The Believers Triumph
Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 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. Romans 8:34
Who then will condemn us? Will Christ Jesus? No, for he is the one who died for us and was raised to life for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us. Romans 8:34
We have remarked that the soul of the Apostle rose with the sublimity of his theme. It was impossible not to perceive, as we followed him in his masterly and conclusive argument, how his mighty mind kindled with fresh rapture, as each successive step conducted him towards its magnificent climax. It may truly be said to be the "mighty work of a mind acting in all the dignity of independent greatness, and fired and elevated by a principle no less commanding than the love of Jesus." He had thrown down the undaunted challenge, unaccepted, and now he breathes the final triumph- "Who is he that condemns?" Let us briefly follow him in the different parts of the mediatorial work of Christ, which he exhibits in the passage, as constituting the ground of the believer's triumph.
"It is Christ that died." Upon this fact we have somewhat descanted elsewhere, in explaining the doctrine of the believer's justification. The object of the writer in introducing it again, was to confirm the Christian's exemption from condemnation, on the broad basis of Christ's mediation. This event formed the first of all the subsequent steps in the working out of the great plan of the Church's redemption. To this, as its center, every line of truth converged. It was as a suffering Messiah, as an atoning High Priest, as a crucified Savior, as a Conqueror, returning from the battle-field with garments rolled in blood, that the Son of God was revealed to the eye of the Old Testament saints. They were taught by every type, and by every prophecy, to look to "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Christ must die! Death had entered our world, and death- the death of the Prince of Life- only could expel it. This event formed the deepest valley of our Lord's humiliation. It was the dark background- the somber shading of the picture of his life, around which gathered the light and glory of all the subsequent parts of his history. But in what character did Christ die? Not as a Martyr, nor as a Model, but as a Substitute. His death was substitutionary. "God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us." This great truth, the Apostle, we find in another place, appropriating to himself. "The Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." Here was the personal application of a general truth. And this is the privilege of faith. There breathes not a babe in Christ, who may not lay his hand upon this glorious truth- "Christ gave himself for me." Contemplate now, the conclusiveness of this reasoning for the non-condemnation of the believer. Since Christ bore our sins, and was condemned in our place; since by his expiatory death the claims of Divine justice are answered, and the holiness of the Divine law is maintained, who can condemn those for whom he died? Oh, what security is this for the believer in Jesus! Standing beneath the shadow of the cross, the weakest saint can confront his deadliest foe; and every accusation alleged, and every sentence of condemnation uttered, he can meet, by pointing to Him who died. In that one fact he sees the great debt cancelled, the entire curse removed, the grand indictment quashed- and "No condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus," are words written as in letters of living light upon the cross.
"Yes rather, that is risen again." This is the second part of the mediation of Christ, which the Apostle assigns as a reason why none can condemn the believer. It would seem by the word "rather" that we are taught to look upon this fact of our Lord's life as supplying a still stronger affirmation of the great truth he was establishing. A few observations may make this appear. The atoning work of Christ was in itself a finished work. It supplied all that the case demanded. Nothing could possibly add to its perfection. "I have finished the work which you gave me to do." But we lacked the proof. We required that evidence of the reality and acceptance of the Atonement which would render our faith in it a rational and intelligent act. The proof lay with him who was "pleased to bruise him and put him to grief." If God were satisfied, then the guilty, trembling sinner may confidently and safely repose on the work of the Savior. The fact of the resurrection was therefore essential to give reality to the Atonement, and hope to man. Had he not returned in triumph from the grave, the sanctity of his precepts, the sublimity of his teachings, the luster of his example, and the sympathies awakened by the story of his death, might have attracted, charmed, and subdued us, but all expectation of redemption by his blood would have been a mockery and a delusion. But, "This Jesus has God raised up." And grounded on this fact the believer's acquittal is complete. When he bowed his head and gave up the spirit, the sentence of condemnation was reversed; but when he burst the bonds of death, and appeared in the character of a Victor, the believer's justification was forever sealed. "For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." Here, then, lies the great security of the believer. "Delivered for our offences, he rose again for our justification." Planting his foot of faith upon the vacant tomb of his living Redeemer, the Christian can exclaim, "Who is he that condemns? it is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again." Oh, to feel the power of his resurrection in our souls! Oh, to rise with him in all the reality and glory of this his new-born life, our minds, our affections, our aspirations, our hopes all quickened, and ascending with our living Lord. "Because I live, you shall live also."
"Who is even at the right hand of God." The exaltation of Christ was a necessary part of his mediatorial work. It entered essentially into the further continuance of that work in heaven- the scene of the intercessory part of the High Priest's office. "The right hand of God" is a phrase expressive of power and dignity. "When he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." "Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels, and authorities, and powers, being made subject unto him." What stronger assurance has the believer that no impeachment against him can be successful, than this? His Savior, his Advocate, his best Friend, is at the right hand of the Father, advanced to the highest post of honor and power in heaven.
"There sits our Savior crowned with light,
Clothed in a body like our own."
All power and dominion are his. The revolutions of the planets, and the destinies of empires, his hand guides. The government is upon his shoulders; and for the well being, security, and triumph of his Church, power over all flesh, and dominion over all worlds, is placed in his hands. Who, then, can condemn? Jesus is at the right hand of God, and the principalities and powers of all worlds are subject to his authority. Fear not, therefore, O, believer! Your Head and Redeemer is alive to frustrate every purpose, to resist every plot, and to silence every tongue that would condemn you.
"Who also makes intercession for us." To what a beautiful climax does the Apostle conduct his argument! The exaltation of Jesus in heaven is associated with the dearest interests of his people on earth. Joseph was forgotten when Pharaoh lifted up the head of the chief butler. But our Lord, amid the honors and splendors to which God has highly exalted him, still remembers his brethren in bonds, and makes intercession for them. How expressive is the type of our Lord's present engagement on behalf of his people! "And he (Aaron) shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil: and he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony." The passing of Aaron into the holy of holies, was the shadowing forth of our Lord's entrance into
heaven. The blood sprinkled at the mercy seat was the presentation of the great Atonement within the veil. And the incense overshadowing with its fragrant cloud the mercy seat, thus touched with blood, was the figure of the ceaseless intercession of our Great High Priest in the Holiest. "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true: but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." It is an individual, an anticipative, and a present intercession. It embraces all the personal needs of each believer, it precedes each temptation and each trial, and at the moment that the sympathy and the prayers of the Savior are the most called for, and are felt to be the most soothing, it bears the saint and his sorrow on its bosom before the throne. Just at a crisis of his history, at a juncture, perhaps, the most critical in his life; and when the heart, oppressed with its emotions, cannot breathe a prayer, Jesus is remembering him, sympathizing with him, and interceding for him. Oh, who can fully describe the blessings that flow through the intercession of the Son of God? The love, the sympathy, the forethought, the carefulness, the minute interest in all our concerns, are blessings beyond description. Tried, tempted believer! Jesus makes intercession for you. Your case is not unknown to him. Your sorrow is not hidden from him. Your name is on his heart. Your burden is on his shoulder; and because he not only has prayed for you, but prays for you now, your faith shall not fail. Your great accuser may stand at your right hand to condemn you, but your great Advocate stands at the right hand of God to plead for you. And greater is he that is for you, than all that are against you.
Behold the ground of the believer's triumph! What has he to fear? "Who is he that condemns?" The mediatorial work of Christ shuts every mouth, meets every accusation, and ignores every indictment that can be brought against those for whom he died, rose again, ascended up on high, and makes intercession. Oh, what a glorious triumph does Christ secure to the weakest saint who stands in faith upon this rock! "There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to those who are in Christ Jesus."