21 Oct 2018
A Commentary by John Stott
*Question 4: Who is he that condemns? 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* (34).
In answer to the opening question as to who will condemn us, there are without doubt many who are wanting to. Sometimes our own ‘heart’ condemns us (1 Jn.3:20f.). It certainly tries to. And so do our critics, our detractors, our enemies, yes, and all the demons of hell.
But their condemnations will all fail. Why? Because of Christ Jesus. Commentators differ as to whether the next clauses are questions (RSV, ‘Is it Christ Jesus who died…?’) or assertions (‘It is Christ Jesus who died…’), or denials (REB, ‘Not Christ, who died…!’). But in every case the sense is the same, namely that Christ rescues us from condemnation, in particular by his death, resurrection, exaltation and intercession.
First, *Christ Jesus…died* – died for the very sins for which otherwise we would deservedly be condemned. But instead God ‘condemned sin’ (our sin) in the humanity of Jesus (8:3), and so Christ has redeemed us from the curse or condemnation of the law ‘by becoming a curse for us’ (Gal.3:13). There is *more than that*, however, in the saving work of Christ. For secondly, after death he *was raised to life*. It is not just that he rose, although this is affirmed in the New Testament, but that he was raised by the Father, who thus demonstrated his acceptance of the sacrifice of his Son as the only satisfactory basis for our justification (4:25; cf. 1 Cor.15:14ff.). And now, thirdly, the crucified and resurrected Christ *is at the right hand of God*, resting from his finished work (E.g. Heb.1:3; 10:11ff.), occupying the place of supreme honour (Phil.2:9ff.), exercising his authority to save (Acts 2:33; 5:31), and waiting for his final triumph (Ps.110:1). Fourthly, he *is also interceding for us*, for he is our heavenly advocate (E.g. 1.Jn. 2:1f.) and high priest (E.g. Heb.7:23ff.). His very presence at the Father’s right hand is evidence of his completed work of atonement, and his intercession means that he ‘continues…to secure for his people the benefits of his death’. With this Christ as our saviour (who died, was raised, has been exulted and is interceding), we know that ‘there is now no condemnation’ for those who are united to him (8:1). We can therefore confidently challenge the universe, with all its inhabitants human and demonic: *Who is he that condemns?* There will never be any answer.