The Greatest Catechism Ever Written (Rom. 8:31–39)
This future-looking reality of assurance all comes to a glorious climax in what I like to call the greatest catechism ever written.
Q 1: “What then shall we say to these things”—being foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified?
Q&A 2: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” The obvious answer is “no one.” The ancient Greeks were always outnumbered by their enemies, especially the Persians. Line upon line of enemy forces would attack the Greeks, but the Greeks always had the confidence to know that they had Alexander on their side. He devised new ways of fighting against all odds time and time again. We’re outnumbered on all sides by the world, the devil, and our own sinful nature. But “God is for us.” So “who can be against us?” We worry about everything under the sun, but “God is for us.” What problem do we have that’s too big?
Q&A 3: “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?” (Rom. 8:32). God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up.” How far would God the Father go in reconciling the world that fell into sin? Note for whom the Son was not spared and given: “for us all.” It wasn’t because you were loveable that God “did not spare his own Son,” but because He loved you. “How will he not also with Him graciously give us all things?” The same God who “gave” His Son in the past is the same God who will “give” us “all things” in the future. Eternal life? Yes! Complete liberation from all the sins of our thoughts, words, and deeds? Yes! New bodies freed from the fall and curse? Yes! Glorified bodies made like the glorified body of Jesus? Yes! The experience of seeing Jesus face-to-face and no longer just through faith? Yes! Eternal dwelling with Him in the new heavens and a new earth? Yes! How? “With him,” the Son, our Lord.
Q&A 4: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” Like the woman caught in adultery in John 8, the world surrounds us with stones in their hands to condemn us. Our sinful nature is our enemy. It’s like a body of death (Rom. 7:24). In one sense, even the law of God is our enemy: “the power of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15:56). It powerfully declares to us what’s right and wrong, that we’ve not measured up, and that we deserve condemnation. Our conscience is our enemy. It bears witness and either accuses or excuses us (Rom. 2:15). The devil is our enemy. He’s “the accuser of our brothers . . . accus[ing] them day and night before our God” (Rev. 12:10). These all “bring . . . charge[s] against God’s elect.” The world, our sinful nature, the law, our conscience, and the devil rush forward to the Judge’s bench, crowding each other out, fighting over one another, yelling out the charges against us.
Their first charge leads us to say, “I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God.” Since God is righteous and must punish sin, this is a particularly pointed accusation in condemning us. We know it’s true. Yet, our conscience plays the trick on us of trying to appease ourselves, saying, “But God is love; but God is merciful.” Yes, He is, but since He is God, He is also supremely just. In fact, even our idle words—you know, all those things we say when we’re just hangin’ with the boys—those will be judged (Matt. 12:36).
The second charge leads us to say, “I have kept none of the commandments of God.” The law says to us, “It’s not good enough for you to say that you have already been declared righteous, because I demand perfect obedience.” The law is relentless. It law follows us, yelling at us, condemning us, reminding us of how big a failure we truly are.
The third charge leads us to say, “I am still inclined to all evil.” “You say you’re forgiven, but you don’t act perfect,” the world says. The devil says: “You? A child of God? Have you see yourself lately?” As forgiven sinners there’s still the knowledge that God’s eyes are so holy that He can’t even look on sin.
Listen to the answer: “It is God who justifies.” The first charge against us that God will punish us in His perfect righteousness because we’ve sinned against His law is answered by Jesus’ perfect satisfaction for those violations. The second charge against us that God demands our perfect obedience where we have none is answered by Jesus’ perfect righteousness in our place. The third charge against us that God will expel us from His holy presence because of our clinging residue of sin is answered by Jesus Christ’s perfect holiness—His being conceived by the Holy Spirit in holiness, without sin; His living a life of holiness in thought, word, and deed; His shunning all sin; and His doing all righteousness. Caspar Olevianus said we have “much more righteousness in Christ than sin in [ourselves]. Indeed, a Christian has more righteousness than do all the angels in heaven.”
Q&A 5: “Who is to condemn?” (Rom. 8:34). The world condemns us, saying to the government that we’ve “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) because we proclaim another King, Jesus; because we proclaim salvation outside ourselves; because we proclaim a new life that requires renouncing the world. The world will persecute us as it did our Lord, saying that we’re insignificant, behind the times, and dangerous. “Who is to condemn?” (Rom. 8:34). Our own consciences, seared by sin, condemn us, telling us we’re too sinful to be loved by God. They will tell us that we’re not good enough to be loved by God. They will tell us that we’re too inconsistent to ever believe that we were born again in the first place. It will tell us that we’ve not done enough good. They will tell us that we’ve not cleaned up our thoughts, our words, or our deeds enough. “Who is to condemn?” (Rom. 8:34). The devil will try to condemn us. That ancient serpent who so craftily tempted our sinless first parents now comes against us. That accuser who entered the presence of God to get his hands on Job so that Job would renounce his faith in the Lord now wants the same with us. That powerful opposer even of our Lord Himself in the wilderness now uses Scripture to oppose us. That enemy who sought to sift Peter like wheat through a sieve, in the hopes that Peter’s faith would go right through, seeks us. That deceptive enemy who disguises himself as an angel of light wants to get us to put our guard down (2 Cor. 11:14).