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Romans Under New Light
Reconciliation and Justification
We were reconciled by the blood of Christ. When did this happen? Jesus said, “I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32). Paul said Jesus Christ is the “Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:10). Reconciliation has nothing to do with what we might do, say, or believe. We were all reconciled. This is not Christian Universalism. Those who reject Christ lose their reconciliation with God. We can understand this better by reading Paul’s words in Romans.
Romans 5:1-9 Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; (2) through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (3) Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering works perseverance; (4) and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: (5) and hope doesn't disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (6) For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For one will hardly die for a righteous man. Yet perhaps for a righteous person someone would even dare to die.
Note that we are justified by faith. We have faith only when we become a believer. Christ died for us before we became a believer. As we will see, God reconciled himself to us before we were justified as a believer.
The following verses seem to indicate something changed for everyone because of Christ’s death. We are justified by faith. But Christ died before we had faith. Paul is saying that Christ died for us before we were justified. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. This is known as reconciliation. Now that this has happened, we can be justified by faith, and by his blood.
Romans 5:8-10 But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we will be saved from God's wrath through him. (10) For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life.
In verse 10, Paul says it clearly. “While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God.” Since we are reconciled, we can by faith become justified. This seems to indicate the death of Christ brought reconciliation with God for everyone. Before we became believers we were reconciled. And now that we have become believers, we can be saved by living the life of Christ. Living the life of Christ is the journey of salvation. Justification is the start of that journey.
Romans 5:11 Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Unbelievers are not aware that they have been reconciled. Believers rejoice because we experience that reconciliation.
Romans 5:12-15 Therefore, as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to all men, because all sinned. (13) For until the law, sin was in the world; but sin is not charged when there is no law. (14) Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those whose sins weren't like Adam's disobedience, who is a foreshadowing of him who was to come. (15) But the free gift isn't like the trespass. For if by the trespass of the one the many died , much more did the [work] of God, and the gift by the [work] of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
Notice the clear parallelism. Adam brought sin and death into the world. Men were separated from God by sin. Likewise, Christ brought the free gift of reconciliation into the world through his work (grace) on the cross. Again back in verse 10 Paul said, “While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God.” That reconciliation must be for everyone. Now Paul is building the case of Christ being the second Adam. Adam brought sin and death into the world for everybody. Likewise, Christ brought reconciliation into the world for everybody by dying on the cross.
Romans 5:16 The gift is not as through one who sinned: for the judgment came by one [sin] to condemnation, but the free gift came of many trespasses to justification.
Romans 5:16 NIV Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.
At this point Paul draws a distinction in his parallelism. It only took one sin to bring condemnation. But we are given justification after many trespasses. This justification is a free gift because Christ died for everyone. But Paul has already said that justification is by faith. In Paul’s case, his reconciliation came while he was still an enemy of God. In our case, our reconciliation came before we were even born. Just as Adam’s sin brought sin into the world for everyone, before we were born, Christ’s sacrifice brought reconciliation into the world for everyone, and the opportunity for justification, for everyone, before we were born. Everyone has been reconciled so that they can be resurrected and live again. But not everyone has been justified. But not everyone has received God’s grace (favor).
Romans 5:17 For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; so much more will those who receive the abundance of [Christ’s work] and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.
Paul continues his parallelism by comparing the reign of sin and death as a result of Adam’s sin with the reign of righteousness and life as a result of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Paul repeats the fact that the righteousness we gain through faith is also a free gift. This free gift of righteousness through faith is only possible because of the free gift of reconciliation.
Paul’s detailed parallelism of Adam’s sin with Christ’s sacrifice makes it clear that everyone is reconciled just as everyone has sinned. But we must have faith and belief in Christ in order to overcome sin and to lay hold of this righteousness. God does not simply pretend that everyone is righteous. We must still overcome all our sinful habits.
Romans 5:18-19 So then as through one trespass, all men were condemned; even so through one act of righteousness, all men were justified to life. (19) For as through the one man's disobedience many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one, many will be made righteous.
We have two parallelisms here that directly relate to Paul’s major thesis of Christ being the second Adam. All men were condemned because of Adam. All men were justified to life because of Christ. Then Paul switches from “all” to “many.” Many were made sinners. Many will be made righteous.
Of course we know that all men were made sinners. Paul switches to “many” because not everyone will be made righteous. Some will reject Christ’s salvation. Not everyone will be made righteous. But everyone was made to be a sinner. And everyone was justified to life. Paul, however, forces his parallelism for the sake of parallelism and says “many” were made sinners. You could argue that if all are made sinners then many are also made sinners.
What does Paul mean when he says, “All men were justified to life” (verse 18)? Interpret this in the context of Christ being the second Adam. Adam was told that if he eats of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, that he would die. Everyone dies. But because of Christ’s sacrifice, everyone will be made alive. The resurrection is for both the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15). Everyone will be resurrected even if they have not yet been justified by faith and/or fully sanctified through faith. Everyone has been “justified to life” in the resurrection. The penalty given to Adam, and thus to everyone, has been reversed for everyone.
“Justified to life” is not the same as “justified by faith.” “Justified to life” is related to “reconciliation” because it’s solely related to the justice of Christ’s blood. Reconciliation means both the opportunity for being made right in the eyes of God (the usual meaning of “justified”) and to be resurrected to live in the millennium.
All men were condemned because of Adam. Likewise, all men were justified to life because of Christ. Justified to life means you can be resurrected, which is to live again. Christ’s death for everyone pays for everyone’s resurrection. But for those who are still sinning, that resurrection cannot be a resurrection of eternal life.
Justification for eternal life, on the other hand, is by faith. For that, we must overcome all our sinful habits. And it’s only because of the blood of Christ that anyone is justified, even by faith. The reconciliation of God to man is what Christ did on the cross. Justification is the start of our journey of sanctification, which is by faith.
Romans 5:20-21 The law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, [God’ work] abounded more exceedingly; (21) that as sin reigned in death, even so [God’s work] might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul continues with his parallelism. Paul’s comparison of law and grace goes back to verses 13 and 14 above. Sin came through Adam. Moses brought the Law. Paul argues that without the Law we would not be charged with the guilt of sin. But sin is the basic rejection of God which brought a separation between God and Man. Because of this, death came into the world. Christ brought a reconciliation of that separation. And because of our reconciliation, everyone can be resurrected, which is to be brought back from death. But we must still overcome all our sinful habits before we can be given eternal life. And this occurs through a faith relationship with Christ to do the good works of the Father.
The Law of Moses points to sin. This only makes sin abound even more. But now we can have abundant grace since we have been reconciled to God. The Holy Spirit can come into us as we have faith and believe in Christ to overcome sin. As we live for Christ we become righteous. Grace “reigns through righteousness” (verse 21). To reign is a process. And the reign of righteousness leads to eternal life (verse 21). Everyone can be resurrected. But we must live under Christ’s reign of righteousness before we can have eternal life. Those who don’t live for Christ in this life must do so during the age to come, after the “resurrection of the just and the unjust” (Acts 24:15).
Paul brings up his parallelism between Adam and Christ in his resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians 15.
1 Corinthians 15:21-22 For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. (22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
Some argue that there is a condition in this verse. Those who are in Christ, it is said, will be made alive. But it’s almost never translated that way. Also, that would weaken the parallelism. Everyone dies because of Adam. Therefore everyone will be made alive because of Christ.
Of course the word “all” does not have to mean a hundred percent. There can be exceptions. But “all” cannot mean the narrow gate that the few find.
This verse is about Christ being the second Adam. And that is covered in detail in Romans 5. We should therefore interpret this verse in the context of Romans 5.
But this verse is also in the context of 1 Corinthians 15, which is about the resurrection. So the fact that Christ is the second Adam must also be about the resurrection. When Paul said, “All men were justified to life,” he was talking about the resurrection. All men were justified so they can be raised to life at the resurrection. The reconciliation of the dead is not limited to those who have faith in Christ in this present age.
John 12:31-32 Now is the judgment of this world. Now the prince of this world will be cast out. (32) And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
Jesus is talking about the judgment of the world and Satan being cast out. The judgment “now” was because of the crucifixion. But the sentence on Satan does not happen until after the great tribulation. Satan will be locked up for a thousand years so that he may not deceive the nations until the thousand years are finished (Revelation 20:3). Jesus will draw all people to himself during his millennial reign. This will include all who are made alive at the resurrection. Thus, all people from every generation will be drawn to Christ after the prince of this world is cast out .
The drawing of all people happens during the age to come. During this age, only the (elect) Church is drawn to Christ. Gentile believers are grafted into Israel. And Israel is an elect and chosen nation. We are the elect who are drawn to Christ during this age. But that doesn’t mean God has no redemptive plan for the non-elect. The elect are simply the firstfruits of the harvest (Jeremiah 2:2-3, Romans 8:23, 2 Thess. 2:13, James 1:8). But even the elect can later decide to deliberately and knowingly reject Christ. We all have free will.
Two points need to be made here. First, the word “all” doesn’t necessarily mean one hundred percent. There can be exceptions. Some have and will deliberately and knowingly reject Christ and his salvation. This is not Christian Universalism. Secondly, the “draw” of Christ is not irresistible. Just as Adam had the free choice to reject God, we all have the free choice to reject Christ. Rejecting Christ is not a sin in a weak moment. It’s the long-term deliberate and knowledgeable rejection of Christ.
1 Timothy 4:7-10 But refuse profane and old wives' fables. Exercise yourself toward godliness. (8) For bodily exercise has some value, but godliness has value in all things, having the promise of the life which is now, and of that which is to come. (9) This saying is faithful and worthy of all acceptance. (10) For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we have set our trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
Here Paul stresses the importance of exercising godliness. It’s a journey. “To this end we both labor (work) and suffer reproach (persecution).” To what end? It’s the salvation of all people, especially of those who believe. It’s the promise of life for both now and for “that which is to come.” That which is to come is the salvation of all people. And it starts with those who believe in this age. We are the firstfruits of the harvest. We are the elect. The rest of the harvest is in the age to come.
1 John 2:1-2 My little children, I write these things to you so that you may not sin. If anyone sins, we have a Counselor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. (2) And he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only , but also for the whole world.
John tells us that Christ’s death on the cross was for our sins. But Christ’s sacrifice was not just for our sins; not just for the sins of the elect. Christ’s sacrifice was also for the sins of the whole world. Every man, woman, and child of all generations has been reconciled to Christ. This is why Christ is the second Adam. We are all Christ’s sheep. But most of Christ’s sheep are still lost. The blood of Christ was a ransom for everyone’s sins.
1 Timothy 2:3-6 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; (4) who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth. (5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (6) who gave himself as a ransom for all; the testimony in its own times;
Notice that God desires for all people to be saved. Does that mean only the elect will be saved? Just remember that we must reconcile ourselves to God before we can inherit eternal life. We must go back to being like Adam before Adam sinned. We must become like Christ, the second Adam, who lived without sinning.
If God desires that all people be saved, and God is very smart, then doesn’t it follow that God’s plan would be a smart plan that includes all people? Of course we all have the same free will that Adam had. Even the elect can reject Christ’s salvation. But would God’s plan be such that the vast majority of all people in all generations would never have the opportunity to learn about Christ’s death on the cross? Would God tell his Son that his blood is enough for all people, but unfortunately the vast majority of the people will never have the opportunity to “come to the full knowledge of the truth?”
There is only “one mediator between God and men.” Other religions cannot bring people into salvation from sin and death. But God was smart enough to come up with a plan that would allow everyone to “come to the full knowledge of the truth” while living as mortals here on the earth. And God has told us about His plan in Scripture.
Paul agonized over the Jewish nation that didn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah. In this context Paul writes:
Romans 11:29-33 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (30) For as you in time past were disobedient to God, but now have obtained mercy by their disobedience, (31) even so these also have now been disobedient , that by the mercy shown to you they may also obtain mercy. (32) For God has shut up all to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all. (33) Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out!
“God has turned all over to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all.” The Gentile believers were once disobedient. Now they have been drawn to Christ. This was done so that one day even these disobedient Jews, who lived in that day, will someday be drawn back into obedience. The same is true for everyone in the world.
During this age, the vast majority of all people have been turned over to disobedience. Even believers in the churches are mostly disobedient and continue in their sins. This was done so that some might be brought into obedience during this age, and will reign with Christ during the age to come. Even the disobedient all over the world have been reconciled with Christ. Therefore, they can be resurrected and be brought back into obedience in the age to come. Thus, “God has turned all over to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all.”
Hebrews 2:8-11 You have put all things in subjection under his feet." For in that he subjected all things to him, he left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we don't see all things subjected to him, yet. (9) But we see him who has been made a little lower than the angels, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the [work] of God he should taste of death for everyone. (10) For it became him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many children to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (11) For both he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
All things have been put under Christ’s feet. But we don’t see it literally fulfilled as yet. When Christ returns, all the nations will be under Christ’s feet. This was done because of Christ’s suffering and death. Hebrews 2:9 (quoted above) says, “By the grace of God he should taste death for everyone.” Christ’s death for everyone is not just some theoretical statement that if somehow they could have learned the knowledge of the truth they could have been saved. Christ really did taste death for everyone in a practical sense. They will be resurrected in the age to come. “But now we don’t see all things subjected to him, yet” (verse 8). We don’t as yet see these people given the grace of salvation, yet. But since they have been reconciled to Christ, they can be sanctified in the age to come after the resurrection of all the nations of all generations.
John 6:32-33 Jesus therefore said to them, "Most certainly, I tell you, it wasn't Moses who gave you the bread out of heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread out of heaven. (33) For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven , and gives life to the world."
With Moses, the bread that came out of heaven gave life for everyone. Everyone could eat it. Jesus is the bread of life. This bread comes out of heaven for everyone to eat. And this bread “gives life to the world.” The world will be resurrected and given life.
Titus 2:11-13 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, (12) instructing us to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts , we would live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present [age] ; (13) looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ;
Salvation was given to all men. God has been reconciled with all men. But this needs to be followed up by living a godly life during this present age. We do this in the hope of Christ’s appearing, which will usher in the age to come.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21 For the love of Christ constrains us; because we judge thus, that one died for all, therefore all died. (15) He died for all, that those who live should no longer live to themselves, but to him who for their sakes died and rose again. (16) Therefore we know no one after the flesh from now on. Even though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know him so no more. (17) Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. (18) But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; (19) namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself , not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation. (20) We are therefore ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (21) For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Christ died for all. Therefore, all people have died in Christ’s death. This does not say that it’s limited to those who believe. Christ died for all. “Therefore all died.”
Everyone has been reconciled to God because everyone has died in payment of their sins. Christ died for everyone’s sins. Everyone’s sins have been paid in full by Christ “who for their sakes died and rose again” (verse 15). Therefore, because of Christ’s resurrection, everyone will be raised from death at the resurrection when Christ returns.
Verse 15 goes on to say because of Christ’s death, and because he was resurrected, we should live for Christ. This does not say that everyone lives for Christ. Believers who live for Christ do so because Christ died for us.
If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation (verse 17). Literally speaking, it means that eventually we will receive a new body at the resurrection. God "gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were" (Romans 4:17 NIV). Literally speaking, we will be new creatures at the resurrection. But until that time, we are being reconciled to God and are being transformed into a new creation in our souls because we have died on the cross with Christ.
When two friends become enemies, reconciliation requires both parties to put aside their differences. The same is true between God and man. God has reconciled himself to us. God no longer requires us to die. Likewise, we are reconciling ourselves back to God. We must overcome sin and become like Adam before he sinned.
Paul said, “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (verse 20). God has “[reconciled] the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses” (verse 19). In other words, God has resolved all penalty for sin for all people. But people are still sinning, and therefore they have not resolved themselves back to God. Those who do so by faith have been given a ministry of reconciliation that involves telling others about Christ.
Understanding these two sides of reconciliation can be helpful in understanding the difference between the Law of Moses and grace. Under the Law of Moses, the world did not as yet have the blood of Christ. Under the Law, men offered sacrifices of their cattle and crops in order to pay for sins. Thus, by works, we attempted to reconcile God to ourselves. But God’s true desire has always been for us to reconcile ourselves back to God.
Jesus meant this when he quoted Hosea 6:6, saying, “for I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” (Matthew 9:13, 12:7)
Hosea 6:4-7 "Ephraim, what shall I do to you? Judah, what shall I do to you? For your love is like a morning cloud , and like the dew that disappears early. (5) Therefore I have cut them to pieces with the prophets; I killed them with the words of my mouth. Your judgments are like a flash of lightning. (6) For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. (7) But they, like Adam, have broken the covenant. They were unfaithful to me, there.
Many of those in Ephraim (northern tribes) and Judah (southern tribes) broke God’s covenant of the Law with Moses. But the New Covenant can also be broken. If the New Covenant is broken, there is no longer a sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:26-27).
We must fall in love with God and obey his commandments. This is all about reconciling ourselves to God. We must be servants of God, which means work. We do this because of our love for the Father. We get to know the Father. And since we love the Father, we do works for our neighbors because the Father loves them as well.
When we first become believers, we are justified and credited with righteousness. The Greek word for “credited” is commonly used. It’s where we get our English word “logic” and “logical.” Strong’s definition is:
G3049 – logizomai – to take an inventory; that is estimate (literally or figuratively); conclude, (ac-) count (of); + despise, esteem, impute, lay, number, reason, suppose, think (on).
God begins to consider us as righteous even if we are still sinning. This is why the journey aspect of salvation is important in understanding what Paul (and James) are saying. Of course it is only because we have been reconciled by the blood of Christ that he is able to credit us with righteousness. We are credited with righteousness because God is faithful to bring us to the completion of our journey once that journey has begun. God "gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were" (Romans 4:17 NIV, in the same context as 4:3-5).
Romans 4:3-5 NIV What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." (4) Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. (5) However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
James 2:23 NIV And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend.
Sacrifices are all about doing work for the forgiveness of sins. Christ did that on the cross. That ultimate sacrifice that Christ gave to us on the cross is God’s grace. He did all the work of reconciliation that involved reconciling God to man. But we still need to reconcile ourselves back to God.
We are justified when we first become a believer and begin to put our faith in Christ. With justification, our sins are forgiven and we are credited with righteousness. This means we can be filled with the Holy Spirit whenever we ask.
We are sanctified as we live for Christ. The Just shall live by faith. This means doing the will (works) of the Father. We work (as a servant) for the Father out of love. These works do not save us. Our works involve the gifts of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit fills us as we do the works. The Holy Spirit changes us on the inside. So the Holy Spirit continues to save us. We overcome all our sinful habits. That is the journey of salvation by grace. Thus, sanctification is also by grace and not by works.
The promise of the Holy Spirit, which began at Pentecost, was only possible after God reconciled Himself to us. Now, through the Holy Spirit, we are being reconciled back to God, which is called sanctification. After we are entirely sanctified, we can be glorified with a new-birth spiritual body. Thus, you have to be “born again” in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.