If God Is For Us
James C. Denison
For years now, Starbucks has been featuring “The Way I See It” quotes on some of their cups. Since I don’t drink coffee, I see them when people give their used cups to me. Recently a friend gave me this cup with a quote from Joel Stein, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times: “Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring. Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can’t wait to go, like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but Heaven has to step it up a bit. They’re basically getting by because they only have to be better than Hell.”
We all go through days when Mr. Stein’s theology seems appropriate, when God and heaven bear little relevance to life on earth. When God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers or meet our needs or direct our days, when Sunday seems detached from Monday. But it’s not true. As we’ll see today, “God is for us.” Each of us, all of us. I can prove it to you this morning.
Hear the promise
Our text has just declared that God has called us, justified us, and glorified us. Now, “what shall we say in response to this?”
“If God is for us, who can be against us?”
“If” in the Greek should be translated “since” or “because.” You never need to wonder if God is for you. Psalm 46 begins: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (v. 1). The Psalmist rejoiced: “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6). God promises, “I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor” (Ezekiel 36:9).
Psalm 139 says: “How precious concerning me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand” (vs. 17-18). God thinks of you more often than the number of grains of sand in the world. In case you’re wondering, geologists estimate that the number is a one followed by 24 zeroes.
How do we know that he cares about us like this? “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?” (v. 32).
The cross was the idea of God. Jesus was the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). The Bible says that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This is true for us all, whatever our past sins might be: he “gave him up for us all.” As a result, we can know that our Father will “graciously give us all things.” If he would watch his Son die for us, what further proof do we need of his love and provision for us? We’ll come back to this fact in a moment.
Here’s the result: Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (v. 33). The world can accuse us of anything it wishes, but the highest court in the universe has already ruled in our favor. We have already been “justified,” our record expunged, our slate cleaned.
What’s more, “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” (v. 34). Jesus’ best friend later promised, “We have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1).
So we have the Father who sent his Son to die for us now sitting as the Judge of the court; we have his Son, who chose to die in our place, acting as our defense attorney. The verdict is certain, and victory is ours.
See the proof
It all centers on the cross, the event we will remember this Good Friday, the death Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to die.
Because your Father sent his Son to die in your place, you can know that he is on your side, no matter what. You can know that he is for you, no matter what. It’s all because of the cross.
Unfortunately, the event we remember again this year is so commonplace to us that it loses its power. We all know that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). We know all about the cross. Or at least we think we do.
The New Testament doesn’t tell us much about the way Jesus died. The Gospel writers say it very simply: “When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots” (Matthew 27:35). That’s because their readers were intimately, tragically familiar with what it meant for Jesus to die on a Roman cross. But we’re not. We’ve made the cross into jewelry on our necks and architecture on our steeples. We don’t know much about the singular event of human history. So let me tell you how it happened so long ago.
It was Maundy Thursday, and the soldiers dispatched a “detachment of soldiers” to arrest Jesus (John 18:3). “Detachment” translates speira, a military cohort of 400 to 600 soldiers.
They were accompanied by the same religious officials who would later act as Jesus’ judges, their presence proving their illegal partiality. The high priest was so close that his personal servant’s ear was cut off in the melee, but Jesus healed him. They bound Jesus, violating Jewish law which did not allow authorities to bind the prisoner unless he was attempting to flee the scene.
What followed was one of the most illegal trials in the history of jurisprudence. Jesus was tried at night, while Jewish law required that a trial must be begun in the daytime. He was deposed in private by Annas while the Supreme Court was assembling, though all proceedings were supposed to be conducted in public.