Romans 5:8-12 by Robert Dean
What do justification, reconciliation, and hope have in common. In this class we learn how Paul connects these to the cross and the so great salvation we have "in Christ." Only by living in light of this reality can we "be saved," i.e., be delivered from God's discipline and judgment in time ("wrath").

Justification and Reconciliation Provide Confidence in the Future
Romans 5:8–12
Romans Lesson #058
April 19, 2012

Romans 5:6–8 is building towards a conclusion that begins in verse 9. In the English this is translated “Much more then,” indicating that Paul is building a chain of logic to help us to understand again the implications of justification. The “therefore” in verse 1 is drawing our attention to a conclusion or implication for something that has been said. In the previous chapters there has been a focus on explaining how a person becomes righteous. This is the heart of Romans. The foundation of Romans is this whole concept of righteousness: how can an unrighteous, sinful person become righteous—not in the sense of a relative righteousness in comparison to other people but a perfect righteousness in comparison to the righteous standard of God’s character, for that indeed is the standard.

It is interesting that if we do a word study of DIKAIOSUNE, the Greek word translated “righteousness,” that it is consistently spoken of as the righteousness of God. In Romans 3:21 Paul says, NASB “But now apart from the Law {the} righteousness of God has been manifested … [22] even {the} righteousness of God…” He talks about “His righteousness” in v. 26. And so the righteousness that is being addressed here is God’s character.

We have to pay attention to the grammar because this is what God the Holy Spirit has emphasised through inerrancy. The very words are inspired by God. So Romans 5:1 begins, “Therefore, having been justified by faith.” He has explained justification by faith; he has explained righteousness of God.” The righteousness is God’s character, and it is that righteousness that is imputed to us. It is that concept of righteousness or justification, that declaration of a person’s righteousness that is by means of faith. That phrase “having been justified” in verse 1 is going to appear again in verse 9.

Romans 5:9 NASB “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath {of God} through Him.” Everything between verse 1 and verse 9 is something of a digression in order to help us to understand what God has done in providing us that justification and the implications of it for our hope and confidence of the fulfilment of God’s promise in the future. So as we look at just the flow of Paul’s thinking here we see that in vv. 6-8 the emphasis is on God’s grace, and that God’s grace was not only not based on any good thing that God saw in us but it was based totally on God’s character because there was nothing good that God saw in any of us.

It is really sad today that we are getting so far away from our Christian biblical roots in this country that fewer and fewer people understand what theologians call the doctrine of total depravity. Total depravity doesn’t mean that everybody is depraved in an extreme sense; it just means that every aspect of a person’s thinking has been corrupted by sin. We are all under condemnation and therefore we are inherently bad; we have a propensity to evil and if we are left to our own devices without external controls of authority or God that we will always default to a sinful direction. That is really important to understand because when we look at what some call the culture wars we see the trajectory that has occurred in this country over the last 20 years. People talk about how there is a lack of civility in politics, a lack of civility in the country, and people don’t know how to sit down with opposing views and talk to each other because they become more and more polarised based on some underlying fundamental factors.

Thomas Sowell has written a number of books, one of which is called Conflict of Vision, has done a great historical analysis of what makes the difference between a person who has what we call a conservative orientation to the issues of life and someone who has a liberal approach to the issues of life. In his introduction he talks about if there is a crowd—let’s say we just went out on the street and pulled a couple of hundred people in—and we say, okay, everybody who believes in the death penalty get over here and everybody who is against the death penalty get over here. So there would be a division. Then we would say, everybody who believes that the government is the solution to the problem rather than the government being the problem—those who believe the government is the solution get over here and those who believe the government is the problem get over there. Very few people would change sides. If you said, if you believe that the government needs to provide a healthy safety net financially and they need to provide health care for everyone, then line up. Those who would provide health care over here and those against it over there. Very few people would change sides.

What that indicates is that even though these issues do not share the same details and are not related to one another there is an underlying belief system that is what determines how they respond to each of these different and distinct issues. Those who are conservative have a view of man that is less than positive. They believe that human beings are basically flawed and corrupt to one degree or another; that man is basically evil. The liberals are those who believe that man is basically good, so they are very trusting of government because, after all, the government is made up of wonderful people who have your best interests at heart.

The problem is that the founders, the founding fathers who wrote the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, whether they were Christian or not, were all influenced by a theistic worldview at the time and they had a view of man that he was basically evil. And in the words of Lord Acton, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely,” so you want to limit the power given to those in authority because water rolls down hill and they will inevitably come along and abuse that power and authority; so there needs to be checks and balances on it.

That is why, fundamentally, people who are “liberal” who have their views affected by a positive view of man as being basically good, are completely at odds with the Constitution. They don’t believe that the nature of man, the nature of government, or the nature of society is what the founding fathers believed it was. They have completely changed and are really and completely out of bounds, so they are trying to change things. This is what sets up the polarisation in our cultures. It is very important to understand that the Bible teaches that man is a sinner. We have seen in pointing out several words in Romans 6, 7, and 8 that we have words like “we were without strength, ungodly, sinners,” and that this is how God describes all human beings. These are not complimentary terms. God does not have a high view of the human race because God understands the dimensions of the corruption that has occurred because of sin. That doesn’t mean that man can’t do relatively good things. Jesus said, “You being evil know how to give good gifts to your children.” Despite the fact that they have been corrupted they know how to do relatively good things; they just can’t do good or righteous deeds at the level of what God has provided.

In the verses we have seen we are told that our status prior to justification was being without strength, ungodly, and being sinners. And despite the fact that we were in that negative position God sent His Son to pay the penalty for us as our substitute. Having established that Paul made a little diversion in order to remind us of this tremendous exhibition of God’s love, because that love is related to that confidence that we have in God. The word that we must keep our eye on in this whole section, Romans 5:1–11, is this “hope” that doesn’t disappoint that is in v. 5. We have this hope that doesn’t disappoint because “because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts [at salvation] through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Then he explained the depths of this love. So now that we understand the depths of this love that God has exhibited in salvation we now can go forward from that to understand the certainty it gives us in all of the ups and downs and problems and issues of life, and all the times that we may doubt our salvation or God’s plan for our life.

The model here, again, is what happens at salvation. The apostle Paul always goes to what happened at the cross and what happened at our salvation—we became a new creature, we were justified—and really unpacks that to help us to understand that should change what we do today, what we think and how we live as a Christian. Most of us don’t spend nearly enough time just stopping to think about all that happened to us at salvation, all that God did for us, and thinking about it in terms in a more personal sense where it has a little more of an impact upon us.

Romans 5:9 NASB “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath {of God} through Him.” What happens in this verse is really important to understand. Because it is at this point that the apostle Paul uses an argument that is called an a fortiori argument. This is a Latin phrase which means “from the stronger,” like a fort. The fort refers to the fact that you talk about a strong conclusion, something that is true, that is very strong, and then if that is true then something of lesser significance must also be true. This is a very common type of argument used in logic. This strong conclusion that is stated here in verse 9 is that we have been “justified by His blood,” an aorist passive participle. The aorist indicates this is something happened previously and the passive voice indicates that it is something that we received. We do not perform that action, we don’t justify ourselves; we receive the declaration of justification from God and it is adverbial in the sense of a causal statement.

So it should be translated, “Much more then because we have now been justified.” That is the strong statement. Justification is the strong statement because it is very difficult for God to take a rebellious, ungodly, weak, unrighteous sinner and to give him righteousness, and to declare him to be righteous. That is a very difficult thing to do and God did that in His plan by providing this substitute. By virtue of His substitution His perfect righteousness could then be made available to anyone who believed on Him. This is the doctrine of imputation: Christ’s righteousness is imputed to anyone who believes in Him for salvation. It is on the basis of that credited righteousness that God declares us to be righteous, justified.

If that is the hard thing to do and God has accomplished that, then the lesser thing is we have a certainty of future salvation. If God has already provided us with justification then, of course, something of lesser difficulty—being saved from the wrath to come—is something that God can provide—“ we shall be saved from the wrath {of God} through Him.”

Notice in this verse the means of justification as well as the means of salvation from wrath. Both are through Jesus Christ. The first phrase is stated to be “by His blood.” This clearly emphasises that His blood is the means of justification. But we often run into people who have somewhat confused notions of what the phrase “blood of Christ” means. It has often been emphasised within the ranks of fundamentalism that it is they took the blood of Christ as a literal phrase. However, we should understand the phrase “blood” as a metaphor. It is not talking about literal blood, of the literal shedding of blood, but that the violent shedding of blood is a metaphor for the loss of life. Leviticus says that the life is in the blood. So blood is used as a metaphor for life; the shedding of blood means the shedding or the loss of life.

We see examples of this kind of figurative use in places like the covenant with Noah where God said whoever sheds man’s blood [murder] by man should his blood be shed. That is not being only restricted to being a violent death where somebody lost their life through exsanguination, it could be somebody who is hit over the head or just had a brain trauma and died, somebody who was just poisoned, or any number of ways of dying or murder. But the phrase “shedding of blood” was a metaphor for the shedding or the loss of life. So blood = life, and this is documented in Greek lexicons such as Arndt and Gingrich.

But here we have a great verse to show its metaphorical significance because verse 9 is parallel to verse 10. Verse 9 says, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath {of God} through Him.” In verse 10 Paul is going to transition his argument forward and is going to change the terminology from justification to reconciliation. He is going to talk about being saved from wrath is parallel to being saved by His life. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son …” The previous verse said we were justified by His blood. Blood and the death of His Son are synonymous concepts. This shows that “blood of Christ” is just a metaphor for the death of Christ. That is how this figure of speech was used throughout the Scriptures.

It is interesting that when looking carefully at Romans 5:6–11, verse 6 says that Christ died as a substitute for the ungodly. Verse 8 says that Christ died as a substitute for us—that means we were ungodly. In verse 9 we have another reference to His death: we are justified by His blood. Verse 10: we were reconciled through the death of His Son. Then in v.11 there is another reference to this, “… we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” So there is a reference or allusion to the death of Christ in every verse but verse 7 which was a sort of illustration that it is rare for human beings to die for another human being no matter how righteous or good they might be. So the focus obviously in these verses is on that death of Christ. So it is clear that phrases like “died for the ungodly, Christ died for us, justified by His blood,” and now “we are reconciled through the death of His Son” all refer to the same thing.

The second part of this is that Paul says “because we have now been justified by His blood.” That is past tense action. It has already happened; we are now in a status of justification. Then he says “we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” That phrase “shall be saved” is a future passive indicative. We receive the act of being saved or delivered [SOZO = save/deliver]; “through Him”—indicating means or the instrument by which God accomplishes something. Neither of these are talking about the cause of salvation; that would use different grammar. Jesus’ death is the means by which God is able to save us. The ultimate cause of our salvation is the grace of God.

But it is interesting: “we who have now been justified shall be [future tense] saved.” How many times have we talked to somebody and asked, “Are you saved?” Well according to the way Paul uses the term “saved” here “saved” is in the future, not in the past. We need to be very careful how we read the word “saved” in Scripture. In Romans Paul never uses the word SOZO to describe what we call phase one justification, he always uses the word to refer to primarily phase two salvation, i.e. being saved from the power of sin, and a few times he uses it for phase three salvation, our future glorification where we are saved from the presence of sin when we are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord.

He uses this phrase “we shall be saved from wrath.” What is wrath? It is suggested that for most people when they read the phrase “wrath” they think that this is a reference to eternal judgment. In fact there are numerous theologians and commentaries that think this. Usually that is related to their theological framework. And when they come to the text with a Covenant theological framework rather than a dispensational framework they come with a replacement theology framework which dominates most systems of thought in theology rather than dispensationalism. They can only think in terms of wrath as something future. But wrath is not necessarily something future.

Notice Romans 1:18 NASB “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” This is the first use of the word “wrath.” It is a general rule of interpretation of the Bible (not an absolute rule) that the first time a word is used in a particular letter or book sort of defines for us the meaning of that word in that book. Sometimes the first five or six times a word is used in the Bible really shapes its meaning for the rest of the Scripture. So the word “wrath” in some places does refer to something in the distant future.

For example in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 we are saved from the wrath to come. That is a term for the Tribulation, but here this is not a term for the Tribulation. And nowhere are we convinced that it is a term for future eternal condemnation. We studied in Romans chapter one that wrath is a term to describe God’s judgment or divine discipline on human beings in time, within history, not after the conclusion of history into eternity. So wrath may be the discipline of God tomorrow because of bad decisions made today or it may be something that is a little more distant in life, but it is not something after life in the future.

In verse 18 of Romans chapter one Paul writes “For the wrath of God is revealed (present tense) from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” Ungodliness usually describes the character, lifestyle and the thought system of unbelievers. Ungodly is the behaviour of an unbeliever, not that of a believer. So the behaviour, lifestyle, and unrighteousness of an unbeliever and his rejection of God is going to bring about divine discipline in time. That is what the wrath of God describes.

Romans 2:5 NASB “But because of your [unbelievers] stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” In that verse and verse 8 it is talking about more of an eschatological future of judgment, but all other uses of wrath in Romans have to do with here and now. In chapter 2:5, 8 even there the most natural reference for wrath is that this is something in time because it should be governed by the first mention of wrath that is laid out in Romans 1:18. Since the rest of Romans chapter one and on into chapter two is an outworking, an explanation of how God’s wrath is revealed it seems to be talking about something in time, not something in the future. This seems to argue that Romans 2:5, 8 should be taken to mean a wrath that is brought about not in the day of judgment—it sounds future—but it is really talking about when God, after His longsuffering has had enough, brings divine discipline on the life of the unbeliever. Contextually we have to let the context define the meaning of words.

The second reason that 5:9 should be understood as temporal within our life is that it is compared or contrasted in verse 10 with the fact that we shall be saved by His life. So the contrast is that we shall be saved from wrath by Him, and we shall be saved by His life. When we look at Romans this phrase of “life” is talking about the life that we have as believers, the newness of life that Paul talks about in Romans 6. It is based upon the resurrection life of the Lord Jesus Christ. This verse isn’t talking about His physical life between the time that He was born in Bethlehem and the time that He died on the cross of Golgotha, it is talking about His resurrection life. Paul makes that very clear as we will see in chapter six. Life contextually in Romans is always talking about our present experience of the fullness of life which we have been given in Christ. This is how it is used in Romans chapters 5, 6 7 and 8, and also later on in chapters 12–15. So he uses the term “life” and the phrase “to live” in terms of our phase two life as a Christian. We are saved by His life because it is His resurrection life; it is the basis of our being given new life.

Romans 6:4 describes what happens with the baptism by the Holy Spirit. NASB “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead [resurrection life] through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” The Christian life, the Christian walk is based on the new life that we have in Christ, based on His resurrection and the fact that we have been united with His resurrection.

A third thing we need to note in terms of how this life theme is emphasised is that the concept of death and life appear together in eight verses in chapters 5–8. And the contrast is always between Christians who are either living in carnal death and not walking by the Holy Spirit, walking in darkness, and the Christian who is walking in life. This is seen by a verse that is usually quoted by people out of context in witnessing, and that is Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death …” Paul has been talking about justification in the first part of chapter five, and chapter six is talking about the Christian life. The wages of sin if you are a Christian and you continue to walk in darkness and live out of fellowship on the basis of the sin nature is death—not eternal death but you are the walking dead, like a zombie. You have eternal life but you are living as if you are a spiritually dead unbeliever. Everywhere through these chapters where it talks about death or life it is always talking about experiencing the fullness or the abundant life that we have been given in Christ.

The future tense is what we often jump to as long-term distance, which it can be, but it can also be near future: that the way in which we are saved from wrath by His life is by learning to live in fellowship, walking by God the Holy Spirit, abiding in Christ; and that is the way in which we experience that fullness of life. So the context helps us to understand that this is talking about the present experience of believers.

Again and again throughout Romans where Paul uses the word “saved” or “salvation” he is talking about something future. He never uses that word group in the section where he is talking about justification. This is the first time we run into the word and it is referring to something future that occurs because we have been justified. So this is talking about phase two salvation—saved from the present dominion or tyranny of sin but by walking by the Holy Spirit, walking in fellowship with God, letting the power of the Holy Spirit work in our lives. Because of that we are saved from divine discipline in time [wrath], whether it is immediate or a little more distant. So the way to avoid divine discipline in the life and divine judgment as a result of living and walking in carnality is to confess sin, walk by the Holy Spirit, stay in fellowship and abide in Christ and apply the Word, and that will save from wrath.

Paul then goes on to build upon this. Romans 5:10 NASB “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.” Again he uses it in that same future tense that we are saved by His life and we have already been reconciled, already justified. Then he builds upon that again [11] “And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” In verse 10 there are two forms of the word “reconciliation.” There is an aorist passive indicative—“if while we were enemies,” a general thing that happened in the past—and then the second time an aorist participle which refers to an action that precedes the action of the main verb. So this is talking about the fact that we have been reconciled already, and now it is talking about the present tense reality or the future tense reality, being saved by His life. Then at the end of verse 11 it refers to this action by its name, “the reconciliation.” We have now, already as believers in Christ, received reconciliation. He uses this transition from the term justification to reconciliation as the overall term that he is describing because reconciliation is the term that relates to all that was done at the cross.

In verse 11 we read the phrase in the English translation, “but we also rejoice in God.” Have we seen that before? In verse 2 we read “through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult [rejoice] in hope of the glory of God. We began in verse one with the phrase “because we have been justified by faith.” He is going to draw implications from that and one of those is this aspect of rejoicing in God. So when he comes to the end of this paragraph in verse 9 he says “Much more then, having now been justified …” He is returning to that basic principle that he has established in chapters three and four. “… we shall be saved from the wrath {of God} through Him.” This is the basis of our real joy. We have joy in this life because we come to understand how we have been delivered from the wrath, the discipline and the judgment of God that comes in time.

This becomes a ground for our understanding of assurance of salvation. If Christ died for sinners who were enemies of God and unable to reconcile themselves, and having no merit or value in themselves, and God through His mercy has reconciled such sinners to Himself, how much more will He be merciful to those He has already reconciled? In other words, if God can save a sinner then the one who has already been reconciled by the death of Christ will certainly escape the wrath of God and will continue to be justified no matter what happens—ending eventually in His glorification. So there is an implicit argument here for the assurance of salvation.

The human race is born in a legal state of hostility toward God because of Adam’s sin. No fallen human being can change this state of hostility; we can’t reverse it. We are in prison; we can’t do something that has to be done by someone out of prison. The opposite of what we see in this passage of hostility and enmity is peace or harmony with God, and that status must be changed. It can only be changed if the legal penalty is paid, and that payment is through the death of Jesus Christ—His substitutionary spiritual death on the cross.

That lays the foundation for getting into the spiritual life.