Justified & Reconciled
Date: 26 Jun 2016
Text: Romans 5:6-11
A couple of weeks ago we started a short series of studies in Romans 5 and 6. We started by looking at the opening verses of Romans 5, 5:1-5, and I hope learned a great deal about our relationship with God. The verses that I want us to look at this morning carry on from where we left off on that occasion and expand on what Paul had to say in 5:1-5.
In those first five verses we were introduced to the thought that we are “justified through faith” (5:1). Prior to coming to faith God regarded us as His enemies and wanted nothing to do with us. The only time that we could ever come before Him was on that dreaded day of judgement. However, because we came to faith in Him through His Son Jesus Christ, we have been made just in His eyes; we have been acquitted of all our sins; we have been justified. As a result of our being justified and forgiven, God gave us three important gifts. Firstly, we have peace with God; secondly, we have access to Him because of the grace that He has bestowed on us; and thirdly, we can look forward to living with Him in the full glory of God.
In this next section, 5:6-11, Paul explains how this came about; he explains how we went from being God’s enemies to being forgiven for our sins and reconciled to Him. In 5:6 Paul tells us that we were “powerless”; we were helpless to save ourselves. Because of our enmity with God we were condemned to a life in purgatory; a life as far away from God as it is possible to imagine. That thought that we were powerless or helpless really says it all; of our own volition there was nothing we could do to change our relationship with God. We may well be lovely people who help others; give large sums of money to charity; never break the speed limit; and possess a TV Licence! All good things to do but not good enough to change that vital relationship with God. The question is, if we couldn’t change anything then Who could? The answer should be obvious; only God can change our relationship with Him. Only He has the power to make the changes necessary for us to come into His presence and receive those things that Paul has talked about in 5:1-5. During the recent EU Referendum campaign, I heard many say that there was no hope. I believe that they were wrong; Jesus is the hope of the hopeless, and to rectify this very sad and bad situation, “Jesus died for the ungodly” (5:6b); the Son of God died to save us all. What an amazing thing to happen.
God caused this to happen because He loves us; He loves us unconditionally and wants us to be part of His family. That couldn’t happen while we were unrepentant sinners. In that state we simply could not come into His presence and receive the blessings that He has to offer. But “Jesus died for the ungodly” and that action on the cross of Calvary brought about this dramatic change in our position before and relationship with God. It is the cross that is the turning point in history. It is the cross, that cruel form of execution that enables us to come before God as His repentant children. It is the cross, the cross on which Jesus was crucified, that has brought about this change in our relationship with God and nothing that we have done. That is the central message of the gospel; Jesus died to save us all. As Paul goes on to explain, it is highly unlikely that someone would give up their life for a good person let alone to give up their life for an enemy or someone regarded as a sinner. And yet, that is what Jesus did; He was the One Who died for His enemies; He was the One Who died for sinners. The church in Rome to whom Paul was writing this letter, was made up of a mixed membership. There were well educated Greco-Roman people who were used to the Greek tradition and there were a few Jews who were more used to their own traditions and Laws. Whilst in Greco-Roman culture finding “the good man” was extremely rare; they considered laying down one’s life for someone else heroic even though such a sacrifice was not common. Among the Jewish people dying for someone else was not particularly praised at all. However, as one Bible translation puts it, “You might possibly be willing to die in someone else’s place of you were really sure they deserved it…” (5:7, Bible Society). The point is that we didn’t deserve it; in God’s eyes were enemies, sinners, always at loggerheads with Him, as far away from Him as it is possible to get. Just notice though those two words at the beginning of 5:8, “But God”! I’ve said many times before that I regard those words as two of the most powerful words in the Bible simply because they indicate that God is about to do something big and momentous. In this instance it truly was something momentous. Despite the fact that we didn’t deserve it, “God showed that His love for us is unconditional because Jesus took our place” (5:8a, Bible Society). That depth of love is quite something. We love others although I suspect that subconsciously we may expect something in return. God isn’t like that; His love truly is unconditional. So unconditional is His love for us that God allowed Jesus to die the death that our wrongdoing deserved, He died for us. I doubt if any of us here today would be prepared to die in place of someone we really liked or loved, or of someone who really did deserve it, and yet Jesus died for us even though we didn’t deserve it in any way shape or form. What greater thing can anyone do for another individual, especially for someone who hates them?
Blood of Christ
Before Jesus died on the cross we were enemies of God and as such were subject to His wrath and judgement. We will all come face to face with Him on the day of judgement, a day when unrepentant sinners and those who are still enemies of God will be condemned. Lest you doubt that this will happen, just consider what Paul has to say in 1:18, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people who suppress the truth by their wickedness... “. That verse ought to leave us in no doubt that unless something drastic happens we will have to face the wrath of God on that judgement day. However, for those who have come to faith in and through Jesus Christ, that day holds no fears since we have been justified; we have been found not guilty and acquitted of all that we have done wrong. We have been forgiven through the death of Jesus and as a result we have been “saved from God’s wrath through Him” (5:9b). Jesus died to achieve that for us and we can perhaps understand that word justified if we think of it as “just as if I died”; Jesus died in our place as if we had indeed died.
We’ve heard before of the Old Testament sacrificial system whereby an animal would be sacrificed and the blood sprinkled around as a way of paying for sins and seeking God’s forgiveness. The sacrificing of animals and using their blood in the washing away of sins happened regularly. We repeatedly see in the Old Testament that cycle of sin and sacrifice. In order to satisfy the Law blood needed to be shed to pay the price for our sins. However, instead of animal’s blood being used, in the New Covenant that God established with His chosen people, it was the blood of Jesus that cleansed us from our sins. When Jesus hung on that cross He shed His blood. He was thrashed, He had that crown of thorns rammed on His head and a spear pierced His side. Each of those events drew blood, blood that was shed to take away our sins. During His Sermon on the Mount Jesus had spoken to His disciples and told them, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” (Matthew 5:17). It was by complying with the Law and shedding His blood that Jesus kept the promise that He made in that verse.
In 5:9b we come to the other half of the equation, we shall “be saved from God’s wrath through Him [that is Jesus]”. Jesus shedding His blood for us means that we have not only been forgiven but that, equally importantly, we won’t have to experience God’s wrath that will be shown against all those who haven’t come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Before Jesus died on the cross and we came to faith in Him we were God’s enemies; we were effectively at war with Him. We might not have been firing rockets at Him or shooting at Him but we were still at war with Him. That situation still persists today since all those who deny that God exists, or claim that they have no need of Him, or doubt that He hears them or cares for them, are His enemies and the only way that they can come before Him and be forgiven is through a process of justification and reconciliation. In 5:10 Paul explains that “we have been reconciled to him through the death of His Son”. The much needed reconciliation has taken place because Jesus died for us. When we come to faith in Jesus there is a lot that happens, all of it vital to our future. Part of that process involves reconciliation, the fact that having previously been enemies of God we are now reconciled to Him and at peace with Him. Our lives have been saved, we will no longer have to face God’s wrath and we are reconciled to Him all because Jesus died for us. I don’t know about you but I find that to be truly amazing. It is amazing not only for what it brings to our lives but also because it happened “while we were God’s enemies” (5:10a). Before accepting Christ as our Lord and Saviour we couldn’t be anything else but God’s enemies! And yet, God was happy to do all this for us because, as John writes in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” That is why God did what He did; He loves us with a love that is absolute and unconditional.
That process of reconciliation is absolutely vital if we are to move forward in our relationship with God. So vital is it that God decided to take the first step by sending Jesus to die for us. Paul said something similar thought to the Corinthians when he wrote, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). Paul urged the Corinthians to be reconciled to God when he went on to say, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20b). The only way that we can be reconciled to God is by coming to faith in Jesus; that is down to us with the help and encouragement of the Holy Spirit.
When Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa he recognised that the people of South Africa needed to be reconciled one with another. Consequently he established a Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The TRC’s role was to bring together the two sides in the apartheid conflict, hear their stories and bring about the forgiveness that was needed for both sides to move forward. This involved both sides in the fight confessing what they had done to those on the other side; it was not all white on black! Under the gentle leadership of Archbishop Tutu a great deal of reconciliation was achieved without which there could well have been more unrest as those who were wronged in any way took revenge on the alleged perpetrators. Reconciliation helped South Africa to grow into the Archbishop’s much acclaimed ‘Rainbow Nation’. It is that reconciliation that we have with God that helps us to grow in our relationship with Him.
As Paul makes quite clear in 5:11, it is because we have received this reconciliation that we “also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. Before Jesus died and before we came to faith in Him as Lord and Saviour, we were God’s enemies. Now we find ourselves not only reconciled to God but also able to rejoice in and with Him in that reconciliation.
Just as we heard a huge number of fantastic truths in 5:1-5, so we find even more in 5:6-11. These six verses both explain and expand on those first five verses. We are reminded that we were powerless and helpless in our efforts to come before God; we needed help. That turning point in our lives came in the form of the cross and the fact that Jesus shed His blood on that cross to pay the price for our sins. Jesus was the only perfect person ever to walk this earth and yet He was prepared to die for those who were sinners and consequently His enemies. Jesus shed His blood so that we could be justified before God and would no longer have to face His wrath come the day of judgement.
All of this leads to our being reconciled to and with God and as such we are able to rejoice because of what Jesus has done for us. This forgiveness and reconciliation is open to all who come to faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. It is a free gift from God and costs us nothing because “Jesus’ blood paid the price for us to be set right with God” (5:11, Bible Society). Why not accept this free gift, be reconciled to God and join in our rejoicing that we have been saved.