MESSAGE FOR SUNDAY OCTOBER 11, 1998 FROM ROMANS 5:9-11
This morning we come to Romans 5:9-11. Paul is concluding his thoughts on the blessings of justification by faith in Christ. In the earlier part of the letter he has analyzed and illustrated what justification is. In the first half of chapter five, he celebrates what this wonderful gift of God means to the believer in Jesus Christ. I want to review what we have seen so far in chapter five for two reasons. First, in verses 9-11 Paul is wrapping up his treatment on the many blessings of justification. Because these verses are a conclusion of what precedes them, it is crucial to understand the context. Much of what Paul says in verses 9-11 is a restatement of what we have already examined in verses 1-8. In addition to understanding the context, it is very important on a spiritual level to regularly review the blessings of the gospel which these verses communicate.
Jerry Bridges says we should preach the gospel to ourselves every day. That is, we need to daily review the fact that our salvation is a gift of God from first to last and that we could do nothing to earn it. This helps ward off legalism--which is, our tendency to try to earn God’s favor by what we do. If we are regularly rehearsing in our minds the gifts or blessings given to us within the gospel, it is much harder for our legalistic hearts (and we all have a tendency toward legalism in one form or another) to think about our Christian life as so many Christians do, as a spiritual performance before God which He either harshly scrutinizes and criticizes or heartily applauds. Regularly reviewing the blessings of the gospel keeps us from falling into that trap because we are meditating on what God has done for us in the gospel. When we think over and over about what God has done for us, that will gradually condition our hearts to be God centered, not self centered. Focusing on the blessings of the gospel encourages us to live our lives out of the obedience that comes from faith in what He has done and will do for us. This God-centered approach to the Christian life comes as we regularly meditate NOT on what we can do or have to do for God, but rather on what God has done or has promised to do for us. This practice of contemplating God’s blessings to us also spurs us to worship him which is the big reason we were created--to glorify and enjoy the Lord.
In verse one of chapter five, Paul says that part of the blessing of justification is that we have been given “peace with God.” The idea is very similar to what Paul will call “reconciliation” in verses nine and ten. Put most simply, to have peace with God or to be reconciled to God is to be moved from a position of being God’s enemy to being part of God’s family. The idea is relational. Justification speaks of our legal status before God. We were legally condemned by God and now we have been pardoned by God. To have peace with God moves from the legal to the relational. Not only were we under the death sentence legally before God, we were also personally rebelling against His authority--we were fighting against Him through our self-centered attitudes and lives. And what’s more, God was in opposition to us. His wrath rested upon us. We, as sinners were at war with a holy God and He was at war with us because of our sin. We were enemies.
Christ’s death on the cross quenched his white hot anger toward us--it glutted his wrath as He poured that which we deserved--His wrath, out on His Son. Those who have been justified have been radically promoted from enemy to family. We have been transported from a position of violent opposition to intimate favor--from those who war against God to those who sit next to Him at the dinner table. By application, what this means is that when we feel that God is enraged with us or disgusted with us (and all Christians have felt that way) we can write those feelings off as a lie of the Accuser. God doesn’t relate to us like that any more. He disciplines and rebukes those he loves, but he is not standing over us as our enemy. He made His Son (who was/is his family) to be his enemy so that we (who were his enemy) could be part of his family. We have peace with God--what a blessing!
In verse two, Paul says in justification “we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Justification enables us to relate to God in a context of grace. The air the saints breath in within the kingdom of God is the air of grace, not law. We begin with the settled truth that because of what Christ has done for us, God loves us and delights in us. That is the foundation of our relationship and everything which rests upon that foundation is consistent with that. We need to know that just as we were saved by grace, we now also live and walk by grace. Some people accept salvation as a free gift and then proceed to live their Christian life as if they have to earn God’s favor. They start out with grace and then proceed with law. NO! We were saved by grace and we live by grace--that is the context of our relationship with God.
Also in verse two we read, “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” This speaks of what our attitude should be about the future after this life. Those who are justified have been blessed with the rock solid assurance that they will see the glory of God when we leave this world. Any view which departs from that is not biblical. They will see His glory when they look into his radiant, holy face. And they will see His glory when the church, the glorified sons of God are revealed and display the manifold glory of the risen Christ. As we think about this blessing that is our because of being justified, we should rejoice or “overflow with joy” according to Paul. In verse three, Paul writes, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings.” We not only overflow with joy at the prospect of future glory, but in our present sufferings. The reason for this, Paul says, is because the suffering we endure now, ultimately produces hope. Suffering works into a saint a greater capacity to look to the future and anxiously await God’s faithfulness with certainty. Instead of throwing a wet blanket on our hope, the trials of this life actually increase our capacity to trust God because it is in the midst of suffering that we come to know his faithfulness most powerfully. For those who have been justified, suffering is a blessing because the grace we now receive in the midst of it causes us to more firmly hope in (that is, anxiously await) God’s future grace to us.
This hope we have that the sufferings of this life are not in vain, but will culminate in glory is not an empty hope. Paul says in verse five, “Hope does not disappoint or “put to shame.” Those who have this hope will not have to stand in heaven, red faced and ashamed because they lived for Christ and daily picked up their cross of self denial yet have nothing to show for it. No! We know that in the future at the judgment we will not be ashamed and one reason we know this is because the love of Christ has “been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit...” (v.5) We have ongoing, experiential proof that this hope of glory in our hearts is not a fraud. That proof is the sense of over flowing joy which all those who are justified should be enjoying. In those times when this fountain of joy gushes up and communicates God’s love for us, that is God’s way of assuring us that this hope we have of seeing the glory of Christ is real and worthy to be trusted in.
In verses 6-8, Paul tells us the quality of love God has for us and which we should experience as the Holy Spirit conveys that to us. It is the quality of love that transcends human love. It is the quality seen in the Father sending His Son to die for those who were spitting in his face. This is divine love and this is what we should sense when the Holy Spirit confirms our future hope by gushing out His love in us. That is a broad over view of verses 1-8. Now, let’s move on to verses 9-11
In verse five, Paul says that we know that the hope of seeing God’s glory is confirmed by this experience of his love through the Holy Spirit. In verses 9-10, he points to another proof or an evidence which should assure those who are justified that that they will be with God in glory. Verses 9-10 read, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10For 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 through his life!” Here, instead of putting the future in the context of seeing God’s glory, he places it in the context of being saved from God wrath. Its the same outcome only stated differently. Here, Paul gives additional assurance that those who are justified can be certain they will be spared God’s wrath because of the enormous work he has already accomplished for them in the past through the cross. This whole argument assumes what we have already said many times and that is, for Paul salvation is a process which includes past, present and future elements. We have been saved through the cross. We are being saved as we are brought to Christ likeness by the Holy Spirit and we will be saved when God completes that process when we see Christ and are transformed completely into His likeness.
The way Paul is arguing here is to say in effect, “Look, the big work has been done through the cross. That was the major work in saving you and it has been accomplished, this PAST work of God. The FUTURE work of keeping you from God’s eternal wrath is a piece of cake compared to what has already been done at the cross for you. If God can do what He did at the cross in securing your justification and reconciliation through the death of His Son, then HOW MUCH MORE can He shield you from His future wrath at the moment of judgment. That is nothing by comparison.”
The major truth of this text is this: God’s past justifying work in our lives serves as a guarantee which ensures our future salvation from his wrath. This is such a crucial truth because the enemy tells genuine believers all the time they have lost their salvation and end up in hell. In the case of a genuine believer, that is a lie from the pit of hell. Paul says here that one of the blessings of justification is to be eternally secure. If God has justified you and begun the salvation process, he will complete that process. Paul here says the beginning of that process--Christ’s justifying work is much more remarkable than the completion of that process where you are shielded from God’s eternal wrath. If He has accomplished this huge past act of justifying and reconciling you by giving his spotless Son to die for you, then you have no cause for fear that he will not follow through and do the comparatively smaller work of deferring His future wrath at the judgment. To put it in graphic terms, if God could take a dead person and resurrect them, if he could take a hated enemy and make him His child, if he could take an angry rebel and make him a contented servant (and that is what he does in justification and reconciliation)--if he could do all that, then he is certainly able to keep that person secure and deliver Him from his wrath. If He can justify you, he can keep you.
That is the crux of Paul’s argument in these verses and in verse 11 he concludes by saying, “Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Again, Paul emphasizes the connection between what God has done for us and our natural response and the natural response to what God has done for us is to rejoice or “overflow with joy.” Christians who are not overflowing with joy--and we could define joy as “a deep and contagious delight in God irrespective of the circumstances”--Christians who do not have that have a problem. And one possible problem implied in this text is that they do not preach the gospel to themselves and meditate on the blessings of their justification before God in Christ. They don’t contemplate the blessings they have in Christ and there is no joy and where there is no joy there is no strength because “the joy of the Lord is our strength” according to Nehemiah. Therefore, if you want to be spiritually strong and full of joy, regularly (like, daily) ask God to reveal something special to you about what He has done for you as you study texts like Romans 5:1-11.
Now, in the time remaining I want to look at one aspect of this text because although Paul doesn’t develop it hear, it is one of the most basic strands of Pauline theology and we need to here it this morning. In verse 10 Paul is making this “greater to lesser argument” (if God can do THAT, then he can certainly do this). He says, “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 through His life.” The big thing God has done in the past is reconcile us--bring us into his family through the death of Jesus. The smaller thing by comparison is to save us from His wrath (the idea of wrath is taken from the parallel construction in verse nine). We have been reconciled through the death of His Son. What is it that will enable us to be saved? His life.
What does that mean--we shall be saved through His life? It seems clear that because life is contrasted to his death, it must mean his resurrection life. Paul regularly juxtaposes the cross and the resurrection. In 4:25 he says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Do you hear how he parallels Christ’s death with his resurrection. In verse ten what that means is this: we were reconciled to Him through his death on a cross and we shall be saved from His wrath by his resurrection life. You may be thinking, “Yeah, so what?” If you ask that, it means that you probably haven’t done much thinking about where Christ is living his resurrection life.
Where is Christ living out his resurrection life? You say, “He’s living it out at the right hand of God the Father where He sat down when He was glorified.” That’s true, but Christ is omnipresent. He is not limited to one location at the Father’s right hand. Where else is he living out his resurrection life? And the answer is--he is living out his resurrection life through His church. In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul says, “...Do you not realize that Christ Jesus lives in you?” Christ is living out His resurrection life through His church. Now this has dozens of glorious and largely overlooked implications. Its application to this text is this. When those who are truly redeemed stand before God at the judgment, the Judge will see the resurrection life of Christ in us and that will cancel his wrath. I think this is part of what Paul means in Colossians 1:27 when he says, “Christ in You the hope of glory.” The reason we can hope in, that is, anxiously await the glory of God is because the resurrection life of Christ lives in us.
But there is another implication of this truth I want to bring out and this is the nature and calling of the church. What is the nature of the church of Christ? Ask most Christians that question and they won’t know what to say. They will probably start talking about what the task or calling of the church is and they will say things like, the church is that group of people who are called to evangelize the world, or worship God or something functional like that. Part of the reason the church is so poor at doing those things is because it doesn’t know the nature of the church and the nature of the church is what determines her calling. The fact that Christ lives His resurrection life through the church tells us what its nature is. The nature of the church (and by nature, I mean the essential character or quality of the church) is Jesus Christ.
We see this over and over again in Paul, especially in Ephesians. He says in 1:23 of the church “[it] is his body, the fullness of him [Christ] who fills everything in every way.” The church is the fullness of Christ. We understand what that means when we see in Colossians 1:19 that “all the fullness” of the God the Father dwells in Christ. The fullness of God the Father dwells in Christ and the church is the fullness of Christ. In Ephesians 4:13 Paul defines the mature church as that which is “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” To put it simply, the church is the incarnate Christ on earth--she is His body. The old song says of the church, “Christ has no body now but yours.” In First Corinthians 12, Paul is speaking of the church and the diversity of spiritual gifts present there. He says of the church in verse 12, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many they form one body. So it is with....(the church? NO!)...Christ.” Paul here equates Christ and the church in a functional sense because the resurrection life of Christ is lived out in the church...in the mature church.
We see this again in Acts 1:1. Luke is referring back to the gospel he has written which speaks of the earthly ministry of Christ and he says this, “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven...” What is Luke talking about...“all that Jesus BEGAN to do and to teach...” When Jesus was on the cross, he said “It is finished” and now here Luke is saying that Jesus’ 33 year ministry on earth was just the beginning of his ministry? How does that square? Jesus’ ministry of atonement is finished, but his earthly ministry just began 2000 years ago. His ministry continues now as He is allowed to live his resurrection life through His second body, the church. The nature of the church is the nature of Jesus Christ. We are Christ on earth. Do we believe that?
This truth is so central to defining the calling of the church yet most of us are oblivious to the fact that the nature of the church is nothing less than the nature of Jesus Christ--not a detached representation of Jesus Christ, but Christ Himself in His fullness by the Holy Spirit. If we really believed that--if the Holy Spirit were to really make that truth real to us in our hearts I have little doubt that we would all be grief stricken when we look at our personal spiritual lives and the church as it exists today. Does the church look like Jesus Christ as he we see Him in the gospels? Does she show the love of Christ to her members and to a lost world? Does she show forth the miraculous power of Jesus Christ to heal and transform pulverized and shattered lives? Is she having the impact on the world that Jesus did in Israel? If this truth has any meaning to us at all, we need to begin to compare ourselves corporately NOT to the church down the street, not to person sitting next to us in the pew, because that is not the standard of measure. The standard of measure is nothing less than the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. And we need to be seeking with all our heart to find out why the resurrected Christ who lives within us individually and corporately doesn’t more closely resemble the Christ of the gospels. When He shows us, we need to repent of those sins.
May God give us grace to take the assurance that if we are truly justified nothing can stop us from living forever with Christ, but may we also seek the Lord to discover and repent from whatever it is that is keeping us from expressing the life of Christ now.
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