(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 5/19/02 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn in your Bibles to Romans 5. Let's read verses 1 through 11:
Romans 5: (1) Then being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom also we have had access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we glory on the hope of the glory of God. (3) And not only so, but we glory also in afflictions, knowing that affliction works out patience, (4) and patience [works out] proven character; and proven character, hope. (5) And the hope does not put [us] to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through [the] Holy Spirit given to us; (6) for we yet being without strength, in due time Christ died for ungodly ones. (7) For with difficulty one will die for a just one, (for perhaps one even dares to die for the sake of the good one), (8) but God commends His love to us in [this], that we being yet sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Much more then, being justified now by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him. (10) For if [while] being enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life; (11) and not only [so], but also glorying in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we now received the reconciliation.
Last week, we saw that those who have been justified by faith have PEACE, they have ACCESS, and they GLORY. PEACE is the opposite of war. Because God's wrath against the sin of His people was poured out on Jesus Christ on the cross, there is no more enmity between God and His people. Instead of being enemies of God, we have become friends of God, and we have been brought into fellowship with God. ACCESS is admission or being brought toward. We have ACCESS into our standing with God in grace because our sins have been pardoned and the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us. And then we GLORY. We REJOICE at the sure and certain hope of final glory based on the work of Christ alone, and we rejoice in our afflictions, because our afflictions work out patience, and patience works out proven character, and proven character works out hope. This hope is not the hope of the reprobate, who will be ashamed when they meet God. This hope is the hope of God's people, for whom it is ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that they will reach final glory. This hope will not put us to shame, because we have been given the earnest of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
Let's now continue with verse 6, which is part of the sentence that started in verse 5:
Romans 5: (6) for we yet being without strength, in due time Christ died for ungodly ones.
The first part says that we were without strength. What does that mean? Does that mean that we were physically weak? The phrase "without strength" speaks of INABILITY. We were NOT ABLE to do something. What were we NOT ABLE to do? Well, there are two main things in this context that we were NOT ABLE to do. The first one is that we were NOT ABLE to produce a righteousness that answers the demands of God's Holy Law. What does God's Holy Law demand? It demands perfect obedience in every way. The Law cuts no slack. It doesn't give extra points for effort. It doesn't make an allowance for those who tried their best but who didn't quite obey every point of the law in every aspect of life. The Law is black and white. Let's turn to Galatians 3 and read verses 10 through 12:
Galatians 3: (10) For as many as are out of works of Law, [these] are under a curse. For it has been written, "Cursed [is] everyone who does not continue in all the things having been written in the book of the Law, to do them." (11) And that no one is justified by Law before God [is] clear because, "The just shall live by faith." (12) But the Law is not of faith, but, "The man doing these things shall live in them."
God's demand is for perfect obedience. Now why is God so unbending when it comes to His Law? We again go back to the character of God. It's because God is HOLY. He is PURE and RIGHTEOUS. And God's Law is a revelation of His holiness, purity, and righteousness. God WILL NOT fellowship with ANYONE who is not as righteous as He is. He will only CURSE those who are not as righteous as He is. So, as far as acceptance and fellowship with God go, we were WITHOUT STRENGTH. We had NO ABILITY to come to God to be in fellowship with Him. Why? Because we were TRANSGRESSORS of God's Law. We were SINNERS. Let's turn to 1 John 3:4:
1 John 3: (4) Everyone practicing sin also practices lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
Sin and lawlessness are the same. This is an important concept. Every FALLING SHORT, every FAILURE, is LAWLESSNESS. James 2:10 says, "For whoever shall keep all the law, but stumbles in one, he has become guilty of all." Even a SINGLE STUMBLING is total lawlessness. Now tell me, before God saved us, did we at least have one single stumbling? We had a whole lot more than that, didn't we? We were UNABLE to be perfect. We were WITHOUT STRENGTH. Romans 3:23 says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
The second thing that we were unable to do was to satisfy the demands of God's JUSTICE by making redemption for our sins. Since all of us by nature were sinners, we were all under a curse. The only way for the curse to be lifted would be for those sins to be paid for. There would have to be reconciliation made if there was to be fellowship. Were we able to make that reconciliation? How could we? - we were under the wrath of God! We had no ability to pay for our own sins.
We were without strength. We needed a substitute who was perfectly righteous and who had the ability to pay for the sins of others. Let's go back to Romans 5:6. While we were yet without strength, what happened? CHRIST DIED. Christ, the perfect, spotless Lamb of God, took our sins upon Himself, as only Christ could do, and paid the full price that our sins deserved. While we were without strength to answer the demands of God's law and God's justice, Jesus Christ, the right arm of God, the mighty redeemer, answered the demands of God's law and justice in our place.
Notice that Christ died for the UNGODLY. He not only died for the UNABLE, the ones without strength, but He died for the UNGODLY. These weren't the poor, pitiful ones who really wanted to come to Christ but couldn't - these were WICKED PEOPLE. These were HATERS of GOD! These were people who held the truth in unrighteousness, who did not glorify God, who worshiped themselves and false gods. This is talking about US before we were saved! We HATED the one true and living God. When we believed or spoke peace to those who held to salvation conditioned on the sinner, we were disgusting, self-righteous fools. We treated the blood of Christ as if it were some light thing. Even though we may not have realized it, we were going about to destroy the gospel. Yet Christ died for the UNGODLY! God, the Holy One, the Perfect One, the One who will not fellowship with anything less than perfection, sent His Holy Son, undefiled, separate from sinners, to DIE for the UNGODLY. This is GRACE, is it not? God gave us, who were ungodly, something we did not deserve - the gift of His Only Begotten Son, who bore our sins on the cross, that we, who were His ARCH-ENEMIES, would have fellowship with Him. What a concept! Paul shows the magnitude of this act in the following verses. Let's read verses 7 and 8:
Romans 5: (7) For with difficulty one will die for a just one, (for perhaps one even dares to die for the sake of the good one), (8) but God commends His love to us in [this], that we being yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Paul is saying that it is a rarity for someone to die for a just one, one who keeps the law, and perhaps it is a little less rare for someone to die for a good one, one who goes out of his way to be a benefactor of society, yet it is still rare. But who's ever heard of someone dying for an evil one, someone who hates you, someone who is your enemy, someone who is out to destroy you? What amazing love this is! God commends, or causes to stand out, His unique, unmatchable love for us, in that Christ paid the ultimate price, the ultimate sacrifice of love, for the cursed law-breakers! Now think of this -- the God-hating lawbreakers for whom Christ died did not differ IN ANY WAY from the God-hating lawbreakers for whom Christ did not die in their character and conduct. There was NOTHING IN THEMSELVES that would cause anyone to say, "this person is a better person than that other one over there." The God-haters for whom Christ died were liars, adulterers, blasphemers, idolaters, self-righteous religionists, and all the rest, just like the God-haters for whom Christ did not die. There was NOTHING that made them stand out from the God-haters for whom Christ did not die. They were children of wrath, just like the rest, as Ephesians 2:3 says. Yet God showed His love toward them and not the others. What made them to differ? What made them worthy of God's love and the others not? Well, the answer is that ALL God-haters, whether elect or reprobate, are not worthy of God's love. NONE of them had anything in themselves to make themselves to differ. It was all based on God's free, all-wise, sovereign choice of them before the foundation of the world. God's grace is what made them to differ. God's love is what made them to differ. "God commends His love to us in [this], that we being yet sinners," just like the rest, "Christ died for us," unlike the rest. We should be humbled to the dust for this awesome sovereign grace of God, who took rotten, depraved, hell-deserving sinners, unworthy of even the least of God's favor, and sent Christ to pay the price for their sins to secure their salvation. There is no room for boasting.
On to verse 9:
Romans 5: (9) Much more then, being justified now by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him.
Notice that Paul now says that we are JUSTIFIED by Christ's BLOOD. Before, he said that Christ died for us. He now gets specific. Christ's blood JUSTIFIES. This puts to death all notions of universal atonement. When Christ died for the ungodly, His blood justified those ungodly ones for whom He died. The damnable notion that Christ died for those in hell would mean that either there are justified people in hell or that the blood wasn't enough. If there are justified people in hell, then God is a monstrosity who punishes people who have been declared not guilty. If the blood was not enough, then Christ's death actually accomplished nothing in and of itself, and the blood is worthless. Both are damnable. Christ's blood JUSTIFIES. Jesus paid the price. Jesus became guilty, so we would be declared NOT GUILTY.
Much more, then, being declared NOT GUILTY by the blood of Christ, will we be saved from the wrath to come through Christ. How can anyone who has been declared NOT GUILTY then be judged to eternal damnation in hell? What is hell for? Hell is for GUILTY ONES. Hell is for CONDEMNED ONES. But who can condemn us if God has justified us? Let's turn to Romans 8:33-39:
Romans 8: (33) Who will bring any charge against God's elect? God [is] the [One] justifying! (34) Who [is he] condemning? [It is] Christ who has died, but rather also [is] raised, who also is at [the] right [hand] of God, who also makes intercession on our behalf. (35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [Shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (36) Even as it has been written, "For Your sake we are killed all the day; we are counted as sheep of slaughter." (37) But in all these things we more than conquer through Him loving us. (38) For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (39) nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Is there any justified one, one who has been declared NOT GUILTY, who will ever be condemned for his sins or punished for his sins in hell? Is there ANYTHING that can separate the JUSTIFIED ONES from the love of God? There is NOTHING. Nothing that ANYBODY does will separate us from the love of God. We are as sure and certain for heaven as if we were already there, based on the justifying blood of Jesus Christ.
Back to Romans 5. Let's read verse 10:
Romans 5: (10) For if [while] being enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life;
Now if God manifested His love to us when we were ENEMIES, how much more, now that we are FRIENDS, will God manifest His love to us by preserving us. Remember back in the series on the gospel that one part of salvation is preservation? I believe that this is what is being talked about here. This is along the same thought lines as verses 8 and 9. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, so much more then, now being justified, we shall be saved from the wrath to come. For if Christ died for us when we were enemies, how much more, now being reconciled, we shall be preserved.
Notice in this verse that Paul now talks about RECONCILIATION. He first talked about JUSTIFICATION, and now he talks about RECONCILIATION. We are not only JUSTIFIED by Christ's blood, we are RECONCILED to God by Christ's blood. RECONCILIATION is to bring back into fellowship. Our sins alienated us from God. Christ's blood reconciles us to God. Because Christ's work appeased God's wrath and paid the price for our sins, reconciliation is the inevitable result.
On to verse 11:
Romans 5: (11) and not only [so], but also glorying in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we now received the reconciliation.
Not only are we preserved and saved from wrath through the justifying and reconciling blood of Christ, we glory in, or rejoice in God through Christ. This justification, by which no one can condemn us or keep us from the love of God, causes us to rejoice in God. Note that our rejoicing in God is not just rejoicing in God the Father considered apart from His Son. Back when we went over Romans 1:8, we saw that we are to thank God through Christ. This is the same thing here. When we rejoice in God, when we praise God, it is ALWAYS through our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is Christ's work that is the centerpiece of the gospel. It is Christ's work that gives the gospel its life. Without Christ's effectual work, there is no gospel. If Christ's work did not secure the salvation of everyone for whom He died, there is no good news of the gospel. Our thanking and our rejoicing is never without Christ in mind. The last part of verse 11 bears this out. Our rejoicing is through Jesus Christ, because it is through Jesus Christ that we have received the reconciliation. Jesus Christ, the mediator between God and man, accomplished peace, reconciliation, between a holy God and sinful man. God cannot fellowship with anyone who is not as righteous as he is. Man doesn't even come close to meeting up to that righteousness. There must be a go-between in order for the two to be reconciled. That go-between is Jesus Christ, who lived a perfectly righteous life, so His righteousness would be imputed to His people, and died on the cross, paying the price for the sins that were imputed to Him. Praise God through Christ for this awesome work of grace for His people. Amen.