Four Reasons to Trust Christ

Romans 8:34   |   Sunday, April 8, 2012   |   Code: 2012-04-08-PJ

    This morning we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, so I have chosen a text that I think is especially appropriate for Easter: Romans 8:34. While you are turning there, I'll read the text. It's both brief and familiar. Romans 8:34:

     Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. That's one of those texts that outlines itself. It highlights four facts of gospel truth that give believers in Christ reasons to rest in a settled confidence—without fear of condemnation, without being tortured by uncertainty, guilt feelings, the disgrace of sin, anxiety about the future, or alarm at the thought of standing before God in judgment. In short, here are four reasons to trust Christ:  [1)] [He] is the one who died . . . [2)] [He] was raised . . . [3)] [He] is at the right hand of God . . . [and 4)] [He] is interceding for us. Jesus' Crucifixion; His Resurrection; His Ascension; and His Intercession. Those four truths are all at the heart of the gospel. Four truths that are good news indeed. And Paul is expressly citing them here in this context as proofs of the doctrine of eternal security—arguments demonstrating why we as Christians need not fear being lost or cast away or condemned by God. 

    Now: Let's look at the context. Be prepared to page through the book of Romans with me as we look at the broad context here. Our verse is part of Paul's culminating argument in Romans 8. It is the end of a long section of detailed systematic theology he started when he introduced the principle of justification by faith, beginning all the way back in Romans 3. So turn back with me to Romans 3.

    Just to summarize what came before this: Paul has spent the first three chapters of Romans proving from the Old Testament that all people—Jews, out-and-out pagans, religious Gentiles, all classes of humanity—are hopelessly guilty and in utter bondage to sin. No one deserves heaven. No one deserves God's favor. No one deserves any blessing of any kind.

    Romans starts out sounding like a pretty bleak epistle, right up through chapter three, verse 20. By then, "every mouth [has been] stopped, and the whole world [stands guilty before] God. [And furthermore, there is no hope whatsoever that we can redeem ourselves, because (verse 20):] by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." Paul arrives here at what seems like a hopeless impasse: You are sinful to the core and there's nothing you can do to earn redemption.

    Then the text takes an abrupt and amazing turn, and in the very next verse (v. 21) Paul says that Christ has already done for us what we could never accomplish for ourselves. In the first place, by His perfect life, He has shown us what the righteousness of God looks like in human experience, and (in the second place) He has bestowed that perfect righteousness as a gift (by imputation) "unto all and upon all [those who] believe." Verses 21-22: "Now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe."

    That, then, becomes the central idea of the entire book of Romans: God justifies sinners by faith alone. Romans 3:24: Believers "are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith."

    So Paul makes this absolutely clear: Christ's death—the shedding of His blood—is a propitiation. That's a word from the Old Testament sacrificial system, and it's just a synonym for "satisfaction." It means Christ's death satisfied both the justice and the wrath of God. Jesus died to pay the price of sin—and notice: He justifies believers freely, "as a gift"—not as a reward for any merit brought to the table by the people whom He redeems; not as a remuneration for some penance that they have performed, but freely, gratuitously, because He paid the price in their place.

    In other words, as Paul goes on to say in Romans 4:5, God "justifies the ungodly." He declares them righteous; He rewards them for being righteous (even though they have not actually been righteous); He accepts them as if they were truly righteous—not for anything they have done, but solely on the ground of what Christ has done.

    Notice the end of Romans 4:6: "God [imputes] righteousness apart from works." Paul is teaching here in Romans 3 and 4 that the righteousness of Christ is reckoned to those who believe, or credited to their account, and their sin is charged to Christ, or imputed to His account. And since He paid that debt in full on the cross and erased it from the ledger, believers are not only forgiven, but rewarded with a position of privilege as if they had obeyed the law of God to consummate perfection, because that is precisely what Christ did, and His obedience counts for theirs.

    That is the principle of justification by faith. It is the heart of the gospel message. And the promise of justification is further buttressed and expanded by the four truths contained in our text.

    In Romans 4, Paul uses Abraham as an example of someone who was justified by faith, and the chapter ends with these words (Romans 4:22):

[Abraham's faith was "counted to him as righteousness." [That, by the way is a direct quote from Genesis 15:6. Paul had quoted Genesis 15:6 at the start of Romans 4 (verse 3), and the remainder of the chapter is Paul's exposition of that verse from Genesis. It is a discourse on the doctrine of justification by faith. Paul continues in verse 23:]

23 But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone,

24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,

25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

There again is a reference to both the crucifixion of Christ and His resurrection. And notice that this principle of justification by faith is expressly tied here to the truth of the resurrection. Christ was "raised for our justification."

    The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead vindicated His innocence, proved that God did not deem Him worthy of death, demonstrated that God was pleased with the sacrifice Jesus made on behalf of sinners—and therefore, the resurrection of Christ from the dead was the first (in historical order, the first) declaration that the full justification of sinners was accomplished and accepted. It was God's eternal stamp of affirmation on the last word spoken by Christ on the cross (John 19:30): Tetelestai, which meant, "It is finished."

    So the resurrection is the seal—the guarantee from God Himself—that our justification has been fully accomplished by Christ. Redemption is secure. There is nothing left for us to do to add to the work Christ already finished on the cross. "It is finished."

    Romans 5 goes on, then, to explain the theology of justification—showing the parallel between (on the one hand) Adam's headship over the human race, the doctrine of original sin, and the imputation of Adam's guilt; compared and contrasted (on the other hand) with Christ's headship over the redeemed race, the doctrine of justification by faith, and the imputation of Christ's righteousness.

    What I want you to notice is that Paul expressly treats our justification as an accomplished fact. He speaks of it properly in the past tense. Romans 5:1: "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we [now] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." That is a present reality, not merely a future hope. Roman Catholicism and most of the cults treat justification as a future prospect, yet to be decided. They teach (and I think most non-Christian theologies likewise presume) that we will one day stand before the judgment seat of God and He will decide at that time whether we are justified or not.

    Here's the problem with that: In a system like that, everyone's own good works are the central factor in determining which way the verdict will go. Did you perform the sacraments fully and faithfully enough? Did you keep the moral law to the best of your ability? Were you basically a good person? Those are the criteria most people think will determine whether you will be justified or not.

    Scripture does not teach that. The Bible expressly teaches us that we are not good enough. None of us. That is the whole point of the first three chapters of Romans. (Romans 3:10: "As it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE.") The only justification available to fallen sinners is justification based on the merits of Christ—through the imputation of His righteousness.

    That's what the cross is all about (2 Corinthians 5:21): "For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." Christ traded places with us at the cross. He took what we deserve, so that we can trade places with Him at the judgment seat of God and get what He deserves. That's what grace is all about, and that's why grace is so amazing (in case you have ever sung "Amazing Grace" without thinking about what it really means).

    Anyway, our justification is a verdict that has already been rendered. As believers, we do not have to wait for the Great White Throne judgment to discover what God thinks of us or where we stand with Him. We have been declared fully justified already, and that is the point Paul is making explicit in Romans 5. Again, verse 1: "We have been justified by faith, [and] we have peace with God [right now]." Already.

    At the end of Romans 5, Paul punctuates the lesson with these words (starting in the middle of verse 20): "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

    Now, if that's true—if grace abounds wherever sin abounds, and if sinners are credited with a righteousness they never earned—what's to keep us from sinning? That's the question that opens Romans 6: "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?"

    Paul replies, "By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" And then he goes on for two chapters to describe why willfully continuing in wanton sin would never be the response of anyone who truly believes in Christ and loves Him. A faithful heart will never countenance unfaithful behavior and unholy living.

    Chapter 6 teaches that those who believe have been united with Christ and therefore are freed from absolute bondage to sin. Chapter 7 balances that with Paul's own admission that the temptation to sin is still ever-present with him, and the flesh is weak, so being freed from absolute bondage to sin doesn't mean we automatically experience anything like sin-free living. Rather, we are constantly at war with the principle of sin that clings to us like rancid grave-clothes.

    One other thing to notice in Romans 6-7 is this: those same two historical events—the crucifixion of Christ and His resurrection—are the symbols of our redeemed life. We are dead to sin (Romans 6) and dead to the threats and condemnation of the law (Romans 7), and through our spiritual union with Christ, we have been raised (Romans 6:4) to "walk in newness of life." Death and resurrection. Those themes are the heart of all gospel truth. They'll come back to the forefront in our verse.

    And now we come to Romans 8. Notice: At the start of this long section, Paul returns to the truth that our justification is a past-tense reality; an accomplished fact, not merely a future hope. Justification is a certainty we can rest in, not an ambition we have to work for. Romans 8:1: "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

    Romans 8 goes on to unpack that truth, showing how "the Spirit helps us in our weakness." The Spirit of God is the answer to every frustration Paul expressed in Romans 7. The Holy Spirit indwells us (v. 9): "the Spirit of God dwells in you. [And] Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." The Spirit gives us spiritual life through the resurrection power of Christ (v. 11): "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." The Holy Spirit empowers us for the battle against sin (v. 13). He leads us (v. 14). He bears witness on our behalf (v. 16). And (now mark this: v. 26) He "intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

    Through the heart of this chapter, the main focus is on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. But this is a Trinitarian chapter. There is a corresponding thread that runs through the chapter, pointing us to God the Father. In fact, one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is that He teaches us to cry, "Abba! Father!" (v. 15). It is God the Father to whom the Spirit prays on our behalf. Verse 27 is a reference to the Father: "He who searches hearts." I love that verse (v. 27): "He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."

    So the Father knows the mind of the Spirit, and therefore He is sympathetic to the prayers offered on our behalf by the Spirit. Furthermore, the Spirit knows the mind of the Father and therefore He prays accordingly. We have no better, more knowledgeable prayer partner, because the Spirit always prays "according to the will of God." (We do have an equal prayer Partner in heaven, however, and we'll see that when we get into the details of our text.)

    But we're still looking at the context, and we've come through Romans 8:27. Verse 28 turns to the ministry of the Father, who is able to make "all things work together for good." Verses 29-32 are a hymn about the sovereignty of God. This is one of the most profound and powerful declarations of divine sovereignty in such a compact statement in all of Scripture. In the span of just two verses Paul moves from eternity past to eternity future showing that God is sovereign over every aspect of our salvation from our election (which took place before time began) to our glorification (which will be fully consummated in that last day, when time shall be no more). God accomplishes every facet of salvation. Notice that there's nothing in Paul's entire ordo salutis (the ordered list of the various components of salvation)—nothing in that list that depends in the least bit on you or me. So we can't fumble our salvation. We won't be plucked out of the Savior's hand. God Himself is keeping us secure. In the words of 1 Peter 1:5, we "are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

    And here is the decisive argument that proves all of this and seals our security with emphatic finality (v. 32): "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?" If God has already sacrificed what is most beloved and most precious to Him, isn't it unthinkable to fear that he might withhold from us any blessing or essential resource that we might need in order to reach the finish line of faith? If Christ died to save us, God is not going to permit His purpose to be frustrated or His life's accomplishment to be ruined. Having already given us His very best, God will never withhold any lesser blessing from us. Therefore, we can rest in the security of His finished salvation—even though we have not yet entered into the fullness of glorification.

    Furthermore (verse 33), if God has already justified us—delivered a "not-guilty" verdict on our behalf, declared us fully and perfectly righteous, and clothed us in the garment of Christ's own perfection—what lesser creature could ever make any accusation against us stick? "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies."

    "If God is for us, who can be against us?" That's verse 31, and it's a perfect statement of the theme of this whole closing section of Romans 8.

    So follow the simple progression of Paul's argument. Again, there is a Trinitarian structure to this passage. The Holy Spirit, our Comforter, is clearly on our side. He indwells us, intercedes for us, and even expresses empathy for our deepest groanings translating those groanings into prayers we would not be capable of expressing. He isn't going to condemn us. All those things He does for us are the opposite of condemnation.

    God the Father has already justified us (v. 33). That, too, is the polar opposite of condemnation. Besides, He "gave his only [begotten] Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." We don't need to fear that God the Father would ever be against us, because (v. 32): "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?"

    That leaves Jesus Himself. And this is really a no-brainer. If God the Holy Spirit is for us, and God the Father is for us—what about the Son? Verse 34. This is our text: "Who is to condemn?" Christ? Seriously? Would Christ Himself bring a charge against God's elect? Is that a possibility we need to consider? Is that a prospect we ought to fear?

    It's a question that hardly needs to be addressed, but Paul is a thoroughgoing Trinitarian, so he goes ahead and makes the point that Christ Himself will never turn against us. He will "will never leave you nor forsake you." He will neither fail you nor give up on you. He will not condemn you nor abandon you. Nothing can separate you from His love, and nothing can snatch you out of His hand.

    And in order to make that point, Paul reviews the ministry of Christ on our behalf, starting with the cross and taking it down to the current moment: "Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is [right now] interceding for us."

    Four aspects of Christ's redemptive ministry that bolster our confidence. Four pillars of gospel truth that are like massive stone buttresses fortifying our security. The crucifixion, the resurrection, the Ascension, and the intercession of Christ on our behalf. Let's look at them individually and see how each one gives us even more reason to rest in the security of salvation. First—


1. Jesus' Crucifixion

    Here's the text: "Christ Jesus is the one who died." Remember, Paul began talking about the meaning of Jesus' death near the end of Romans 3. He said the cross was a propitiation—a sacrifice offered to God to discharge the demands of justice by receiving the full punishment meted out by God's wrath against all the sins of every sinner who ever turned to Christ as Savior. Now, keep this in mind: we said propitiation is just a synonym for "satisfaction." God is the one who had to be propitiated, or satisfied, with the offering of Christ in the place of the sinner. And Christ willingly offered Himself in death as payment in full for our guilt. He is "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" That's John 1:29, and it reminds us that Jesus died as a sacrifice offered to God—not a concession to Satan or a ransom paid to the powers of darkness, but a holy sacrifice offered up to satisfy the righteous wrath of an offended Deity.

    So when Paul talks about the death of Christ, he is referring to the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Incidentally, that is true throughout the Pauline epistles. It is axiomatic with Paul "that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3). He became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). Romans 4:25: He "was delivered up for our trespasses." Galatians 1:4: He "gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." Galatians 3:13: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us." Ephesians 5:2: "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us." The principle of substitution is written into every one of those expressions. And whenever the apostle Paul talks about "the cross," he is talking about the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. Christ took our place and received from the hand of His own Father the full weight of the punishment we deserve.

    That is, frankly, a hard truth for most people to receive, and I understand that. But it is what the Bible clearly teaches about the meaning of Christ's crucifixion. Isaiah 53:10: "It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he . . . put him to grief . . . his soul [was] an offering for [our] guilt." Or listen to the apostle Peter from 1 Peter 3:18: "Christ . . . suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God." Jesus absorbed our punishment. That's what the expression "penal substitution" means. Penal is an adjective having to do with punishment—from a Latin word meaning "pain." (Same Latin root, of course, as the word penalty.) "Penal substitution": Christ took our punishment by proxy. He literally died in the place of Barabbas, but in a similar sense, He stands in as a perfect surrogate for every sinner who ever turns to Him in repentance and trusts Him for salvation.

    Now, I'll speak candidly: The doctrine of penal substitution is not a popular idea today. It never has been, really. It's one of the main features of gospel truth that become a stumbling-block to unbelievers. But hatred for this doctrine has grown exponentially with the rise of postmodern values. And today the idea of substitutionary atonement is even being challenged even by people who claim to be evangelicals. The common complaint is that it makes God seem harsh. He punished His own guiltless Son for the sins of others? I know of two famous pastors, one British and one American, who have flatly dismissed the idea of penal substitution as a kind of "cosmic child abuse." They deny that God would punish His own beloved Son for our sins. They want an easygoing, totally-benign  god who will forgive on the ground of "love" alone—a god who will not demand that justice be fulfilled or insist that the wages of sin be paid, but who will simply overlook transgressions and basically pretend no offense ever occurred.

    And let's be honest: if we don't think too deeply about the nature of evil, the extreme wickedness of sin and guilt, or the destructive nature of sin, something about the idea of getting off scot free seems to appeal to our fallen human minds. On the other hand, if we consider the subject seriously, we can all think of evils that need to be avenged.

    I had a friend years ago who was murdered by a man who had stabbed a woman to death before, pleaded insanity, spent a short time in some kind of asylum, was released, and then soon after release this guy brutally stabbed my friend to death. He tried to plead insanity again, but it came to light that while he was in the asylum the first time, he was writing letters about how to get off from a murder charge by copping an insanity plea.

    My friend whom this man killed was a single young woman, a sweet soul, only 25 years old at the time of her murder. She had grown up on the mission field, and she lived her life in a Christ-honoring way. She was a fellow editor when I was working at Moody Press. This killer had encountered her when someone trying to help him had invited him to a Bible study she attended. He sat there in that Bible study consciously selecting his next victim. It was the kind of deliberate, diabolical, debauched act of villainy that screams out for punishment.

    That is exactly the same perspective on evil that prompts the holy martyrs in Revelation 6:10 to "cr[y] out with a loud voice, 'O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?'" Righteousness demands justice, and justice demands payment for sin. We all understand that intuitively. There's not a person alive who would truly like to see all evildoers get off scot free.

    Now, once you understand the nature of sin—that every sin is high rebellion against our infinitely holy God—so even the most insignificant sin (such as an act of disobedience to eat forbidden fruit; even the smallest sin you can imagine) contains the seeds of every conceivable type of wickedness and from it will germinate enough evil to damn the entire universe—then you can see why true righteousness demands punishment for sin in full.

    God is truly righteous. So He could not simply overlook humanity's sin. Instead, He paid the penalty Himself, in full, in the Person of His Son.

    And Paul is saying in our text that since it was Christ who died to redeem us, there is no possibility whatsoever that He would ever condemn us. Look again at our text: "Who is to condemn? [Not] Christ Jesus[; He] is the one who died." Having taken the blame and borne the wrath of God on our behalf, Christ certainly will not condemn us.

    So the death of Christ is the first reason Paul cites for our security in Christ. Here's a second one—


2. His Resurrection

    I love how quickly Paul moves from the death to the resurrection of Christ. It's as if he cannot wait to get to the good part: "Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised." The King James Version says, "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again." The New American Standard Bible also uses that word "rather." The New King James Version says "furthermore." All of those expressions are legitimate translations. The idea it means to convey is that this second argument actually strengthens the point Paul was making with the first argument: "Christ died—yea rather, He is risen again." The idea is that if Christ's death gives us reason to be certain that our justification is secure, the resurrection is an even greater consolation.

    Remember that phrase we read earlier in the last verse of Romans 4: Christ "was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." His death paid the price of sin; His resurrection was the seal of God's approval. First Corinthians 15:17 says, "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins."

    See: Christ was crucified between two thieves. He died as a criminal. Crucifixion was the most disgraceful, debasing form of capital punishment Rome was capable of dispensing.

    Crucifixion was not practiced by the Jews. It was a distinctly Roman practice, borrowed from the ancient Persians and Carthaginians and embellished to make it as ruthlessly brutal and intensely cruel as possible. It was a deliberately prolonged and painful form of death, and it carried a particular stigma.

    For a Jewish person to be crucified, he had to be deemed the lowest of outcasts, unclean, cursed by God. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says, "If a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God." Galatians 3:13 cites up that principle with these words: "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree."

    So Christ was treated as a criminal and an outcast, and that is why the people of Jerusalem screamed for His crucifixion. In the words of Isaiah 53: "He was despised and rejected by men . . . we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. . . . And they made his grave with the wicked." Dying on the cross, Christ looked for all the world like a despicable felon and a detestable lawbreaker. The most loathsome malefactors were crucified to the right and the left of Him—and He received exactly the same treatment from the Romans they did.

    Worse: it appeared as if God Himself had abandoned Him. Jesus Himself cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" We know that God did, in some sense, forsake Him, smite him as if He were guilty and the father allowed Him to die. Isaiah 53:10 again: "It was the will of the LORD to crush him; he . . . put him to grief."

    And as Christ languished in the grave until the dawn of that first resurrection Sunday, His closest followers had to wonder what it meant. Had God utterly forsaken Jesus forever? Were His life and ministry all for naught? Jesus had told them He would rise from the dead, but in their shock and disappointment, the comfort of that promise—even the memory of that promise—seemed to escape them.

    Besides, Jesus died by crucifixion. Who could possibly come back from that? The Roman method of crucifixion completely drained its victims of their lifeblood and left the body mutilated and hollow. Not only that, crucifixion carried such a profound and permanent public disgrace that it's clear from the gospel narrative that the disciples had utterly given up hope for their Lord.

    But then, in the words of 1 Peter 1:21: "God . . . raised him from the dead and gave him glory." God vindicated Christ. The Resurrection instantly removed the stigma of the cross and made it an emblem of divine glory—for those who believed.

    Not only was Christ justified; the resurrection is the proof of our justification—because it gave testimony to the fact that God was satisfied with His Son's sacrifice on our behalf. The resurrection was a definitive declaration from God Himself that the work of Christ was indeed complete, and sufficient, and fully accepted as payment in full for the sins that had been imputed to Christ.

    Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is living proof that God has accepted all who are in Christ—those who are united with him by faith. In the words of Ephesians 1:6, we are "accepted in the beloved." Acceptable and fully justified by God for Christ's sake, because we are in Christ, and He has accepted as payment in full for our sins everything Christ did to redeem us. "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus . . . was raised."

    Think of it this way: Death is the wages of sin, according to Romans 6:23. If Christ's death was the payment of that price on our behalf—if "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures"—then His resurrection can only signify that the price was paid in full by Christ and accepted without reservation by the Father. Now that the transaction is complete, "Who is to condemn?"

    You see why the celebration of Christ's resurrection is so vital to the Christian faith?

    Here's a third reason we know our salvation is secure with Christ:


3. His Ascension

    Here's how Paul says it: "Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God." His redemptive work now complete, Christ ascended bodily to heaven, where He sits today at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

    His seat at God's right hand is one more proof that God has accepted His sacrifice for sin. The right hand, of course, is the place of highest honor and affection and power. It also signifies the perfect unity that exists between Father and Son. They are enthroned side by side, in perfect agreement, sharing all the properties and attributes of deity. And yet insofar as the risen Christ is concerned, his body is both truly human and fully glorified, fit for both earth and heaven.

    He rose bodily from the grave. He ascended bodily into heaven. And the angel in Acts 1:11 told the disciples, "This [same] Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven"—in that same glorified human body.

    It is His body, the same one He inhabited during His earthly ministry—the same body that was crucified—but now it is glorified. The physical body of Christ is endowed with properties that transcend the physical dimensions and contravene the earthly laws of physics. But it is a true human body nonetheless—capable of being handled by the touch of a normal unglorified human body; able to eat, walk, and exist in the physical realm like any other physical body; but also capable of dwelling in the heavenly realm outside earth's atmosphere—even in the very throne room of God.

    Why is this a proof that our salvation is secure? It is a reminder that we have a perfect mediator in the Person of Christ, that He is right now seated in the very presence of God, and that through our spiritual union with Him, we are counted in the very presence of God as well. Ephesians 2:5-6: God has "made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus."

    Now, if I had no hope in Christ and had to stand before God on my own, there is nothing that would terrify me more than the thought of being in the very presence of God in His glory and having to give account for my thoughts, my deeds, my sins of omission, and especially my sins of commission. If you understand in the most rudimentary sense what it means to be guilty (I'm not talking about having guilt-feelings or merely being ashamed, but bearing the actual weight of guilt for the sins we have committed)—if you sense the gravity of a guilty condition, then the thought of standing alone in the presence of God would be the most terrifying thing you could think of.

    But the knowledge that Christ is already there at the right hand of God as my representative—in all His moral perfection and in all the brilliance of His glory—that is one of the greatest comforts I can possibly imagine.

    This is the very thing Paul prayed the Ephesians would come to understand (Ephesians 1:19-20): That they might know "what is the immeasurable greatness of [God's] power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places."

    Paul goes on to say that God has put all things under Christ's feet. That elevates us, because collectively, we are "his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all." We, the church, constitute a spiritual body, spiritually united with Him so that in the very same way that His physical body has been given the very highest place of privilege, honor, and power—we are seated with him in a spiritual sense in that same place of privilege and honor. The grace and power of God are at our disposal, and our position is secure in Christ. We are safe from destruction at the hands of any enemy or accuser. In Spurgeon's words, "Till they condemn the head they cannot condemn the members[.] Is that not clear? If you are at the right hand of God in Christ Jesus, who is he that condemneth?"

    Paul gives one more reason to be certain that we are secure:


4. His Intercession

    Look at the verse once more: "Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us."

    Now remember, earlier in this very chapter (Romans 8), Paul has told us that the "Spirit [of God] himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." The Spirit indwells us, empathizes with our groanings, and prays for us in language too deep for human expression. But at the same time, we also have an advocate in heaven who likewise pleads for us from that exalted position in the very throne room of God.

    If you want to delve into this idea in greater detail, look for the recording of a sermon titled "The Paradox of Divine justice"—a sermon on 1 John 2:1. That verse begins with an admonition not to sin, but then the apostle John says "If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

    How is Jesus interceding for us? He is pleading our case against any and every accuser—especially the devil, who in Revelation 12:10 is called "the accuser of [the] brethren." In fact, that verse goes on to say the devil "accuses [the people of God] day and night before our God."

    But Christ is there constantly making intercession for us, our great High Priest, who according to Hebrews 10:12, "When [He] had offered for all time a single [definitive] sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God." And there He is today, our mediator, our intercessor, our advocate—our Savior.

    That is what the gospel teaches. It is all made possible and stamped with the approval of God the Father by the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

    That is what we celebrate today, and according to the promise of Christ Himself, if you believe, you will be saved.