Session 3 December 15. 2013 A Love You Can Experience- Romans 5
The Point: Even at our worst, God loves us.
When we seek to get right with God—or closer to Him—our human tendency is to do something to gain God‘s
attention or favor. The uniqueness of Christianity—its very foundation— is that, because of the love of God, Jesus
Christ has already provided everything necessary for us to be right with God.
The Passage: Romans 5:6-11,18-21
The Setting: Beginning in Romans 3, Paul presented the truth that we are justified by faith.
In Romans 4, he illustrated that truth from the life of Abraham.
In Romans 5, Paul showed us the result of that justification: we have peace with God. Peace with God
means that we have been fully reconciled to God and given eternal life in Christ.
The Big Questions:
There are two major questions facing us in today‘s lesson:
If God created the Heavens and the Earth (See Genesis,) and He said it was all ―good,‖ in the way
that God counts ―good,‖ how then did sin enter the world?
Secondly, what are we to do about this cold, hard fact.
I must confess that I have labored over question 1. There are conflicting theological theories. It‘s very easy
to get lost in the weeds thereof. However, I am left to the conclusion that for us non-theologians, in the grand
scheme of things, the answer to question one doesn‘t really matter. Suffice it to say that there are three
statements that are facts in every sense of the word, theological and scientific:
God DID, in fact create the Heavens and the Earth.
They were created ―good.‖
They and we are now all fallen because of sin.
May I submit that the why of all this is not so nearly as important as the second question, ―what are we to do
about the fact of sin and fallenness?‖
The answer that the world simply cannot accept is that we are totally incapable of doing anything about it.
Only God can, and He did it by, ―in the fullness of time‖ sending His Son, Jesus to make it all right from a
cosmic standpoint, and for us, more importantly, from a personal standpoint. ―But, the gift of God is eternal
life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.‖
Overview and Introduction
A lot of people strive to climb the ladder of success in their social, work, and personal environments. They
want to make a good impression in the hope that it will ensure positive results. Are we so naïve as to think this
same strategy would work in our relationship with Holy God? When we try to get right with God or get a little
closer to Him, our human tendency is to do something to impress God. If we do the right thing, we think, God
will be obligated to give us salvation or some specific blessing we desire. Although other religions work on the
principle that we should try to impress God, the apostle Paul stressed that God already has provided what we
need for our salvation—His Love, through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ! God‘s gift of salvation through
faith in Jesus Christ is based on God‘s love for us, not on our good works. This lesson‘s focus is on how we can
experience God‘s love through His gift of salvation.
5:1-21 Grace Abounds
Paul argued that by the impact of this righteous gift believers are given salvation from the wrath of God (5:9).
God has reconciled godless and unrighteous enemies to Himself (5:10-11). Thus, they ―have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ‖ (5:1). Paul, by way of a typology, demonstrated that sin and death came to men
and women through Adam; righteousness and life, through Jesus Christ (5:11-21). Sin had been intensified by
the transgression of the law. Thus, greater grace was needed. But, where sin abounded, grace abounded all the
6 For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might
even dare to die.
8 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!
Key Words: Just…Good (v. 7)—Just in verse 7 identifies one who does what is right in a legalistic manner.
Good conveys the same commitment to that which is right, but with a benevolent or gracious spirit. Love
(v. 8)—Here, love refers to God‘s merciful, unmerited, and redemptive love for sinners.
In Romans 4, Paul used the example of Abraham to demonstrate that Israel‘s great patriarch was justified
by faith, not works. In chapter 5, Paul focused on one of the results of saving faith in Christ—―peace with
In verse 6, Paul focused on the amazing grace that motivated God‘s provision of His Son for our
salvation. While we were still helpless describes the weakness and inability of sinners to save themselves.
The state of helplessness extends to all because we are all sinners (3:23). This statement implies no
participation on our part in producing salvation, which is a gift of God. Before salvation, there was
nothing in us to attract God‘s favor. He was motivated by compassion as He looked on our helpless
condition of lostness (9:15-16).
At the appointed moment refers to God‘s sovereignty in providing for salvation by sending His Son,
Jesus Christ (Gal. 4:4). God worked through individuals and events for thousands of years to prepare the
world for the one sufficient sacrifice for our sins. Prophecies, sacrifices, and foreshadowing types of
Christ in the Old Testament provide context and understanding of Jesus‘ death on the cross.
Christ died for the ungodly describes the substitutionary atonement necessary for sins to be forgiven.
For in this instance means in place of. Jesus took our place on the cross and suffered the punishment we
deserved. Many Old Testament sacrifices pictured the substitutionary nature of Christ‘s sacrifice. One
example was the annual Day of Atonement, when a goat was sacrificed on behalf of the sins of Israel from
the previous year (Lev. 16:16-28). This substitutionary sacrifice foreshadowed the effective sacrifice of
Jesus Christ on the cross. The Greek word translated ungodly was used previously by Paul in Romans
(4:5) and refers to all who are sinners.
The Rabbis said there was a difference in ―righteous‖ or ―just‖ and ―good,‖ and gradations of each. A
―righteous‖ man was one that kept the law. Motive or reputation was irrelevant. A ―good man‖ was one who
may or may not have kept the law all the time, but was considered as ―good‖ or perhaps, ―beloved‖ by his
fellow men. It is probably the second class of which Paul speaks. Sometimes, ―righteous‖ persons are not so
well liked. Nobody wants to die for a jerk. However, a ―good‖ man is a different thing. In an emotional act,
we may give up our lives for a ―good‖ man.
We, on the other hand, are neither ―righteous‖ nor good.‖ Jesus said, ―why callest thou Me good. There is
none ―good‖ except the Father which is in Heaven.‖ The good news is that there is ample evidence that
exists to support the amazing truth that God loves us.
In verse 7, Paul emphasized the unusual and unnatural nature of Jesus‘ death for sinners. Paul observed
that rarely will someone die for a just person, then adds that it is possible that someone might even dare to
die for a good person. The words just and good are not used technically but refer to a person considered to
be of good character and reputation.
Based on the statements of verse 7, Paul dramatically made his point in verse 8 by stating that God
proves His own love for us by sending His Son to die for us while we were still sinners. God‘s love was
not in response to our goodness. We were not people of good reputation whom someone might consider
dying for, but instead we were rebellious sinners. We were not seeking God‘s help in spiritual renewal. We
were enemies of God. God‘s love and initiative preceded any spiritual interest on our part. God‘s love for
us was unilateral and unconditional. Jesus chose to die for those who hated God and His laws. Jesus died
for the very people who plotted against Him and crucified Him (Luke 23:34). Jesus‘ love was not a natural
love of affection for the attractive but a supernatural love for the unlovely.
Paul emphasized the uniqueness of God‘s love in salvation. We would never have considered dying for
someone of bad reputation, yet Jesus died for evil and depraved sinners. All of us fall into that category as
Paul demonstrated earlier from Old Testament quotes (3:10-18). We must be careful in declaring God‘s
love for sinners not to imply that God loves sin. God‘s love is directed to us when we are sinners, but His
intention in salvation is to transform us into the likeness of His Son. God hates sin and sent His Son to
Now why would you think heroes performed these acts of heroism? Psychologists tell us that while
people give as their motive for heroism, love of country or family or some such, overwhelmingly, people
who become martyrs do so for the love of their comrades. This fact is one reason why the Jihadist movement
has so much traction. These people are not ideologues, they perceive themselves as saving their buddies.
May I submit that in a sense, the same is true of God. He voluntarily gave up his life for the love of us,
his chosen ones. One could substitute ―comrades‖ for ―chosen ones‖ and be pretty close to right, though not
totally theologically correct because in no regard are we the equal to or on the same par with God.
9 Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved
through Him from wrath.
10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then
how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!
11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have now
received this reconciliation through Him.
Key Word: Reconciliation (v. 11)—Bringing together two parties at odds with each other. A benefit of Jesus‘
death for those who trust Him as Savior. Sin prevents a relationship with God. Jesus made reconciliation
possible through His substitutionary death on the cross.
Christ died for sinners and those who believe in Him for salvation have been declared righteous by His
blood. The tense of the verb indicates a completed action. At the moment we trust Christ as Savior, God
declares us righteous, and we are saved through Him from wrath. The appeasing of God‘s wrath through
the sacrifice of Jesus reminds us of the benefits of propitiation through His blood (3:25). The result of
propitiation is peace with God for believers (5:1). The promise that believers escape God‘s wrath is also a
warning to unbelievers, who are destined for that wrath unless they repent and turn to Christ in faith. The
benefits of Christ‘s death on the cross are offered to all, but only those who receive Christ as Savior will
Verse 10 describes the dramatic change in relationship to God that believers experience. Before faith in
Christ, we were enemies of God. Enemies describes both those openly hostile to God and those who
passively ignore Him. Unbelievers are enemies of God because they live in disobedience to His will and
disregard His laws. Enemies by definition are not in a harmonious relationship.
Any future relationship would first require a change on the part of both parties. God provided
reconciliation through the death of His Son, Jesus. His death made it possible for God to reach out to those
who made themselves His enemies in sin and offer them the possibility of a new relationship through faith
in Jesus. Those who accept God‘s offer are reconciled to God at the moment they trust in Jesus Christ as
Savior and are justified. The reconciliation is immediate and permanent.
The reconciliation of believers through the death of Jesus has continuing benefits. Paul declared
believers are saved by His life. Some interpreters understand this to refer to the indwelling presence of
Christ in the believer (Phil. 1:21; Col. 1:27), while others believe it refers to the intercession of the living
Christ for the believer (Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34). Possibly Paul had both ideas in mind. The practical
implication of the reconciliation and new life in Christ is the powerful transformation of the sinner
through sanctification. When we are reconciled to God, Christ gives those who were once enemies the
power to live as obedient children.
The result of reconciliation causes the believer to rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is
not only for the moment of salvation but extends as comfort and encouragement through the trials of the
Christian life (Rom. 5:1-3). The permanent joy for the believer is in the knowledge that nothing can
separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8). The joy of our relationship to God
through Jesus looks not only at the present but also at looks forward with hope to Jesus‘ return or our
entrance into the presence of God at death.
Inherent in the New Testament doctrine of salvation are the concepts of justification, sanctification, and
glorification. We can accurately say, ―I have been saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.‖ These
statements reflect the various stages of the process of salvation. We are justified at the moment we believe.
We experience the power of God in this life following justification through the indwelling power of the
Holy Spirit to transform us into the likeness of Christ (sanctification). And we await the glorious
consummation of our salvation and inheritance in the kingdom of God when we die or when Christ returns
(glorification). All of these are granted to us by the grace of God as a gift and through no merit of our
18 So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one
righteous act there is life-giving justification for everyone.
19 For just as through one man‘s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the
one man‘s obedience the many will be made righteous.
20 The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even
21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in
eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Q: What is ―Reconciliation?‖ Reconciliation is restoration of friendly relationships where previously there
existed resentment and estrangement.
Jesus destroyed the wall our sin had built. His sacrifice restored the relationship our sin had broken.
Q: Is this a universal benefit to all mankind? No. Jesus‘ sacrifice is not a universal benefit for all people; it is
only for those who believe in Him for salvation. Believers are saved from God‘s wrath on sin, but those who
reject Christ remain under God‘s wrath. There are deep theological questions of whether Jesus died for
everyone to give them the opportunity to voluntarily choose to accept his sacrifice or whether He died only
for those who actually would accept his salvation. Again, we can easily get into the weeds of this and
destroy a church or create a whole denomination. But in the end, its answer cannot be known as it rests with
God alone. I would submit that the answer is not as important as the fact that Jesus did die for sinners, for
me and for you.
Charley Brown, the eternal pessimist says that good days come around only once every 27 years, bad days
are here the rest of the time. Thus, even on our ―good‖ days‖ our ―righteousness‖ is as ―filthy rags‖ yes,
―even at our worst, God loves us.‖
Note the word enemies in verse 10. Consider your feelings for our nation‘s enemies in wars past and up to
the present day. It is hard to imagine being worse than to be one of God‘s enemies, but God still loves us. I
remember well Viet Nam and many of my friends coming home in boxes, pieces or in mental shambles. I‘ll
bet you have had the same experience, perhaps X 100. I must confess that I still have some negative
reaction when I see a product ―made in Viet Nam.‖ I recognize the wrongness of this, but there is a history
that influences my feelings. I have always said to Susan and to Amy, ―You feel what you feel and that‘s of
limited value, however it‘s how you act based on those feelings that is important.‖
Q: Why do we feel that we have to ―clean up our act‖ before we try to come to Jesus? How do we attempt to
‗clean up our act‘ before coming to Christ?
Q: Why is this ―cleaning up‖ as Mark Bullock‖ says, a totally fruitless act?
These verses continue a theme Paul began in verse 12 with the statement, ―Therefore, just as sin entered
the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all
sinned.‖ The ―one man‖ is a reference to the first man, Adam, who was created righteous but chose to sin
by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17; 3:6).
In verse 18, Paul contrasted the effects of the sin of Adam with the effects of Jesus‘ death on the cross
for all people. Concerning Adam‘s sin Paul stated that through one trespass there is condemnation for
everyone. Theologians have generally interpreted Paul‘s statements about the effects of Adam‘s sin on his
descendants in one of two ways. The federal view sees Adam as the representative head of the human race
and his sin resulted in guilt for all. The seminal view teaches that the human race was in Adam and
physically shared in his sin.
The seminal view sounds strange to modern thinking, but finds support in Hebrews 7:9-10 where Levi,
not yet born, is said to have paid tithes to Melchizedek even though it was his ancestor Abraham who
actually paid them. Regardless of the view taken, we can all agree that Paul taught a universal
condemnation upon all people because of Adam‘s sin.
―Sinners by nature and choice‖ is a phrase we often use to describe the fallen natures of all people. The
doctrines of original sin and depravity refute the idea that people are born righteous or morally neutral. We
are born with a sin nature that is bent toward sin. Selfish acts from childhood demonstrate we choose to
sin as a result of our sinful nature. An inherited sin nature does not remove responsibility, because we
choose to sin as acts of our wills. Paul clearly said all have sinned and fall short of God‘s glory (Rom.
3:23). The fact we are born with a sin nature also refutes the modern excuse some people give for their
sin: ―I was born that way.‖ We are born with a sin nature but our many sinful ways are not normal or
Condemnation is the universal result of universal sin. In this context, it is a legal term and describes the
lost person who will experience the wrath of God for his or her sin. Condemnation for an individual at
death results in eternal separation from God in a place called hell. Paul would describe condemnation as
spiritual ―death‖ in Romans 6:23 and declared it to be the wages of sin.
Paul next contrasted the effects of Adam‘s sin with the one righteous act by Jesus. Verse 18 contains
stark contrasts between Adam and Jesus, one act of sin versus one act of righteousness, and condemnation
versus justification. Adam‘s sin was a single act that brought death and condemnation to his descendants.
Jesus‘ act of righteousness in His substitutionary death on the cross for our sins paid the price for our sin,
removed God‘s wrath, and made it possible for us to move from condemnation to justification (8:1). All
people share in Adam‘s sin by being physically born, but only believers share in the benefits of Christ‘s
death by being born again. The Bible absolutely rejects any doctrine of universal salvation. We should also
note in this context the necessity of the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus. Jesus could not be born of a
human union or He would have shared in the sin of Adam. Jesus is the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), who
came into this world without sin and unlike the first Adam remained without sin. Therefore, the first
Adam‘s legacy is condemnation and the last Adam‘s legacy is justification.
In verse 19, Paul expanded on his statements in verse 18. The trespass of verse 18 is called
disobedience in verse 19. The equivalent of everyone in verse 18 is the phrase the many in verse 19. In
verse 18, Jesus‘ one righteous act achieved justification, and in verse 19, one man‘s obedience results in
the many will be made righteous. This phrase implies not only a declaration of righteousness but also an
actual process of becoming righteous through the power of the Holy Spirit in sanctification.
In verse 20, Paul turned his attention to the purpose of the law in God‘s plan of salvation. The law in
this context refers to the moral principles and commands of the Old Testament and specifically to the
Mosaic Law. The revealed moral legislation of God was wrongly misappropriated by some as a means of
salvation. If it was never intended to be a means of salvation, what was God‘s purpose in revealing the
law? Paul answered by saying the law came along to multiply the trespass.
In other words, God sent the law in order to demonstrate the sinful nature of man, because where laws
increased sin multiplied. Of course, God did not want sin to multiply. He never tempts us to sin and never
endorses sin in His purposes. As Paul would state later, the problem was not with the law. The law is holy
(7:12). Man‘s sinful nature inherited from Adam, however, rebels against the law. People reacted against
the prohibitions and commands that revealed the nature of God out of desire by the sin nature. More laws
only resulted in more disobedience. God sent the law to show us our need for salvation by grace through
Thankfully, even though sin multiplied with the revelation of the law, grace multiplied even more. This
wonderful statement demonstrates the infinite value of Christ‘s death on the cross. The depth of human
depravity is vast but the merit available in the righteousness of Christ is infinitely more. We may look at
the shameful acts of humanity and conclude that some sinners or some sins are beyond the capability of
forgiveness. The glorious truth, however, is that if all the sins of all people were compared to the power of
God‘s grace in Christ Jesus, they would pale in comparison. There is hope for anyone and for all who will
put their faith in Christ for salvation.
Paul summed up the comparison of Adam and Christ in verse 21 with the phrases sin reigned in death
and grace will reign through righteousness. The language regarding sin looks back to verses 12 and 14
regarding the effects of Adam‘s sin. Even before the revelation of the Mosaic Law people sinned, and
death was the penalty for their sins. The introduction of the law only resulted in more sin, as people
rebelled against every new expression of God‘s will for their lives. Jesus Christ, through His death,
dethroned sin and made it possible for believers to live according to God‘s righteousness. Only through
grace and faith in Jesus Christ are we able to keep the law. Faith in Christ as Savior results in eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Eternal life begins at the moment we believe in Jesus Christ as Savior. His
life flows through us, and we are transformed and sanctified by His power. The life of sanctification is
Live It Out
What gives you an inner confidence? At the end of the day, what fills your life with safety and security?
This study points us to the one sure place for confidence. Wake up tomorrow, with joy and with
God loves you. His love is confirmed through the inner witness of the Spirit and the settled fact of the
crucifixion. His affection for you is felt and proven. Every day this week, thank God for the love He
has shown to you in Christ.
Christ has reconciled you. The Lord has cut the ribbon and invited you in as His special guest. Loneliness,
fear, and self-pity are no longer fitting. Spend time with a Christian friend this week sharing
experiences of how God has loved you even when you did not deserve it. Encourage each other to
depend always on His love.
Heaven is prepared for you. No matter how difficult life may seem, these present-world pains will
ultimately pass. Identify at least one person this week with whom you can share the love and grace of
God you have received. Write down a specific action you will take, and then do it.
Just . . . good—In Romans 5:7 Paul contrasted two kinds of people, a just person and a good person. For
which kind of person might you die voluntarily? Some scholars see the two words as very similar. Others see
some distinction between the two kinds of people. The Greek word rendered just (or ―righteous.‖ NIV, ESV,
KJV) is diakaios, the root word for ―justification‖ as well. The word ―just‖ might refer to someone you respect
for being devout or pious. The Greek word for good is agathos and might refer to what is fitting, useful, or
morally good. One scholar noted, ―A ‗righteous‘ person is one we might respect, but a ‗good‘ person is one we
Righteous: In the widest sense, righteous (v. 7) is used to describe an upright, innocent person who is identified
by a strong moral proclivity. In a narrower sense, righteous describes a person who stands in right relationship
with God, is aligned with God‘s purpose, is faithful to Him, is obedient to His commands, and strives to
conform to the image of Christ through whom righteousness comes.
Love—Paul used the Greek word agape in verse 8. The foundation for God‘s gift of salvation is His love for
sinners (John 3:16). John stressed God‘s loving nature (1 John 4:8,16). Four Greek words can be translated
love, but the New Testament authors highlighted the word agape for God‘s love. This type of love is sacrificial,
unselfish love. God loves those who are not lovable in human terms. The Greek word eros refers to sexual or
physical attraction and love. The Greek word philia denotes friendship love. The Greek word storge points to
the love typical among family members.
Love: The word Paul most often used for love was some form of agape. Agape is not self-centered or selfseeking but is characterized by a willingness to sacrifice self and one‘s own desires for the good of another. It
is the word Paul used in verse 8 to speak about the saving love of God in Christ.
Atonement: The word atonement is applied to the biblical doctrine that God has reconciled sinners to Himself
through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. As a concept, atonement can be found across the Old and New
Testaments. The English word atonement is used frequently in the Old Testament and comes from a Hebrew
word that means ―to cover over, thus to forget.‖ In the New Testament, however, the use of the English word
atonement is limited to Romans 5:11, which in this verse in most contemporary translations of the Bible is more
accurately translated ―reconciliation.‖
Reconciliation—The word reconciliation in 5:11 is another word picture for salvation. Reconciliation is
necessary in any relationship that has broken down, leading to alienation or estrangement. In the New
Testament God always initiates the reconciliation needed between Him and sinful humanity. The translation
―atonement‖ (KJV) was first used for salvation by the early translator William Tyndale. Atonement is literally
the at-one-ment that results when we are rightly related to God through Jesus. ―That is, in Christ, God was
reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them‖ (2 Cor. 5:19).
RECONCILIATION (Reh kahn kih lee ay' shuhn): The establishment of friendly relations between parties
who are at variance with each other, making peace after an engagement in war, or readmission to the presence
and favor of a person after rebellion against the person. In 1525, William Tyndale, in his translation of the New
Testament from the Greek text, attempted to discover an English word that would express the true meaning of
the Greek katallage as well as the Latin reconciliation. Unable to find the word, he coined one. The word he
coined was atonement (at-one-ment), and he used it in Romans 5:11. The King James Version committee
followed Tyndale and used atonement. More recent versions and translations have returned to ―reconciliation,‖
largely because the word atonement has been encumbered with various theories of atonement.
Old Testament: The idea of reconciliation between two people and between Israel and God was dominant in
the Old Testament though there was no specific term to express it. The Hebrews viewed sin, whether intentional
or unintentional, as a breach of the covenant between God and Israel. Sin brought about an estrangement
between God and the nation or God and the individual. Provisions were made for Israel and the individual to be
restored in God‘s favor. The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was designated as the day when unintentional
sins of the people could be forgiven (Lev. 16:1-31; 23:26-32). For these unknown sins, the Hebrews were
forgiven by the sacrifices and elaborate ritual of the high priest. What about deliberate sins? These could be
forgiven only by prayer and repentance. All the sacrifices in the Old Testament could never complete the act of
drawing near to God and bringing a sinner into a right relationship with God (Hebrews 10:1-18).
The Jewish rabbis realized this and taught that a person could be reconciled to God only by good
deeds, repentance, and confession. Theirs was a self-reconciliation. A person was the subject, and God was the
object. Humans took the initiative to make peace with God; God did not reconcile the person to Himself.
New Testament: While the concept of reconciliation is prevalent throughout the New Testament, the term is
found only in Paul‘s Epistles (Rom. 5:10-21; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20-21; Rom. 11:15; 1 Cor. 7:11)
and in Matthew 5:23-24. However, in Matthew a different preposition is used with the Greek verb. Paul saw the
need for reconciliation of humans to oneself, other people, and the environment, but his chief interest was in a
person being reconciled to God.
When Paul spoke of reconciliation between God and a person, nothing indicated that God had to change His
attitude toward humanity. God was not angry at humanity. He did not demand satisfaction be given by someone
because His honor and dignity had been degraded by a person or by humanity, nor did a person have to offer
up sacrifice to placate His hostility.
Paul did not hint that the attitudes of God and humanity were mutually antagonistic. Hostility and estrangement
had its origin in humans. Mankind through indifference, active enmity, and passive hatred had rebelled against
God and stood in need of being reconciled to Him. God‘s creatures defied the divine purpose for life and
destroyed the fellowship for which they were intended. They substituted for the true foundation of fellowship a
whole series of relationships which formed a kingdom of evil and promoted estrangement from God. Thus, all
mankind came under the wrath of God (the situation that pertains when a person is alienated from God).
The Sovereign of the universe, who could rightfully annihilate us, took the initiative in breaking down the
estranging barrier between Himself and us. In the Old Testament humans were the subject of the action in
attempting to be restored to favor with God, the object. The New Testament reverses the action. God became
the subject, and a person the object. Paul said, ―All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself
by Jesus Christ‖ (2 Cor. 5:18). In the same context he affirmed, ―God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto
himself‖ (2 Cor. 5:19). Again he argued, ―If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of
his son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life‖ (Rom. 5:10). Reconciliation for Paul meant
10 | P a g e
that a complete reversal of the relation between God and humans had been accomplished. Through His love
manifested to us in the death of Christ on the cross even while we were in the state of being sinners, God
delivered us from law, wrath, sin, and death—the tyrannies that hold humanity in check—and brought us
by faith in Christ into a peaceful relationship with Himself.
The New Testament not only reveals God‘s act of reconciliation in Christ, but it also exhorts us to be reconciled
to fellow human beings. Since God has taken the initiative in removing our hostility toward Him, it is
incumbent on us to take action in overcoming the enmity that exists between others and us. In the Sermon on
the Mount Jesus taught that reconciliation with one‘s brother was essential to genuine worship of God (Matt.
5:23-24). Paul in Ephesians 2:14-18 dramatically proclaimed that through the cross Christ reconciled both
Gentile and Jew into one new humanity by terminating the hostility that existed between them. The church is
commissioned to perform a ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:12-21). As the body of Christ, we have received
the reconciling word, the command and power to be at peace with God and one another.
Paul used other words to express essentially the same concept. When we are reconciled to God, we have peace
(Rom. 5:1; 1 Cor. 7:15; Gal. 5:22; Eph. 4:3; Phil. 4:7; Col. 3:15; 2 Thess. 3:16). No longer being alienated from
God, we have freedom (Rom. 6:22; 8:2; Gal. 5:1) and sonship (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5). In Romans 5:810 and 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 reconciliation is used in conjunction with righteousness of God (justification).
They both demonstrate an activity on the part of God in removing the barrier of sin that alienates people from
WRATH, WRATH OF GOD The emotional response to perceived wrong and injustice, often translated
―anger,‖ ―indignation,‖ ―vexation,‖ and ―irritation.‖ Both humans and God express wrath.
Old Testament: The wrath of God appears in the Old Testament as a divine response to human sin and
injustice. When the Israelites complained to God at Taberah, ―the anger of the Lord blazed hotly‖ (Num. 11:10
RSV) Later, God reminded the people of various such experiences and warned, ―Remember and do not forget
how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness.‖ (Deut. 9:7 NRSV) Idolatry became the
occasion for divine wrath also. Psalm 78:56-66 describes Israel‘s idolatry: God was ―full of wrath,‖ ―utterly
rejected Israel,‖ and ―gave his people to the sword.‖ The wrath of God is consistently directed towards those
who do not follow His will. (Deut. 1:26-46; Josh. 7:1; Ps. 2:1-6) Historical calamity and disaster were to be
expected when God was stirred to anger. God was wrathful over Saul‘s disobedience: ―Because you did not
obey the voice of the Lord, and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, ... the Lord will also give
the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines‖ (1 Sam. 28:18-19 NRSV).
The Old Testament often speaks of a ―day‖ coming in the future which will be ―The great day of the Lord... a
day of wrath‖ (Zeph. 1:14-15 NRSV). Isaiah spoke of ―the day of the Lord‖ as ―cruel, with wrath and fierce
anger‖ (Isa. 13:9 NRSV) This day referred to the present day of judgment in history, as when the Assyrians
conquered Israel; but it also calls to mind a future day of final judgment at the end time when all will be called
to give account to God.
The wrath of God was viewed in fear and awe. Yet God provided a way to gain divine favor. Repentance turns
God‘s wrath away from the sinner. The psalmist reminded God that He had in times past forgiven the iniquity
of His people and withdrawn all of His wrath (Ps. 85:1-3). Jesus affirmed the Old Testament teaching about
11 | P a g e
such a day. He predicted a day that will come at an unknown time when ―the earth will pass away‖ (Mark
13:31; compare the entire chapter).
New Testament: Jesus‘ teaching supports the concept of God the Father as a God of wrath who judges sin
and justice. The story of the rich man and Lazarus shows the rich man in Hades in torment and anguish (Luke
16:19-31). The story definitely speaks of the judgment of God and implies that there are serious consequences
for the sinner. In Luke 13:3, 5 (NRSV) Jesus said, ―Unless you repent, you will all perish.‖ John 15:1-11 warns
that the unfruitful branches are to be ―gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned‖ (John 15:6 NRSV;
compare Matt. 3:7).
God‘s wrath is restrained, held back from its full and final effect. John 3:36 (NRSV) records Jesus‘ saying
―Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure
God‘s wrath.‖ The grace of God, His unmerited favor, holds the full effect of wrath back at the same time that
wrath ―rests upon‖ the sinner.
In Romans 2:5 (NRSV), Paul spoke to those who do not repent of their sin, warning that ―by your hard and
impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God‘s righteous judgment will
be revealed.‖ The image of wrath being restrained for some future release is truly awe-inspiring. However,
the Christian has no fear of this day, since 1 Thessalonians says that Jesus ―rescues us from the wrath that is
coming.‖ (1 Thess. 1:10 NRSV). The instruments of God‘s wrath may be angels (Rev. 15:1, 7), nations, kings,
and rulers as well as natural catastrophes.
Human wrath is always suspect. We are instructed by Paul not to take revenge (Rom. 12:19), nor to ―let the sun
go down on your anger‖ (Eph. 4:26 NRSV). Fathers should not provoke children to wrath (Eph. 6:4). We must
rid ourselves of ―all such things—anger, wrath, malice‖ (Col. 3:8 NRSV). The Old Testament psalms of lament
such as Psalms 53; 137 show how humans can freely express their anger to God.
To realize this freedom from the domination of wrath, the gracious work of the Holy Spirit is needed to sanctify
and cleanse the heart of the attitudes and feelings of wrath and anger. Romans 8 pictures the mind filled by
the Spirit which is ―life and peace‖ (Rom. 8:6 NRSV). Such a spirit is no longer a slave of anger and wrath but
is yielded ―to righteousness for sanctification‖ (Rom. 6:19 NRSV). There is no need to continue in the fleshly
spirit of wrath for the Holy Spirit provides inner peace (Phil. 4:4-8).
12 | P a g e
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:
Righteousness In Pauline Thought
By Joe Beckler, a church planter and resort minister in Durango, Colorado.
Paul offered an understanding of righteousness that honored the complete story of Scripture, reaching all the
way back to the roots of Judaism.
ENVISION WRITING A LETTER to people you have never met. That was the apostle Paul‘s challenge when
writing to believers in Rome. He was writing an audience he knew only through others‘ words. Certainly, he
wondered what he should write to this gathering of believers in ancient Rome.
Paul, in this epistle to the Roman church, offered a brilliant explanation of the Christian faith. In a world of
varying religious viewpoints, Paul wrote the Book of Romans with a clear mandate to clarify exactly what
happened in the historical life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Roots in Judaism
Paul‘s words in Romans show a journey of understanding. As a devoted Jew of the highest degree, Paul had to
reconcile what happened in his life before and after he met Jesus. As a Pharisee, his spiritual journey was most
certainly connected to a vibrant religious heritage. Because of Jesus, Paul‘s theology, including his
understanding of ―righteousness,‖ had changed.
In the Book of Romans, ―righteous‖ is a prevailing theme. Paul offered an explanation of righteousness that
honored the complete story of Scripture, reaching all the way back to the roots of Judaism. He wanted
followers of Jesus to understand how righteousness, as related to the work of Jesus, completed the story. Jesus‘
work was not an awkward interruption. Rather, it was an act of fulfillment. The Roman church, Paul‘s target
audience for this epistle, was likely a mix of Jews and Gentiles.1
To Jewish recipients of this letter, Paul wanted to show how the righteousness that Jesus graced upon believers
was not in contradiction to the story of God‘s work with Israel. At the same time, as an apostle to the Gentiles,
Paul was writing to show how Jesus brought Jews and Gentiles together through one gospel message.
Righteousness is a word with many meanings. ―You are so self-righteous!‖ for example, suggests piety and that
someone thinks he/she is morally or spiritually better than others. Sometimes the term separates people into
categories of ―good‖ and ―bad.‖ Paul‘s use of ―righteousness,‖ on the other hand, was far from any selfgenerated sense of piety. Instead, he understood the word in terms of his Hebrew heritage in the midst of the
Greco-Roman world. In Paul‘s day, people held competing understandings of what righteousness meant. The
same is true today. Through the centuries, Christian theologians have had a long-continued debate over the
theological understanding of righteousness.2
In the New Testament dikaiosune is the Greek word meaning righteousness. Generally, dikaiosune means:
God‘s requirements, that which is considered right, uprightness, righteousness, justice, making something right,
putting something or someone in right relationship, religious duties, as well as charitable acts.3
13 | P a g e
Dikaiosune has its root in the word dike, which refers to justice and punishment. For the Greeks, Dike was the
name of the goddess of justice. The New Testament writers used the term four times, generally referring to
punishment and justice (Acts 25:15; 28:4; 2 Thess. 1:9; Jude 1:7).4
Paul‘s understanding of righteousness would have been filtered through his Jewish lineage heritage, an
understanding that went back to the patriarchs. In Genesis 15:6, God credited Abram with righteousness
(Hebrew, tsedaqah). Righteousness in the Hebrew understanding carried parallel meaning to that of the Greek,
focusing on ―what is right, just, normal.‖5
The Greeks viewed righteousness in a Platonic ideal sense. It was the standard against which a person
measured himself. In a sense, righteousness referred to the perfect model of what was right, fair, and virtuous.
In contrast, the Hebrew understanding of righteousness was relational. Righteousness came as a result of
meeting obligations in a relationship.6 God was in relationship with the people of Israel. To keep the law
meant they remained righteous (or in right standing) with respect to their relationship with God.
Judaism honored the law. To keep the law was to fulfill one‘s obligation, resulting in a state of righteousness
before God. The dilemma, as Paul explained, was that the law could never be maintained (Rom. 3:21-26). All
fell short of God‘s ideal. Thus, Paul was not simply concerned with his readers maintaining a proper
understanding of Judaism and righteousness. He wanted to show how the expectations had changed through
Jesus, who had brought about a revolutionary fulfillment in understanding righteousness. As Paul wrote, ―Apart
from the law, God‘s righteousness has been revealed‖ (v. 21, HCSB).
Paul, combating those who wanted to morph Jesus‘ way back into the folds of Judaism, knew he needed to
show the uniqueness of Jesus in relationship to righteousness. To do this, Paul reached lack into the origins of
his Jewish story, referring to Abram, as mentioned above.7 Being Israel‘s patriarch, Abram was alive before
God gave Moses the law. As Paul pointed out, God credited Abram as righteous (or in right standing) as a
result of simply believing. Abram‘s faith in God was enough. God bestowed righteousness (tsedaqah). Abram
did not earn this. It was a gift.
Revealed in Jesus
Paul wanted his audience to understand that God‘s righteous standards had not changed. However, human
ability to merit this ―right standing‖ was impossible. The human sin condition merited death (6:23). Something
had to be done. A gift of righteousness, bestowed by God onto people, was essential. Jesus was the gift of
righteousness. Anyone trusting Jesus, God credited as righteous!
The beauty of Paul‘s description of righteousness is that it clarifies who can truly make someone righteous
(dikaios). It is exclusively an act of God. Being made righteous is God‘s work in a person‘s life. This
righteousness dominates the life of a Jesus follower, because God‘s righteousness is not under human control.
Bestowed by God, righteousness is worked out in the life of a believer who submits himself or herself to Jesus.8
Paul used the metaphor of slavery to emphasize the work of God‘s righteousness in a believer (6:18). He
explained that a follower of Jesus is ―enslaved to righteousness.‖ Using the image of slavery, Paul creatively
introduced the reality of Christian freedom. The believer, when enslaved to God, is purchased for freedom!9
14 | P a g e
As a slave to righteousness, Paul explained God emancipates the believer. The Lord redeems the believer,
resulting in eternal life.10
If you meditate on Paul‘s life, you see a man radically transformed because of a personal encounter with Jesus.
Paul, who once struggled to achieve righteousness according to the law, wrote that such merit was rubbish
compared to knowing Jesus (Phil. 3:2-9). Writing to believers in Rome, Paul wanted Christians to know that
the righteousness he embraced was God‘s gift. He was a slave, enslaved to God‘s work of righteousness within
his own life. The same is true for us. Both Abram and Paul were credited with righteousness, because of faith.
Likewise, Jesus invites us to trust in Him in the same way and be make righteous by God‘s power alone!
RIGHTEOUS and GOOD: There was a Difference!
By George R. Beasley-Murray, professor of New Testament interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological
WORDS, like coins, get worn and bent, and so they tend to lose their distinguishing marks. In ordinary
conversation the words ―righteous‖ and ―good‖ are used more or less interchangeably. It is not surprising,
therefore, that in Roget’s Thesaurus ―righteousness‖ and ―goodness‖ occur next to each other as synonyms.
Yet there is a distinction between the two words, as people of various cultures and different ages have
recognized. Generally speaking, the righteous man is looked on as one who measures up to the requirements
laid down by the society in which he lives; He abides by the law and stands for the maintenance of law and
order. The good man is one who is acknowledged as embodying excellence of character. His ―goodness‖
inheres in himself.
In Paul‘s time pagans and Jews alike would have recognized the two types of man, though the Jew had a
distinctive conviction that vitally affected such matters: The law a man should keep is God‘s, and goodness is
shown by good deeds, especially those done to one‘s neighbor (that is, one‘s fellow Jew). The Bible also taught
the Jew that God is the supremely righteous one, and that in the ultimate sense God alone is good.
However, what for the Jew was an item of doctrine was for Paul the foundation of good news that was to be
blazoned throughout the world: God‘s unique righteousness and God‘s solitary goodness were finally and
completely manifested in the redemptive death and resurrection of Christ, and sinners everywhere are invited to
share in that righteousness and to receive the Spirit who is the fount of goodness.
In Romans 5:7, though, Paul confines himself to the everyday use of ―righteous‖ and good.‖ The phenomenon
is well known of the man who conforms to law but is as hard as nails. Paul knew it all too well, and he knew
that others would know it too. Happily, there is also the kind of man whose good-heartedness is equally
transparent. The Pharisee comes to mind to illustrate the former, and the Good Samaritan to exemplify the
Had Paul chosen to expand the idea they could have given some interesting examples from Jewish learning of
the difference between the two words. The rabbis, for example, distinguished between the perfectly righteous
15 | P a g e
man, the ordinarily righteous man (his good deeds and misdeeds balanced each other) and the godless man who
did not keep the law at all.
On this basis, a description of four kinds of men is given in the collection known as ―The Sayings of the
Fathers.‖ The man who says, ―What is mine is mine, and what is yours is yours,‖ is a righteous man (the
average type!). He who says, ―Mine is yours, and yours is mine,‖ is without knowledge (He is one of the
common herd who does not know the law!). He who says, ―Mine is mine, and yours is mine,‖ is a godless man.
But he who says, ―Mine is yours, and yours is yours,‖ is a truly pious man.
Paul‘s distinction between the righteous man and the generously good man is uncommonly close to the
comparison between the first and last of those four men. If you reflect on the comparison, though, that
similarity is dwarfed. The distance is great between the attitudes toward the four types in the rabbinic sayings
and the two types in Paul‘s statement. The ignorant are disdained (as in John 7:49, a classic instance of the
mind of rabbinism) and the godless are rejected (as the man who prizes legalism must do).
But Paul has a new insight to declare. Everyone acknowledges that for a person to give his life for the
ordinarily righteous man is not a very likely proposition – especially if he is of the sort who keeps not only the
law, but his distance from everybody else. Yet people have been known to make the supreme sacrifice for
others, an act that surely is understandable when it is for a good and beloved man. But God‘s love stands
matchlessly revealed in that he gave his Son for a world of sinners who flout his law and act like his enemies.
That‘s an incomprehensible love.
But that‘s the love for you and me!
By John D. Duncan, Pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church, Granbury, Texas.
PEOPLE WHO TRAVEL INTERNATIONALLY exchange their national currency for money native to the
land in which they travel. The traveler proceeds to a clerk‘s window, discovers the rate of exchange, and places
money on the counter for the clerk. The clerk counts the money. The clerk returns with a correct amount of
money to the traveler based on the exchange rate. The traveler now possesses money native to the land. This
common currency sets him free to barter and buy on the open market.
The apostle Paul used the word translated ―reconciliation‖ (katallasso) in the same sense. The word powerfully
depicts a key experience of the Christian life, namely, the exchange of one value for another – one life for
another. Reconciliation is God‘s activity that makes a person its object, thus uniting tow otherwise estranged
beings through spiritual exchange.1 Christ‘s death, burial, and resurrection is His activity of exchange. An
individual‘s reception of Christ‘s Person and work is the spiritual exchange that reconciles a person to God.
Reconciliation sets a person free. Where does reconciliation have its roots?
Reconciliation comes from two Greek words. One word is kata translated ―down,‖ or ―according to.‖ The
other word is allasso translated change. Reconciliation combines these words to indicate a change according to
16 | P a g e
something or an object placed down for exchange. Ordinary secular Greeks used the word in the technical
sense of exchanging money, the exchange of coins for others of equal value.2
The word ―reconciliation‖ cannot be traced specifically from Hebrew descent, but the Hebrew word translated
―cover‖ (kapar) lends understanding to the New Testament idea of reconciliation. A ransom covered God‘s
people with protection and atonement in their wilderness journeys (Ex. 30:12-16). Moses interceded for the
Israelites because they made a golden calf. He aimed to cover their sin by making atonement (Ex. 32:30).
―Cover‖ (kapar) may derive from a Babylonian root meaning, ―wash away.‖3 ―Cover‖ forms the background of
The Greek Septuagint (LXX) is a translation of the Old Testament into Greek. The LXX translates Isaiah‘s
beautiful message of the coming Messiah as a light that bursts into the darkness. Joy multiplies with the coming
Messiah. A yoke of burden breaks. Although modern translations such as the King James Version and the New
International Version only give the idea, the LXX uses the word reconciliation (katallagays < katallasso) in
Isaiah 9:5. It describes restitution and victory over the enemy. The new child would make right what once was
wrong and advance spiritual reconciliation. Isaiah (9:6) announced the names of reconciliation: Wonderful
Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. This reconciliation implies God‘s action.
History records the common Greek usage of ―reconciliation.‖ The Greek historian Xenophon (430-355 B.C.)
detailed Cyrus the Younger‘s military escapade against the Persian Emperor Artaxerxes in 401 B.C. Cyrus
enlisted men to help with his attempted conquest. One recruit (revealed in Xenophon‘s Anabasis, his account of
―going up‖ to war) fought as a companion to Cyrus. Xenophon wrote how this particular recruit, Orontes, once
plotted against Cyrus and battled Cyrus. Orontes reconciled (katallasso) with Cyrus, thus fighting with Cyrus‘s
foot-soldiers and horsemen.4 Enemies became co-laborers and friends serving beside each other. Reconciliation
indicates the coming together for a common cause.
The Greek biographer Plutarch (A.D. 46-120) wrote about four Syrian brothers who were in Corinth. Three of
the brothers stole gold from a king. They disposed of some gold; then one of the brothers, Erginus, quietly
made visits to a banker to exchange the gold into money.5 The concept of reconciliation is built on the process
The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37-100), unveiled the story of a Levite man from the tribe of
Ephraim. He married a woman of Bethlehem from the tribe of Judah. Her beauty attracted him; he loved his
wife passionately. Their marriage struggled, however, because she did not return similar affections. They
quarreled. The quarrels increased, becoming perpetual. Frustrated, she returned to her parents to live with them
four months into the marriage. The husband and wife later reconciled.6 Reconciliation restores a bond once
Second Maccabees in the Apocrypha placed the idea of reconciliation in the context of a wish for God to hear
prayers (1:5). Second Maccabees also displayed reconciliation as God‘s work after His people‘s sin (7:33).
The Hebrew people sinned. God put His hand of punishment on them. The people suffered because of sin.
God treated the people harshly to chastise them, to correct them from sin (7:33). Then He reconciled with His
servants. Reconciliation pardons a wrong, granting favor to those once estranged.
17 | P a g e
The apostle Paul drew on the richness of the meaning of reconciliation. Romans 5:10 addresses reconciliation
as what God has done in Christ. Enemies of God become friends with God through the death of Jesus Christ.
An individual who believes in Christ is saved by the life of Christ. Reconciliation changes one‘s status (to
being a friend). It saves one‘s life. Reconciliation comes through Christ‘s action on the cross.
Paul used the word translated ―reconciliation‖ to describe the return of a woman to her husband after she
departed from him (1 Cor. 7:11). Reconciliation falls in line with Flavius Josephus‘s story of the Levite man
mentioned earlier. The reunion constituted an act of reconciliation.
The key for Paul‘s meaning of reconciliation finds its climax in Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:11 – 6:2. Paul drew
on contemporary use of the word in his day. He revealed God as One who reconciles us. God exchanges one
value for another. He exchanges the fleshly life for the spiritual life. He exchanges the old life for the new.
Old things pass away in Christ; all things become new (2 Cor. 5:17). Humankind‘s rebellion against God and
God‘s wrath against sin lay behind the veil of Christ‘s reconciling work.7 God‘s act of reconciliation covers sin.
His work of reconciliation proceeds from Him and returns to Him – starts and finishes with Him.8
Reconciliation invites the alienated sinner to God through Jesus. In a sense, an enemy becomes a friend
because of Christ. But the theme of reconciliation is not complete apart from the drawing power of
reconciliation: God‘s love. Alienation and love appear contradictory; but God‘s love lays a foundation for a
person‘s reconciliation to God, against whom he or she has sinned.9 Reconciliation unites the believer in a bond
with Christ. Reconciliation in Christ brings together what could never come together were it not for the
sacrificial death of Christ. Walls of alienation fall. God‘s love builds new structures, spiritual structures that
recreate the inner man. Reconciliation becomes a personal exchange in us. Since the inner person is exchanged
into a new life, what is the external result of God‘s act of reconciliation?
The result of God‘s personal work in your life is the gift of His reconciliation. Blessed by this gift, you offer
the gift of reconciliation to others. Paul called this the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-19). The ministry
of reconciliation involves looking at people in the darkness of sin. You recognize their need for a new life.
You clearly see their need for a covering or washing away of sin. Their needs compel you to concentrate on
God‘s love for them, even as He loved you through His act of reconciliation through Christ. In this process,
God gives you a ministry of reconciliation.
The ministry of reconciliation challenges you to share the good news of God‘s reconciling the world to Himself
(2 Cor. 5:19). God commits to us the word or message of reconciliation. The ministry of reconciliation
emerges as the ministry of evangelism.10 When God offered reconciliation to the whole world, He divinely
acted on the cross in a ministry of evangelism. When a person speaks a word of reconciliation, the ministry of
reconciliation actively seeks to make God‘s enemies become His friends.
Ultimately, God‘s act of reconciliation pardons wrongs, extending grace to those once separated from Him.
The pardon creates a spiritual exchange from an old person to a new one. The exchange creates a new, abiding,
spiritual bond. Reconciled persons walk as companions of Christ. They serve the common cause of Christ.
18 | P a g e
They grow in understanding of God‘s work of reconciliation: the cross. They share a word of reconciliation.
God through Christ and His Spirit completes the cycle in one life, only to start again in another.
Reconciliation adds eternal value to life. The exchange shines through believers like the sparkle of a newly
minted coin. Has reconciliation created an exchange in you? Do you have a ministry of reconciliation?
By Jerry M. Windsor, associate professor of preaching, The Baptist College of Florida, Graceville, Florida.
THERE WERE TWO TIMES in my life when I should have been fired from my job and was not. One was
when I worked in the display-advertising department of a large daily newspaper. In the rush of meeting a daily
deadline, I switched the newspaper advertisements of the two largest grocery competitors in town. The mistake
never went to press, but had it not been for a sharp proofreader, my major error could have caused great harm to
our newspaper and the grocery store accounts.
My other serious misdeed was when I worked at a bakery. Due to a mix-up on my part, other employees had to
cover for me and the whole department suffered because of my mistake.
In both cases, my supervisors talked with me, corrected me, and retained me. I deserved to be fired both times,
but my supervisors saved me.
The apostle Paul knew something about favors granted for no logical reason. In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul
spoke of the grace of God that is foundational to God‘s redemptive plan for people. A helpful insight about
Ephesians is that it probably was a general letter intended for all the churches of the Roman province of Asia.
The oldest documents of this letter do not have ―in Ephesus‖ in 1:1, indicating that the letter was a general and
circular letter for all the churches and not just the church in Ephesus. A. T. Robertson pointed out in his Word
Pictures in the New Testament that perhaps the original copy had no place name in 1:1 but only a plank space.1
Therefore; we gladly and legitimately place the name of our own church in that space as we realize these great
truths are valid for us today also.
Ephesians is a theological treatise, a practical letter, and a devotional writing. The theme of Ephesians is that
God is working out His great plan of redemption by calling men and women to Christ and thereby forming a
redeemed society. The redeemed are God‘s heritage, God‘s building, God‘s body, and God‘s elect.
God has blessed us (Eph. 1:3). God has chosen us (v. 4). The Lord God has predestinated us (v. 5) and by
grace has made us acceptable (v. 6) to Himself. He has redeemed us in Christ Jesus (v. 7) and has forgiven us
of our sins (v. 7). He has made His will known to us (v. 11) and sealed us to Himself (vv.13-14).
Paul could not help but burst out into a praise prayer of intercession for the church (vv. 15-19) as believers
came under the authority of the resurrected Christ. The sweep of God‘s grace included Jews and Gentiles,
heaven and earth, past and present, and ages to come (vv. 20-23). The church is filled with the spirit of Christ
under the headship, authority, and lordship of Christ.
19 | P a g e
We are all saved by grace alone, faith alone, and Christ alone. There are not three plans of salvation. The Old
Testament, New Testament, and present testimony of God‘s Spirit is that grace and faith are given and received
in Christ Jesus.
The word grace is a foundational word in this first chapter of Ephesians. Paul stated that it is a glorious grace
(v. 6), a great grace (v. 7), and a given grace (v. 8). The word charis is the New Testament word for ―grace‖ in
this first chapter and it means ―divine favor and mercy.‖ Grace is especially associated with freeness and
spontaneity. The term is in contrast to works and debt.
W. E. Vine pointed out in his dictionary of biblical words that in Ephesians 1:6, grace is freely given; not
earned, but received as one who has been unexpectedly bestowed or given a favor.2
Grace is not easily understood. We live in a tradition and a culture where we feel we have to ―earn‖ all rewards
and favors. Our society teaches us that work brings rewards and effort and energy are paid off by perks,
salaries, and bonuses.
Farmers could teach us a lesson. They plant one grain of corn, and it brings forth a stalk that may have 5 ears of
corn and 700 grains of corn per ear. The one grain is multiplied by the gifts of good soil, sunshine, and rain.
God‘s grace brings multiplied fruit even after human efforts have been laid by.
Paul felt God‘s grace in a personal way. He wanted the readers of his letter to experience the joy of knowing
Christ as Savior (v. 6-8) and Lord in all of life. God‘s grace was given in election (vv. 1-6), salvation (vv.7-10),
calling (vv. 11-14), and lordship (vv. 15-23). This was a comprehensive plan from before creation (v. 4)
throughout all of eternity (v. 21).
In 1989, I heard Colonel Nimrod McNair speak at the Governor‘s Prayer Breakfast in Tallahassee, Florida. He
stated that many things had happened to him in life, and he felt he needed to wear a sign around his neck and
said, ―I am under consturuction.‖3
Grace does not leave us alone. In the salutation of Ephesians, Paul gave us the Father‘s voice (vv. 1-2). Paul
then told us the Father‘s choice (vv. 3-6). Next, Paul wrote of the Father‘s plan (vv. 7-10), then the Father‘s
mind (vv. 11-14), and His ministry (vv. 15-23). God is actively working on our behalf. He works through the
redemptive ministry of the Lord Jesus and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. This is done on the basis of
divine choice and not human merit. Grace works freely, profoundly, and absolutely.
Thomas A. Dorsey wrote the hymn ―Precious Lord, Take My Hand.‖ He and gospel singer Willie Mac Ford
Smith sang and recorded a lesser known but very moving gospel song entitled ―Jesus Dropped the Charges.‖
This is what grace is all about. It is sin denounced and Christ uplifted. Paul knew the glory of that kind of
grace and prayed that all believers might experience it in Christ.
Grace must always precede peace (v. 2). We cannot know God‘s peace until we have personally experienced
God‘s grace. Paul had come to know God through Jesus, and he wanted to share with everyone the great
blessings that God‘s grace brings.
20 | P a g e
Paul then went into a litany of spiritual rewards that come from God‘s favor and grace. There is the work of
God the Father, ―to the praise of his glorious grace‖ (v. 6, NIV). There is the work of the Son, ―for the praise of
his glory‖ (v. 12, NIV), and the work of the Spirit, ―to the praise of his glory‖ (v. 14, NIV). This is not the
Trinity in theory, but the Trinity in action.
God chose to act before the creation of the world. All is to the praise of His glory.4
There are at least nine spiritual blessings that come to each of us in Jesus (vv. 3-14). We do not earn these
blessings any more than we earn Christmas gifts or birthday gifts, but these are given by Christ to all believers.
By His grace He has blesses us (v. 3). By His grace, He has chosen us (v. 4). He has also predestinated us (v.
5) and made us acceptable (v. 6). The Lord Jesus has redeemed us (v. 7), forgiven us (v. 7), and made His will
known to us (v. 9). Our Lord has given us an inheritance (vv. 11, 14) and has sealed us in the Holy Spirit *v.
The gifts or blessings of God‘s grace are contrary to our laws of logic and reason. We have difficulty accepting
God‘s grace because we know we are unacceptable. No amount of self-analysis or self-esteem seminars can get
us over the hump of feeling as if we have sinned, fallen short, and failed. We throw away broken things
because we lack the time, interest, skill, and desire to fox them. We discard broken things but God collects
broken people. Paul saw that only grace could bring the miracles of election, redemption, and eternal
fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Grace is unmerited. By its definition the New Testament, word for ―grace‖ means ―undeserved.‖ No one has
earned God‘s grace. B. F. Westcoff stated that Paul never used charis to speak of human grace.6
Grace is unmotivated. No one and no thing prompted God to choose us. Christ chose us in the redemptive plan
of God before the foundation of the earth. God‘s plan and not man‘s actions motivated the work of the cross.
Grace is unmatched. There is nothing like it. Paul challenged the Christians in Ephesus and other churches to
live differently and be different because God‘s grace is sufficient to save and bring peace in a hurting society.
Grace is unmoved. Grace is not temporary. Grace is not capricious. Grace is not transient. Grace is stable and
Paul wrote Ephesians from some kind of imprisonment or confinement. Yet in the Lord Jesus, he experienced
grace and peace that passes all understanding.
21 | P a g e