The Believer's Challenge
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Romans 8:33
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Romans 8:33
Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? Will God? No! He is the one who has given us right standing with himself. Romans 8:33
The Apostle recurs again to the great proposition with which he started- no condemnation in Christ Jesus- the evidence of which had so richly accumulated in his course, as to justify this, the keynote of the triumph with which he conducts his brilliant argument to a close. It is impossible not to perceive that his spirit kindles with the inspiration of his theme, until from the pinnacle on which he now stood, he seems to have caught an expanded view, and to reflect the first beams, of that heaven of glory from which he had so lately descended.
"God's elect." It was important that the Apostle should distinctly specify who the people were against whom no accusation could justly be alleged. And what terms could he employ more expressive of their character and relation than this? It involves two ideas- God's choice, of a people beloved. The term occurs in other places. "But for the elect's sake these days shall be shortened." "According to the faith of God's elect." "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." "His own elect." It is quite clear, then, that those on whose behalf this challenge is made, are a people who, like their Lord and Master, are "chosen of God and precious." Now, scriptural as this doctrine is, it cannot be concealed that many anxious minds have made it a stumbling-stone at the very threshold of their spiritual career. The great mistake has been the making the doctrine of election the starting-point of their conversion, rather than a point to be reached at a subsequent and distant part of their religious course. With God it doubtless is the starting-point, if we may suppose a beginning with him who has no beginning- but not with man. We have in a previous chapter shown that our calling of God by the Spirit is the premise, and that our election of God by his love is the conclusion. Thus reasoning, as logicians term it, a posteriori, without having looked into the mysterious volume of the Divine decrees, the Apostle, addressing the converted Thessalonians, could boldly say, "Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God." And how did he know it? From their faith, their knowledge, their reception of the truth, and its transforming effects on their character. Adopt this mode of reasoning as yours, and you will no longer complain that the doctrine of election is a perplexing truth, casting its deep and gloomy shadow upon your path to the cross. In your spiritual voyage your calling by grace is like an isthmus standing between two eternities; the past, in which God has chosen his people; and the future, in which he will glorify, them. Reach this middle point and you are safe.
"It is God that justifies." We believe that by many this cardinal doctrine of God's justification is but imperfectly understood, and but indistinctly seen in its results. The lofty position of security in which it places the believer, the liberty, peace, and hope into which it brings him, are points dim and obscure in the spiritual vision of many. We also believe that much of the weak, sickly Christianity of numbers is traceable, in a great measure, to the crude and gloomy conceptions they form of God, produced by not clearly seeing the interest which he felt, and the initiatory part which he took, in the great matter of our justification. Let our faith but trace the act of our justification to God, and we have placed ourselves upon a vantage-ground of the boldest defiance to all our enemies. Survey the truth in this light for a moment. Against whom have you sinned? Adopting David's confession, you exclaim, "Against you, and you only have I sinned." Having sinned against God, from God, then, you looked for the condemnation. You had violated his law, and from the lips of the Lawgiver you waited the sentence. When, lo! he declares himself on your side. Descending, as from his tribunal, he comes and stands in your place, and avows himself your Justifier. "It is GOD that justifies." Upon you, a culprit, trembling at his bar, he throws his own righteousness, "which is unto all, and upon all those who believe;" and from that moment you are justified. Shall we, then, be indifferent to the part the Father took in the great question of our acceptance? Shall we cherish the shy and suspicious thought of God as if he looked coldly at us, and felt that, in pleading for his mercy, we were infringing upon his righteousness? Oh, no! Away with such thoughts of God! He it is who pronounces the act of your acquittal, and from his lips sound the glorious words, "No CONDEMNATION!" "It is God that justifies."
We are now prepared for the challenge based upon this truth. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" Who in heaven; who on earth; who in hell? God will not; sin cannot; Satan dare not. Who? If there be in this wide universe an accuser of those whom God has justified, let him appear. There is none! Every mouth is closed. "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?" If there remain a sin unpardoned, a stain uneffaced, a precept unkept, by the Mediator of his church, let it appear. But there is none! The work of Christ is honorable and glorious. It is a finished work. And on the basis of this complete Atonement, God, while he remains just, is the justifier of him that believes. Oh, embrace this truth, you who, in bitterness of soul, are self-accused and self-condemned before God! Satan could accuse, and the world could accuse, and the saints could accuse, but more severe and true than all, is the self-accusation which lays your mouth in the dust, in the deepest, lowliest contrition. Yet, as a poor sinner, looking to Jesus, resting in Jesus, accepted in Jesus, who shall lay anything legally to your charge, since it is God- the God against whom you have sinned- who himself becomes your Justifier? May you not with all lowliness, yet with all holy boldness, challenge every foe, in the prophetic words of Christ himself- "He is near that justifies me: who will contend with me?"
This truth is an elevating, because a deeply sanctifying one. It exalts the principles, and these, in their turn, exalt the practice of the Christian. Oh! the thought, that it is God who justifies us at an expense to himself so vast, by a sacrifice to himself so precious, surely is sufficiently powerful to give the greatest intensity to our pantings, and fervency to our prayers, for conformity to the Divine image. Deep sorrows, and sore trials, and fiery temptations, we may have, and must have, if we ever enter the kingdom; but, what is sorrow, and what is trial, and what is temptation, if they work but in us the fruits of righteousness, fit us more perfectly for heaven, and waft us nearer to our eternal home? Press, in humble faith, this precious truth to your heart, for God has forgiven all, and has cancelled all, and has forgotten all, and is your God forever and ever.
"But in that coming day, no weapon turned against you will succeed. And everyone who tells lies in court will be brought to justice. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the Lord; their vindication will come from me. I, the Lord, have spoken!" Isaiah 54:17