Romans 5:9-10 | Legally Safe, Relationally Near
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
If you believe in Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul you are eternally secure in his overwhelming love for you. You have nothing to fear in this life or the next. If Jesus is your greatest treasure, then you have been transferred into a different kingdom. Nothing is the same. Everything is wonderfully different. The person you once were is gone, a new person has been created. You are alive and on your way to even greater life – abundant life. You are fully saved, without one reason to doubt your eternal security. That’s what trusting in Jesus gives you.
Here’s the truth about all who believe in Jesus for their salvation: God has declared you righteous in his sight and has drawn near to you in a new kind of relationship. You are infinitely worse than you ever imagined yet loved infinitely more than you ever dreamed. And your future salvation is as secure as the seat you are sitting on. We can be sure of that, and Romans 5:9-10 shows us why.
God’s love did not stay a mere emotion tucked away in his heart. No, God’s love moved him to action. Every single one of us in this room is a sinner. Because of our sin, we lost our love for God. We don’t see him clearly. Our view is like that of a mud splashed windshield. We may see well enough to continue driving, but we’re missing the beauty of what’s around. We need the mud washed away so that we can see again. Maybe some of us have just gotten so used to the mud that we don’t even notice it anymore. Maybe it’s caked on so thick that even the rains of corporate worship and private Bible reading and prayer have failed to wash it thoroughly because we’re still coming into those meetings with the wrong view of God. Paul wants to clear all of that up for us here in this passage in his letter to the Romans, and he does that by explaining in the most amazing terms the length that God has gone to bring his love to us, and how he’s going to keep us wrapped in that love forever. We fail to grasp God’s love. He aims to help us understand. We are often anxious about our future when God holds us firmly in his heart. We need not worry, and Paul is out to establish that truth in our hearts.
Notice two words in these two verses: blood (v. 9) and death (v. 10). These are not typically good words. Blood makes me queasy. Death makes me sorrowful. Put together and I’m just plain sick, and so are you. And this is exactly what we deserve because of our sin. The wages of sin is death. But when these two words are placed in God’s hands and taken upon himself in the person of Jesus they transform into life giving means of grace sent down to us so to wipe our sin-stained hearts clean. The blood of Christ was spilled on the cross in his death. It was no accident that he ended up there. Love took him there. The reason Jesus died was because in the heart of God there is a love that cannot stop until everything is set right, no matter the cost – even if that cost is the very Son of God. He counted you more worthy than himself and made himself nothing so that he might bring you back to life. Our sin separated us from God. He became our enemy. His love brought us back to God. He became our friend.
So we see that God has shown his love. He sent Jesus Christ to live the perfect life we failed to live and die the guilty death we don’t want to die so that the love of God could be plainly seen. This didn’t happen in some tucked away corner of the universe. This happened 2,000 years ago in one of the grandest empires the world has ever seen, the Roman Empire, in one of the most famous cities ever, in Jerusalem. It as an historical fact on our historical timeline. It was visible and plainly seen by many, many people who wrote about it and reported on it. What does the death and resurrection of Jesus accomplish for us?
Romans 5:9-10 shows us three things about how God saves us:
- He has set us free by justification;
- He has drawn us near in reconciliation;
- He is saving us forever by the life of Christ.
My first point, He has set us free by justification.
Notice the word Paul uses in verse 9. He says, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood…” Notice that word “justified”. That’s a biblical term, and it is important to understand biblical terms. So what does it mean? Imagine you have committed a felony and your day in court has arrived. You stand there before the judge, who happens to be the very one against whom you have committed this crime. You have no other option than to plead guilty, for you yourself see the guilt within, and there is indisputable video evidence of the crime. You stand there for what feels like forever awaiting the response from the judge who holds within his next few words the sentence over your life. The penalty is death, there is no way around it. Now, imagine the judge leaning forward in his chair, looking straight into your eyes, and saying that the penalty has been paid and you are free to go. How would you react?
That’s what has happened because of the work of Jesus on your behalf. Let’s remember why Jesus died. He died with purpose. His purpose was to set you free. His purpose was to pay the penalty for your sin. You had so many offenses against you and there was no question as to your guilt. It was obvious to everyone, to you and to God. Now, when Jesus hung on the cross and yielded up his spirit, he died. When he died as the sinless man for sinful men, he died to pay the penalty that you don’t want to pay. But this payment was only good because he had first lived the perfect life that you failed to live. Jesus, without your permission, came down to earth, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, obeyed the law, fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, was convicted of a crime he did not commit, was dragged to the cross, was nailed to that cross, was lifted high on that cross, and died on that cross. This is what the judge is talking about. Your punishment has been paid already. You are free to go. Can you believe that?!
Because Jesus was your substitute – doing the things you failed to do and dying the death you should have died – you can now stand before the holy God and be declared innocent of all charges. More than that, you are declared righteous. God not only forgives you of your sins, because of the perfect life of Christ, you now have all of the righteousness that is in Jesus. He has given it over to you. The banner hanging over your head is no longer “Sinner”, but “Child of God, Holy and Beloved One”. It is now not only as if you never sinned but as if you always obeyed. Justification before God means that you are an obedient child of God, loved by him from the foundations of the world.
If you believe in Jesus, the cross moves your judgment day from the future to the past. Your punishment has been handed down and satisfied in the death of Jesus. You have no reason to fear future punishment for your sin, because the full payment has been handed over in the death of Jesus on the cross.
But could God do all of that – forgive us and declare us righteous – and still hold us at arm’s length? Well, I think we are prone to see him that way. We are often anxious about our standing with God. Perhaps we tend to think that because of the work of Jesus God does forgive us but those sins of our past aren’t really forgotten. They are there to be brought up again if needed. The offense is not fully blotted away. But that’s not what the Bible says. The Bible says, “I will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). God has justified us in Christ and that means that even the remembrance of our sins is gone. God looks at us and all he sees is the righteousness of Christ for us rather than our sin-stained past. Sin created distance between us and God but the distance that sin put between us and God has been taken away. No more distance, no more enmity, no more hostility. And that means something utterly astounding for us.
Paul, then, wipes away a little more mud from the windshield in verse 10 when he says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” Notice now the word “Reconciled”.
This brings me to my second point – God has drawn us near to him in reconciliation.
Justification is a legal term. It means to be set right legally. Reconciliation is a relational term. It means to be set right relationally. Here’s the difference. Let’s imagine we’re back in that courtroom. God has just leaned forward, looked into your eyes, and declared you innocent. The courtroom erupts. Some may be angry, some may be overjoyed. You are floored. What has just happened? You knew your own guilt. How can this be? You look up at him with bulging eyes, at a loss for words. You might just utter a shaky, “thank you.” That’s all you can muster. And then something else happens that is absolutely unbelievable. It’s so unbelievable that if you didn’t experience it you wouldn’t believe it could happen. He’s there, looking into your eyes, receiving your thanksgiving, and then he cracks a smile. But it’s a smile unlike what you’ve seen before. It’s like the smile of a friend who hasn’t seen you in a long time and has no idea about what a mess you’ve made of your life. It’s an innocent smile, a pure smile. It is the very smile of God for you.
Then he does something else. He gets out of his chair (his throne, as it were) and he comes down to you, puts his arm around you, and leads you back to his chambers to rejoice with you. You are now sitting with him, in his home, engulfed in his happiness over you. He is literally rejoicing over you. You can’t believe it. Then he just talks to you. He helps you. He doesn’t leave you. He guides you and supports you and welcomes you. He brings you near to him and there is no indication whatsoever that he ever plans to let you go. You are floored, once again. You realized, all of a sudden, that he intends to give you your life back, except this time, it’s the life you always wanted rather than the mess you had made. Something has happened. The relationship feels so warm that it’s almost as if God has adopted you as his own child, which, you soon find out, he has.
More than that, you see that Jesus, the one who died in your place, is there as well. He's not angry at you for having to pay your penalty. He’s overjoyed that you are there with him. He tells you (and you believe him) that you were the joy set before him that helped him endure the cross. Knowing he would give you eternal life by his death gave him joy to endure the humiliation and punishment. He welcomes you unlike anyone ever has.
This is what reconciliation feels like. It feels like the way you felt in the happiest, safest time of your life but infinitely better. If feels as if everything bad is going to be set right. You feel a nearness. It’s nearly inexplicable. Our words just won’t do. You smile, and you rest, and you laugh, and you weep, and you have a joy that reaches down into the pit of your soul and lifts you up. You have been reconciled to God. You look around you and think through your life and, really, nothing much has changed circumstantially, but everything seems to have changed deep in your heart. You have been reconciled.
You were God’s enemy. And now you are his friend. Like – a real friend. No bad blood between the two of you. Total forgiveness. Total reconciliation. Total peace. Total joy. Total happiness. Total rest. Total trust. Total…everything good. You have been justified and you have been reconciled.
But there’s more…which brings me to my third point: he is saving us forever by the life of Christ.
Oh, the gospel doesn’t stop with past justification and reconciliation. You can be justified and reconciled and that’s all great and fine but what we poor sinners need is an ongoing assurance that what we just experienced will be there tomorrow when we’re back in the midst of regular life, even in the midst of our backsliding, still-sin-stained life. Now, God is not out to assure us that we will be safe in his arms if we fail to be astonished by his grace. We will not be ok in the end if we take what we just experienced in our justification and reconciliation with a shrug and a “that was a nice little memory” reaction. No, God intends for that memory to stick with us, to sink deep down into our hearts. He intends for us to continually be bowled over by it. So he gives us more tastes of it as we go along, and each time we come back to him with utter joy and thanksgiving. That’s how the Christian life works. The Christian life is not a life focused on obeying God now that he’s set us right. The Christian life is a life focused on worshiping and praising God now that he’s brought us near. Our anxiety melts away as we see the length of the love of God.
So what about tomorrow? What about the next time you sin? What happens then? What about your future? How can you be sure that what has happened to you will stick?
What God has given us in the gospel is justification and reconciliation and assurance that because of our justification and reconciliation by the death of Jesus, we will be tucked squarely away in his good graces until the day we die. How can we be sure of that? Because the one who died for us 2,000 years ago lives for us now in heaven. Jesus died on the cross. That is an undeniable historical fact. But he didn’t stay dead. He rose! His resurrection that first Easter Sunday was the confirmation that everything Jesus set out to do was accepted by God the Father. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
Let me try to illustrate this “much more” of the gospel. Tomorrow comes and we sin again. We are grieved over it and seek to repent and we drag ourselves back into that courtroom. We find the devil there, with the world behind him, condemning us. Yet the scene looks and feels different. We aren’t on trial anymore. Jesus is there before the Father and through the Holy Spirit confirms to our hearts that the blood of Jesus paid for this sin too. We can’t be condemned now, not after all that Jesus has done for us. We are still as free as we were before. Our heart explodes again. We have new power to love God – even deeper this time! Jesus has paid the penalty for us.
The hardest thing in the world for God to do was to put us poor sinners back into right relationship with him. It cost Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity his very life. He entered in and lived a perfect life and suffered and died to save us. He has already done the hardest, most complicated thing. Now all he has to do is keep you. What Paul is saying here essentially is, “Since God has already done the hardest thing, why would he not do the easier thing of keeping you? God tore his son to pieces for you, why would he not now give you everything else you need?”
Our justification is past and unchanging. Our reconciliation is past, present, and future. Joy in the Christian life is constant joy because we have been set free from our past, kept in the present, and hopeful for the future. At this very moment, Jesus is seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father sending his Holy Spirit down to us to confirm to us in this moment that he lives. You can be sure without a doubt in your mind that you will be saved until the end because the sinless savior lives. The resurrection of Jesus put the confirmation upon your life that everything that needed to happen has happened. You have all the salvation you will ever need in the person and work of Jesus Christ. His life is your life. The New Testament proclaims this throughout. Let these words wash over you and confirm to your heart that what Paul says here in Romans 5:9-10 is utterly true, and that you are safe in the pierced hands of Christ, the everlasting arms of the Savior.
“9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” Romans 5:9-10