who justifies. The Judge Himself declares the accused person righteous on the basis of his faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:24; 5:1). As a result all accusations are dismissed and no one can bring an accusation that will stand.
The related question is, Who is He that condemns? The Greek participle ho katakrinōn can have a future sense, “will condemn,” which seems preferable here. (Cf. katakrima, “condemnation, punishment” in 8:1.) Jesus Christ is God’s appointed Judge (John 5:22, 27; Acts 17:31), so Paul answered this question by stating, Christ Jesus. But Jesus is the very One whom the believer has trusted for salvation. Furthermore, He is the One who died—more than that (lit., “but more”) who was raised to life—who is at the right hand of God (cf. Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33; 5:31; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22) and is also interceding for us. The Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the Judge, but He is also the One with whom each believer is identified by faith. As a result he is a believer’s Sacrifice for sin (cf. Rom. 5:8; 8:32), his new life (a believer shares in Christ’s resurrection life; 6:4, 8, 11; Eph. 2:5–6; Col. 2:13), his Intercessor (cf. Heb. 7:25; also the Holy Spirit intercedes, Rom. 8:26–27) and his Defense (1 John 2:1). Certainly the Judge will not condemn His own who are in Him by faith! (cf. Rom. 8:1)
8:34 Another challenge rings out! Is there anyone here to condemn? No one, because Christ has died for the defendant, has been raised from the dead, is now at the right hand of God interceding for him. If the Lord Jesus, to whom all judgment has been committed, does not pass sentence on the defendant but rather prays for him, then there is no one else who could have a valid reason for condemning him.
8:34 Christ … died … makes intercession: Since Christ had fully justified us and is presently interceding for us, then no one can possibly condemn us. The death of the Lord Jesus on our behalf would avail little apart from His resurrection. It is the living Lord that insures the security of God’s eternal purpose. Consequently, He is now sitting at the right hand of God where He is highly exalted in glory and sovereignty. By the authority which is innate to His deity, the Lord Jesus makes intercession for us to God the Father. By His victorious death, His victorious resurrection, His victorious ascension into heaven, and His victorious intercession for us, the Lord Jesus has sealed the eternal purpose of God. In the whole universe there is nothing which can provide greater assurance than the finished work of Christ.
8:34 condemns. To declare guilty and sentence to punishment. There are 4 reasons the believer can never be found guilty: 1) Christ’s death; 2) His resurrection; 3) His exalted position; and 4) His continual intercession for them. intercedes. Cf. Is 53:12; Heb 7:25.
8:34 Who is to condemn? The question posed in v. 33 is repeated. Christians may rejoice with the certainty that they will never be condemned, for (1) Christ died for them and paid the full penalty for their sin; (2) he was raised, showing that his death was effective; (3) he now is seated triumphantly at God’s right hand (Ps. 110:1); and (4) he intercedes for his people on the basis of his shed blood. Interceding signifies effective intervention.
8:34 at the right hand of God. The position of honor and executive authority (cf. Ps. 110:1). There can be no condemnation for us (in either sense of the term, v. 1 note), if our enthroned sin-bearer intercedes for us in heaven (1 John 2:1) while the Holy Spirit intercedes in our hearts (v. 27).
8:34 The understood answer to the opening question of this verse is “no one.” We can be sure that no one will be able to condemn us on the last day because of three facts listed here in increasing significance. First, Christ died for us. Second, and even more important, he was raised. And finally, he now intercedes for us. According to C. E. B. Cranfield, “the focus-point of faith is the present glory of the one who once was crucified.”
34. Who is he that condemns? &c. As no one by accusing can prevail, when the judge absolves; so there remains no condemnation, when satisfaction is given to the laws, and the penalty is already paid. Now Christ is he, who, having once for all suffered the punishment due to us, thereby declared that he undertook our cause, in order to deliver us: he then who seeks hereafter to condemn us, must bring back Christ himself to death again. But he has not only died, but also came forth, by a resurrection, as the conqueror of death, and triumphed over all its power.
He adds still more,—that he now sits at the right hand of the Father; by which is meant, that he possesses dominion over heaven and earth, and full power and rule over all things, according to what is said in Eph. 1:20. He teaches us also, that he thus sits, that he may be a perpetual advocate and intercessor in securing our salvation. It hence follows, that when any one seeks to condemn us, he not only seeks to render void the death of Christ, but also contends with that unequalled power with which the Father has honoured him, and who with that power conferred on him supreme authority. This so great an assurance, which dares to triumph over the devil, death, sin, and the gates of hell, ought to lodge deep in the hearts of all the godly; for our faith is nothing, except we feel assured that Christ is ours, and that the Father is in him propitious to us. Nothing then can be devised more pestilent and ruinous, than the scholastic dogma respecting the uncertainty of salvation.
Who intercedes, &c. It was necessary expressly to add this, lest the Divine majesty of Christ should terrify us. Though, then, from his elevated throne he holds all things in subjection under his feet, yet Paul represents him as a Mediator; whose presence it would be strange for us to dread, since he not only kindly invites us to himself, but also appears an intercessor for us before the Father. But we must not measure this intercession by our carnal judgment; for we must not suppose that he humbly supplicates the Father with bended knees and expanded hands; but as he appears continually, as one who died and rose again, and as his death and resurrection stand in the place of eternal intercession, and have the efficacy of a powerful prayer for reconciling and rendering the Father propitious to us, he is justly said to intercede for us.
34. yea rather, that is risen again—to make good the purposes of His death. Here, as in some other cases, the apostle delightfully corrects himself (see Ga 4:9; and see on Ro 1:12); not meaning that the resurrection of Christ was of more saving value than His death, but that having “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself”—which though precious to us was to Him of unmingled bitterness—it was incomparably more delightful to think that He was again alive, and living to see to the efficacy of His death in our behalf.
who is even—“also”
at the right hand of God—The right hand of the king was anciently the seat of honor (compare 1 Sa 20:25; 1 Ki 2:19; Ps 45:9), and denoted participation in the royal power and glory (Mt 20:21). The classical writings contain similar allusions. Accordingly Christ’s sitting at the right hand of God—predicted in Ps 110:1, and historically referred to in Mk 16:19; Ac 2:33; 7:56; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; 1 Pe 3:22; Rev 3:21—signifies the glory of the exalted Son of man, and the power in the government of the world in which He participates. Hence it is called “sitting on the right hand of Power” (Mt 26:64), and “sitting on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3) [Philippi].
who also maketh intercession for us—using all His boundless interest with God in our behalf. This is the top of the climax. “His Session at God’s right hand denotes His power to save us; His Intercession, His will to do it” [Bengel]. But how are we to conceive of this intercession? Not certainly as of one pleading “on bended knees and with outstretched arms,” to use the expressive language of Calvin. But yet, neither is it merely a figurative intimation that the power of Christ’s redemption is continually operative [Tholuck], or merely to show the fervor and vehemence of His love for us [Chrysostom]. It cannot be taken to mean less than this: that the glorified Redeemer, conscious of His claims, expressly signifies His will that the efficacy of His death should be made good to the uttermost, and signifies it in some such royal style as we find Him employing in that wonderful Intercessory Prayer which He spoke as from within the veil (see on Jn 17:11, 12): “Father, I WILL that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am” (see on Jn 17:24). But in what form this will is expressed is as undiscoverable as it is unimportant.
Vers. 33, 34.—The triumphant challenge. He has asked the general question, challenging an answer: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” He now proceeds to two special questions, the first of which has reference to the justification of believers by God. In view of that he asks, “Who shall lay anything to their charge? who shall condemn?” And again, amplifying the fact of their justification, he tells of the death, the resurrection, the ascension, the intercession, of Christ Jesus, as the pledge and declaration of their acquittal. We may consider the possible sources of charge against God’s people, and their triumphant vindication.
- The charge. To them that are in Christ Jesus there is now no condemnation, and yet whispers of condemnation may again and again be heard. 1. The transgressions of the past may come to mind with such force as to destroy our joy in God. Past irreparable, and though first consciousness of free forgiveness of God may almost blot it from our memory for the time, yet there are times when it seems to live again, and so vividly that we can hardly detach the thought of overwhelming guilt as still upon us. 2. The imperfections of the present. How far from the perfectness of the ideal! And how the very growth of earnestness and increase of endeavour seem to make the ideal more distant still! So conscience, the Law, the adversary, and accusing men (see Beet, in loc.) may make us feel condemned.
- The vindication. But the condemnation is not real; it exists only in the diseased imagination. Let it be brought face to face with the great facts of the gospel, and it must vanish quite away. What are these facts? 1. The great central fact is that we are God’s chosen ones; and who shall dispute God’s choice? Not that he ever can act without reason; but, whether we see the reason or not, we are elect, the elect of God, as being his people, and who shall gainsay it? 2. This great election is declared by his justification of the believer, which has gone abroad in the gospel to all the world: “He that believeth is not condemned.” 3. And even the reasons of the election of believers are graciously made known, and graciously confirmed: Christ’s death, resurrection, exaltation, and intercession. (1) The death of Christ, as the great Propitiation for the sins of the world, utterly does away all guilt to those who sincerely receive it by faith. As the Son of God, he thus sets forth the infinite love of a God who laid down his life for our sake; as Son of man, making reconciliation for the sins of the people, he appeals on our behalf even to the infinite justice for our acquittal. And though we may still be frail, and sin may cleave to us, yet, if we are sincere in our faith, that atonement avails for all things and for ever. (2) The resurrection of Christ, following after the expiation, is God’s sure setting-forth of the value of the expiation, and the effectiveness of the finished sacrifice. “Raised for [i.e. because of] our justification” (ch. 4:25). (3) The exaltation, as the resurrection completed, is the completing of the guarantee that we are accepted in him. And he is our Forerunner. (4) The intercession, as the work of the exalted High Priest, is the continuous application of the atoning work, in itself for ever finished and for ever guaranteed. For returning prodigals, and for us with our frailties who have believed, he “ever liveth to make intercession,” and is therefore “able to save unto the uttermost.”
Oh, then, whether we look to God who has chosen and justified us, or to him whom God hath set forth as a Propitiation, and again declared to be his Son, well-pleasing and beloved, by the raising from the dead; whether we regard God in Christ as the Source of our salvation, as the Effecter of salvation, or as the Manifester of salvation; whether we think of the past, the present, or the future in Christ;—in any case we can take up the triumphant challenge given us by Paul, “It is God that justifieth; who is he that shall condemn? It is Christ Jesus,” etc.—T. F. L.
34 τίς ὁ κατακρινῶν; “who is there to condemn?” This translation helps bring out the ambiguity of the Greek since the verb could be punctuated either as a present or a future; but it is almost certainly eschatological in intent, again referring to the final judgment (Michel; Synofzik, 103). Since it is the judge (= God) who alone can give sentence of condemnation, the question has already been answered in the previous phrase (njb follows an ancient tradition of the Greek Fathers [see Lagrange] in running vv 33b and 34a together: “When God grants saving justice who can condemn?”); however, Paul’s answer serves to underline the degree to which already Christ was seen as having been given share in God’s role as judge (cf. particularly 2:16 and 2 Cor 5:10 with Rom 14:10; and see below).
Χριστὸς (Ἰησοῦς) ὁ ἀποθανών, μᾶλλον δὲ ἐγερθείς, “it is Christ (Jesus) who died, rather was raised.” The “died … was raised” has a formulaic ring (cf. particularly 1 Cor 15:3–4; 2 Cor 5:15; 1 Thess 4:14), but it is the balanced form of the statement which is more established than the particular wording (cf. especially elsewhere in Romans—5:10; 6:4, 9–10; 7:4; 14:9). The μᾶλλον supplements and thereby clarifies or indeed corrects what has preceded (cf. 1 Cor 14:1, 5; Gal 4:9; BGD 3d), and so has the same effect as the πολλῷ μᾶλλον of 5:9–10. It is important for Paul’s soteriology to remember that Jesus’ death was not decisive for salvation on its own. Paul is still thinking in terms of Adam soteriology, of Jesus’ death as an end of Adam (see on 8:3), opening the way for the new Adam to appear in resurrection (1 Cor 15:20–22).
ὃς καί ἐστιν ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ, “who also is at the right hand of God.” The echo of Ps 110 [LXX 109]: 1 (εἶπεν ὁ κύριος τῷ κυρίῳ μου, Κάθου ἐκ δεξιῶν μου) is obviously deliberate: the frequency with which the passage is cited in the NT shows clearly that it was a passage much loved and used in earliest Christology (Mark 12:36 pars.; 14:62 pars.; Acts 2:34–35; Heb 1:13; and with ἐν as the preposition, as above—Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet 3:22; see also Hay, and on 10:9). “The right hand” denotes power (see, e.g., Exod 15:6, 12; Deut 33:2; Job 40:9; Pss 17:7; 18:35; etc.; BGD fittingly cites Pss. Sol. 13:1; Josephus, War 1.378); hence a seat at the right hand is the seat of special honor (1 Kgs 2:19; Ps 45:9; in the NT particularly Acts 2:33; 5:31; and 7:55–56).
To appreciate the significance of Ps 110:1 being used of Jesus we must note two points. (1) The force of the original psalm would presumably have been a highly honorific way of asserting that Israel’s king was appointed by God as, in effect, God’s vice-regent over his people. (2) In the period around and following Paul there seems to have been a fair degree of speculation regarding heroes of the faith having been exalted to a glorious throne in heaven—a speculation probably stimulated by the plural “thrones” in Dan 7:9; so particularly Adam (T. Abr. 11.4–18), Enoch (Sim. Enoch = 1 Enoch 45.3; 51.3; 55.4; 61.8; 69.27–29; 71.14), Melchizedek (11QMelch), Job (T. Job 33.3), the Messiah (R. Akiba, according to b. Sanh. 38b). The striking feature of the earliest Christian use of Ps 110:1 then is not the claim itself, but the fact that it was made of one whose life was of very recent memory (rather than of a hero from the dim mists of Israel’s ancient past). Those who see here simply a case of “cognitive dissonance” (a failed prophecy being met by its vigorous reassertion as a way of coping with the failure) should ask themselves why the Teacher of Righteousness at Qumran or the failed messianic prophets of the time (Theudas, the Egyptian, etc.; Josephus, Ant. 20.97–98, 169–72) did not come to be spoken of in the same way.
ὃς καὶ ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, “who also intercedes on our behalf.” For ἐντυγχάνω see on 8:27. The imagery is of heavenly intercession such as was attributed to angels already within Jewish thought (see on 8:26; cf. Enoch in 1 Enoch 13.4, but 14.4–7). We have here therefore another example of earliest Christology taking over various categories used to describe the reality of heaven and focusing them in an exclusive and exhaustive way on Christ. The thought was very important for Hebrews (particularly 7:25; cf. 1 John 2:1), but here may be as much an outworking of Paul’s Adam Christology (the last Adam interceding for his race, somewhat like T. Abr. 11), as of a latent high-priest Christology. Kleinknecht (345) notes that the theme of intercession can also be tied into that of the suffering righteous (Job 42:8–10; Isa 53:12; T. Benj. 3.6–8). On the relation to the intercession of the Spirit in v 26 see Wilckens.
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