The Reconciliation/Romans XVIII
We have a tendency to describe our conversions as one single-faceted event. But in the Scripture, conversion to Christ is multi-faceted, and the different words we use are not synonyms. We will be considering some of those terms in the context of this passage, and it is important to note that they describe different spiritual realities. For example, to be converted means to be turned. To be saved means to be delivered. To be reconciled means the establishment of peace where there was hostility before. These realities all fit together, but they are not all identical.
“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Rom. 5:9-11)
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT:
Recall the argument from the previous section, the argument that extended into this passage. If God did so much for us while we were His enemies (v. 8), why would He start to stint now that we are His friends? The point of Paul’s emphasis in v. 9 is “how much more.” Given that we are now justified by His blood (v. 9), how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him (v. 9). And if we were reconciled while we were enemies (by the death of His Son), how much more now, being reconciled, shall we be saved (v. 10). And on top of all that, we also have joy in God, through Jesus, through whom we have received “the atonement.” Literally this is “the reconciliation,” the same word that is used in v. 10.
DISTINCTIONS AND IDENTITIES:
At the end of chapter 4, we saw that we are justified in the resurrection of Jesus (v. 25). But here we see that we are described as having been “justified by his blood” (v. 9), that is, by His death. And even though we have been saved, notice that the salvation spoken of in vv. 9-10 is a future salvation. We have been saved, we are being saved, and we shall be saved. Distinguishing these things is important, but it is not like separating the red buttons from the blue buttons. It is more like distinguishing height from depth.
SAVED FROM WRATH:
Remember that in this section, Paul is balancing what has been done with what shall be done. He is arguing from the former to the latter. Because of what God did for us while we were enemies, we may be confident that He will do a great deal more for us now that we are His friends. In this context, he says that we “shall” be saved from wrath, and the reason given is that we have already been saved from wrath. We were enemies of God, and what (in Romans) is characteristic of enemies?
The wrath of God is found at both ends, which means that deliverance from wrath is found at both ends. For example, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against His enemies already (1:18). And what was waiting for His enemies in the future? Hypocrites were storing up wrath for themselves (2:5). Those who pursued the law were pursuing wrath (4:15). This means that those who used to be enemies have already been delivered from the 1:18 kind of wrath, and this is grounds for believing that they will be delivered from the 2:5 kind of wrath as well.
But the argument works both ways—those professing Christians who have not been delivered from the current manifestations of wrath have no reason for believing that they will be delivered from future wrath. What treasures up wrath (2:5). It is a hard and impenitent heart, and it doesn’t matter if the flesh has been circumcised (2:28) if the heart has not been (2:29). In the same way, it doesn’t matter if the body has been baptized if the heart has not been. And, of course, when I say it “doesn’t matter,” this simply means that it doesn’t matter as far as averting wrath goes. It matters very much in other ways. It matters, for example, as a method of bringing down additional wrath.
SAVED BY HIS LIFE:
Not only are we saved from wrath, we are saved “by his life.” By this we should understand the equation of wrath with death. The way of wrath is the way of death. Christ has been raised to life for our justification (4:25), and it is in this life that we have received reconciliation. God is the God of life, and there is a necessary animosity between Him and death. We cannot live in death and not be at odds with His life. To anticipate, how can we who are dead to sin still live in it (Rom. 6:2)? And if we are raised in His life, then we are necessarily raised in His newness of life (6:4). The logic is simple. Those who used to be dead can be saved “by His life,” but it is impossible for those who continue in death to be saved by His life. God does remarkable things in salvation, but He doesn’t square the circle.
RECEIVING THE RECONCILIATION:
When this is rightly understood, when the argument is followed, what results? What is the crowning glory? Not only so, but we have joy. This is not a glib happy happy joy joy, but is rather an impressive edifice of towering joy, possible only because of the bedrock it is built on. That bedrock is the bedrock of sovereign grace, nothing but grace, and grace all the way down. And os we joy in God, and we joy in Him through our Lord Jesus, through whom we have been reconciled. The fruit of that reconcilation is joy, and the Person through whom we rejoice is the same Person through whom we were reconciled.
SAVED MEANS SAVED:
You cannot be saved from drowning and remain on the bottom of the pool. You cannot be saved from wrath, and remain underneath an ocean of it. One of the advantages of wrath in the present is that it enables us to see the disposition of wrath in the future. We are not to associate with those who call themselves brothers, but who are living under wrath (1 Cor. 5:9-13). After listing the manifest works of the flesh, Paul says “that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21). The rule of thumb is straightforward—wrath now means wrath later—unless full repentance divides the two. Hard and impenitent hearts now mean hard and impenitent hearts later. No one in Hell is repentant—they may be sorry enough, but they are not repentant. Repentance is a gift of God, remember.
Those who minimize the importance or significance of manifestations of wrath now are therefore minimizing the importance of the wrath to come. Preaching on sin now—for example, saying that sodomy is a deep corruption despite recent hate crimes legislation—is not a contemptuous way of telling the world to go to Hell. It is standing in the way.