P. G. Mathew | Sunday, January 4, 2009
Copyright © 2009, P. G. Mathew
All of us are going to die one day unless Christ comes back first. But how can we be certain that we will be raised up with a glorious body to dwell with God forever after we die? How can we be sure that God will not pour out his wrath upon us on the day of judgment? Is it possible for us to face death with complete assurance of our final salvation? Romans 5:9-10 answers these questions.
Romans 5:1-11 speaks of God the Father's love for us, a love that guarantees not only our present salvation, but also our future glorification. Salvation (sôzô) is used in three tenses: we have been saved (justified), we are being saved (sanctified), and we will be saved (glorified). This usage speaks about salvation from the penalty of sin, the power of indwelling sin, and the presence of sin. In justification the penalty of sin has been dealt with once and for all. In sanctification, the power of sin is dealt with, and we are free to overcome sin. As Christians, we do not need to give in to our sinful urges. We can say no to sin and yes to Jesus Christ. And in glorification, the very presence of sin will be removed from our life.
From all eternity God planned a complete salvation for his people. God declares, "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jer. 31:3). That speaks of eternal love. God has loved us from all eternity with an everlasting love to achieve for us an everlasting salvation (Isa. 45:7). He has accomplished for us eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12) and appointed us to eternal life (Acts 13:48). Paul writes, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in [or through] Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). This eternal life is for our eternal joy (Isa. 35:10). That is why the mark of a Christian is joy. True Christians rejoice always, even in tribulations, because they enjoy the eternal security of their ultimate salvation.
Paul presents logical arguments for this eternal security in Romans 5:9-10. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones remarks that these two verses present the most powerful argument for our assurance of salvation. We must apply the reasoning powers of our renewed minds; in fact, it is spiritual to think logically and sinful not to. Only a logical Christian can enjoy the full assurance of his final salvation that God guarantees. If we do not like to read, study, and think, we will be emotional people, always unsteady. We may think the final argument is shedding tears. But the final argument should always be what God has spoken in his word.
The Logical Arguments of Paul
The first reason for eternal security is derived from the logical arguments Paul makes in this passage. There are two types of arguments in the Bible: from minor to major and from major to minor. For example, Jesus argues from minor to major: "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet our heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matt. 6:26). In other words, if God takes care of birds, then logically and necessarily he will certainly take care of us. The same passage argues that if God takes care of the lilies of the field, he will surely take care of his people as well. Because it is absolutely certain, we can put aside all worries. Jesus uses another minor to major argument in Matthew 7:11: "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
Then there are the arguments from major to minor, the a fortiori, "how much more" arguments. Paul uses four of them in Romans 5 (vv. 9, 10, 15, 17). For example, he says, "Since we now have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!" (v. 9). In justifying us by Christ's blood, God the Father accomplished the most difficult thing already at the highest possible cost to him. He did so for the benefit of the most undeserving people-helpless, ungodly enemies of God who did nothing to merit salvation, but did everything to merit eternal wrath. Therefore, we can be absolutely certain that he will also accomplish the less difficult work of giving us the final installment of our salvation.
Paul also writes, "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" (Rom. 5:10). Again, this is the argument from major to minor. The major issue is reconciliation of enemies to God. The argument is that if justification and reconciliation have been achieved by God through the death of his Son, how much more will God complete our salvation by giving us sinless, glorious bodies in the life of his Son! Knowing this powerful argument, we can die in complete assurance of our final salvation. If the more difficult thing is already accomplished, the less difficult thing will be accomplished more readily. Our resurrection is guaranteed; it is a logical necessity that we can count on, both now and in the hour of our death. It is like a person buying a million-dollar house. No one would question his ability to put up some nice curtains. In the same way, if God has already done the difficult thing, can we not trust him to do the easy thing of putting the finishing touches on our salvation?
If God justified and reconciled us while we were his enemies, he will certainly glorify us after we have become his friends. If the greatest benefit has been bestowed, the less will not be withheld. The Holy Spirit is logical. It is the devil who is not logical. Western man has become an irrational existentialist, a feeling-centered human being. But because the Holy Spirit is logical, let us be logical also and enjoy eternal security with regard to our final salvation from this passage. The death of God's Son secured our justification and reconciliation; therefore, the life of his Son will give us all things. Paul declares, "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32). This includes our glorification.
Yet we may wonder how we can be sure that we will not be lost in the end. After all, we are still living in an evil world, and sin still dwells in us. We acknowledge that we are weak and fallible, and that sinless perfection is impossible in this life. Therefore, we ask, "Will God pour out his wrath on us on the last day instead of glorifying us?" Paul assures us in this passage that God surely will not. He cannot, for he has already justified and reconciled us on the sure basis of the death of his Son. He has done the most difficult thing for us, his enemies, at the cost of his Son's death. Now we are his friends, and he will save us fully by the resurrection life of his Son. We can, therefore, be fully assured of our eternal security.
Let us look more closely at how Paul applies this logic to justification in verse 9 and reconciliation in verse 10.
The Logic of Justification
The second reason for eternal security is the fact that we have been justified. "Since we now have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!" (Rom. 5:9). If we are Christians, God has already justified us. We were helpless, ungodly sinners who merited his wrath. Yet God pronounced us righteous because his Son, the sinless God-man died in our place to satisfy God's justice.
We must always remember this if we need assurance, especially in the hour of death. In Jesus Christ we not only kept every law of God perfectly but we also suffered for every infraction of God's law. So in Christ we are not under sin and law, but under grace. All our sins are forgiven and we are clothed with divine righteousness. Already we are at peace with God and enjoy his presence. Justification is a present possession of each child of God, achieved by Christ's bloody sacrifice for our sins. This justification is the act of God the Father, the Supreme Court of heaven. Paul throws out the challenge: "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?" (Rom. 8:33). The answer is no one because it is God himself who justifies.
Justification is the opposite of condemnation. For us there is now no condemnation because we are in Christ by faith (Rom. 8:1). God has justified the ungodly, not on the basis of our works, regeneration, faith, sanctification, new obedience, or even on the basis of the work of Christ in us, but on the basis of what God has done in and through Jesus Christ on the cross. God, who by no means clears the guilty, justified us on the basis of the objective shed blood of his Son. Our righteousness does not enter into it.
By his Son's shed blood, God's wrath against us has been propitiated. No more wrath remains to be poured out on us on the last day. Let the devil, our enemies, and even our own consciences accuse us. It does not matter; we are saved forever and eternally secure.
The Logic of Reconciliation
The third reason is divine reconciliation: "For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" (Rom. 5:10). God accomplished the most difficult task of reconciling us to himself when we were still his enemies. As atheists, we were trying all our lives to kill God. And not only were we the sworn enemies of God, but God himself was our enemy. Yes, it is illogical to wage war against the almighty God, but foolish people do it all the time. Yet God brought about objective reconciliation for his enemies by the death of his Son on the cross. Having accomplished the most difficult task, he now offers to us the gift of reconciliation through his Son.
Paul declares, "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18-19). Though God is the offended party, he removes the offense from the offending party. Usually, the offending party must go to the offended party and remove the cause of enmity. But no man can effectually deal with the enmity between God and man. Only God can; therefore, God Almighty, moved by his everlasting love, reconciled his sworn enemies to himself by removing the cause of enmity-our sin, guilt, condemnation, and eternal death. He did so in the death of his Son, and we are no longer enemies of God. That is putting it negatively. Positively, we are now God's friends, and more than that, his children. Romans 1:7 tells us that we are beloved of God and called to be his saints. If God accomplished the most difficult task of reconciliation while we were enemies, certainly now that we are God's friends, children, beloved, saints, he certainly will complete our salvation.
When we study verses 9 and 10, we see five passive verbs: "having been justified"; "having been reconciled"; "having been reconciled"; "we will be saved"; and "we will be saved." These verbs tell us the one doing the work is not us but God. He justifies us, reconciles us, and will save us in the future. Who is receiving these actions? We are, God's elect. We receive justification and reconciliation by faith; we do not perform these actions, despite what some churches teach. Therefore we will be saved from God's wrath on the last day because we are already justified and reconciled.
Only God can separate us from his wrath, and he did. John 3:36 declares that the crushing iron girder of God's wrath abides upon every unbeliever, but for us the wrath has been removed forever by God himself.
Our past justification and reconciliation guarantee our enjoyment of the final installment of our salvation. "For those God foreknew, those he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified" (Rom. 8:29-30). There is a specific number of people the Father loved from all eternity, and in time he called them effectually and justified them. In fact, Paul says they are also already glorified. There is no doubt. That is full assurance.
What about you? Are you convinced of your eternal security? You cannot find true security in money, health, a spouse, or children. They will all disappear, and you have to die. Just as you came from your mother's womb, you will also have to go out. But if you are a believer in Christ, you need not worry. If God is for us, who can be against us? God foreknew us, predestinated us, called us, justified us, reconciled us, and God will glorify us.
That is why Paul declares, "Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God" (Rom. 5:11). A Christian can rejoice in God even when everything else is changing. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said the only thing we can count on is change. But God never changes. What he has promised, he fulfills. He cannot lie. Suppose you go to the doctor and he says you have only a few months left of life. If you are a Christian, you may be a little shaken at first. But then you will say, "I rejoice in God because he does not change. In fact, I am going to him who came to me, and I have full assurance that he will glorify me." I pray that we will all be fully assured of our final salvation and rejoice, not in this world, but in God.
Christ Our Mediator
The next reason we have for assurance of our ultimate salvation is that this salvation comes to us through our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul writes, "For there is one God and mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:5-6). This mediator is Jesus, who died and lives for us. Justification and reconciliation are achieved through the death of God's Son. The Greek uses a preposition dia (through) to tell us that our salvation is accomplished through the work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, if one do not believe in Jesus Christ, he cannot be saved.
Through the frequent use of dia, Paul emphasizes in Romans 5 that God achieves salvation, not through ourselves nor through any man, but only through Jesus, who alone is a fit mediator between God and man. So he writes,
"We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1). A person who has not trusted in Christ has no peace. He is without God and without hope in this world.
"Through our Lord Jesus Christ we have gained access into this grace in which we stand" (Rom. 5:2);
"Through Jesus Christ we shall be saved from God's wrath" (Rom. 5:9);
"We are reconciled to God through the death of his Son . . . how much more shall we be saved through his life" (Rom. 5:10);
"Through our Lord Jesus Christ we have now received reconciliation . . . we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:11);
"We shall reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:17);
"Through the obedience of the one man, many will be made righteous" (Rom. 5:19);
"Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:21).
This shows the importance of trusting in Jesus Christ alone for our eternal salvation. Full salvation comes to us only through Christ's death in behalf of guilty sinners. Sin is the most horrible thing in the world. Because we are sinners, either we must die, or someone who is fit must die in our place. God warned, "You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because when you eat of it, you will surely die" (Gen. 2:17). Paul explains, "Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them" (Rom. 1:32). In this chapter he writes, "Therefore just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin-and in this way, death came to all men-for all sinned" (Rom. 5:12).
The wages of sin is eternal death. We sinned; therefore, we must die. But Jesus died in our place, and we died in him. If anyone does not believe in Jesus Christ, he cannot be justified or reconciled to God. Belief in monotheism is not enough. (PGM) We must believe in one God existing in three Persons-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The sole ground of our justification and reconciliation is the death of God's incarnate Son in our place. Jesus himself said, "No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). And John writes, "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:12). John the Baptist declared, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (John 3:36).
Union with Christ
The next reason we have for complete assurance is our union with Christ. En Christou ("in Christ") is a phrase used frequently in the New Testament to speak about our unbreakable union with Christ.
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means. We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead to the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. . . . Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him." (Rom. 6:1-4, 8)
By faith we are united to Jesus Christ forever. When he died for our sins, we died with him; when he was buried, we were buried with him; when he rose, we rose with him. Romans 3:9 says that we were under sin but Romans 6:14-15 declares we are no longer under sin. We were under the dominion of sin and law, but now we are under grace because of our vital union with Jesus Christ by faith. Paul says, "For Christ's love compels us because we are convinced one died for all and therefore all died" (2 Cor. 5:14). Our sin problem is dealt with. Because Christ lives, we may also live. Our salvation never depends upon anything that we have ever done or ever will do.
Jesus Christ will never die again. If he were, we would have to be anxious about our salvation. But Paul puts such fears to rest: "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him for we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him" (Rom. 6:8-9). We are raised with Christ who cannot die again; therefore, we also will live forever. Jesus himself said so: "Because I live, you also will live" (John 14:19).
Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). We are united with Jesus Christ. He is life, and from his life, life flows to us and we live.
Paul speaks about this vital union with the risen Christ:
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (1 Cor. 15:20-23)
Jesus Intercedes for Us
The next reason we can have absolute assurance of our salvation because Jesus Christ, the living One, intercedes for us as our high priest. "Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us to the Father" (Rom. 8:34). His intercession is effectual. He already prayed for us when he was on earth: "I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name. . . . Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am and to see my glory" (John 17:11, 24). We cannot see God's glory unless we are glorified. But we can be certain that Christ's petition was heard by his Father; therefore, we can be certain that we will be glorified and be able to see Christ's glory.
The Hebrews writer speaks also of this certainty: "Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them" (Heb. 7:23-25). Because Christ is interceding for us, we can be assured of our eternal salvation.
The Holy Spirit Intercedes for Us
Not only does the Lord Jesus intercede for us, but the Holy Spirit does also. "And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will" (Rom. 8:27). From earth the Holy Spirit is now interceding in our behalf, and his prayer to God the Father is effectual. And not only does he intercede, but he also lives in us: "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you" (Rom. 8:11). In the Greek, the word translated "if" does not denote contingency or doubt; it is a statement of fact. In other words, Paul is saying "because the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us." Our glorification is guaranteed by the indwelling Spirit of the living God.
The Father's Love
Not only are Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit interested in us, but God the Father is also interested in us. Paul writes, "And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us" (Rom. 5:5). Assurance comes to us not only by logical deduction, but also on the basis of an existential outpouring of his love into our hearts. This is the most direct, immediate, and highest form of assurance we can experience. We feel and know that God loves us. It does not matter who else loves us; our heavenly Father loves us. Let everyone forsake us; our God will receive and take care of us.
Paul also says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8). Elsewhere he states, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39). Hold on to this certainty. When dark days come, when the storm rages, when the thunder rumbles and the lightning flashes, when the rain falls, when all the foundations of man crumble, when the political situation and economic life changes, we need not worry: God loves us and nothing can separate us from the love of our heavenly Father.
Jesus Christ Is Able
The next reason we have for assurance is the ability of our Lord Jesus Christ to save us. The Hebrews writer declares, "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him" (Heb. 7:25). Jesus is able to save us because he has an indestructible life, and we are linked to him. Additionally, the Hebrews author says, "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (Heb. 2:18). Are you being tempted? Are you facing trouble? I offer you a Savior who is able to help you and bring you out of temptation, misery, and failure.
Paul says, "And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church" (Eph. 1:22). Paul also writes, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Eph. 3:20). Jude exclaims, "To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy" (Jude 24). And Jesus himself said, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:28).
He is able, he is able, I know my Lord is able. I know my Lord is able to carry me through.
God Finishes What He Starts
The final reason for assurance of eternal security is that God always finishes what he begins. Jesus spoke about man's tendency not to complete what he starts: "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish'" (Luke 14:28-30). But about God Paul writes, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). God planned our salvation before the creation of the world. In the fullness of time he sent his Son, who lived and died and was raised up, ascended into the heavens, is seated on the throne, and is coming again to finish his work.
We Can Have Great Assurance
In view of this great assurance of our final salvation, we rejoice always in our immutable God, who is truth. God cannot lie; we can count on his word and rest on his promises. No matter what happens, we can know that God has justified and reconciled us to himself. And having accomplished these most difficult parts of our salvation, God will surely put the finishing touches on by glorifying us. So we rejoice in God himself-not in his gifts, but in the Giver. If we possess God, we possess everything. God never changes. He loved us when we were his enemies; he loves us now as his friends and beloved sons; and he will love us forever.
Therefore, we can join with the psalmist Asaph and say: "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Ps. 73:25-26). We can echo the words of the prophet Habakkuk: "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights" (Hab. 3:17-19).
What about you? Have you been justified by God, the Supreme Judge of the universe and reconciled to him? Have you trusted in Christ alone, whose death is the basis of our justification and reconciliation? If so, you need not fear. On the last day, you will stand justified before God and no wrath will be poured out on you. You will be saved to enjoy eternal life. Because Christ died, we also died to sin and to law; because he lives, we will live forever. Nothing can separate us from the love of God or snatch us from God's mighty hand. He is able to keep us from falling.
But if you have not trusted in Christ, his wrath will surely be poured out on you on the last day. Just as his salvation is sure, so also his judgment on the unrepentant and unbelieving is sure. Paul speaks of this:
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. (2 Thess. 1:6-10)
Therefore, I urge you to trust in Christ today so that you too may enjoy this great assurance of ultimate salvation.
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Copyright © 2009, P. G. Mathew
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