Romans 5, Part 2
Oct 26, 2010
In his Roman epistle, Paul's first reference to Love is found in Rom. 5:5. He then defines the Love of God in order to distinguish it from normal, human love.
(6) For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. (8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
The Emphatic Diaglott reads more literally, "we being yet sinners, Christ died on our behalf."
In other words, Paul's main point is to show that Christ did not die for righteous men, but for sinners. He died while we were yet sinners. The fact that Paul uses the continuous present tense, suggests a reference to his previous discussion of imputed righteousness. While it is true that Christ died for us while we WERE yet sinners, the fact is, that we are "yet sinners" even now--not in position, but in fact. Our righteousness is not yet intrinsic, but is only imputed.
Hence, not only did Christ die for ungodly people prior to their transformation into His Image, He also has indwelt these bodies of death and is transforming us by the renewing of our minds. How could a holy God indwell sinful human flesh? The Gnostics thought it impossible and even blasphemous to say such a thing. But this is the great mystery of Christ, of whom Jonah was a type. Jonah means "dove," a type of Christ and the Holy Spirit. When Jonah indwelt the whale, he expressed the great mystery, unknown to mankind at the time, of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27).
(9) Much more, then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (10) For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Here Paul shows the relationship between justification and reconciliation. To be justified is to receive the favorable ruling from God, avoiding the judicial "wrath" of the Law. His blood paid for our sin and is the basis of our justification, for the Law cannot judge a man twice for the same crime.
On the other hand, "enemies" need reconciliation, because there is conflict between enemies. Enemies need peace, harmony, and agreement, whereas sinners are in need of justification. If there are adversaries disputing in a court of law, each claiming to be in the right, they are there only because they were unable to resolve their dispute out of court. As legal "enemies," they need reconciliation, but when this is not possible, they go to court, each hoping the judge will justify him.
In the case of sinners (who have violated the divine Law), the "enemies" are all those who have sinned. These are, in effect, God's enemies, because they disagree with God's righteous standard, and either they sue for the right to sin, or they defend themselves against God's suit by presenting their own portfolio of good deeds which, they may claim, outweigh their bad deeds.
Hence, men are both enemies and sinners, unless they know the proper defense in the divine court. If they point to the righteousness of Christ, instead of their own, and if they inform that court that the full penalty for their sin has been more than compensated by the payment Christ made on the cross--then they can receive justification. Yet it is repentance--a complete and total change of mind--that brings those sinners into agreement with God and His Law, providing reconciliation.
Many Christians have been justified by their faith but are yet not truly reconciled to God. I have talked to many Christians who yet disagree with God's Law and character. To the extent that we disagree with God, we are yet not fully reconciled to Him.
But yet Paul says, "while we were yet enemies, we were reconciled to God" (5:10). How can we be reconciled without being in agreement with Him? The key is understanding the Greek word "reconciled." There are two forms of this word used in Paul's writings. Most translators do not recognize the difference. In 5:10 Paul uses the Greek term, katallaso, which means "to change, exchange." The word was used of an exchange of coins in a sale or equal exchange of property.
Thus, while we were yet enemies disagreeing with God, He made the exchange and paid our debt to the Law.
The other form of the word is apokatallaso, which Thayer's Lexicon defines as "to reconcile completely" or "to reconcile back again." This is a two-way reconciliation, where BOTH parties are reconciled to each other.
Katallaso is what Christ did for us while we were yet enemies. Apokatallaso is when we come into agreement with Him and are reconciled "back again." For this reason, the Concordant Version translates katallaso as "conciliation," and apokatallaso as "REconciliation." In Romans 5 Paul was speaking of what Jesus Christ did for us prior to any change in our attitude or behavior. It was a one-sided conciliation, where God took the initiative while we were still fighting Him.
When we respond to His conciliatory work, then a reconciliation takes place. When men conciliate God "back again," there is a reconciliation. This is Paul's appeal in 2 Cor. 5:19 and 20,
(19) namely, that God was in Christ conciliating [katallaso] the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of conciliation[katallaso]. (20) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be conciliated [katallaso] to God.
So Christ's death on the cross was a conciliation of the world. It was certainly not yet a reconciliation, because when He died, they still had disagreements. Their trespasses still made them "enemies" in need of reconciliation. And so we, as ambassadors of the Kingdom, have gone to other nations with "the word of conciliation." We carry the message on behalf of Christ: "be conciliated to God," so that the two disputing parties can be reconciled, thereby making peace.
The Concordant Version of Rom. 5:10, 11 reads this way:
(10) For if, being enemies, we were conciliated to God through the death of His Son, much rather, being conciliated, we shall be saved in His life. (11) Yet not only so, but we are glorying also in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we now obtained theconciliation.
Conciliation is a demonstration of the Love of God. Most men are incapable of such divine love, for we would hardly die for a righteous man, let alone an enemy. But Christ has done this very thing. He has conciliated all of His enemies even while they are yet opposed to Him, some mildly and others violently.
Most Christians have not really understood the conciliation that Christ accomplished at the cross. Some have not understood its one-sided nature. Others have taken its one-sidedness and have negated any need for man to respond in like kind to accomplish a reconciliation.
Both misunderstandings are unbalanced, each leading to its own error.
Paul's discussion of the Love of God is tied firmly to the idea of His conciliation of all "enemies," and the work He did apart from their agreement. This is Paul's introduction to one of the greatest and deepest concepts of all time, which he discusses in the last half of chapter five.
This is the second part of a series titled "Romans 5." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones