Monday 23 March 2020

So Great a Salvation #4: The Cross and the Law Court

I wrote this week’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus... If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. 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. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Romans 8:1, 31-35

Paul could hardly say it any more clearly. Read it again if you need to: ‘there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’

And that little word ‘in’ is all-important.

What’s the central thought of Paul’s letters? Is it justification? Reconciliation? Adoption? As important as they are, what’s most central is Jesus. The prior, primary, foremost, fundamental reality for Paul is our union with Christ, being in Christ. And all the benefits of salvation flow from that union – our justification for sure, but also our adoption, redemption, sanctification, glorification, and our being joined to each other in the church, the body of Christ.

It’s on the basis of our union with Christ – in his death and resurrection – that we are declared right with God, free from the penalty of our law-breaking. As Paul has made clear earlier in his letter to the Roman Christians, what flows from being justified is ‘peace with God’ – not through anything we can bring to the table, but ‘through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (5:1).

Moreover, since God has declared us right in the present, that verdict will stand on the last day. We can look forward to the future with confidence, because it’s a future that Christ himself has secured for us. Being counted righteous in God’s sight, even now, brings hope as well as peace.

But more than a legal declaration of our status before God, justification takes us to the heart of the covenant relationship between God and his people. Like Abraham himself, all those who stand in right covenant relationship with God do so through faith, and on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross, whether they be Jew or Gentile. Here is how God makes good on the promises made to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him.

As if this was already not enough, at the bottom line of it all, and the ultimate basis of Paul’s confidence, is God’s love – not merely shown to us, but ‘poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 5:5), a sign of his ongoing commitment to us. It’s a love, Paul says here, from which nothing can separate us.

If any of this was down to us, we’d have room for doubt. As it is, our assurance lies elsewhere. Peace, hope, blessing, love – and all through Christ.

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