Romans 5:10&11 “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! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Again we meet the logic of Paul in the structure of our text. So use your minds and think, because he is saying to us Christians that the lesser has occurred; Christ became dead; his soul departed to his Father and his body lay in the ground. He was utterly lifeless, but his death reconciled God to ourselves even when we were God’s enemies. Now Christ lives. He has conquered death. The third day he rose again from the dead. He has been exalted and given a name above every name. He has all authority in this world over all the people and powers that confront us. Jesus is mightier than them all. We have been saved by his death then how much, much, much more shall we be saved through this one who now lives as an almighty conqueror. Amen! This is Paul’s approach. So he repeats his approach of verse 9 again in verse 10.
MANKIND IS IN A FEARFUL CONDITION.
i] Men are God’s enemies. It is set out very plainly here as Paul stands in solidarity with these Christians – “Me too” – and he describes the plight they were all in before they had repented and believed in Jesus Christ; “we were God’s enemies” he says (v.10). Do you grasp what he is saying about you? Unbelievers are still men and women who are at enmity with God. Let me give you some examples of this in the Bible. Our mother Eve was spoken to by the serpent who lied to her telling her that God was her enemy, that God had lied to her when he’d told her that if she ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil she would die. “You will not surely die,” the serpent had said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4&5). God had been so good to her, made her the most beautiful woman that the world has ever seen, Miss Universe, and God had given her a wonderful husband. He gave her a glorious environment, loveliness and life were all around her and Adam, no death at all, and God himself came and spoke to them lovingly every evening. It was the highlight of her day, and yet when the devil in the form of a serpent came and spoke to her and told her that God was a lying God almost immediately she believed him and defied God and ate the forbidden fruit. She was at enmity against God.
Then that attitude of enmity became the bent and drift of every person ever after. Paul says in the eighth chapter of Romans and verse 7 that “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” That is my second categorical statement that the Bible describes the state of our hearts as one of hostility to God. We see it supremely in the third example I’ll give you in the appearing of Jesus of Nazareth at his baptism and his three years or so of his pubic ministry. He is Immanuel, God with us. He went about doing good. He healed the sick and he preached the Sermon on the Mount. He told them to love their enemies, and that if someone hit them on one side of their face that they were turn the other side to be hit there too, that they were not to retaliate. He himself at his death did not curse them and shout, “You wait until my Father gets you.” Rather he prayed “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Yet many people hated him; many of his followers deserted him so that he asked his apostles, “Are you also leaving me?” He didn’t take their loyalty and love whether they loved him or left him in his stride. It mattered to him. Then his own disciples ran away and abandoned him. They did not believe what he taught them. The crowd shouted out for Barabbas, a murderer to be released to them while they wanted this gentle, sweet man nailed to a cross. Then when he was dying they mocked him on the cross. “Look at the King of the Jews. He cannot even deliver himself.” When God got so close to them as Jehovah Jesus was then they displayed their heart feelings, their hostility to God. They refused to have him rule over them. They rejected his claims to be God and Saviour and they killed him. That is the plight of man – the people in your family and your colleagues and the young people in school and college with you. The novelist and lecturer Kingsley Amis once said, “It is not the fact that I don’t believe in God. I hate God.” Exactly. So let’s be careful when we give the suggestion that people all around us are wanting to know this God of the Bible. They may want to know their own god, because he is a projection of themselves. But they certainly don’t want to know the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are at enmity with him until grace changes their hearts and then they become servants and lovers of God.
ii] Men are alienated from God. See what Paul tells them of the other change that has taken place between them and God. They’ve also been reconciled, God and them. In other words, there’d been estrangement; there’d been a quarrel and a friendship had ended. Again we see this in the fall of man, how after the fall the evening stroll of friendship ended. Now Adam and Eve didn’t want to see God. They hid from God behind some bushes. They didn’t call out to God, “We are here! Come and talk to us!” The anticipation and joy of seeing God again and sharing their lives with him had disappeared. There was guilt and hostility. They don’t want to meet with God, the God who knows all about them and wants to talk to them about what they’ve done wrong. Now it is God who cries out, “Where are you Adam?” It is God who listens to the feeble excuses; “You’re the one who made the woman and you gave her to me. She is the one who listened to the serpent and she gave me the fruit to eat. You are in part responsible for what we did.” Amos asks the question, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” Physically they are quite able to do it. Maybe in the school they attend they have to walk to certain places in pairs and they must walk with an appointed one, but those two boys have had a bust-up and they don’t say a word as they walk together. They can walk physically together but they ignore one another. A husband and wife have had a divorce. One of their children dies and they meet at the coffin. Physically they stand in the union of mourning, but they are not agreed. Their lives are lived in alienation with one another. She grumbles about him, “He never sends enough money to support his children.” That is the case with man and God in the alienation. There are some people who seem to be rather religious and moral and appreciative of Christian values, but that is all a covering for an internal attitude of rejection of the Christ who says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” They cannot accept that Jesus is the one mediator between mankind and God. For them that is arrogance, and utterly unacceptable. At that point their alienation reveals itself. So this is the plight of man; he is at enmity with God and alienated from him. Now let us look at the means by which these great barriers can be removed, and once again we can be in a loving and devout relationship with God our Father.
GOD HAS EFFECTED THE WAY OF RECONCILIATION.
The word ‘reconciliation’ can be found in just a few chapters of the Bible but it is a term we use frequently. It means a friendship restored, or people making up after a quarrel. If some students should come to the Manse tonight then I wouldn’t say, “Ten students were reconciled in the Manse tonight.” That would be quite the wrong word wouldn’t it? It would imply that they’d all stopped talking to one another, that they were ignoring one another, even fighting one another, and so I had spoken kindly to them and they had all said sorry, hugged one another and had gone home together singing, “Blest be the tie that binds”! It is not like that at the Manse. You came as buddies and chatted as buddies, ate pop-corn as buddies and went home as buddies. There was no reconciliation because reconciliation wasn’t needed.
Reconciliation is required when there’s been a thundering great row, when a girl has taken your boy-friend, when you are now at loggerheads with someone who used to be your closest friend, then you need to be reconciled. Friendship is a wonderful thing, but if one of the parties discovers that the other, whom they considered to be a close friend, was stealing their money, or had sent Emails about them betraying secrets or running them down, then that would put enormous strain on the friendship, especially if the person who was behaving so cruelly refused to apologize and claimed he’d done nothing wrong. There is now armed truce which is leading to open conflict and the friends of each one are having to take sides. Friendship needs the attitude of warmth and good will on both sides.
There is alienation between us and God. The cause of it is not with God; it is with us. God is good always. He is patient and loving. He does not needlessly afflict the children of men. He gives to men such responsibility for their thinking, their omissions, their words and their actions. He pleads with men to turn away from their evil. “Why should you die?” he asks them. “Turn! Turn! Turn!” God cries to them. He is ready to forgive them. He will forget their sins. He will let bygones be bygones. He is no hindrance to reconciliation at all.
Think of the strained relationship between young David and his master King Saul. There grew the weed of jealousy in the king as people loved the younger man and rejoiced in his success more than in the success of King Saul. So there was a termination of the friendship on Saul’s part. He would have pinned David to the wall with a javelin if he’d been a better shot. He hunted David through the wilderness month after month. David, on the other hand, was wonderfully respectful, and though there arose different opportunities to kill Saul he wouldn’t hurt a hair on the head of God’s anointed ruler.
How then does reconciliation take place? You all understand what I am talking about tonight. We’ve all had knowledge of the experience of estrangement in families or amongst friends. In our own family my grandfather and his brother fell out after the funeral of their father over two paintings of their father and his wife. We have the paintings of my great-grandparents hanging in my study to this day. How sad that they were the cause of estrangement which resulted in the two brothers never meeting for the rest of their lives. I never met them. How does reconciliation take place?
Let me take advantage of Leon Morris’ insights. “Let us suppose that you’ve had a quarrel with a friend. In the heat of the moment strong words were spoken and the friendship you’ve so valued has been strained. Perhaps when you cool down you say to yourself: ‘I was a fool to quarrel with him. He is a wonderful person and a valued friend.’ Then you think, ‘I’d love to be friends again. I’d like to have things as they used to be.’ You decide that you will try to repair the damage. You’ll take the initiative. Then what do you do? You take steps to deal with the root cause of the quarrel. If it was a matter of harsh words spoken you go along to your friend and you say humbly, ‘I am very sorry about what I said. I apologize sincerely. I withdraw that statement entirely.’ As far as you can you remove the cause of the enmity. You take it out of the way. If any action is required you perform that action. If it was a matter of a letter that had to be written you write it. If it was a document to be signed you sign it. If it was money that had to be paid you pay it. [If some painting had to be given over then you would give them]. You give thought to what the root cause of the trouble was and take it out of the way. It is only when the root cause is identified and dealt with that there can be a genuine reconciliation. Without that it is possible to have no more than an uneasy, patched-up truce. But not peace, not a reconciliation” (Leon Morris, The Atonement, IVP, 1983, pp. 138&139).
So the initiative must come from the one offended to remove the cause of the offence, by apologizing and making restitution if necessary and asking for forgiveness. Now in our relation with God we men and women are the ones who have caused the offence. We have done some terrible things; we have eaten the forbidden fruit; we have cried, “Crucify him.” We have said, “We don’t want you to rule over us. Away with Jesus! Nail him to a cross. Put him to death.” We have allowed self and pride to dominate our attitude to God and to other people. On top of that we have done nothing to accomplish reconciliation. We have not abased ourselves before God. We have not confessed our sin. We have not repented and pleaded with God for mercy.
Yet in the extraordinary grace of God it is he who has set up the machinery of reconciliation. It is not the one who offended and caused the break-down of the relationship. We men simply refused to do nothing at all, but the harmless, loving, blameless one – the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – he chooses to deal with the estrangement, and what a way he deals with it. There was no more God-like an action that God did than when he accomplished reconciliation with us. God dealt with that wickedness that has driven us apart. He gathered it together in all its stinking vanity and contempt for him. It was huge, bigger than Everest, and it stank like the puss of a huge boil, and God gathered it all together, all the alienation that had driven us from God, and he laid it all on his beloved sinless Son as he hung on the cross. He put all that defilement that had cause the alienation on the Lord Jesus. He made him that sin that had driven away God from our lives and driven Christ to the cross. That seething mass of garbage, our defilement, and he imputed it all to Christ. Jesus took it all by himself to the cosmic incinerator. He dumped it all in the lake of fire and he utterly annihilated it there, destroying all the enmity, dealing with it exactly as it deserved to be dealt with. That is Golgotha. That is the destruction that Jesus freely accepted when he died on the cross. He all by himself reconciled an offended God to us by removing the cause of the offence from us and so making us without spot or any such thing. So that today our sin no longer affects or modifies our relationship with God today. It has all been dealt with. It has all been removed from us. God has taken it away for ever and ever. Our God is reconciled! He has been reconciled through the cross of God the Son, and thus we have been reconciled, as Paul tells us here, by the death of his Son. That was the way, the only way – no reconciliation in any other way. I am the way, says Jesus Christ; no man comes to the Father but by me. There is no other way under heaven given amongst men of terminating the alienation so that we may be made friends with God again. None other Lamb, none other name, none other hope in heaven or earth or sea. None other hiding place from sin and shame; none besides Thee. We were enemies; we were estranged from God, but God the Son came in grace into an alien world and he achieved reconciliation by his death under the measureless load of our guilt and shame.
THE LIFE OF MIGHTY CHRIST CONFIRMS OUR SALVATION.
If the death of Christ has achieved reconciliation “how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” That is the argument of Paul, going from the effectual to the more effectual; from the colossal achievement to the more colossal achievement; from the irresistible to the even more irresistible; from the conqueror of the alienation to its more than Conqueror. How much more shall we be saved by Christ’s life, the apostle affirms. Why is this?
i] Because of his present status as mediator. This life of Christ, where is its base today? Raised from the dead he is set far above all rule and authority and dominion. He is now appointed head over everything. The one whose life on earth ended crucified between two thieves, now stands in the centre of the throne of God. That is where ‘mission control’ for our pilgrimages is to be found. In our very nature he exercises his mighty power. He brings to bear on his government all the compassion and sensitivity he had learned while he dwelt among us, sharing our situation and limited to our resources. He knows today what it’s like to grieve, to weep at the loss of those you love, to feel the most agonizing pain that goes on and on. The one who saves us by his life lives the life of a true man yet today.
But he not only reigns as a man, he reigns for men. He is fully engaged in the work of his church. We know so little about the kingdom of God. Occasionally someone will come and tell us of Christian work in Madagascar, or north Wales, and windows are opened for us. But Jesus knows every detail about his kingdom and the personnel involved and the activities being undertaken. He is fully committed to his people. Since his resurrection he has been actively involved in his work of redemption. If you were to interview Jesus, the King of kings and ask him what is the policy of his administration then he’d tell you, “to give eternal life to as many as the Father has given me” (John 17:2). That is what he is doing this moment. He is still an energetic, proactive Saviour, fully involved in every conversion, still opening people’s hearts, shepherding every single sheep and tending every single lamb. This is what he is doing in his life in heaven and also on earth right now.
The living Christ’s supremacy is universal. His dominion is “an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Dan. 7:14). We who have been translated from the kingdom of darkness into his everlasting Kingdom will enjoy the benefits of our King’s rule and blessings and protection and provision for ever and ever. It is the throne of God and the Lamb that are the citadel of the New Jerusalem.
The living Christ is enthroned for the sake of his work, and he prosecutes that work not from a position of weakness but from a position of limitless power. He is now building his church and he is confident as he builds that the strength and cunning of hell will never prevail against it. He is pouring forth his Spirit abundantly on his people all over the globe today. He can move heaven and earth for the conversion of a single sinner. He can put an apostle in prison so that the guards may hear the gospel. An earthquake becomes a link in a chain of events that saves a jailer. A storm and a shipwreck carry his servant to preach the gospel in Malta and to heal many there. Christ has the whole world in his hands. He has the fall of the sparrow and the hairs on our heads under his control. It is not at all that he is King of those who have some religious concern and personal spiritual needs and he is their answer. Do you understand? He is not simply the Lord who is being offered to those who are conscious that they have a God-shaped void in their lives, or some conscious religious needs like a guilty conscience, or a sense of emptiness or a lack of fulfillment because everything is vanity! No. He is already . . . today . . . the Lord of the religionless. What we are doing every Lord’s Day is to tell all who have ears to hear that the Lord Jesus Christ lives and is already the Lord of the religionless. Recognize it. Holy Spirit open the eyes of our understanding to see it! Bow to him now. You must bow to him one day, you who will not spare God a thought, you who have no God-shaped void in your hearts and feel no emptiness in your lives. The obligation to bow the knee does not rest on any feelings towards some supreme power but on the great, unvarying, objective fact that Jesus Christ now lives and that he lives as an all-powerful King, and that fact is true for all, always and everywhere. But we are saved by the life of Christ for another reason.
ii] Because he lives now in the hearts and lives of all he has reconciled to God. The living Christ reigns in our souls and affections – though now we don’t see him yet we love him, and this love creates the great primal longing to see him as he is. How our hearts beat faster at Cornelius Van Til’s familiar farewell greeting, “We shall soon meet at Jesus’ feet.” We long to see Christ. He exercises his influence in the very depths of our souls. Where once Satan reigned now Christ is king! Sin is no longer our master. By the power of the Lord Jesus we declare war on remaining sin and we mortify it by the Spirit. There he convicts us of our sin. There he points us to himself as the forgiving Lord. There he enlightens our minds concerning who he is and what he is doing. He is the one who keeps the embers of faith, hope and charity alive and burning. He is still the one who will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoking flax. But there is another reason why we shall be saved by his life.
iii] Because he rules over the material universe. He created it and he has never let go of it. The winds and waves still obey him. He still can plant his footsteps in the sea and ride upon the storm. He has taken the dust of the earth and joined it to himself and that dust is at the right hand of God reigning. He has redeemed us and reconciled us to God by his blood. The cosmos is his doubly, by right of creation and by right of redemption. He energizes it, preserves it, governs its every movement, macroscopic and microscopic.
In the end he will recreate it. “I saw,” said John, “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heavens and the first earth had passed away” (Rev.21:1). There’s no way by our wits and powers we are going to build our own utopia or make our own way back to paradise. But the Lord who said in the beginning, “Let there be light,” will finally say, “Let there be a new universe!” and then the New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven from God. The glorious new world to come will not be the result of evolution but by the cataclysmic word that comes from God. He will raise the dead bodies of his saints and join them to the resurrected dust and make them ready to be inhabitants of a new universe, and then God will see what he has created and God will say again, “Very good!”
It will be a world from which all sin has been banished. It will be a cosmos which even more splendidly than the first creation will be redolent with the righteousness of the Son of God, where all humanity, shepherded by the Lamb, will at last achieve its destiny, and all be to the glory of God. In other words it will become the place that is commensurate with the price the Lord Jesus paid for it.
So this is the life of Christ Jesus the Lord, exalted life, one given all the glory that the Father can imagine or create. Transformed and glorified majesty is now our Saviour’s. So if you are saying today that you have been saved by Jesus’ death, then how much more will you be saved by the life of the Lord Jesus?
4. WE REJOICE IN GOD THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
“Not only is this so . . .” says Paul, that mankind is in a dreadful condition of being enemies of Almighty God and alienated from him, and that God has provided the reconciliation of many favoured sinners, and that the mighty living Christ will certainly save every one whom the Father has given to us . . . “not only is this so.” But the keynote of our lives from here to eternity is joy; “we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The world is a very challenging place for the Christian. It is full of disappointment; men let you down; Christians break your hearts; ill health can attack our children in their mother’s wombs and our dearest companions in old age. The resistance to the gospel comes from every possible source and class and culture. It is easy for the Christian to be discouraged, but there is a reality which is infinite power, measureless love and triumphant grace, in whom we can rejoice always, and that reality is the living God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, our Creator, our Sustainer, the God of providence and our Saviour. The challenge that faces us each day is that of rejoicing in him, to bring him into every circumstance, the God who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ. We must appropriate him in his justifying mercy, in his sovereignty, in his faithfulness, in his whole character. We must often go back to the cross and see God there in Christ reconciling the world to himself, making his Son sin for us – the one who knew no son – that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ.
This is the source of solid joy and lasting pleasure. In our days of discouragement we must do what Job did in his devastating losses and bless the name of the Lord at all times. There are times when we do not know what he is doing but he knows what he is doing.
Deep in unfathomable mines of never failing skill
He treasures up his bright designs and works his sovereign will.
Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan God’s work in vain;
God is his own interpreter and he will make it plain” (William Cowper)
We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are taught by God in every circumstance how to deal with the rough passages of life. We do so in the light of the reconciliation and we find endurance to go on our way rejoicing. We see the Lord Jesus afresh; we get new strength; we get new grace from him in order to survive because he went on. We receive the words God gave to the apostle, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” And so if you examined Paul’s life, and heard of his singing with his bleeding, whipped back in the prison in Philippi, and read his words that the suffering of the present time isn’t worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed to us, and that our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory – then you would say to Paul, “How do you do it Paul? How do you cope with it? I can’t go on as you do.” Paul would say to you, “It is not me; it is Christ living in me.” This is what it means to rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Each time of rejoicing will help you in the next trial to rejoice in affliction. The living God is increasingly the most important and immense reality in our lives, and more so as the years go by. So the trials of our faith are more precious than gold because they drive us to cast ourselves and our concerns on the God who has cared so wonderfully for us in his Son Jesus Christ through whom we are not merely informed of the reconciliation, or are specatators of the reconciliation, but we have received it! Our God is reconciled to us sinners. He is our loving Father and soon we are going to be with him for evermore, saved by the living Jesus Christ our good and faithful Shepherd.
6th December 2014 GEOFF THOMAS