Paul’s “who will bring a charge?” is defined by several instances of accusations in the legal sense. It is a severe and conclusive challenge, like the one we hear at weddings, “If anyone knows why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, let him now speak or forever hold his peace”. The madness of charging God’s people with liability in the Divine Court will appear as we look further into the meaning of bringing a charge against the elect.
The madness of justice
The disciples appear in their life experience in the court of Roman justice all over Asia. Luke’s witness included repeated hounding by Jewish people of the disciples all along their missionary journeys OUTSIDE OF PALESTINE/JUDEA.
Acts 16:16ff, 17:6ff, 18:11ff, 19:23ff, Acts 19:40, Acts 23:28, Acts 23:29Acts 26:2, Acts 26:7
That they appeared in the Jewish court is no surprise (Acts 4, 5 6, 22 and 23). That the High Priest has a court official punch Paul in the mouth rips the figleaf off the proceedings. Anyone who had so much as spoke kindly about Yeshua of Nazareth when he was here in the flesh used to be shunned and excluded from synagogue attendance. There is even a word for Jewish person barred from attending synagogue: aposunagogos.
The relevance of charges
The heritage of the sons of Israel is called “law” with good reason. While the written work of Moses is properly instruction, the name Torah means just that, teaching and instruction, it comes with prescriptions for addressing cases brought to the attention of the Levites and priests. Prescription and proscription are the tools of a prosecutor. In other words, where the law says “You shall” and “You shall not” there we will find the necessary defence and prosecution.
The terms related to “bring a charge” that we find in Acts are
- bring accusation
- bring charges
A judicious Messiah
In the Gospels we find Jewish people seeking rulings from Yeshua on common problems and even some hypothetical ones. While he always had an answer that brings a divine perspective on human affairs the Lord Christ refused to assign punishments to offenders. He is on the record saying that he came to save people not condemn them.
Knowing that the scrolls of Moses (the book of the law) was an indictment against the sons of Israel, and were placed in close proximity to the ark of the covenant with the tables of stone as a part of the prosecution of the sons of Israel.
It is not extreme therefore for the Lord Christ to have identified Moses (John 5:45) as the one who accuses (katēgoreô, κατηγορεω), or for Paul to identify the law as the article for condemnation (katakrinô, κατακρινω) and to write “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;” (2 Corinthians 3:7, 9, 11 and Romans 3:19, NASB)
Law, crime, faith, and death
Two important observations are necessary here. First, that is not because people violate the law that they become guilty before God in the first place, and secondly, the law enters only to magnify or to enlarge the fact of human violation of God’s will, which we will have to admit from antiquity is not the law but the violation of trust. Let no one dance around the fact that a person is allowed to lie and steal in broad daylight in America if one is not talking to the FBI and is a corporate entity pushing product. Law helps crime and faith is the certain antidote to death.
That is to say, humans are liable to God for not trusting him. We owe him and live in condemnation for not believing.
He who believes (present tense) in Him is not judged (present tense); he who does not believe has been judged (perfect tense) already, because he has not believed (perfect tense) in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18, NASB)
The significance of the present tense in this verse is that the action continues, and the significance of the perfect tense in this verse is that the action has an ongoing condition related to it.
“ὁ πιστεύων (present tense) εἰς αὐτὸν οὐ κρίνεται (present tense)· ὁ ⸀δὲ μὴ πιστεύων ἤδη κέκριται, ὅτι μὴ πεπίστευκεν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ μονογενοῦς υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ.” (John 3:18, MorphGNT)
So we can conclude that Paul’s question “Who will bring a charge?” is a necessary Messianic perspective. How dare anyone accuse the people who Christ has released from judgment and condemnation with law and prophet or visionary? How dare they indeed? It is time to halt the assault with obedience to law on people who have come to God through Christ.