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Commentary to Romans 5

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  1. 1. 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.‖ 1|Page
  2. 2. 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 more (5:20). Romans 5:6-8 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 God‖ (5:1). 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 2|Page
  3. 3. 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. 3|Page
  4. 4. 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 free. 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. Romans 5:9-11 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 obtain salvation. 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. 4|Page
  5. 5. 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 own. Romans 5:18-21 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 more 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 5|Page
  6. 6. 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 6|Page
  7. 7. 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 moral. 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 7|Page
  8. 8. 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 faith. 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 purpose, because: 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 8|Page
  9. 9. God you have received. Write down a specific action you will take, and then do it. DIGGING DEEPER: 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 might love.‖1 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 9|Page
  10. 10. 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
  11. 11. 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 God. 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
  12. 12. 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
  13. 13. 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
  14. 14. 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
  15. 15. 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 Seminary. 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 latter. 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
  16. 16. 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! RECONCILIATION 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
  17. 17. 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 reconciliation. 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 of exchange. 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 broken. 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
  18. 18. 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
  19. 19. 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? GRACE 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
  20. 20. 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
  21. 21. 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. 13).5 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 sure. 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