The Believer’s Certainty of Deliverance
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (5:9–10)
As if the first four were not enough to completely overwhelm us with assurance, there is a fifth link in the unbreakable chain that eternally binds believers to Christ, which is their certainty of deliverance from God’s judgment.
The phrase much more then indicates that what follows is even more overwhelming and significant than what has preceded, astounding and wonderful as that is. Having been justified by His blood refers to the initial aspect of salvation, which for believers is past. In light of the fact that we already have been justified, Paul is saying, we are assured of being saved from the wrath of God through Him, that is, through Christ. Because we are now identified with Christ and are adopted as God’s children through Him, we are no longer “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). As part of His atoning work, Jesus delivered us “from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10; cf. 5:9), because on the cross He took upon Himself the penalty and suffered the wrath that we deserve.
Paul’s next thought is closely related to the previous one (v. 9) and is the central message of this passage: For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. If God had the power and the will to redeem us in the first place, how much more, does He have the power and the will to keep us redeemed? In other words, if God brought us to Himself through the death of His Son when we were His enemies, how much more, now that we are His reconciled children, will He keep us saved by the life of His Son? If the dying Savior reconciled us to God, surely the living Savior can and will keep us reconciled.
The thrust of this truth for believers is that our Savior not only delivered us from sin and its judgment, but also delivers us from uncertainty and doubt about that deliverance. If God has already made sure our rescue from sin, death, and future judgment, how could our present spiritual life possibly be in jeopardy? How can a Christian, whose past and future salvation are secured by God, be insecure during the time between? If sin was no barrier to the beginning of our redemption, how can it become a barrier to its completion? If sin in the greatest degree could not prevent our becoming reconciled, how can sin in lesser degree prevent our staying reconciled? If God’s grace covers the sins even of His enemies, how much more does it cover the sins of His children?
Paul here reasons from the greater to the lesser. It is a greater work of God to bring sinners to grace than to bring saints to glory, because sin is further from grace than grace is from glory.
Every blessing a Christian has comes from Christ. Through Him we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1), grace and the hope of glory (v. 2), perseverance, proven character, and hope (vv. 3–4), God’s love poured into our hearts by His Spirit, who is Himself the Savior’s gift to us (v. 5), deliverance from sin by His atoning death (vv. 6–8), deliverance from God’s wrath (v. 9), reconciliation with God the Father (v. 10a), and preservation during this present life (v. 10b).
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved by his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
I have been expounding Romans 5:1–11 for five studies now—this is the sixth—and in every one of these studies I have said that the point of these verses is to assure Christians of their salvation. They are to know that they are eternally secure in Christ so that they might be able to rejoice in God fully. In this study we find the same idea. I might be inclined to apologize for this repetition were it not for the fact that this is clearly the emphasis of the chapter—and that it is going to continue in one form or another until the end of chapter 8.
This has not been mere repetition, however, since the thesis (which is repeated) has been supported by a variety of arguments:
- We can be assured of salvation because God has made peace with us through the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
- We can be assured of salvation because, through that same work of Christ, we have been brought into a new relationship with God in which we continue to stand.
- We can be assured of salvation because of the sure and certain hope that we shall see God.
- We can be assured of salvation because of the way we are able to react to sufferings in this life. We see God’s purposes in them and therefore rejoice in them, which unbelievers cannot do.
- We can be assured of salvation because God sent Jesus Christ to die for us, not when we were saved people, as we are now, but when we were God’s sworn enemies.
In this last section, Paul provides yet another argument or, what is probably more accurate to say, draws his previous arguments together: “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved by his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
In the sayings that have come down to us from the great Rabbi Hillel there are some principles for Bible interpretation that Paul, as a Jewish thinker, frequently used in his writings. One is called qal wʾchomer, from the Hebrew words for “light” and “heavy.” It refers to a form of arguing in which, if a lesser thing is true, a greater thing must clearly be true also. Here is an example from the teaching of Jesus: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:11). Obviously, if we who are evil know how to do good to those who are close to us (this is the “light” part of the comparison), God, who is utterly good (this is the “heavy” part), will do good to his children.
A second principle related to the light/heavy argument is the opposite, an argument from the “heavy” to the “light.” It argues that if something great is true, then something lesser in the same category will obviously be true also. Paul uses this principle twice in these verses:
- “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (v. 9), and
- “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved by his life!” (v. 10).
Each of these arguments is based upon things God has already done for us through the death of Christ. They are great works: justification on the one hand, and reconciliation on the other. They are so great that they are used by God to commend his love to us, as Paul stated earlier. But if God has already done such great works on our behalf, justifying us in Christ when we were ungodly and reconciling us to himself when we were his enemies, God will obviously continue his work in the lesser task of seeing us through life and through the final judgment.
Saved from God’s Wrath
When we look at verse 9, we have a tendency to think that we have already heard everything this verse has to teach. After all, “wrath” is the term we began with back in Romans 1:18, and the doctrine of “justification” was developed fully and compellingly in Romans 3. Besides, Romans 5:9 seems to be almost an identical repeat of verse 1 of this chapter. It is true, of course, that this is the first time we have encountered the word saved in the letter. But what have we been talking about all this time if it has not been salvation?
To understand what is happening we have to realize that “saved” is used in at least three different ways in the Bible, in three different tenses. Sometimes it refers to something past, at other times to something present, sometimes to things yet to come.
Let me illustrate. Suppose you are a Christian and that someone asks you, “Are you saved?”
How do you respond? I suppose you would most likely just say, “Yes, I am.” But it would be possible for you to answer in three different ways, the answer you gave (“Yes, I am”) being only one of them. If you are thinking of what Jesus accomplished on your behalf by dying for you on the cross, it would be correct to have answered as you did, for Jesus did save you by his substitutionary death.
But if you are thinking of the present and of what God is accomplishing in you day by day, it would also be correct to say, “I am being saved.” Paul himself uses the word this second way in 1 Corinthians 1:18: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” This verse means that God works through the power of the cross to save us from sin now.
Third, you could think in future terms and answer the question by saying, “No, I am not saved yet, but I will be when Jesus returns.” In this case you would be looking forward to your future glorification when the work begun in the past by Jesus and continued into the present by the power of the Holy Spirit, who works in us, will be perfected. In that day we will be delivered even from the presence of sin and made like Jesus forever.
I mention these three tenses of the word, because it is important to see that it is in the third sense, the future sense of salvation, that Paul speaks here. He is not denying the other tenses, particularly not the first. But he is thinking of the judgment to come and is saying that because we have already been justified by God on the basis of the death of Christ, we can be certain of being saved from the outpouring of God’s wrath in the final day. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “The apostle’s argument is that this method, this way of salvation that God has planned, is a complete whole, and therefore, if we have been justified by Christ’s blood we are joined to Christ, we are in Christ, and we shall therefore be saved by him completely and perfectly.”
Or we could put it like this: If God has already justified us on the basis of Jesus’ atoning death, if he has already pronounced his verdict, any verdict rendered at the final judgment will be only a confirming formality.
Arguing from the “heavy” to the “light” is, if anything, even more apparent in verse 10, where Paul speaks of reconciliation. I begin with the “heavy” part. What is this “heavy” thing God has done for us?
It is the very work we were looking at in detail in the last study. There we were dealing with the love of God, and we saw that the basis upon which God commends his love to us is that it caused him to send his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for us while we were yet sinners. Our sinfulness was spelled out in three powerful terms, and these (as we saw) are followed by a fourth term in verse 10. Paul describes us as powerless, ungodly, sinners, and enemies. Let us review those terms:
- “Powerless” means that we are unable to help ourselves. It is what theologians mean by total depravity, not that we are all as bad as we could possibly be, but that we are all equally and totally incapable of doing anything to save ourselves. We are not able to seek out and eventually come even to understand the way of salvation.
- “Ungodly” means that we are opposed to God in his godly nature. We do not like him for being who he is.
- “Sinners” means that we are violators of God’s moral law, particularly that second table of the law meant to govern our conduct toward other persons.
- “Enemies,” the word used in the verses we are studying now, is the worst term of all. It means not only that we dislike God in his godly nature, but that we are so opposed to God in that nature that we would destroy him if we could. Like a soldier approaching his counterpart in an enemy army in wartime, we consider it a matter of “kill or be killed.” We think of God’s law as suffocatingly oppressive and destructive of who we want to be. So we are set on destroying God or at least destroying his influence so far as the living of our lives is concerned.
But, says Paul, it is while we were like this that God reconciled us to himself through Jesus’ death. “Reconcile” means to remove the grounds of hostility and transform the relationship, changing it from one of enmity to one of friendship. In our case, as Paul has shown earlier, it meant taking us out of the category of enemies and bringing us into God’s family as privileged sons and daughters. If God did that for us while we were enemies, Paul reasons, he is certainly going to save us from the final outpouring of his wrath on the day of judgment, now that we are family members.
If God has done the greater thing, he will do the lesser. If he has saved us while we were enemies, he will certainly save us as friends.
Rejoice in God
The last verse of our text, which also marks the end of the first half of Romans 5, says that now, having been reconciled to God, “we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.…”
There is a sense in which this idea returns us to where we started out, since the first sentence of Romans 5 speaks of just such a rejoicing: “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” But careful reading will show that the object of our rejoicing is not the same in both cases. In verse 2, our rejoicing is in “hope of the glory of God.” That is, it is in our glorification. Knowing that we are going to be glorified is a cause of great joy for us. However, in verse 11, the object of our rejoicing is not our glorification, important as that is, but God himself who will accomplish it. And, of course, of the two ideas the second is obviously the greater. To rejoice in God is the greatest of all human activities.
We affirm this in the response to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
Question: “What is the chief end of man?”
Answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
Up to this point I have not marked the number of ways and times Paul has referred to God in the first half of Romans 5, but this is the place to do it. In the first paragraph, he has referred to each person of the Trinity: “… we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.… And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.… And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit …” (vv. 1–2, 5, emphasis added). In the passage as a whole, the Holy Spirit is referred to once, God the Father seven times, and the Lord Jesus Christ five times, plus four more times in which Jesus is referred to by a personal pronoun.
What exactly shall we rejoice in, if we are to “rejoice in God”? We can rejoice in any one or all of his attributes. Our passage suggests these:
- God’s wisdom. Several chapters further on in Romans, after Paul has traced the marvels of God’s great and gradually unfolding salvation work in history, he will cry out: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Rom. 11:33). But even at this point in our study we can marvel at a wisdom so great as to be able to save powerless, ungodly, sinful enemies.
The question is: How can God save sinners without ignoring or otherwise condoning their sin? How can he save those who are filthy without dirtying himself? How can he be both just and the justifier of the ungodly? The answer is: through Christ, through his death for us. But we would not have known this or even have been able to suggest it by ourselves. It took the wisdom of the all-wise God to devise such a plan of salvation.
There is also a special display of God’s wisdom in the way suffering works for our good, as Paul has shown in verses 3 and 4.
- God’s grace. Grace is usually defined as God’s favor to the undeserving. But we rejoice in God’s grace because, in our case, grace is favor not merely to the undeserving but to those who actually deserve the opposite. What do “enemies” deserve, after all? They deserve defeat and destruction. God did not treat us that way, however. Rather, he saved us through the work of Christ.
- God’s power. We often forget God’s power when we think about salvation, reserving this theme for when we contemplate creation. But the Scripture speaks of God’s power being displayed preeminently at the cross. In fact, the earliest reference to the cross in the Bible does this: Genesis 3:15. In this verse God is speaking to Satan, describing what will happen when the Mediator comes: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” In this verse the cross is portrayed as a battlefield on which Satan and his hosts will be defeated. And so it was! The power of God was revealed at the cross when Satan’s power over us was broken. We rejoice in God’s power when we think of the cross, as well as in his other attributes.
- God’s love. There are a number of attributes of God that may be learned from nature, chiefly his power and wisdom, and perhaps his grace. But the only place we can learn of God’s love is at the cross. Perhaps that is why this attribute is the only one explicitly developed in our passage: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8). It is when we look to the cross that we begin to understand what love is and how much God has loved us.
- God’s immutability. Several times in these studies I have referred to immutability as something for which unregenerate men and women hate God, because he does not change in any of his other attributes. But it is important to say that, although in our unregenerate state we may hate God for his unchanging nature, in our regenerate state we find this something to rejoice in, since it means that God will not waver in his love and favor toward us. Having loved us and having sent the Lord Jesus Christ to save us from our sin, God will not now somehow suddenly change his mind and cast us off. His love, grace, wisdom, and other attributes will always remain as they have been, because he is immutable.
Arthur W. Pink wrote of God’s immutability: “Herein is solid comfort. Human nature cannot be relied upon; but God can! However unstable I may be, however fickle my friends may prove, God changes not. If he varied as we do, if he willed one thing today and another tomorrow, if he were controlled by caprice, who could confide in him? But, all praise to his glorious name, he is ever the same.”
Do We Rejoice?
The last verse of this section says, “Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.…” This is a positive statement: “We rejoice!” It has led one commentator to say, “The one clear mark of a true Christian is that he always rejoices.” But do we rejoice? Have we actually come as far as Paul assumes we have in verse 11?
Honesty compels us to admit that often we do not rejoice in God.
Why is that? D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gives a number of reasons, which I list for the sake of our self-examination:
- A failure to grasp the truth of justification by faith only.
- A failure to meditate as we ought, that is, a failure to think about what we do know.
- A failure to draw the necessary conclusions from the Scriptures.
I do not know if these are your failures (if you have failed to rejoice in God) or whether there is some other hindrance in your case, as there may be. But whatever the cause, anything that keeps us from rejoicing in God is inappropriate and should be overcome by us. I challenge you to overcome it. I challenge you to think about these great truths, meditate upon them, learn how great the love, power, wisdom, and grace of God toward you are. Then glory in God, as those who have known God throughout the long ages of human history have done before you. It will make a profound difference in your life, and you will be a blessing to others.
10 The parallelism between this verse and v. 9 renders the differences between them all the more significant. Perhaps the most interesting is the substitution of “reconciled” for “justified.” Justification language is legal, law-court language, picturing the believer being declared innocent by the judge. Reconciliation language, on the other hand, comes from the world of personal relationships. “To reconcile” means to bring together, or make peace between, two estranged or hostile parties (cf. 1 Cor. 7:11). The language of reconciliation is seldom used in other religions because the relationship between human beings and the deity is not conceived there in the personal categories for which the language is appropriate.94 Reconciliation in Paul has two aspects, or “moments”: the accomplishment of reconciliation through Christ on the cross (cf. 2 Cor. 5:19: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself”) and the acceptance of that completed work by the believer (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20b: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”). Naturally, while the focus can be on one of these moments or the other, the reconciling activity of God is ultimately one act; and in the present verse the complete process is in view. Paul makes explicit the hostile relationship implicit in the language of reconciliation: it was “while we were enemies” that we were reconciled to God. Paul may mean by this simply that we, rebellious sinners, are hostile toward God—violating his laws, putting other gods in his place. But, as Paul has repeatedly affirmed in this letter (cf. 1:18; 3:25), God is also “hostile” toward us—our sins have justly incurred his wrath, which stands as a sentence over us (1:19–32), to be climactically carried out on the day of judgment (2:5). Probably, then, the “enmity” to which Paul refers here includes God’s hostility toward human beings as well as human beings’ hostility toward God. Outside of Christ, people are in a situation of “enmity” with God; and in reconciliation, it is that status, or relationship, that changes: we go from being God’s “enemies” to being his “children” (cf. Rom. 8:14–17).
As in v. 9 justification is accomplished “through” Christ’s blood, so here reconciliation takes place “through the death of [God’s] Son.” Similarly, “we will be saved,” though not further defined, must have the same referent as the same verb in v. 9: salvation from the wrath of God on the day of judgment. The meaning of the phrase “through his life” is not so clear. In light of Paul’s frequent, and theologically significant, use of “in Christ” language in Rom. 5–8, he could intend to depict our salvation as occurring “in the sphere of” Christ, or his life. On the other hand, it is unusual for Paul to use “in Christ” language with another noun intervening between the preposition and “Christ”; and the phrase seems to be parallel to “through him” in v. 9, where an instrumental meaning is certain. Probably, then, the phrase indicates that the new life won by Christ and in which believers share is the means by which they will be saved in the judgment.
9, 10 Verses 9 and 10 are a fortiori arguments, to the effect that if one thing is true how much more must something else be true. In verse 9 the premise posited is that we have now “been justified in his [Jesus’] blood” and the inference drawn is that we shall therefore with all the greater certainty be saved through him from the wrath. The premise in verse 10 is that we have been reconciled to God through the death of Christ, while we were still enemies, and the inference drawn is, with how much greater certainty shall we be saved by the life of Christ. The two verses are parallel in construction and they both enunciate the same substantial truth. But this parallelism and substantial identity as regards the truth unfolded must not obscure the distinctive features of the thought in each verse.
In verses 6 and 8 the apostle had not defined specifically the nature of the death of Christ on our behalf. He stated simply that it was death on behalf of the ungodly (vs. 6) and on our behalf (vs. 8). There is an intimation of the intent and the kind of benefit contemplated in the consideration that it was for the ungodly and for sinners, but there is no further amplification of the specific character of the work accomplished in Jesus’ death or of the kind of benefit accruing to the ungodly from that accomplishment. The apostle had done that earlier in 3:21–26; 4:25. And that delineation was to be assumed in verses 6 and 8. But now in verses 9 and 10 we are provided with additional definition of the specific character of the death of Christ and of the benefits secured by it. It is not to be overlooked, of course, that he introduces these specifications of the character and intent of Jesus’ death in the premises of a fortiori arguments and they are in that respect assumptions on which he bases other conclusions as his main interest. But as premises they are eloquent of what the death of Christ is conceived of as being and accomplishing.
In verse 9 the death of Christ, spoken of in this instance as his blood, is viewed from the aspect of what it accomplished in reference to justification—“having now been justified in his blood”. We have been frequently confronted with the subject of justification in the earlier parts of the epistle. And it had been used uniformly of that forensic act of God by which we are declared to be righteous and accepted as such with God, the justification inseparable from faith on the part of the subject. It is possible, however, that in this instance the term is used in a sense coordinate with the reconciliation of verses 10 and 11 and in that event applies not to actual justification by faith but to the objective ground established by the death of Christ. Paul uses the substantive derived from this same term in that sense in verse 18 of this chapter, as will be shown at that point. In Isaiah 53:11 it is distinctly possible that the word “justify” is used in this sense (cf. the appendix on Isa. 53:11, pp. 375 ff.). And the parallelism in verses 9 and 10 would create some presumption in favour of regarding justification in verse 9 as similar to reconciliation in verse 10. On this interpretation the blood of Christ would be construed as having in itself, objectively, a justifying effect and the justification in view would consist in the obedience and righteousness of Christ which is the ground of actual justification through faith. If, on the other hand, justification in this instance is interpreted in the sense which is all but uniform in Paul, then what the apostle has in mind is our actual justification viewed as taking place through the blood of Christ; it comes to us in Jesus’ blood, and the latter is the ground of our justification. It is Jesus’ blood that secures our justification and it comes to us in the sprinkling of his blood. On either alternative the blood of Christ is stated to have efficacy and virtue in reference to that which is the cardinal doctrine of this epistle. Justification is strictly forensic in its nature and therefore the blood of Christ, whether viewed as constituting justification or as laying the ground for our justification, must be interpreted as having forensic efficacy. Thus it is impossible not to define the efficacy and virtue of Jesus’ blood in forensic categories. For here it is directly related to what is specifically and only forensic. This is not a category suddenly thrust forward by the apostle; it was already implicit in 3:25, 26.
The main thought of verse 9 is, however, in the conclusion that is to be drawn from the foregoing—“how much more … shall we be saved through him from the wrath”. This refers to what will be true in the future as compared with what is true now in the present. Now we are justified—accepted with God as righteous and therefore at peace with God. And this guarantees future salvation. What is the salvation in view? “The wrath” spoken of indicates the answer. The wrath is the wrath that will be dispensed to the ungodly at the day of judgment, the eschatological wrath (2:5, 8; 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9; cf. Matt. 3:7; Rev. 6:16, 17; 11:18). And the assurance to be derived from a present justification—whether viewed as the justification which consists in the blood of Christ or as the justification secured by that blood—is that no wrath is reserved for the justified at the judgment seat. Justification is the opposite of condemnation and since justification is complete and irrevocable there is no condemnation reserved for those who are in Christ Jesus (cf. 8:1). It is symptomatic of the confidence expressed in verses 2 and 5 in reference to the hope of the glory of God that the apostle should now explicate another aspect of that hope, namely, the assurance of deliverance from that which epitomizes the displeasure of God and alienation from him. It was not irrelevant for the apostle to speak in terms of negation as well as affirmation. The hope of glory is negative as well as positive. In order to be positive it must be negative of all that sin entails. In order to be salvation to it must be salvation from. And nothing sums up this “from” more significantly than the concept of the wrath of God. It was a virile conception of God that the apostle entertained and, because so, it was one that took account of the terror of God’s wrath. Salvation from the future exhibition of that terror was an ingredient of the hope of glory.
Verse 10 introduces new elements of truth to reinforce this confidence or at least new aspects of the same truth to inform and establish this confidence. “For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” The analysis of this text requires us to take note of the import of the various expressions.
(1) “While we were enemies”—the word “enemies” should be understood passively, not actively. That is to say, it does not refer to our active enmity against God but to God’s holy hostility to and alienation from us. The word is used in this sense in 11:28 to denote the alienation from the favour of God to which Israel had been subjected. It is contrasted in this latter instance with “beloved”, and “beloved” means, obviously, beloved of God, not the love of Israel to God. Hence “enemies” refers to an hostility of which God is the agent and means the alienation to which Israel had been subjected in God’s judgment. Furthermore, in 11:28 the sense of active hostility to God is not appropriate to the context. The context is dealing with the dispensations of God to Israel. Likewise in 5:10 it is this meaning that is appropriate to the context. What is in view is the alienation from God and the fact that the reconciliation took place when we were in a state of alienation.
(2) “We were reconciled to God.” This might suggest to us that what is contemplated in the reconciliation is the removal of our enmity against God. This is not so; it is rather the removal of God’s alienation from us. If we dissociate from the word “enmity” in this case all that is malignant and malicious, it means the removal of God’s holy enmity against us. Only such an interpretation will satisfy the thought. (a) “Reconciled to God through the death of his Son” is parallel to “being justified now in his blood” in verse 9. The latter, as was noted above, is strictly forensic. Hence “reconciled” must also be forensic in character. But the removal of our enmity, whether viewed as an act of God or an act of ours, is not forensic in its nature; it is ethical in contrast with what is forensic. This consideration of itself is sufficient to show that the reconciliation must be interpreted in forensic terms. Otherwise the parallel would break down. (b) Reconciliation is viewed as something accomplished once for all in the death of the Son of God. But the removal of our enmity to God cannot be regarded as something accomplished once for all in the historic past. (c) In verse 11 we are said to receive the reconciliation. This form of statement is not suited to the notion of the removal of our enmity. The removal of our enmity, however it is construed, refers to a subjective transformation, whereas receiving the reconciliation implies, as Sanday and Headlam observe, “that the reconciliation comes to man from the side of God”. It is a gift received and this concept is entirely appropriate to the thought that reconciliation is a status established, a standing secured by gracious bestowment on God’s part. (d) This concept of reconciliation is in agreement with what stands in the forefront at the beginning of this passage, namely, peace with God as the grace into which we have been introduced and in which we stand. Peace with God is the status of favour resultant upon the removal of our alienation from God. The reconciliation, viewed as the removal of God’s alienation from us, is correlative with peace with God; it is the ground upon which the latter rests. (e) The emphasis of the more immediate context upon the love of God and the proof afforded by the death of Christ gives the whole passage an orientation which reconciliation, interpreted as above, carries on and climaxes, whereas a subjective interpretation interferes with this direction of thought and is not in agreement with the governing thought of the passage.
(3) “The death of his Son”—the title “Son”, appearing now for the first time since the introduction (1:3, 9), draws our attention to some highly relevant considerations. (a) The person of the Godhead specifically in view as the one to whom we are reconciled is the Father. This follows from the fact that the title “God” in this verse refers to the person with respect to whom Christ can be called “his Son”, and only of the Father can Christ be called the Son. (b) The title “God” therefore in verse 8 must also have the Father specifically in mind. Hence it is the Father who commends his love towards us. And the same holds true for verse 5—it is specifically the love of the Father that is shed abroad in our hearts. (c) That we are reconciled to the Father and that it is the love of the Father that is commended to us guards against any supposition to the effect that the Father’s love is constrained by the reconciliation, as also against the thought of incompatibility between love as antecedent and reconciliation as consequent. The simple lesson is that the Father loves and is also reconciled. And the reconciliation is one of the ways in which the intent and effect of the death of Christ, as the supreme proof of the Father’s love, are to be interpreted—reconciliation demonstrates the love of the Father. (d) That the death of Christ is the death of God’s own Son shows how the death in question can be the demonstration of God’s love—the intimacy of relation expressed in the title “Son” exhibits the marvel of the Father’s love to sinners. How unspeakable must this love be when it was “the Son” who died to make good its urge and aim! And what exigencies were involved when the Father gave his Son to die!
(4) “Reconciled … through the death of his Son”—it is the death of Christ that is set forth as the reconciling action and therefore as that which removed the alienation and secured instatement in the favour of God. The death of Christ is synonymous with the blood of Christ. Hence the apostle has provided us with a new category in terms of which we are to interpret the significance of Jesus’ shed blood. These various categories have their own distinguishing features because they take into account the multiform aspects of our need and the manifoldness of the divine provision to meet these needs. Reconciliation has as its background our alienation from God and it must be interpreted in the perspective of that exigency.
(5) “We shall be saved by his life.” The life of Christ referred to here is not what we often speak of as the life of Christ, his sojourn in this world in the days of his flesh. It is the resurrection life of Christ. There lies back of the expression an implied contrast between the death of Christ and his resurrection (cf. 4:25). It is not simply the resurrection as an event that is in view, however. Paul does not say, we shall be saved by his resurrection, but “by his life”, and therefore it is the exalted life of the Redeemer that is intended. The resurrection is in the background as conditioning the exaltation life. Since the clause in question is parallel to that in verse 9—“we shall be saved through him from the wrath”—and since the latter has eschatological reference, it is likely that the salvation here envisaged is also eschatological. On that assumption the guarantee of the final and consummated salvation is the exaltation life of Christ. This is a more embracive way of expressing the truth that the guarantee of the believer’s resurrection is the resurrection of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 15:20–24).
The a fortiori argument of the apostle is thus apparent. It is to the effect that if, when we were in a state of alienation from God, God showed his love to such an extent that he reconciled us to himself and instated us in his favour through the death of his own Son, how much more, when this alienation is removed and we are instated in his favour, shall the exaltation life of Christ insure our being saved to the uttermost. It would be a violation of the wisdom, goodness, and faithfulness of God to suppose that he would have done the greater and fail in the lesser. This argument also shows the indissoluble connection that there is between the death and resurrection of Christ and that since these may never be dissociated so the benefits accruing from the one may never be severed from those accruing from the other. It is a frequent emphasis of Paul (cf. 6:3–5; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15; Eph. 2:4–7; Col. 3:3, 4). Hence those who are the beneficiaries of Jesus’ death must also be the beneficiaries of all that is entailed in his resurrection life. In this passage this is viewed from the aspect of reconciliation by Jesus’ death and the corresponding guarantee for the future.
10 The parallelism between this verse and v. 9 renders the differences between them all the more significant. Perhaps the most interesting is the substitution of “reconciled” for “justified.” Justification language is legal, law-court language, picturing the believer being declared innocent by the judge. Reconciliation language, on the other hand, comes from the world of personal relationships. “To reconcile” means to bring together, or make peace between, two estranged or hostile parties (see 1 Cor. 7:11). The language of reconciliation is seldom used in other religions because the relationship between human beings and the deity is not conceived there in the personal categories for which the language is appropriate.112 While the language of “reconciliation” is not all that prominent in Paul, it occurs in significant places and is tied conceptually to other words, such as “peace” (v. 1). Reconciliation is therefore an important aspect of Paul’s theology.114 Reconciliation in Paul has two aspects, or “moments”: the accomplishment of reconciliation through Christ on the cross (see 2 Cor. 5:19: “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself”) and the acceptance of that completed work by the believer (see 2 Cor. 5:20b: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”). Naturally, while the focus can be on one of these moments or the other, the reconciling activity of God is ultimately one act; and in the present verse the complete process is in view. Paul makes explicit the hostile relationship implicit in the language of reconciliation: it was “while we were enemies” that we were reconciled to God. Paul may mean by this simply that we, rebellious sinners, are hostile toward God—violating his laws, putting other gods in his place. But, as Paul has repeatedly affirmed in this letter (see 1:18; 3:25), God is also “hostile” toward us—our sins have justly incurred his wrath, which stands as a sentence over us (1:19–32), to be climactically carried out on the day of judgment (2:5). Probably, then, the “enmity” to which Paul refers here includes God’s hostility toward human beings as well as human beings’ hostility toward God. Outside of Christ, people are in a situation of “enmity” with God; and in reconciliation, it is that status, or relationship, that changes: we go from being God’s “enemies” to being his “children” (see Rom. 8:14–17).
As in v. 9 justification is accomplished “through” Christ’s blood, so here reconciliation takes place “through the death of [God’s] Son.” Similarly, “we will be saved,” though not further defined, must have the same referent as the same verb in v. 9: salvation from the wrath of God on the day of judgment. The meaning of the phrase “in [Gk. en] his life” is not so clear. The phrase seems to be parallel to “through him” in v. 9, where an instrumental meaning is certain. Yet we should probably respect Paul’s choice of preposition here, a preposition that, even in extended meanings, has the basic idea of “containment.” Thus, in light of Paul’s frequent, and theologically significant, use of “in Christ” language in Rom. 5–8, we should probably understand Paul to be saying that our salvation occurs “in the sphere of” Christ, or his life. The “life” of Christ probably refers to his resurrected state, a state in which believers participate in their union with Christ (Rom. 6:5, 8–10; see 4:25).
5:9–11 / Paul’s magisterial exposition of the transforming love of God reaches its apogee in verses 9–11. Paul utilizes a rabbinic comparison from lesser to greater, or from light to heavy, known in Hebrew as qal wāḥômer, the object of which is to inspire confidence that God is utterly trustworthy to complete the work of salvation, for if God’s love delivered Christ to death for sinners, how much more will it save them from his wrath! God has already done the really difficult thing in justifying rebellious sinners; how much more may those who are justified take confidence that God will preserve them in the state of reconciliation. If God delivered Jesus from death, the same God will also deliver believers from sin and death to life, a point Paul reemphasizes in 8:11. Chapter 5 began with the present state of righteousness, but it now shifts boldly to the future: the cross not only forgives past sins, it assures the justified of their future hope and glory.
Paul continues his decisive contrast between God’s will and human resistance, describing unjustified sinners as God’s enemies (v. 10). The story is told that as Henry David Thoreau lay dying he was asked by his sister if he had made peace with God. Thoreau reportedly answered, “I did not know we had argued.” It was a witty reply, but wide of the gospel. Thoreau evidently believed that human nature is basically good, and that apart from a fault here and there God finds little objectionable in the human race. Paul disagrees. Humanity cannot reconcile itself to God. If there is to be reconciliation it must be effected from God’s side, not ours. On our own and apart from grace we are entrenched in rebellion. We are not distant relatives of God; we are insurrectionists against a worthy king (Mark 12:1–12). It took nothing short of the death of God’s Son to persuade humanity to lay down its arms and accept the gift of reconciliation.
The verb tenses in verses 9–11 encompass the entire life of the believer in God’s love: we were God’s enemies, we have been justified, we shall be saved. God’s redeeming love is past, present, and future. In theological terminology Paul is speaking of justification, the act whereby we were made right with God; sanctification, the process by which God renews us according to his purpose; and eschatology, the completion of salvation in the future and the fulfillment of hope. For the present, the believer lives between two worlds, a theme which Paul will develop in chapter 6. Paul refers to the renewed life variously as a race (Phil. 3:12; 1 Cor. 9:24), dying and rising (2 Cor. 4:16), a fight (1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12), a struggle (Rom. 5:3–5), and a battle (Eph. 6:10–20). But in one thing the believer takes confidence: the cross stands as an irrevocable demonstration of God’s faithfulness in the past, and hence believers can trust God for all things in the future. His love is our hope. St. Chrysostom put it thus, “If God gave a great gift to enemies, will he give anything less to his friends?”
The passage concludes with a new term in verses 10–11, reconciliation. Reconciliation is the act whereby God makes the sinner right with himself, thus ushering the justified sinner into real participation in the life of the risen Christ, which is characterized by peace (v. 1) and hope (v. 2). The concept of reconciliation builds a bridge into chapters 6 and 7. Katalassein, “to reconcile,” was rare, if not unknown, in Hellenistic usage, and consequently no more familiar to Paul’s first readers than it may be to us. In writing to the Corinthians Paul used the term with reference to being a “new creation,” meaning first to be reconciled to God, and second, the surrendering of self as an “ambassador of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:16–21). Reconciliation thus carries the double significance of God’s doing something for us and with us.
The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11–32 wonderfully illustrates reconciling love. Willful and defiant, the younger son demanded his share of the father’s blessing, later to be rudely awakened in the outside world. Returning to his father and expecting what he deserved—censure, humiliation, and (if lucky) probation—the boy received what he did not deserve—shoes, ring, robe, banquet, and most of all, his father’s delight in the infinite worth of one who was lost and now found. Reconciliation is being found by—and surrendering to—the love of God.
5:9–11 justified by his blood … saved from God’s wrath. Verses 9–11 highlight the eternal aspect of Christ’s death as it relates to the believer’s assurance on judgment day. As mentioned above, Paul uses the qal wahomer interpretive technique in 5:9–10 to the effect that if God has already accomplished the really difficult task of justifying/reconciling us as sinners to himself, then preserving the Christian spiritually on judgment day (“saved from God’s wrath” / “saved through his life”) is a relatively easy task by comparison. This message assures believers that they are eternally secure in Christ. In 5:11 the reader is returned to 5:1 in rejoicing that believers are reconciled with God, the flip side of justification. The first is relational, while the second is legal, but both convey the truth that Christians are accepted by God in Christ.
Two important insights can be seen in Romans 5:5–11. First, God is the initiator of justification and reconciliation. It was his love for humanity that motivated him to send his Son to die for our sins. Second, the Christian’s eternal destiny is secure in Christ. Since God saved us as sinners, he will keep us as his children for all eternity.
|The Filioque Debate
The filioque (Latin for “and [from] the son”) debate centers on whether the Spirit proceeds only from the Father (so the Greek Orthodox Church) or from both the Father and the Son (so Augustine and the Western Church). The following illustrations depict the two positions:
Greek Orthodox Church
Augustine and the Western Church
Augustine’s argument better “completes” the Trinity than does the Greek Orthodox view.
Teaching the Text
A message on this unit is “Romans 5:5–11: The Love of the Trinity.” This topic could simply use three subpoints from above: the source of love is God the Father; the medium of love is the Holy Spirit; the proof of love is the death of Christ. Augustine mused that love is at the basis of the Trinity’s relationship in that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son (much to the vexation of the Greek Orthodox Church, which argues that the Spirit proceeds only from the Father [see the sidebar]). Here in Romans 5:5–11 Paul provides us with perhaps the most explicit mention of the delineation of the loving roles of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit toward humankind. God the Father is the author of love. The love that he shares with the Son and the Spirit he also demonstrated by creating the world as the object of his love. In fact, God loved the world to the point that he was willing to give up his Son—that is, to withhold his love from his Son on the cross. The death of Christ on the cross for humankind obviously revealed his immense love for sinners. That love not only absorbed the sin of a hostile world but also was willing to suffer divine abandonment and hostility, even if only for a time. And the Holy Spirit is the one who transcends time in order to bring to the sinner’s consciousness the depth of love displayed on the cross, making the death of Jesus an existential reality.
Illustrating the Text
The Trinity shows the source (Father), medium (Spirit), and proof (Son) of love
Hymn Text: “The Love of God,” by Frederick M. Lehman. Lehman (1868–1953) wrote this song in 1917 in Pasadena, California. The text is based on a Jewish poem called Haddamut, written in Aramaic in 1050 by Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai, a cantor in Worms, Germany. The cantor’s poem has been translated into at least eighteen languages. The hymn is a beautiful testimony to the love of God, using metaphors to illustrate, and is summed up in the refrain: “O love of God, how rich and pure! / How measureless and strong! / It shall forevermore endure / The saints’ and angels’ song.”
Detail of The Trinity, by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553)
Art: The Trinity, by Lucas Cranach the Elder. A German Renaissance painter and printmaker, Cranach (1472–1553) is famous for his woodcut designs of the first edition of the German New Testament and for portraits of Martin Luther, who was a close friend. In The Trinity, a powerful painting in oil on wood, God the Father, crowned and robed as king, stands upright holding the limp, crucified Christ, on whose left knee is perched the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove with unfurled wings. Around the edge of the painting are young angels looking on. It is an intriguing visual illustration (see photo).
Believers are eternally secure in Christ
History: “A Confederate Soldier’s Prayer,” author unknown. This prayer is attributed to a battle-weary Confederate soldier whose body was found near the end of the Civil War. In his poem he expresses the irony that in response to everything he asked from God he was given the opposite, which created in him compassion and growth and blessing.
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.
Love is the basis of the Trinity’s relationship
Book: The Shack, by William P. Young. This best-selling novel (2007) has captured Christians’ imagination in its portrayal of the three persons of the Trinity as in a dynamic, loving relationship with one another. The book has been commended by some prominent biblical scholars such as Eugene Peterson, who calls it The Pilgrim’s Progress for our time, and denounced by others, such as James DeYoung, who sees it as embedded with errors that strike at the heart of the gospel. Thus, the book’s take on the Holy Spirit’s relationship to the believer might be worth pursuing by way of discussion and education.
Moreover, the fellowship of the Trinity portrayed in The Shack taps into Augustine’s view of the filioque debate mentioned above in that the Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son “completes” the Trinity. Furthermore, Augustine said that the Holy Spirit is the love that connects Father and Son. Thus it is that The Shack dramatizes what the Spirit as love linking Father and Son might look like and how the Spirit might be experienced by the believer.
9, 10. Since, then, we have now been justified by his blood, we shall much more be saved through him from (God’s) wrath. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
The relation between verses 9, 10 and the immediately preceding context is as follows:
We will not be disappointed in our hope, for, in Christ, God loves us so deeply that the Savior died for us while we were still sinners. If, then, we were justified by that death—or that blood—of Christ, much more shall we be saved from any future outpouring of God’s wrath.
Now the details:
- Verses 9 and 10 run parallel. The first concerns our legal standing with God; the second, our personal relationship to him. Each of the two statements is in the form of an a fortiori argument: if God did the greater, will he not even more readily do the lesser?
- “justified by his blood.”
The demands of God’s justice must be satisfied. See Isa. 1:27; 53:5; Rom. 8:4. Here in Rom. 5:9, as in 3:24, the relation between justification and Christ’s death is indicated: our justification required Christ’s eternal (not in time but in quality) death (cf. Luke 24:26, 27). In 4:25, on the other hand, the relation described is that between justification and Christ’s resurrection.
Blood points to sacrifice, offering. For more on Christ’s death as an offering, a voluntary sacrifice, see such passages as Isa. 53:7, 10, 12; John 10:11, 15; 1 Peter 2:21–24.
- “saved through him from God’s wrath.”
For this divine wrath see on Rom. 1:18. The deliverance from this wrath, by Christ’s mediatorial work, and therefore by Christ himself, refers to our not having to endure the outpouring of the divine vengeance on the day of the final judgment. See 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9; 2 Thess. 1:5–10.
- “… if, while we were enemies …”
The word enemies must be understood in the passive sense: so regarded by God, because as yet we had not been reconciled to him.
- “… we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.”
Believers are those who, by God’s grace, have attained a standing of righteousness in relation to God’s holy law; in other words, they have been justified. God’s law no longer condemns them. But not only is this true. What is now added is that God also loves them. His heart goes out to them. He has made friends of enemies.
It should be emphasized that reconciliation—as well as justification—is a divine act. It is God, not man, who brings about reconciliation, the change from enmity to friendship.
However, just as it is true that justification requires faith on man’s part—God-imparted and God-sustained faith, to be sure, but human faith nevertheless—so also reconciliation requires obedience on man’s part. Here too it is true that such obedience is God’s gift. Nonetheless, it is man who obeys the exhortation, “Be reconciled with God” (2 Cor. 5:10). God’s relation to man is not the same as that of a carpenter to the block of wood to which he is applying his skill, nor does it resemble the ventriloquist’s relation to his dummy.
Preachers are in danger of becoming onesided, unbalanced. There are those who stress divine initiative and action at the expense of human responsibility and action. There are also those who do the very opposite. Scripture avoids both extremes. The right view is found in such passages as Phil. 2:12, 13; 2 Thess. 2:13. See also Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23.
- “… saved through his life”
It is the resurrected, living, and exalted Son of God who, through his Spirit, carries to completion in our hearts and lives the work of salvation.
If God justifies and reconciles to himself enemies, he will certainly save friends.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 286–287). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 543–550). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
 Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (pp. 311–312). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Murray, J. (1968). The Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 169–175). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Moo, D. J. (2018). The Letter to the Romans. (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.) (Second Edition, pp. 339–341). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
 Edwards, J. R. (2011). Romans (pp. 141–142). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Pate, C. M. (2013). Romans. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (pp. 119–121). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 12–13, pp. 173–175). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.