Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Here is a question which can trouble Christians and the answer is important, though not always understood. We underline three points in this context:
The word ‘charge’ is used several times in the New Testament as in Acts 19:40, 23:29 and 26:2. In each example the ‘charge’ or accusation referred to, had a legal significance. Imagine then a presiding judge inviting the public to bring accusations against a person! That is the scenario Paul imagines here.
Who are our accusers? There is the devil, our archenemy who hates Christians and is ‘the accuser of the brethren‘ (Revelation 12:10). Paul himself was ‘not ignorant of his devices’ (2 Corinthians 2:11). The devil often uses other people, even Christians and all kinds of situations to accuse us unfairly or bring doubts and fears directly into our minds regarding God’s Word, his love and providence. Too often, Christians indulge in accusing themselves. Having high standards yet personal failure to reach those standards makes some individuals hate and reject themselves. Guilt, hopelessness, and self-hatred grip their thoughts and reactions. If this is you, then you must grasp the important lesson in this verse?
Paul could have described Christians in many other ways such as those who trust Christ, after all faith is very important in the Christian life. Interestingly, Paul does not refer to their faith or their experiences of God but instead uses the strongest possible term, namely, ‘the elect’. The phrase refers to those God has chosen to be saved from eternity. Here is God’s sovereign, eternal choice of his people which was stated clearly in the golden chain in verses 29-30. Salvation is of God from beginning to end. Are you feeling guilty as a Christian? Does your assurance of salvation ebb and flow? As one of God’s elect, be assured you can never, never lose your privileges and position in Christ as one of ‘the elect’.
Notice the emphasis again on God himself. No one else but God ‘justifies’. This is another legal term integral to the gospel and means partly that we are forgiven. That is wonderful in itself and a great relief for sinners who trust Christ. But God has done much more than forgive us. Justify means that for believers in Christ, God the Father has given a double imputation. Yes, the Father placed our sin on his Son and punished him in our place at Calvary. As a result I am declared not guilty. That is wonderful but secondly, the Father reckons the righteousness of Jesus Christ to my account and accepts me as being just in Christ. This is legal and perfect because God’s holy law was satisfied in his perfect life and when Jesus died in our place, so we are covered as believers by Christ’s righteousness.
No accusation can be brought successfully against Christians to rob us of salvation. The reason is that all believers are pronounced righteous by the holy God on the basis of what Christ did on the cross. All sins, past, present, and future are covered and cannot be punished again. Because of Christ, God the Father accepts and justifies believers so there is no possibility of condemnation ever again. That divine decision to ‘justify’ us will never change, despite fluctuating feelings and negative thoughts on our part.
In an article in the Evangelical Magazine, Geoff Thomas describes an address given by the Rev Elwyn Davies in 1959 when he explained the words of 1 Corinthians 1:30. Illustrating what it meant to be justified, the speaker used his black pocket bible and placed it on his open hand. ‘Imagine that this book is all your sins … God has taken all that guilt and laid it on the Lamb of God who has taken it away … The speaker then moved the book … and put it on the other hand, to illustrate that all our trespasses were laid on Christ … But positively I was clothed in the righteous life, the holy obedience and the love of Jesus Christ for God and his neighbour. My sin to him and his righteousness to me, as I put my trust in him!’ (Evangelical Magazine of Wales, May/June, 2017, 26).
And what is your response to this amazing act of God in his grace?
Dr Eryl Davies (Heath Church Cardiff)