THE SECURITY OF CHRIST’S LOVE ALLOWS US TO FACE THE FUTURE WITH JOYFUL CONFIDENCE
A lesson of reassurance for believers: If Christ demonstrated his love for us in the past, when our condition was awful, how much more will Christ continue to love us into the future, now that our relationship with God is restored. Thus, the certainty of Christ’s love frees us to rejoice in the present and face the future with confidence. Verse 5 was a good transition verse leading into this second half of the paragraph of 5:1-11.
Thomas Schreiner: Verse 6 is closely connected to the preceding, as the γάρ (gar, for) attests. Verse 5 affirms the subjective apprehension of God’s love in conversion. Now in verses 6–8 the objective ground of that love is introduced: the death of Christ for sinners. The experiential character of God’s love does not float free from an anchor in history; it is rooted in the objective work of Christ on the cross. The overall flow of thought in verses 6–8 is easily discerned. In verse 6 Christ is said to die for the weak and ungodly. Verse 7 contrasts this with human love, which occasionally sacrifices life for a righteous or good person. Verse 8 reiterates verse 6, emphasizing the uniqueness of God’s love in sending Christ to die for sinners. Verses 9–10 draw the conclusion from the love of God revealed in the cross. Since he has justified and reconciled us to himself, we will certainly be spared from his wrath on the day of judgment. The greatness of our hope and the depth of God’s love cause us to rejoice and exult in God’s work on our behalf through our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 11). . .
The argument, then, can be portrayed as follows:
- The experience of God’s love increases hope (v. 5).
- The death of Christ for sinners proves that this hope has an objective ground (vv. 6–8).
- Therefore, believers can be sure that their hope will be realized and they will be preserved from God’s wrath (vv. 9–10).
F. F. Bruce: And why not rejoice in God? His people have been reconciled to Him by the death of Christ, and experience daily deliverance from evil through the resurrection life of Christ, while the end to which they confidently look forward is no longer the outpouring of divine wrath but the unveiling of divine glory. And from first to last they ascribe their blessings to God’s love. It was because of that love that Christ laid down His life for them while they were weak, sinful and completely unattractive. The love of men and women will go to death itself for those who are the natural objects of that love, but not for the unlovely and unloving. Yet this is where the love of God shines brightest: God confirms His love to us in the fact that Christ died for us while we were in a state of rebellion against Him. So entirely at one are the Father and the Son that the self-sacrifice of the one can be presented as a token of the love of the other. And indeed, throughout the New Testament the death of Christ is the supreme manifestation of the love of God: “Herein is love,” says John, “not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. iv. 10). What a perversion of the divine character is perpetrated by those who sometimes talk as if Christ died for men in order to make God love them! That a change in the relation between God and man is brought by the death of Christ is clearly taught here and elsewhere; but no change was involved in the reality of God’s love.
I. (:6-8) SECURITY BASED ON CHRIST’S DEATH FOR US –
CHRIST DIED TO SHOW HIS LOVE FOR US IN THE PAST –
WHILE WE WERE POWERLESS AND UNDESERVING ENEMIE
A. (:6) Marvelous Love of Christ Unfathomable
- Pathetic Souls – Christ Died for the Helpless
“For while we were still helpless,”
Michael Gorman: Paul offers a quartet of images to describe those for whom Christ died:
- weak/powerless (5:6)
- ungodly/godless (5:6; cf. 1:18; 4:5)
- sinners (5:8)
- enemies of God (5:10; cf. “God-haters” in 1:30).
Frank Thielman: The conjunction “for” (γάρ) ties this sentence to what Paul has just said about God’s love and introduces Christ’s death as the concrete demonstration of that love. The unusual repetition of “still” (ἔτι) and the phrase “at the right time” (κατὰ καιρόν) reveals the emphasis that Paul places on the timing of Christ’s death. Christ died for Paul and his readers when they were “weak” (ἀσθενής) and “impious” (ἀσεβής). Paul often uses the term “weak” to mean “without adequate faith” (1 Cor 8:7, 9–12; 9:22; cf. 1 Thess 5:14) and will speak later in Romans of the believer who is “weak in faith” (14:1–2; cf. 15:1). Here the term refers not to those with inadequate faith but to those who, like the people that practice “impiety” (ἀσέβεια) in 1:18, have no faith at all. The people Paul described in 1:18–32 were without hope when left to themselves, moving in a downward spiral from bad to worse. The weakness to which Paul refers, then, is an inability for people to reconcile themselves to God (cf. Eph 2:1–3, 11–12; 4:17–19; Col 1:21; 2:13a; Titus 3:3).
- Perfect Timing
“at the right time”
Thomas Schreiner: Ascertaining the particular meaning of the phrase “at the right time” (κατὰ καιρόν, kata kairon, v. 6) is difficult. It could mean that Christ died at the right time in terms of God’s plan for the world (cf. Rom. 3:26; 8:18; 13:11; Gal. 4:4), fulfilling the promises made in the Scriptures (Murray 1959: 167; Cranfield 1975: 264; Matera 2010: 133; S. Porter 2015: 118). Others think the appropriateness of the time relates to the weakness of the ungodly, in that he died at the right time to rescue them from their peril. We probably face a false dilemma here. God not only planned when Christ would die but also had in mind the people for whom his death would be effective. In any case, the emphasis is on the greatness of God’s love for his people.
- Pathetic Souls – Christ Died for the Ungodly
“Christ died for the ungodly.”
John Murray: Hence the love of which the death of Christ is the expression and provision is a love exercised to them as ungodly. It is not a love constrained by commendable qualities in them, not even by the qualities which they would one day exhibit by the power of God’s grace. It is an antecedent love because it is the love presupposed in the death of Christ for them while they were still in misery and sin. It is not the love of complacency but love that finds its whole urge and incentive in the goodness of God. That is the kind of love the death of Christ demonstrates and it is a love efficient to a saving purpose because the death of Christ is on behalf of the ungodly and therefore to the end of securing the high destiny which the context has in view.
B. (:7-8) Marvelous Love of Christ Unprecedented
- (:7) Example of Supreme Human Love
“For one will hardly die for a righteous man;
though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.”
John Murray: The terms of the text would appear rather to support the view that no such sharp contrast is drawn between the righteous and the good but that these two epithets are used to designate the same individual as both righteous and good. And the thought of the text would be that among men it is scarcely true that one will die even for a righteous and good man, far less for a godless, wicked person. But perchance it may happen that for such a good man one will die. The constraint of respect and esteem may cause one to die on behalf of another. It is on this background of concession that the complete contrast between the human and the divine appears, and that is the force of verse 8.
- (:8) Unprecedented Nature of Sacrificial Divine Love
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us,
in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Frank Thielman: The overall effect is a cautiously worded statement about the unprecedented nature of Christ’s death for the impious. Justice, goodness, and piety all go together as highly admired virtues in the first-century Greco-Roman world. Paul’s point is that for someone to die for a person who is virtuous in these ways is rare enough, but Christ’s death for the impious is unique.
Thomas Schreiner: The idea behind ὑπέρ is that Christ died both as our representative and as our substitute. The suffering of Christ was not only exemplary but also accomplished atonement for sinners; he took the punishment we deserved.
John Witmer: God’s love contrasts with human love in both nature and degree.
II. (:9-10) SECURITY BASED ON CHRIST’S CURRENT LIFE FOR US –
CHRIST LIVES AND WILL SURELY SHOW HIS LOVE FOR US IN THE FUTURE – NOW THAT OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD HAS BEEN RESTORE
A. (:9) Deliverance from Future Wrath Assured
- Christ’s Past Work Guarantees His Future Promises
“Much more then,”
R. Kent Hughes: In verses 9, 10 Paul uses an argument that the rabbis called kal wahomer, which means “light and heavy”—an argument from the lighter to the heavier. We call it today in legal terms an a fortiori argument. We say, “If it was true in one place, it will be true in another.” Paul’s arguments in verses 9, 10 are virtually identical and hinge on the term “much more.”
- Justification is Christ’s Past Work on Our Behalf
“having now been justified by His blood,”
- Deliverance from Wrath is Christ’s Promise for Our Future
“we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”
“the wrath of God” — refers to God’s final judgment and condemnation of sinners to eternal punishment
John Murray: The main thought of verse 9 is, however, in the conclusion that is to be drawn from the foregoing—“how much more . . . shall we be saved through him from the wrath”. This refers to what will be true in the future as compared with what is true now in the present. Now we are justified—accepted with God as righteous and therefore at peace with God. And this guarantees future salvation. What is the salvation in view? “The wrath” spoken of indicates the answer. The wrath is the wrath that will be dispensed to the ungodly at the day of judgment, the eschatological wrath (2:5, 8; I Thess. 1:10; 5:9; cf. Matt. 3:7; Rev. 6:16, 17; 11:18). And the assurance to be derived from a present justification—whether viewed as the justification which consists in the blood of Christ or as the justification secured by that blood—is that no wrath is reserved for the justified at the judgment seat. Justification is the opposite of condemnation and since justification is complete and irrevocable there is no condemnation reserved for those who are in Christ Jesus (cf. 8:1). It is symptomatic of the confidence expressed in verses 2 and 5 in reference to the hope of the glory of God that the apostle should now explicate another aspect of that hope, namely, the assurance of deliverance from that which epitomizes the displeasure of God and alienation from him. It was not irrelevant for the apostle to speak in terms of negation as well as affirmation. The hope of glory is negative as well as positive. In order to be positive it must be negative of all that sin entails. In order to be salvation to it must be salvation from. And nothing sums up this “from” more significantly than the concept of the wrath of God. It was a virile conception of God that the apostle entertained and, because so, it was one that took account of the terror of God’s wrath. Salvation from the future exhibition of that terror was an ingredient of the hope of glory.
B. (:10) Divine Favor Assured Going Forward
- Divine Favor Granted by Christ’s Death While We Were Enemies
“For if while we were enemies,
we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son,”
- Divine Favor Now Assured by Christ’s Life Since We Are Friends
“much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
“much more” = the key point of the parallels Paul draws thru the remainder of the chapter
John Murray: the guarantee of the final and consummated salvation is the exaltation life of Christ. This is a more embracive way of expressing the truth that the guarantee of the believer’s resurrection is the resurrection of Christ (cf. I Cor. 15:20–24).
James Stifler: The argument here is in the form of a triple antithesis, like that in Mark 7:8. . .
- (1) if God could do so much for His enemies, what can He not do now for those who are in a reconciled state?
- (2) if God could become reconciled with men when enemies, can he not remain reconciled (which insures their being “saved”) now that they have become friends?
- (3) f the death of Christ, a negative power, could do so much (reconcile), what will not His life, his active energy on high in their behalf, what will not His ever-living insure?
This threefold antithesis in argument is not merely three times as weighty as a single one, but nine times.
III. (:11) SECURITY BASED ON CHRIST’S FINISHED WORK OF RECONCILIATION – CAUSES US TO REJOICE IN THE PRESENT
A. Blessings Based on Justification Keep Abounding
“And not only this,”
B. Boasting Unleashed
“but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”
Frank Thielman: As if future salvation from God’s wrath were not enough, God’s gracious gift of a peaceful, reconciled relationship with him provides believers with a reason to praise God in the present.
Thomas Schreiner: The capstone of the believer’s experience is boasting and exulting in God himself. The greatest good for believers is fellowship with God, and he receives the glory and praise that sinful human beings have so long denied him (1:21–23; 2:24; 3:23).
John Murray: It is this consideration of present privilege that explains the exultant joy in God referred to in the preceding clause and it is scarcely possible to relegate it to the future. If we bear in mind that exultant glorying is a prominent feature of this passage—“we exult in hope of the glory of God” (vs. 2); “we glory in the tribulations” ()—we should expect that, after unfolding the relationship to God constituted by reconciliation vs. 3and when the note of exultant joy is resumed, the apostle should give expression to the confident rejoicing in God which the privilege now possessed must constrain. Glorying knows no restraint and cannot be too exaggerated when it is in God through our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. I Cor. 1:30, 31). It is not only that God is the object of this glorying; it is not only that he is the ground of it; it is in union and fellowship with him as our own God that the glorying is conducted.
John Toews: Boasting in one’s ethnic or social status is excluded by Paul. The only legitimate boasting is “bragging” about what God has done in Christ.
William Hendriksen: Not all glorying or boasting can be recommended, however. As Rom. 2:17, 23 had indicated, Jews were boasting or bragging about the fact that they, in distinction from all other nations, possessed God’s holy law. In the church at Corinth there were people who bragged about Christian leaders (1 Cor. 3:21), and about special gifts or attainments (II Cor. 11:18). An in his letter to the Galatians Paul refers to men who bragged about the number of Gentiles they had “converted” (caused to be circumcised, Gal. 6:13). Does that sound up-to-date?
Over against all such sinful leaping for joy Paul informs the Romans “We exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And indeed, if, in speaking about the blessed results of Christian labor, one constantly keeps his attention focused on Jesus Christ, God’s Chosen Servant, who was the very opposite of a boaster (Matt. 12:18-21; Phil. 2:5-8), and derives all his power form him, all will be well.
C. Basis = Our Accomplished Reconciliation
“through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
Frank Thielman: Instead of tying boasting to present afflictions as he did in 5:3 Paul now ties it to reconciliation, the theme that dominated 5:10 and that he foreshadowed in 5:1 when he described the “peace with God” that characterizes those who have been justified by faith. Believers boast in the present, then, not only because of their future hope of sharing in God’s incorruptible state of glory (5:2) or because present suffering is instilling patience, character, and hope in them (5:3–5) but also because they presently possess reconciliation with God. This reconciliation comes at God’s initiative, and therefore believers boast not in themselves or that they, and not others, are the ones reconciled (cf. 11:18) but in God who initiated and achieved the reconciliation (cf. 1 Cor 1:29–31). God did this “through our Lord Jesus Christ,” that is, through his sacrificial, justifying death, as Paul has explained in 5:8–10.
Since Christ has shown His love in the past and assures us of His love in the future, we are now free to rejoice in the present.