With Dale Ratzlaff
We continue our study in Romans 5:6-9.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 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. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
These verses have had a profound effect on my theology and life. The power of grace shines through every sentence of this section. “While we were still helpless”—it is hard for some of us who grew up on law, thinking we had to clean up our life and walk the straight and narrow in order to be accepted by God, to be able to take in what this phrase says. But here Paul makes it clear that Christ entered into human history when we were still helpless! We could not save ourselves. So Christ died for the ungodly. In God’s timing Christ died for us “at the right time.”
It is of interest that Paul apparently places “good” above “righteous” in his statement,
For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.
Perhaps Paul has in his mind some proud, “righteous” Pharisee compared to someone like, for example, Barnabas who is described as “a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Act 11:24). In any event the gospel point is that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” We need no further demonstration of God’s love for us. As we look at the uplifted Christ on the cross, we see His love for us.
Even with this powerful statement, Paul is not yet done mining the depths of the gift of justification by faith.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
Paul is not satisfied with just giving more evidence of God’s love, he gives us “much more”. “Having now been justified” is aorist passive. The verdict took place in an instant of time by God’s doing. As we learned in Romans 3:21-26, justification can never stand alone. It rests on redemption and propitiation—two different ways at looking at the death of Christ. Both are based upon the blood shed by Christ. “Shall be saved” is future passive, again showing that our salvation from start to finish is God’s work of grace. We cooperate with His work. Note that there is coming “wrath”. But we who have received Christ have no worry. 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.
Paul shows the logic of God’s grace. He walks us through each step. While we were still enemies we were reconciled! Before Christ gave His sermon in Matthew 5, he had already done what He there commanded.
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. 5:44-48).
Some of us grew up thinking that justification took care of only past sins. It was now up to us to prove that we were worthy of God’s continuing grace. We were taught that we were justified by faith alone, but now it was up to us to live a sanctified life. While we do cooperate with God in our Christian walk, we never take our eyes off our Lord and put them on our own behavior as the foundation for our acceptance, either now or at the second coming of Christ. Additionally, Jesus’ resurrection life is the source of our life in the Spirit when we are born again (Rom. 8:10-11). We have this promise: “having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
How often do we “exult in God”? When we fully understand that Christ provided the reconciliation we needed to break down the barriers of sin, estrangement and fear so we now have no wall separating us form God’s love, then we will be led into real worship. If only the people of the world could experience this reconciliation, then the way would be open for reconciliation in our interpersonal relationships. And that is just the reason—yes, the urgency to proclaim the simple gospel of a finished atonement.
I well remember the day when I first discovered the truth of these verses. It was not at the seminary—how we never studied this there I do not know—but when I was teaching Bible Doctrines at Monterey Bay Academy. At that time I understood that God justifies helpless, ungodly, sinners who are even enemies. My spirit leaped up and said, “I qualify!” Even though I had been saved years before, now the door opened wide and I saw new beauty in my Lord and I felt the urgency to proclaim the riches of God’s grace to others.
Paul was the chosen Apostle of the Living Christ to take the gospel to the Gentiles. True, Peter opened the door at the home of Cornelius, but Paul in his letter to Rome ushered in the masses who were longing to “breathe free”. Better than the Statue of Liberty, Christ is presented high and lifted up, inviting any and all to life eternal. Will you respond? Do you feel helpless in your battle with sin? Do you recognize your ungodliness? Perhaps you are not involved in a sinful lifestyle? Could you have taken your stand against God, counting Him to be your enemy? If so today’s message is for you. You qualify for God’s mercy and grace! Will you respond?
Father, thank you that you can declare that I am righteous in Christ no matter how many bad things I have done, or am now doing! I accept your gospel call. May I experience the good news of who I am “in Christ”.