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Romans 5:8-11 by Robert Dean
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:56 mins 26 secs

Justification and Reconciliation
Romans 5:8–11
Romans Lesson #059
May 3, 2012

In the first eleven verses of chapter five Paul is making his transition, moving from talking about what happened at salvation (justification). The first implication Paul pulls from justification by faith is what he identifies as peace with God (5:1) and then identifies more clearly as reconciliation which he almost uses as a synonym for justification when we get to the end of these eleven verses. 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.” The reconciliation has to do with what has happened in the past: salvation by His life, meaning His resurrected life that is the basis doctrinally for understanding the new life that we have (Romans 6:4).

Romans 5:9 NASB “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood …” Talking about what has already transpired. In verse 10 that shifts from the parallel, from having been justified, to being reconciled. This parallel sets up some interesting implications but also can open the door to some confusion. It has led theologians to some different positions.

In this passage we see reconciliation as a ground for our assurance. Because we have been reconciled to God we shall be saved by His life and on that basis we can have present joy, v. 11. “And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” The mention of joy again is the same verb that we have in verse 2, “and we exult in hope of the glory of God,” and also in verse 3, “we also exult in our tribulations.” Paul ties all this together. The vocabulary is very important for us to understand. Unfortunately that verb for “rejoice” is translated “glory” in 5:3 [NKJV] and it throws us off the track.

When we realize that it is the same verb in vv. 2, 3 and 11 then we see that that ties together the beginning of the paragraph with the end of the paragraph, and it is all talking about why we can have real joy right now in our Christian life today, not just looking for that joy in the future as a result of our eventual glorification. He is focusing on the present tense implication of justification in terms of the joy that comes from reconciliation, and how that peace that we have with God becomes a foundation for living the Christian life and understanding the Christian life, which is what he gets into starting in chapter 6.

So we want to go back and review this doctrine of reconciliation as we see it in Romans. It raises three basic questions. First, what is the relationship between justification and reconciliation? The reason that is an important question is because justification is something that happened to us as believers, only those who expressed faith alone in Christ alone. In this passage, though, it seems that Paul creates a very close parallel between reconciliation and justification. But then the work of reconciliation it is said in 2 Corinthians 5 to be something that occurs at the cross, as it is here in Romans 5 also, not something that occurs in time when an individual puts their faith in Christ. This is what has caused some basic confusion.

Some of the questions that have been raised relate to the fact that with God reconciling the world to Himself. Is the world that is reconciled to God or is God reconciled to the world? In other words, who moves? Also related to this is the issue of propitiation. What is the relationship between reconciliation and propitiation? Propitiation is said to be something that happens towards God in terms of His justice and His righteousness, that when He looks at the cross and that in the death of Christ His justice is satisfied, and so God is propitiated. It doesn’t mean that He changes; it means that because His judicial requirements are satisfied because the penalty for sin is paid God’s justice is then satisfied so that God is free to graciously bestow salvation on mankind.

So the first question has to do with this relationship between justification and reconciliation. Also what is the relationship between reconciliation and propitiation? And then the third question has to do with the issue: is God reconciling the world or is God being reconciled? How does this work and what are the aspects of this? What we are going to see is that reconciliation has two different aspects. One is definitely related to an objective work of God that occurs on the cross that is related to the world, so that the world, which is at enmity with God, is in a position of hostility, because of the violation of God’s righteousness and justice (that is where propitiation comes in), and God has to change that state from hostility to peace. That is an objective thing that happens at the cross. We will see as we go through these passages that that dimension of reconciliation is objective, and like justification it is also forensic. Forensic has to do with actions in the court room, and so what we are talking about is the judicial dimension to reconciliation which helps us to understand why Paul can closely connect them between Romans 5:9 and 5:10. That objective dimension to reconciliation occurs at the cross and the state of the world is being transformed from being a state of hostility—once God’s character is satisfied (propitiation) then the world’s position of enmity is changed, which doesn’t make the world saved but it makes the inhabitants of the world savable.

Therein lies a very simple expression of a lot of different theology and it is really just the fact that reconciliation has two aspects to it. One is the objective one and the second is this subjective one that occurs personally. We see the same kind of thing when we see words like “forgiveness.” That forgiveness occurred at the cross. Colossians chapter two: God forgave us by wiping out that certificate of debt that was against us—basically the indictment related to sin. That was wiped out or cancelled when it was nailed to the cross. That happened historically, so that there is a forensic dimension also to forgiveness. It happened at the cross when Christ paid the penalty and the certificate of debt was wiped out. But that doesn’t change people individually, it is related to that legal change of relationship to God because the penalty is paid but that doesn’t change the on-the-ground reality of each person’s experience of being spiritually dead and being unrighteous. It is only when we then express faith in Christ that we receive the imputation of righteousness, are declared justified and then receive new life and regeneration and have eternal life. And so those individual subjective aspects are then taken care of.

In Romans 5:10, 11 we have two different uses of the word “reconcile.” Romans 5:10 NASB “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son [past tense], much more, having been reconciled [aorist passive participle], we shall be saved by His life. [11] And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ [present tense], through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” So there is a reception of reconciliation in verse 11 and that relates to passive voice of “we were reconciled” in verse 10. That means we received that action of reconciliation, we don’t do anything to reconcile ourselves to God. But wait a minute, it seems like Paul is going to say something a little different in 2 Corinthians 5.

1.       The human race is in a legal state of hostility, which is really what enmity means. It is not a sense of personal animosity or hatred or personal vindictiveness on the part of God, and it certainly isn’t talking about enmity in terms of what is on the human side of the equation. The enmity is related to God’s character. There is a status of hostility that is in place and it is grounded in man’s violation of God’s judicial character. So it is a forensic state, a judicial state, and not an experiential, subjective, personal state of animosity.

2.       No fallen human being can change this state of hostility. There is nothing we can do. We are the prisoner in the dock, we are under indictment and we can’t do anything to change that, it has to be changed elsewhere.

3.       The opposite of hostility is peace. In the context of Romans chapter five the peace here is also going to be a judicial peace, because it grows out of our understanding of justification. Verse 1, “Because we have been justified by faith.” That is forensic, not experiential. So by implication “we have peace with God” too, must be forensic. So in Romans five we are talking about a forensic aspect to this issue of peace. The hostility is forensic, i.e. it is based on a legal case. It is so interesting that Scripture grounds everything that God does toward mankind on a contract. That gives it this legal framework. It is about law, so that from the very beginning, before there was even sin in the human race God is grounding everything He does on the basis of the rule of law. And when man is operating in sin he always wants to buck the law, he always wants to violate the law, and the more rebellious the human race becomes, the more antinomian it becomes, the more it rejects the rule of law. And what always comes about when the rule of law is rejected is either pure anarchy or pure tyranny. The history of the human race always tends to move in one of those directions, apart from the grace of God and the influence of Scripture. We see the collapse of society because there is a rejection of the rule of law. But the Bible lays this foundation on the rule of law, that everything God does it related to law.

A side note: Coming out of the “lovely subjective” sixties where everything was about love and flowers (unless, of course, you were conservative. Love was not directed toward conservatives or the military), and all about emotion and relationship. Justification was the focus doctrine of the Reformation but, because of societal transformation, but the time of the 60s and 70s the key doctrine for gospel communication is reconciliation because reconciliation is relational.

In this passage the focus isn’t on relationship, it is on justice, on law. So law precedes relationship. Isn’t that interesting! What other area is there where law and contract precedes a relationship? Technically it is marriage, because a couple establish a formal legal contract. They are promising in a legal sense to be faithful to one another until “death do us part.” And the love that they are declaring to one another is a love that is not related to emotion, because it is whether in sickness, health, in prosperity or poverty, or whatever the circumstances may be; and that is not related to emotion.

But what we see is that relationship biblically develops once the legal relationship is established. Then the personal relationship can build on that because a boundary has been established of security within the contract. On the basis of a legal contract a relationship can now develop. Law precedes relationship. And as we look at all these dimensions of salvation we see that they are grounded in legal principle that is established by God in a contract law, and this becomes a foundation for us for understanding contract law.

4.      There must be a change of status; the legal penalty has to be paid. So that status of enmity that is legal has to be transformed into a legal state of peace or harmony and that can only happen by paying the forensic penalty. That is done by the substitutionary spiritual death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Having said that, we need to look at our other main passages on reconciliation. In 2 Corinthians chapter five we see one of the most significant passages related to reconciliation. What we have seen so far is that reconciliation has to be grounded on a change of relationship. That is the central meaning of reconciliation. It is a change of relationship that is grounded on a change of legal status in terms of that state of hostility.

2 Corinthians 5:14 NASB “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died.” What is Paul’s starting point here? It is the same starting point as Romans 5:8: that it is God’s love, and God’s love provided a substitutionary solution to the problem. This has to do with the universality of the objective or judicial side of Christ’s work on the cross. [15] and He died for all …” This is not talking about universalism in terms of the result of His death on the cross, it is talking about universalism in terms of the focus of His death on the cross; He is dying as a substitute for all; it is a real payment for sin. The bill is paid. Christ’s payment of the objective penalty doesn’t automatically the subjective reality of each person being spiritually dead and unrighteous; it just means that the external penalty is paid in relation to the character of God. “… so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” Those who live are those who put their faith alone in Christ alone, and the purpose for the payment of the objective penalty is so there is a subjective application when people believe in Jesus.

And the purpose isn’t just so that they have eternal life and go to heaven, but that their life will be transformed and they won’t live like self-centered, self-absorbed, whiny two-year-olds anymore but they will start living for God in light of God’s plan or purpose. That is, they will live for Him who died for them and rose again. In other words, there will be a focal point shift in the vision of their life—or there should be as they get some doctrine and begin to grow—and it is not just all about them anymore, it is that they realize that their life is all about Christ. It is always just all about Christ, and it is never about us anymore and it never really was about us but we convinced ourselves under the blindness of the sin nature to think that our life was all about us. It was always about God’s plan, period.

2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB “Therefore [because this has happened] if anyone is in Christ, {he is} a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” He is a new creation. This is what occurs at salvation. So he has gone from talking about this substitutionary atonement idea (vv. 14, 15, and which is objective, legal, and historical) to the subjective application—the only way to be in Christ is to trust in Him, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit identifies us with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection—and the result of that is we are a new creation. We have that qualitative newness of life of Romans 6:4.

2 Corinthians 5:18 NASB “Now all {these} things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” The first thing we see here about reconciliation is that God is the one who does the work of reconciliation. This is the same verb as in Romans chapter five, KATALASSO, and here it is an aorist active participle, which means it is going to be modifying the main verb in some way. God reconciled us, believers in this passage. They are the ones who are changed, not God; whereas propitiation was Godward, directed towards His righteousness and justice; reconciliation is manward related to changing that status. It was the objective status related to the law in Romans 5; here it is related to the subjective application of it in each individual believer. “… and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” or, “the message of reconciliation as it is stated in v. 19.

2 Corinthians 5:19 NASB “namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself…” that has to be at the cross. The term “world” is one for all of the inhabitants of the planet. It is the same object as in John 3:16, that God loved the world in this way. The object of His reconciliation is the world conceived if as unbelievers. That is Romans 5:8 NASB “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” “… not counting their trespasses against them …” That has to do with individual imputation. We are not condemned for our individual sins; we are condemned for Adam’s original sin. We sin because we were already fallen because of Adam’s original sin. “… and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” Word of reconciliation is parallel to ministry of reconciliation, so how does the ministry of reconciliation operate?

The ministry of reconciliation operates by communicating the message reconciliation, which is the word of reconciliation stated in v. 19. God performs the action, and the world seen and perceived as fallen in a state of hostility, receives the action. Personal sins are not imputed to the unbeliever; they are not the issue at salvation. That is huge, because most people who are not Christians think that the whole issue is all their petty little sins. They do not extend up to the significance of Adam’s original sin which plunged the entire human race into sin. It is not our sins that is the basis of our condemnation.

We have this message of reconciliation. That is evangelism; that is communicating the gospel, the good news to people that they are no longer in a legal status of hostility to God because Christ’s death reconciled us. But that doesn’t change their eternal destiny; that only comes if they accept the gospel and are personally reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 NASB “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ …” An ambassador is one who is a citizen of one nation who is appointed by the governing authority of that nation, and is under the authority of that nation, and is sent as a representative to another nation. Even though he is living in another country, and even though he is going to do what he can to live as closely to the customs of that country without violating his own background, his own home, he goes to represent his nation. He is a representative and that is who we are as believers. We are representatives of Christ and we are under His authority. “… as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” We are pleading with people to be reconciled to God.

So on the one hand God is in Christ at the cross reconciling the world to Himself—objective, and that happened at the cross because that provides the basis for the shift in the world’s orientation to God from hostility to peace—and now, on the other hand, we plead with each individual to apply that in terms of their own individual orientation to God. We are to plead with people to be reconciled; it is not just automatic. But reconciliation is a term that relates objectively to all of this that has taken place at the cross so that sin isn’t the issue anymore, the issue is: are we going to accept what Christ has done for us?

That then takes us over to Colossians 1:19, 20 NASB “For it was the {Father’s} good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, {I say,} whether things on earth or things in heaven.” That is the objective aspect of that payment, and it is done through Christ. Here we have the word APOKATALASSO which means to reconcile completely; nothing is left undone. That same word APOKATALASSO is used in Ephesians 2:16 NASB “and might reconcile them both [Jew and Gentile] in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.”

We conclude that reconciliation is the work of God for man in which God undertakes to transform man’s position of hostility (legal animosity, not personal animosity) to peace in order to make possible and actual eternal fellowship with a righteous and just God. So the objective aspect of reconciliation is Godward and is related to, but not the same as, propitiation. We say that reconciliation was accomplished forensically or, in a legal sense, once and for all by Christ on the cross. Then it is applied to each believer positionally only when a person has trusted in Christ. That is the subjective aspect that takes place when one trusts in Christ as savior.

Now when we go back and look at Romans chapter five and its relation to justification we see how Paul is looking at one dimension of reconciliation, and that is the objective aspect that is resolved at the cross. But because his readers have trusted in Christ and have been justified they are reconciled. So if he speaks to them in terms of their current position in Christ, and he says that because of that they can now rejoice as a current reality, not just because in the future they are going to spend eternity in heaven, but they have joy now in their Christian life because they have received this reconciliation and are in harmony with God. It is on the basis of that, then, that we can drive forward in our life in experiencing the rich abundance that God has for us.