NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XI)
Verse 11: And not only will we be saved, but we also rejoice right now in what God has done for us through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is because of Jesus that we are now reconciled with God.
With all that was accomplished by God for the benefit of all those who were His former enemies; by securing salvation for them from the penalty of sin, Paul adds that we do not have to wait for that future resurrection to be happy because until then we will communicate and fellowship with God as His children. This was the same joy felt by Hannah: “My heart exults in Adonai! My dignity has been restored by Adonai!”1 And David rejoiced: “Be glad in Adonai; rejoice, you righteous! Shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”2 And we find the same exultation in Isaiah: “I am so joyful in Adonai! My soul rejoices in my God, for He has clothed me in salvation, dressed me with a robe of triumph.”3
Paul wants to make sure that everyone knows to whom they owe their gratitude for such unspeakable joy, and that is the One who paid the price. He illustrates that for the Corinthians by explaining the purpose and value in the Eucharist: “The cup of blessing that we give thanks for is a sharing in the blood sacrifice of Christ, isn’t it? And the bread that we break is a sharing in the body of Christ, isn’t it? There is one loaf of bread, so we who are many are one body because we all share in that one loaf.”4 And to the Colossians, Paul added: “You accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, so continue to live following Him. You must depend on Christ, drawing life and strength only from Him.”5
With Paul including the Jewish Christian leaders in the church in Rome, Paul knew what they had been taught about the atonement and how it affected those who called themselves the children of God. In their Talmud, the Rabbis wrote commentary (called Gemara) on what their Mishnah (spoken tradition of Jewish law)6 had to say about atonement. But it was confusing, even to the most learned. For instance, they taught: “These [others] procure complete atonement, the guilt-offering only suspended the punishment, it did not procure complete atonement. For it was taught: If those who were liable to sin-offerings, or guilt-offerings [for the] unquestioned [commission of offences] permitted the Day of Atonement to pass, they are still obliged to offer them up; but in the case of those who were liable to temporary guilt-offerings, they are exempt.”7 In other words, sometimes it is by confession, repentance, and good works, and sometimes by goodness and hospitality, but you can’t be sure.
On this verse, early church scholar Ambrosiaster comments: “Paul teaches us not only that we should thank God for the salvation and assurance which we have received, but that we should also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ because through His Son the Mediator God has been pleased to call us His friends. Therefore, we can rejoice that we have received every blessing through Christ, that through Him we have come to know God. As we rejoice in Him, let us, therefore, honor the Son equally with the Father, as He Himself bears witness, saying: ‘That they may honor the Son as they honor the Father.‘8”9
John Calvin makes an interesting comment here. He says that we are often taught to fix our eyes on the death of Christ when we speak of our salvation. However, in order for us to know that our trust in Him is secure, it must be fixed on nothing other than the atonement He made for our sins by dying on the cross.10 But Adam Clarke feels that instead of the atonement, it really should be the awareness we have now of being reconciled to God by that atonement.11 John Bengel describes the benefits: “When we glory that God is ours, all that can be dreamed or wished for good is implied in this, flowing out of it as a fountain. For not only is God the Chief Good, but He contains all good, and all parts of good; He is ours through Christ.”12
Robert Haldane makes the point that peace comes with being right with God: “This verse exhibits the last of those fruits which proceed from being brought into a state of justification. The first of them is peace with God, involving the communication and enjoyment of every blessing which the creature is capable of receiving; for if God be with us, who can be against us?13 When this peace is known to be permanently established, immediately the cheering hope of future glory springs up in the mind. This hope, transporting the believer beyond this world, and looking forward to unbounded blessedness, enables him to bear up under those tribulations that are inseparable from his present state.”14 Haldane then goes on to point out that when the Holy Spirit imputes God’s love in the sinner’s heart, it draws their attention to what God has done in giving for them His Son to the death, even while they were in the most determined state of hostility towards God. This then allows the Apostle to argue how much more it is evident that being reconciled, they shall be saved from all the fearful effects of the wrath and displeasure of God against sin.
Albert Barnes has this to say on the atonement: “This is the only instance in which our [KJV] translators have used the word ‘atonement’ (Greek katallagē) in the New Testament [Elsewhere it is translated ‘reconciliation’].15 The word frequently occurs in the Old Testament.16 As it is now used by us, it commonly means the ransom, or the sacrifice by means of which reconciliation is effected between God and man. But in this place, it has a different sense. It means the reconciliation itself between God and man; not the means by which reconciliation is effected. It denotes not that we have received a ransom or an offering by which reconciliation might be effected; but that in fact we have become reconciled through Him. This was the ancient meaning of the English word atonement: at-one-ment, being at one, or re-conciled.”17
H. A. Ironside offers this synopsis of what Paul has said so far: “In the first eleven verses of chapter 5 we have a marvelous summing up, concluding this phase of the subject. ‘Therefore,’ that is, in view of all that has been so clearly established, ‘being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Some would render it, ‘Let us have peace.’ But this weakens the force of the entire argument. Peace, as used here, is not a state of mind or heart. It is a prevailing condition between two who were once alienated. Sin had disturbed the relationship [between] Creator and creature. A breach had come that man himself could not mend. But peace has been made by the blood of Christ’s cross. There is no longer a barrier. Peace with God is now the abiding state into which every believer enters. The sin-question is settled. If two nations are at war, there is no peace. If peace is made, there is no war. ‘There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked.’18 ‘But Christ has made peace,’19 yes, ‘He is our peace.’20 We believe it, and we have peace with God.”21
Charles Hodge points out: “If we are the genuine children of God, we have peace of conscience; a sense of God’s favor, and freedom of access to His throne. We endure afflictions with patience. Instead of making us distrustful of our heavenly Father, they afford us new proof of His love and strengthen our hope of His mercy. And we shall have, also, more of the assurance of God’s love by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (verses 1-5).”22 Charles Spurgeon summarizes: “Christ has made atonement for us, and God has accepted that atonement on our behalf. We also have received it ourselves, and now we are glad in God – glad that there is a God, glad that there is such a God, and glad that He is our God, and Father in Christ Jesus.”23
F. F. Bruce adds to the definition of reconciliation: “Where reconciliation is mentioned in the New Testament, God or Christ is always the reconciler, and human beings are the object (or among the objects) of His reconciling act. God ‘through Christ reconciled us to Himself; men and women are accordingly summoned in Christ’s name to ‘be reconciled to God.’ 24 The situation may be compared to that of a king proclaiming an amnesty for rebellious subjects, who are urged to accept his gracious pardon while it is extended to them. God’s abhorrence of sin does not make Him the enemy of sinners or seek their ill; His desire is for all ‘to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.25”26
Methodist preacher Joseph Benson, makes this powerful point: That since it pleased our blessed God to give us such an unmatched display of His love, our expectations should rise and our confidence grow that we will be that much more justified by Christ’s blood shed for us, which is the meritorious cause of our justification of being saved from future punishment. Benson goes on to say, if God so loved us that He gave His Son to die for us while we were guilty sinners, how much more assured we should be that having now made us righteous, and accepted us as such, pardoning all our sins for the sake of the sacrifice of Christ’s blood, He will certainly do all He can to preserve us from eternal damnation; us who continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel.
Benson adds this: “For if when we were enemies – through the perverseness of our minds, and the rebellion of our lives,27 we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son – which expiated our sins, and rendered God reconcilable, and procured for us the Holy Spirit to remove the enmity from our minds, giving us, at the same time, such a display of the love of God, as won our affections over to Him, how much more, being thus reconciled, shall we be saved, sanctified, and glorified by His life, by His continual living to make intercession, and communicating to us, continual supplies of grace.”28
1 1 Samuel 2:1 – Complete Jewish Bible
2 Psalm 32:11 – Complete Jewish Bible
3 Isaiah 61:10 – Complete Jewish Bible
4 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
5 Colossians 2:6-7
6 The Hebrew word Mishnah means, “study by repetition.”
7 Babylonian Talmud: Seder Mo’ed, Masekhet Yoma, folio 85b
8 John 5:23
9 Ambrosiaster: On Paul’s Epistles, op. cit., loc. cit.
10 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
11 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
12 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 258
13 Romans 8:31
14 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 198
15 Romans 11:15; 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19
16 Exodus 29:33, 36-37; 30:10, 15-16, etc.
17 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
18 Isaiah 48:22
19 Colossians 1:20
20 Ephesians 2:14
21 Harry A. Ironside: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
22 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
23 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc, cit.
24 2 Corinthians 5:18, 20
25 1 Timothy 2:4
26 F. F. Bruce: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. 6, pp. 128–129
27 See Colossians 1:21
28 Joseph Benson: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.