Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Christ Our Justification

Rev Cornelius Hanko (8 September, 1963)


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 (Rom. 8:34).

At this point the apostle Paul had reached that grand climax of this ever-beautiful song of triumph as expressed in this eight chapter of the epistle to the Romans. Boldly, almost defiantly he asks, "If God be for us, who can be against us."

Paul, a man who experienced all kinds of trials and sufferings for the cause of Christ, even to stripes and imprisonment and death, could say that. Yet he spoke also for all the believers of all the ages fully realising the sorrows and pains, the afflictions and temptations, the anguishes of bitter struggle in a world of sin and death. And he intends that through the power of the Word we also should take these words upon our lips.

"If God be for us, who can be against us?" The statement sounds almost too bold, as an expression of over-confidence. And yet the apostle gives us a threefold basis for this confidence, a three-fold basis for the faith he confesses.

First, he adds another challenging statement to all his accusers, the devil, the sneering world, and his own conscience. He asks, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?" And to that question he gives a simple, yet conclusive answer: God is the justifier! When God sits in the judgement seat and declares us righteous before Him, all accusers are banished from His presence.

Second, he adds, "Who is the condemner?" There are others who still persist in sitting in judgment against us. They are judges who are ready to pronounce the sentence of condemnation upon us, no matter what we may say. And to them the answer is given: "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" (Rom. 8:32).

And from that the apostle concludes, since all this is true, no one and nothing can ever separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Once more he asks, as it were, with more determination than ever, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Implying, of course, that the answer is absolutely no one, absolutely nothing.

But what especially appeals to me is the fact, that the Word of God bases this confidence of faith on one basic fact, namely, that we are justified in Christ. In the face of all his accusers the apostle declares that God is his justifier. And in the face of all would-be judges he says, "It is Christ who died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."

In one word, God has justified me in Christ! Christ is my justification. Whom, then, shall I fear? for I am more than conqueror in a world on sin and death, in Him who loves me. Let us consider:

Christ Our Justification
I. The Fact
II. The Proof
III. The Certainty


I. The Fact

The question of our text is very real in the life of the believer. It is certainly true, that there are many who condemn us every day. This is somewhat different, of course, from accusers, of which the apostle spoke in the previous verses.

There are also many accusers. The devil likes to bring charges against believers. He is referred to in Scripture as the accuser of the brethren. Obviously, in the old dispensation the devil challenged the right of the saints to be in heaven, since Christ had not yet made atonement for sin. And even today, although he no longer can make his accusations in heaven, he does whisper in our souls to create doubts and unbelief.

There is also the world round about us that speaks disparagingly of the believer and of his faith and hope. Even those who are very close to us are often very glib in spreading gossip, backbiting and slander. It is so easy to suggest some wrong that we suspect in each other. It is so pleasant, it seems, to hear some suspicion, to try to find grounds for it, and in turn to spread it again as fact. The gossiper always finds a ready ear. The backbiter has many friends. And the evil is certainly also active among us.

But besides all that, there is the accusing voice of our own conscience. And the gossiper may be wrong, and the devil may be wrong, but the voice of conscience is often very right. It lays the finger on the sore spot, the cherished sin. It gives us no rest until we have confessed our sin.

But you will notice that the text speaks of something quite different here. Although the two are related, we must nevertheless distinguish between the accuser and the condemner. The second term is much stronger than the first. A condemner is worse than an accuser.

Now it may be true than an accuser also becomes a condemner, but condemnation is worst than accusation. An accuser is one who brings charges against a person before the judge. He wants the judge to pass a sentence of condemnation upon that person. But a condemner is one who himself sits as judge. He not only accuses, but he also passes judgement. He assumes for himself the right, the prerogative, to pass judgement, as if he were sitting in the judgement seat of God. He says, "This I want God to do. No, this is what God says about that person," or, "this is what I say," as if he were God.

Now there are also many condemners in the life of the believer. A condemner can make our lives most bitter for us. There is, first of all, the devil with a whole world round about us ready to sit in judgement against us.

Sometimes they attack the church we attend. They refer to our church as a mere sect, and anyone who goes to such a church is bigoted, narrow-minded, or just plainly lacks "love."

Sometimes we are personally condemned. Maybe not openly or to our faces, but behind our backs. It is so easy, you know, to brand someone as a hypocrite, to question his sincerity, to judge his motives, especially behind his back. Sometimes this is even done openly, so that we are ignored, ostracised, as if we are not worthy to have a place in God’s church or kingdom. We are judged often without a trial.

But besides all that, our conscience also condemns us. The apostle John speaks of this, in his first epistle, and assures us that if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things (I John 3:20).

This is not the same as our conscience accusing us. That voice of conscience may be very right. And as long as we do not confess our sins that conscience must accuse, and does accuse, because it is the voice and testimony of the Spirit in our hearts.

It is this consciousness of sin that has always burdened the saints throughout all the ages. The psalms constantly speak of sin and guilt and of confession of sin. Even the apostle Paul considered himself the greatest of sinners and complained: "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" And that is the most common complaint in the life of any sincere believer.

But that is not the same as the condemning voice of conscience. Actually, that is always wrong. The true believer cannot be condemned. No man, not even our own conscience can sit in judgement over us to condemn us, no matter how great our sins may be. Boldly and defiantly, we can say, "Who is the condemner?"

The question is a rhetorical one. Boldly we can ask, "Who in all of heaven, or in hell among the devils, or on earth among men, or even in our own hearts, who can claim the right, the prerogative to sit in judgement against us?" The answer is no one. Every true and sincere believer not only can say this, but also must say this. How else can we partake of the holy Supper of our Lord?

The apostle gives us the basis for this by pointing to Christ. In the previous verses, as I already mentioned, he had asked, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?" There is a matter of accusation. And in that case, he might have said, "Who is the accuser of God’s elect, of God’s chosen people?" For he gives us an answer: God is the justifier. But here the question is even more emphatic: Who is the condemner? And the answer is we have Christ. Christ is our justification. Christ is the judge.

There are especially two things that stand on the foreground here. First, it cannot escape us that the emphasis falls on Christ. Just as before, the apostle had made his appeal to the highest tribunal of heaven and earth. He had presented his case to the only sovereign Judge. And in the conviction that God justifies him, he can brush aside all his accusers.

Like a sinner who casts himself upon the mercies of God with the fervent plea, "O God, be merciful to me, a sinner," or like an anxious troubled child, who seeks his refuge in Father’s arms, so the apostle turns to God and says, "God is my justifier." But he also adds in our text: Christ is my judge. The emphasis falls emphatically upon Christ. Christ died; Christ is risen. Christ is at the right hand of God. Christ intercedes for us. But always: Christ.

This is only possible, of course, because Christ is the Anointed of God, the great Servant in God’s house. He is eternally ordained as the firstborn of every creature, the firstborn of the brethren, and the first begotten from the dead. God has appointed Him as Lord over all. He has the pre-eminence, for in Him shall all glory dwell eternally.

But notice, in the second place, that Christ is mentioned particularly as exalted Lord in heaven. There is a climactic order here, as is very evident from the text. True enough, Christ’s death on the cross is mentioned first. "It is Christ who died," the apostle says. But then he adds, "Yea rather, that is risen again," as if he wants to place special emphasis on the resurrection, even more than on the cross.

Then he writes, "Who is even at the right hand of God." That, too, must receive the emphasis. The exalted Christ stands out before the consciousness of the apostle. And then, as an added confirmation, "Who also maketh intercession for us."

Now that can only mean one thing, and that is that Christ, according to the text, has the right, the prerogative, to be Judge. He is the Son in God’s house to whom is entrusted all power in heaven and on earth. By the way of His death and resurrection, He is exalted at the right hand of power. God has rewarded His accomplished work by exalting Christ to the position of power and authority at the Father’s right hand.

He is there in heaven now. He is there on behalf on His people. He is our Judge, our rightful Judge, our only Judge. He has received right from the Father to pass His verdict over us. He does so by His Spirit in our hearts. And that verdict is, Righteous! Just! Free from condemnation! Who then is the condemner? Where then is the condemner?


II. The Proof

But what proof do we have that this is true? The apostle gives us a five-fold proof that Christ is the Judge, the only rightful Judge. Let us look at these a bit closer.

We must not overlook the emphasis that Paul places on this name "Christ." Obviously he wants that to stand out also before our consciousness. This name Christ means, as you know, "anointed." That is the title that God gave to Him. God refers to Jesus as Christ, "the Anointed."

I hasten to add that this is the highest title that anyone can possibly ever hold. There may be kings, priests, prophets, lords, magistrates, or all kinds of men in authority. But no one ever has or ever will hold a position that can in any way compare with the position that is expressed in the title that Jesus holds. He is "the Christ," "the Great Anointed of God."

This means that He only can hold such a high and exalted position. God gives His Son—the Second Person of the Trinity—that great title. God’s Son bears that name of all names. He is the greatest, the outstanding, pre-eminent servant in God’s house. Eternally He stands as the Anointed, called and qualified of God for the work of revealing the Father and saving His people.

He is therefore not only prophet in God’s House, but also priest, and He is not only priest but also king. To Him is committed all power in heaven and on earth, so that He has a name which is above every name. Before Him every knee must bow and every tongue must confess that He is Lord.

But from this follows also that He is judge. Our Lord tells us that in so many words. Even while He was still on earth He said, "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son" (John 5:22). And therefore Paul can also say, that "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (II Cor. 5:10).

God commits the judgment, the judgment of the almighty, sovereign, holy and righteous God, to the Son, to Christ. That applies already in this life. Therefore already in this life, we are judged by Christ in a righteous judgment, we are vindicated and justified. Our sins are forgiven; we are declared righteous in Christ. We have the right to eternal life. In one word, all our righteousness is in Christ. He is our righteousness.

But how? How can Christ be all our righteousness? And the answer of the text is: It is Christ who died! Paul reminds us of the cross, where the atoning blood was shed for sin. Now if we were to maintain that Christ died for a good cause or as a good example, or even if we were to maintain that Christ died for all men—this would mean nothing at all.

What is important in our text is the fact that we can say, "Christ died for me!" Christ was our representative head there on Golgotha. As our representative head, He bore the full burden of our sin and guilt. He stood under the wrath of God, suffering torments of hell in punishment for sin for our sakes. He bore that sin away. There was no wrath left. There remained no guilt of sin. The full punishment was completely borne by Him. There remains no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

But even more that than, Christ merited for us eternal life. We are righteous in Him, so completely as if in our own bodies we had atoned for all our sins and merited all righteousness, even life eternal. That is the language of our Communion Form.

But we have more proof than that. We have an even a greater proof that we are righteous in Christ. Paul adds, "Yea, rather, who is risen again!" The death of Christ could have no value for us if it were not for the fact that He is risen again. He was delivered over to death because of our transgressions; He was raised again because of our justification. There is no stronger proof that Christ’s sacrifice for our sins was accepted by God than in the fact that on the third day God raised Jesus from the dead.

Besides that, even the resurrection is most significant in itself. Just because Christ’s death was such a terrible death, a suffering of torments of hell, His resurrection was a victory over hell. It was God’s proof that all our sins were wiped out and that we in Christ were worthy of eternal life. It was a complete victory over the devil, over sin, over hell, over death, and over the grave. All the powers of darkness were wiped out completely, death was swallowed up in victory of life. Death has no more sting and the grave has no more victory.

Therefore Christ’s resurrection is a sure proof of our physical resurrection, as well as a beginning of our spiritual resurrection.

And fourthly, "Christ is even at the right hand of God." This is the glory that was promised to Him before the world was. It is the reward on His accomplished work of the cross. With a view to this crown of glory, He suffered shame and endured the cross.

In heaven, He now possesses all power—all power for our sakes. Because He is the exalted Lord we can say, "All things are ours, and we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s." He has all power. Therefore He is also the righteous Judge. He alone has the right, the prerogative to rule and to judge. He justifies His people even now. He condemns the wicked also in righteous judgement now. He prepares all things for His coming, for as Judge He shall appear in that last day.

But finally, that which actually seals our justification is the fact that Christ not only is exalted to heaven, but there in heaven officiates before the throne as our advocate, our high priest. This intersection is carried out continuously. For Christ is always our advocate before the Father. And this is essential to our salvation.

Christ always stands in God’s presence as our representative. He is the one who pleads our cause. God never sees us as we are in ourselves, but always sees us in Christ. And since we are righteous in Christ, God sees not sin in us, but only the righteousness of Christ.

Moreover, Christ intercedes. He takes up our cause and pleads before the Father for us. He prays for spiritual blessings, for all the blessings of salvation. And He is heard, so that He pours out blessings upon us, including the blessings of forgiveness and righteousness.

He prays for complete salvation. He asks that we may be where He is. The Father hears and grants His request, so that we are drawn and prepared for our place in the Father’s house with its many mansions. This drawing continues until we are home with Father.

What more need be said? God is for us so who can be against us? He that spareth not Him own Son, shall He not freely with Him give us all things?


III. The Certainty

That leaves but one question: How can we be sure? How do I know that this is not a vain boast, but that this actually applies to me?

The answer lies in our faith. We believe this, and we believe this with a sincere, true faith. It is true that there are always those who take this boast upon their lips and yet mean nothing of it.

We often refer to them with the name of antinomians. Antinomians are people who are anti-law. They profess to be believers in Christ, but they also maintain that the law of God has no place in their lives. They take the attitude that they are saved, and now they have license to do as they please. Piously they say, "We are justified in Christ, nothing that we do can ever change that. The more we sin, the more we prove that salvation is solely by grace as a sovereign work of God, and that we are justified in Christ and not by works."

This, as you will sense at once, is nothing but wicked hypocrisy. It is certainly not true to reality. The same Holy Spirit who regenerates us also creates in us the true sorrow for sin, brings us to repentance, and causes us to hate sin and flee from it. The Spirit is holy. He cannot condone sin, nor can He have any fellowship with sin. It is blasphemy even to imagine that the Holy Spirit would condone evil in us.

Moreover, this is also contrary to our Christian experience. We have forgiveness of sins only in the way of repentance and sanctification. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who have this earmark that they walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.

No, this boast of our text is not the boast of mere sinful man, but is the profession of our Christian faith. The Holy Spirit works that faith. He establishes a bond of unity between Christ and us. He causes us to experience that bond of unity that is in Christ, for the life of Christ is ours.

Therefore in faith we say, "This is my comfort, my only comfort in life and in death, that I am not by own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ." Or, as Paul says here, "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" (Rom. 8:34).

That becomes a very personal matter for us. He died for me. I died in him. He arose for me. I arose in Him. He is my Lord in heaven, who rules over all for my sake. He is coming again to take me to Himself. And in the meantime, He intercedes for me. He is also heard. The love of God in Him is also spread abroad in me.

This gives us confidence. Many are the afflictions of the righteous. There are our daily sufferings, our trials and temptations, our sins and our guilt. There is a constant struggle in the body of this death. But we can look beyond all that. Our accusers and condemners are put to silence. God is our justifier. Christ is our righteousness. Amen

The life of Rev. Cornelius Hanko, the author of these devotional sermons on Romans 8, is covered in his memoirs, Less Than the Least.