NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson X)
Charles Hodge shares his insight: “To be justified is more than to be pardoned; it includes the idea of reconciliation or restoration to the favor of God, on the ground of a satisfaction to justice, and the participation of the consequent blessings. This idea is prominently presented in the following verse. ‘We are justified by his blood.’ This expression exhibits the true ground of our acceptance with God. It is not our works, nor our faith, nor our new obedience, nor the work of Christ in us, but what He has done for us.”1
Charles Spurgeon has an interesting take on this part of Paul’s fine argument. He writes: “If, when we were sinners, Christ died for us, will He let us be condemned now that He has washed us in His precious blood? Is it possible that, after dying for us, He will let us fall from grace, and perish after all? That will never be.”2 This is clearly a part of what is preached among some evangelicals today and often referred to as “once saved, always saved.” But I do not believe that Spurgeon would agree on what it has become in some circles: “once saved, will be saved whether you want to be saved or not.”
Verse 10: For, if we were reconciled with God through His Son’s death while we were still enemies, how much more will we be delivered by His life now that we are reconciled as friends!
What a powerful claim! In other words, if God was willing to have His Son sacrificed while we were His enemies and outside the walls of the law as captives of sin, how much more will He do for us now that we have been freed, brought inside, and sit with Him at the table as His children? Paul explained it to the Corinthians this way: “All this is from God. Through Christ, God made peace between Himself and us. And God gave us the work of bringing people into peace with Him. I mean that God was in Christ, making peace between the world and Himself.”3 He shared this same truth with the Colossians: “At one time you were separated from God. You were His enemies in your minds because the evil you did was against Him. But now He has made you His friends again. He did this by the death Christ suffered while He was in His body. He did it so that He could present you to Himself as people who are holy, blameless, and without anything that would make you guilty before Him.”4
Then Paul goes on and explains to the Ephesians how this reconciliation between God and His chosen, also brought about a reconciliation between the Jews and Gentiles: “Through the cross, Christ ended the hate between the two groups. And after they became one body, He wanted to bring them both back to God. He did this with His death on the cross.”5 Had Christianity remained among the Jewish converts to Jesus, it would have become just another sect within Judaism, joining the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. And had it developed among those of a certain race or culture, it would have joined others such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. But this reconciliation process broke down all walls so that anyone of any race, culture, ethnicity or skin color can fellowship as equals before God because they all have been washed by the same blood of the same Savior.
In his sermon on this text, early church preacher Chrysostom said this: “There is no one who will save us except the One who loved us so much that while we were yet sinners, He died for us. Do you see what ground this gives for us to hope? Before this, there were two difficulties in the way of our being saved. First, we were sinners, and second, our salvation required the Lord’s death, something which was quite incredible before it happened and which required enormous love for it to happen at all. But now that it has happened, the rest becomes that much easier.”6 And during the same period of church history, another scholar remarked: “If we have been saved by Christ’s death, how much more shall we glory in his life if we imitate it!”7
John Calvin gives us his interpretation of this verse: “This is an explanation of the former verse, amplified by introducing a comparison between life and death. We were enemies, he says, when Christ comes in for the purpose of appeasing the Father: through this reconciliation, we are now friends; since this was effected by His death; much more influential and effective will be His life. We now have ample proofs to strengthen our hearts with confidence respecting our salvation. By saying that we were reconciled to God by the death of Christ, he means, that it was the sacrifice of atonement, by which God was pacified towards the world.”8
Robert Haldane makes this emphatic statement: “Had we discovered any symptoms of willingness to obey Him, or any degree of love for Him, His love to us would not have been so astonishing. But it is in this light only that the proud heart of man is willing to view his obligations of redeeming love. He will not look upon himself as totally depraved and helpless. He desires to do something on his part to induce God to begin His work in him by His Spirit. But Christ died for His people when they were the enemies of God, and He calls them to the knowledge of Himself when they are His enemies. Here, then, is the love of God. At the time when Christ died for us, we were not His friends, but His enemies. ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God.’9”10
Albert Barnes has some interesting things to say about our reconciliation with God: “We are brought to an agreement; to a state of friendship and union. We became His friends, laid aside our opposition, and embraced Him as our Friend and Portion [Inheritance]. To effect this is the great design of the plan of salvation.11 It means that there were obstacles existing on both sides to a reconciliation; and that these have been removed by the death of Christ; and that a union has thus been effected. This has been done in removing the obstacles on the part of God – by maintaining the honor of His Law; showing His hatred of sin; upholding His justice, and maintaining His truth, at the same time that He pardons.12 And on the part of man, by removing his unwillingness to be reconciled; by subduing, changing, and sanctifying his heart; by overcoming his hatred of God, and of His Law; and bringing him into submission to the government of God. So that the Christian is in fact reconciled to God; he is His friend; he is pleased with His Law, His character, and His plan of salvation. And all this has been accomplished by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus as an offering in our place.”
Barnes then goes on to say: “We were reconciled by His death. Death may include possibly His low, humble, and suffering condition. Death has the appearance of great feebleness; the death of Christ had the appearance of the defeat of His plans. His enemies triumphed and rejoiced over Him on the cross, and in the tomb. Yet the effect of this feeble, low, and humiliating state was to reconcile us to God. If in this state, when humble, despised, dying, dead, He had power to accomplish so great a work as to reconcile us to God, how much more may we expect that He will be able to keep us now that He is a living, exalted, and triumphant Redeemer. If His fainting powers in dying were such as to reconcile us, how much more shall His full, vigorous powers as an exalted Redeemer, be sufficient to keep and save us. This argument is but an expansion of what the Savior Himself said; ‘Because I live, you shall live also.‘13”14
Charles Hodge gives this in his summation of what this verse teaches: “At His resurrection, all power in heaven and earth was committed to His hands;15 and this power He exercises for the salvation of His people;16 There is, therefore, most abundant ground for confidence for the final blessedness of believers, not only in the amazing love of God, by which, though sinners and enemies, they have been justified and reconciled by the death of His Son, but also in the consideration that this same Savior that died for them still lives, and ever lives to sanctify, protect, and save them.”17
Charles Spurgeon preached it this way: “There is a threefold argument here. If Christ died for us when we were His enemies, will He not save us now that we are His friends? If He died to reconcile us to God, will He not completely save us now that this great work has been accomplished? And as we were reconciled to God by Christ’s death, shall we not much more be saved by His life? There are three arguments, and each one is sound and conclusive. The believer in Jesus must be eternally saved. If Christ died for sinners, what will He not do for believers, who are no longer enemies, but are reconciled unto God by the death of His Son?”18
Frederic Godet has an interesting comment here: “We cannot help remarking here, how entirely at variance with the view of the Apostle is the Catholic doctrine, which is shared by so many Protestants of our day, and which bases justification on the new life awakened in man by faith. In the eyes of St. Paul, justification is entirely independent of sanctification, and precedes it; it rests only on faith in the death of Christ. Sanctification flows from the life of Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit.”19
Then Charles Ellicott shares his view: “The interval that separates the state of enmity from the state of reconciliation is a large one, that which separates the state of reconciliation from the state of salvation a small one. And yet there is a difference. Reconciliation is the initial act; the removal of the load of guilt, justification. Salvation comes at the end of the Christian career and the process of sanctification. Justification is regarded as being especially due to the death of Christ. Sanctification is brought about rather by His continued agency as the risen and exalted Savior. The relations in which the risen Savior still stands to the individual Christian are more fully worked out in Romans 6:4.”20
1 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op cit., loc. cit. (See Ephesians 2:123; Hebrews 9:12)
2 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
3 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
4 Colossians 1:21-22
5 Ephesians 2:16
6 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 9
7 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
8 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
9 Romans 8:7
10 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 196
11 Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:16
12 See Romans 3:26
13 John 14:19
14 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
15 Matthew 28:18
16 Ephesians 1:22
17 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
18 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
19 Frederic Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
20 Charles Ellicott, On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit. (Also see Romans 8:34; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 2 Corinthians 4:10-11; Philippians 3:10.