Romans 8:33-34. Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
OK, first things first. Are you God’s elect? Are you in Christ? Are you in the Spirit? The promises of Romans 8 are the best we’ve ever heard, but they are only for those that are elect in Christ by faith in Christ. Don’t let the word elect freak you out. Romans 8 is not a lesson on how you got saved. It’s a lesson on the blessings of that salvation. And here’s one of the biggest blessings of our salvation – no one can condemn you.
And this means no one. Not even you, for God is stronger than your own heart (1 John 3:20). Not any other person, for God has silenced those who would throw the first stone (John 8:11). Not even Satan himself, for God has put to shame the powers and authorities that would level a charge against us (Colossians 2:14-15).
How can I possibly believe such a far out truth? None of my sins count against me now or ever? No charge will be brought against me on judgment day? No surprise witness will run into the courtroom screaming “I object!?” How can we believe something so outrageous?
Because God justified us. Because Jesus died. Because Jesus was raised. And because Jesus is interceding for us at the right hand of God. Once again, the gospel is the proof that our hearts need.
Tonight I watched the Oscar nominated National Geographic documentary Free Solo about Alex Honnold’s 2017 free solo climb of Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan peak. It’s 3,200 feet of self-discipline meets sheer terror. The film is one of the most beautiful, compelling, and stressful things I’ve ever watched. Free solo climbing means no partners and no equipment. One slip and you die. In the film you hear Honnold talk about the “bottomless pit of self-loathing,” and how it is performance and not happiness that drives him. “It feels good to be perfect, at least for a moment,” he says. But the exuberance of watching Honnold climb is offset by the many cuts of his girlfriend, friends, and fellow climbers worrying and talking about how they know eventually he will die from climbing.
Free solo climbing is what we are all doing without Christ. The law as the way to righteousness is a free solo climb that always leads to death. One slip and you die. The mountain is unforgiving. God’s holiness is a mountain face that we all need to climb. Perfectly. One slip and we die. Every step is condemnation along the way.
This is what Romans 8:33-34 is saying – yes everyone deserves and will ultimately face death and condemnation. If you climb God’s law long enough you will die. We must come to grips with the reality that we can never achieve righteousness on our own. No matter how hard or how often we try. This is why Christ had to die. For you. For everyone. The same death for all. All are equally guilty.
But there’s a way out in Christ. By his imputed righteousness. “To live is Christ” means we are actually right with God. We don’t need to climb a mountain with no ropes or nets. God has tied himself to us for all of eternity. Jesus is our climbing partner. In fact, we’re on his back as he makes the treacherous yet exuberant climb for us. He is interceding for us as we climb. His grace and forgiveness are propelling us forward. Hope of eternal life is empowering us to keep climbing.
The question you have to ask today and everyday, is “what will happen when I fall?” Are you in Christ? Are you tethered to him, his death and resurrection? If you are, then falling is just practice. It’s training. It’s part of the process. How? Because there is no condemnation. In Christ, there is no more fear of falling because Jesus is making the climb with us. Pulling us up, chalking our hands, placing our feet on solid ground.
And listen, the reality of no condemnation doesn’t keep us off the mountain. It doesn’t make us passive spectators like I was tonight watching a man risk his life while sitting on my couch. No. It means we can get up and attack that dangerous free climb knowing that it is never solo. We can traverse the rock face of life boldly. Loving boldly. Serving whole heartedly. Pursuing Christ fearlessly while actually having the best “day of your life,” like Alex Honnold did that day.