Monday, July 26, 2010

Who Will Justify Me?

Paul concludes his arguments on salvation by grace in Romans 8 in a very triumphant language: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised” (Romans 8:32-34).

What is important to understand here is that our salvation rests on the Father’s wil-lingness to “not spare” His own Son. From what did He not spare Him? This desire is linked to His gracious giving “all things” to His elect. Then Paul asks, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” This and the question following are rhetorical, that is, they expect “no one” for an answer. The one qualified to accuse is the very one who vindicates. The elect are free from condemnation although they are guilty. They are spared, but God’s Son is not spared.

Here is the judicial scenario: the elect of God cannot be vindicated as innocent. They are sinners, violating God’s commandments and heaping sacrilege on His good name. They are to be charged with their heinous, God-belittling crimes and punished to the full extent of the law. The accusation must stand and appropriate punishment meted out. So why is no charge leveled? It is because the Judge has justified them. How?

There are only two ways in which one can be justified or vindicated. Either the ac-cused is actually innocent of all charges, or the penalty of the crime has been fully and adequately paid. We know that the elect cannot plead innocence; neither could they satisfy infinite justice. A finite being would suffer the full fury of God’s wrath for eternity. So it is important to resolve the question. This is where the willingness of the just Judge comes into play. He did not spare—He did not withhold a molecule of His terrible wrath flung with omnipotent force of Holy indignation against any of the sins of the elect because a suitable substitute suffered in their place. God’s own Son stood in the stead of the elect and endured their penalty to the full.

However, Jesus did not go it alone. He trusted in His heavenly Father to stand by Him and vindicate Him in the place of His people. In Romans 8:32-34 Paul takes his language from Isaiah 50:8, 9, where Christ is speaking of His own justification (v. 8). When He says, “‘I will put my trust in Him’ (Hebrews 11:13a), He refers to His part in God’s plan to justify “the children God had given [Him]” (Hebrews 11:13b). Jesus knew no sin, but He is vindi-cated because He took on human nature in order to identify with His “brethren,” bearing the punishment of their guilt in their place. By this He satisfied justice to the full and so could cry from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). God made our iniquities to fall on Him (Isaiah 53:6), and He trusted God to accept the punishment for the charges against them. Thus, we read in Hebrews 2:11 that “He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin.”

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