Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. — Romans 8:33
How do you feel when you read that word?
My guess is you get a negative vibe. We tend to use the word negatively: We don’t want to be (or be around) someone who’s judgmental. We avoid situations in which we feel “judged.” We complain about our friend whose comment sounded “a little judgy.”
The word “judgment” is a fairly neutral term. After all, in a courtroom, someone can be judged either guilty or innocent. But we tend to equate the word “judgment” with condemnation. And for this reason, we don’t like the idea of being judged.
This negative connotation can complicate our understanding of God as our judge. We presume God’s judgment is a declaration of guilt. Now, make no mistake: we should take seriously God’s authority to declare our guilt; we should not take lightly the weight of our sin. But, because of who God is and how God chooses to interact with us, God’s status as our judge is very good news. It is good news because, as Paul says in today’s passage, “It is God who justifies.”
What is justification exactly? N.T. Wright explains that justification is “God’s declaration, from his position as judge of the world, that someone is in the right, despite universal sin.” Set right.
Today’s passage is nestled in a progression of statements from the apostle Paul about the completeness of God’s justification. Paul assures us that God has definitive say in who we are. Only God. The truth is we are sinful. And the truth is God has taken our sin upon himself, through Jesus’ death on the cross, to declare us forgiven, chosen, and beloved. Because of God’s judgment, we are in good standing with him. Set right. Praise God for that.