Justification by Faith AloneArticles and Links to the doctrine of Justification - the Pillar by which the Church Stands or Falls
Romans Chapter 5 Part 1 by Charles Hodge
ROMANS CHAPTER 5:1-11
FROM VERSE 1 TO 11, INCLUSIVE, THE APOSTLE DEDUCES SOME OF THE MORE OBVIOUS AND CONSOLATORY INFERENCES FROM THE DOCTRINE OF GRATUITOUS JUSTIFICATION. FROM THE 12TH VERSE TO THE END, HE ILLUSTRATES HIS GREAT PRINCIPLE OF THE IMPUTATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, OR THE REGARDING AND TREATING THE MANY AS RIGHTEOUS, ON ACCOUNT OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF ONE MAN, CHRIST JESUS, BY A REFERENCE TO THE FALL OF ALL MEN IN ADAM.
THE first consequence of justification by faith is, that we have peace with God, ver. 1. The second, that we have not only a sense of his present favor, but assurance of future glory, ver. 2. The third, that our afflictions, instead of being inconsistent with the divine favor, are made directly conducive to the confirmation of our hope; the Holy Spirit bearing witness to the fact that we are the objects of the love of God, verses 3-5. The fourth, the certainty of the final salvation of all believers. This is argued from the freeness and greatness of the divine love; its freeness being manifested in its exercise towards the unworthy: and its greatness, in the gift of the Son of God, verses 6-10. Salvation is not merely a future though certain good, it is a present and abundant joy, verse 11.
VERSE 1. Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God; that is, we are reconciled to God. We are no longer the objects of God’s displeasure, his favor having been propitiated by the death of his Son, ver. 10. As a consequence of this reconciliation, we have conscious peace with God, that is, we have neither any longer the present upbraidings of an unappeased conscience, nor the dread of divine vengeance. Both these ideas are included in the peace here spoken of. The latter, however, is altogether the more prominent. The phrase eirhnhn eirhnhn ecomen proV ton Qeon, we have peace in regard to God, properly means, God is at peace with us, his orgh (wrath) towards us is removed. It expresses, as Philippi says, “not a state of mind, but a relation to God.” It is that relation which arises from the expiation of sin, and consequently justification. We are no longer his enemies, in the objective sense of the term (see ver. 10), but are the objects of his favor. The whole context still treats of reconciliation and propitiation, of the removal of the wrath of God by the death of his Son, and not of inward sanctification. It is true that the immediate and certain effect of God’s reconciliation to us is our reconciliation to him. If he is at peace with us, we have inward peace. Conscience is only the reflection of his countenance, the echo, often feeble and indistinct, often terribly clear and unmistakable, of his judgment; and therefore subjective peace uniformly attends faith in the love of God, or assurance of our justification. Although, therefore, the primary idea of the apostle is, that God is at peace with us, it is nevertheless true that inward tranquility of mind is the fruit of justification by faith. It is peculiarly an evangelical doctrine, that pious affections are the fruit of this reconciliation to God, and not the cause of it. Paul says this peace is the result of justification by faith. He who relies on his works for justification, can have no peace. He can neither remove the displeasure of God, nor quiet the apprehension of punishment. Peace is not the result of mere gratuitous forgiveness, but of justification, of a reconciliation founded upon atonement. The enlightened conscience is never satisfied until it sees that God can be just in justifying the ungodly; that sin has been punished, the justice of God satisfied, his law honored and vindicated. It is when he thus sees justice and mercy embracing each other, that the believer has that peace which passes all understanding; that sweet quiet of the soul in which deep humility, in view of personal unworthiness, is mingled with the warmest gratitude to that Savior by whose blood God’s justice has been satisfied, and conscience appeased. Hence Paul says we have this peace through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not through ourselves in any way, neither by our own merit, nor our own efforts. It is all of grace. It is all through Jesus Christ. And this the justified soul is ever anxious to acknowledge. “Pacem habemus. Singulalis justitiae fidei fructus. Nam siquis ab operibus conscientiae securitatem petere velit, (quod in profanis et brutis hominibus cernitur,) frustra id tentabit. Aut enim contemptu vel oblivione Divini judicii sopitum est pectus, aut trepidatione ac formidine quoque plenum est, donec in Christum recubuerit. Ipse enim solus est pax nostra. Pax ergo conscientiae serenitatem significat, quae es eo nascitur, quod Deum sibi reconciliatum sentit.” Calvin.
VERSE 2. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace, etc. This verse admits of different interpretations. According to one view, it introduces a new and higher benefit than peace with God, as the consequence of our justification: ‘We have not only peace, but access (to God), and joyful confidence of salvation.’ Besides other objections to this interpretation, it overlooks the difference between ecomen and eschkamen, rendering both, we have: ‘We have peace, and we have access;’ whereas eschkamen is properly, we have had. This clause, therefore, instead of indicating an additional and higher blessing than the peace spoken of in ver. 1, expresses the ground of that peace: ‘We have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom also we have had access into this grace.’ So Meyer, Philippi, etc. ‘We are indebted to Christ not only for peace, but also for access to this grace, (this state of justification,) which is the ground of our peace.’ The word prosagwgh means either introduction or access. In Ephesians 2:18; and 3:12, it has the latter meaning, which may be retained here. In both the other places in which it occurs, it is used of access to God. Many commentators so understand it in this place, and therefore put a comma after eschkamen, and connect pistei with eiV thn carin tauthn. The sense would then be, ‘Through whom also we have had access to God, by faith on this grace.’ The objections to this explanation are, that it supposes an omission in the text, and that the expression “faith on the grace,” has no scriptural analogy. The obviously natural construction is to connect prosagwghn with eiV thn carin tauthn, as is done in our version, and by the great majority of commentators, and to take th pistei instrumentally, by faith. The grace to which we have access, or into which we have been introduced, is the state of justification. The fact, therefore, that we are justified, we, rather than others, is not due to anything in us. We did not open the way, or introduce ourselves into this state. We were brought into it by Christ. “Accessûs quidem nomine initium salutis a Christo esse docens, preparationes excludit, quibus stulti homines Dei misericordiam se antevertere putant; acsi diceret, Christum nihil promeritis obviam venire manumque porrigere.” Calvin. In which we stand. The antecedent of the relative (h) is not pistei, but carin; in which grace we stand; that is, we are firm; and immovably established. So in John 8:44, it is said of Satan, that he stood not (ouc esthken) in the truth, did not remain steadfast therein. 1 Corinthians 15:1, “Wherein ye stand,” 2 Corinthians 1:24. The state, therefore, into which the believer is introduced by Christ, is not a precarious one. He has not only firm ground on which to stand, but he has strength divinely imparted to enable him to keep his foothold. And rejoice in hope of the glory of God. The word kaucaomai is one of Paul’s favorite terms. It properly means to talk of one’s self, to praise one’s self, to boast; then to congratulate one’s self, to speak of ourselves as glorious or blessed; and then to felicitate ourselves in anything as a ground of confidence and source of honor and blessedness. Men are commanded not to glory (kaucasqai) in themselves, or in men, or in the flesh, but in God alone. In this passage the word may be rendered, to rejoice, ‘we rejoice in hope.’ Still something more than mere joy is intended. It is a glorying, a self-felicitation and exultation, in view of the exaltation and blessedness which Christ has secured for us. In hope of the glory of God. The object or ground of the rejoicing or boasting expressed by this verb is indicated here by epi; commonly, in the New Testament, the matter of the boasting is indicated by en, sometimes by uper and peri.
The glory of God may mean that glory which God gives, or that glory which he possesses. In either case, it refers to the exaltation and blessedness secured to the believer, who is to share in the glory of his divine Redeemer. “The glory which thou gavest me,” said our Lord, “I have given them,” John 7:22. There is a joyful confidence expressed in these words, an assurance of ultimate salvation, which is the appropriate effect of justification. We are authorized and bound to feel sure that, having through Jesus Christ been reconciled to God, we shall certainly be saved. This is only a becoming confidence in the merit of his sacrifice, and in the sincerity of God’s love. This confidence is not founded on ourselves, neither on the preposterous idea that we deserve the favor of God, nor the equally preposterous idea that we have in ourselves strength to persevere in faith or obedience. Our confidence is solely on the merit of Christ, and the gratuitous and infinite love of God. Although this assurance is the legitimate effect of reconciliation, and the want of it is evidence of weakness, still in this, as in other respects, the actual state of the believer generally falls far short of the ideal. He ever lives below his privileges, and goes limping and halting, when he should mount up as with the wings of the eagle. Still it is important for him to know that assurance is not an unseemly presumption, but a privilege and duty. “Hic evertuntur,” says Calvin, “pestilentissima duo sophistarum dogmata, alterum, quo jubent Christianos esse contentos conjectura morali in percipienda erga se Dei gratia, alterum, quo tradunt olunes esse incertos finalis perseverentiae. Atqui nisi et certa in praesens intelligentia, et in futurum constans ac minime dubia sit persuasio, quis gloriari auderet?”
VERSES 3, 4. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also. Not only dowe rejoice in this hope of future glory, but we glory in tribulations also.Since our relation to God is changed, the relation of all things to us ischanged. Afflictions, which before were the expressions of God’sdispleasure, are now the benevolent and beneficent manifestations of hislove. And instead of being inconsistent with our filial relation to him, theyserve to prove that he regards and loves us as his children; Romans 8:18;Hebrews 12:6. Tribulations, therefore, although for the present not joyous,but grievous, become to the believer matter of joy and thankfulness. The words kaucwmeqa en taiV qliyesin do not mean that we glory in themidst of afflictions, but on account of them. They are themselves thematter or ground of the glorying. So the Jews are said to glory (en) in thelaw, others glory in men, the believer glories in the Lord; so constantly. Afflictions themselves are to the Christian a ground of glorying; he feelsthem to be an honor and a blessing. This is a sentiment often expressed inthe word of God. Our Lord says, “Blessed are they who mourn;” “Blessed are the persecuted;” “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you.” He callson his suffering disciples to rejoice and be exceeding glad when they areafflicted. Matthew 5:4, 10-12. The apostles departed from the Jewish council, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame forChrist’s name.” Acts 5:41. Peter calls upon Christians to rejoice when they are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, and pronounces them happywhen they are reproached for his sake. 1 Peter 4:13, 14. And Paul says, “Most gladly therefore will I glory in (on account of) my infirmities,” (i.e.my sufferings.) “I take pleasure,” he says, “in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake.” 2 Corinthians12:9, 10. This is not irrational or fanatical. Christians do not glory insuffering, as such, or for its own sake, but as the Bible teaches,
- Because they consider it an honor to suffer for Christ.
- Because they rejoice in being the occasion of manifesting his power in their support and deliverance; and,
- Because suffering is made the means of their own sanctification and preparation for usefulness here, and for heaven hereafter.
The last of these reasons is that to which the apostle refers in the context. We glory in afflictions, he says, because affliction worketh patience, upomonh, constancy. It calls into exercise that strength and firmness evinced in patient endurance of suffering, and in perseverance in fidelity to truth and duty, under the severest trials. And this constancy worketh experience, dokimh. This word means,
- Trial, as in 2 Corinthians 8:2, “In a great trial of affliction,” i.e. in affliction which is a trial, that which puts men to the test.
- Evidence or proof, as in 2 Corinthians 13:3, “Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me.” Compare 2 Corinthians 2:9;
Philippians 2:22. This would give a good sense here: ‘Constancy produces evidence’ of the fidelity of God, or of our fidelity.
- The word is used metonymically for the result of trial, i.e. approbation, or that which is proved worthy of approbation: ‘dokimh est qualitas ejus, qui est dokimoV.’ Bengel. It is tried integrity, a state of mind which has stood the test. Compare James 1:12, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, (oV upomenei peirasmon😉 for when he is tried (oti dokimoV genomenoV) he shall receive the crown of life.” _Upomonh, the endurance of trial, therefore, makes a man dokimoV; in other words, it worketh dokimh. It produces a strong, tested faith. Hence the parallel expression, to dokimion umwn thV pistewV, the trying of your faith. 1 Peter 1:7. And this dokimh, well tested faith, or this endurance of trial produces hope; tends to confirm and strengthen the hope of the glory of God, which we owe to our justification through Jesus Christ.
VERSE 5. And hope maketh not ashamed, (kataiscunei.) Not to makeashamed, is not to put us to the shame of disappointment. The hope of thebeliever, says Calvin, “habet certissimum salutis exitum.” It certainlyeventuates in salvation. See 9:33. The hope which true believers entertain,founded on the very nature of pious exercises, shall never disappoint them,Psalms 22:5. The ground of this assurance, however, is not the strength ofour purpose, or confidence in our own goodness, but the love of God. Thelatter clause of the verse assigns the reason why the Christian’s hope shallnot be found delusive; it is because the love of God is shed abroad in ourhearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto us. ‘The love of God’ is his love tous, and not ours to him, as appears from the following verses, in which theapostle illustrates the greatness and freeness of this love, by a reference tothe unworthiness of its objects. To shed abroad, (ekkecutai, it has been,and continues to be shed abroad,) is to communicate abundantly, and henceto evince clearly, Acts 2:17, 10:45; Titus 3:6. This manifestation of divinelove is not any external revelation of it in the works of Providence, or evenin redemption, but it is in our hearts, en taiV kardiaiV hmwn, diffusedabroad within our hearts, where en in, is not used for eiV, into. “The loveof God,” says Philippi, “does not descend upon us as dew in drops, but asa stream which spreads itself abroad through the whole soul, filling it withthe consciousness of his presence and favor. And this inward persuasionthat we are the objects of the love of God, is not the mere result of theexamination of evidence, nor is it a vain delusion, but it is produced by theHoly Ghost:” The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we arethe children of God,” Romans 8:16; 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22; Ephesians1:14. As, however, the Spirit never contradicts himself, he never bearswitness that “the children of the devil” are the children of God; that is, thatthe unholy, the disobedient, the proud or malicious, are the objects of thedivine favor. Any reference, therefore, by the immoral, to the witness ofthe Spirit in their favor, must be vain and delusive.
VERSE 6. For when we were yet without strength. The connection of thisverse, as indicated by gar, is with ver. 5. We are the object of God’s love,for Christ died for us. The gift of Christ to die on our behalf, is everywherein Scripture represented as the highest possible or conceivable proof of thelove of God to sinners. John 3:16; 1 John 3:16; 4:9, 10. The objection thatthe Church doctrine represents the death of Christ as exciting or procuring the love of an unloving God, is without the shadow of foundation. Thescriptures represent the love of God to sinners as independent of the workof Christ, and anterior to it. He so loved us as to give his only begottenSon to reconcile our salvation with his justice. In the Greek of this passage,eti gar CristoV ontwn hmwn asqenwn, the eti, yet, is out of its naturalplace; it belongs to ontwn asqenwn (as in ver. 8, eti amartwlwn,) andnot to CristoV. Such trajections of the particles are not unusual even inclassical Greek. See Winer, § 61, 4: ‘Christ died for us, when we were yetweak.’ This slight irregularity has given rise to considerable diversity ofreadings even in the older manuscripts. Some, instead of eti at thebeginning of the verse, have eige or eiV ti, and place et, after asqenwn;others have eti both at the beginning and at the end of the clause. Thegreat majority of editors and commentators retain the common reading, andrefer the eti to ontwn, etc., as is done in our version. We being yet weak.The weakness here intended is spiritual weakness, destitution of strengthfor what is spiritually good, a weakness arising from, and consisting insinfulness. The same idea, therefore, is expressed in ver. 8, by the words,eti amartwlwn, when we were yet sinners. What, in Isaiah 53:4, isexpressed by the LXX. in the words taV amartiaV hmwn jerei, hebears our sins, is, in Matthew 8:17, expressed by saying, taV asqeneiaVhmwn elabe, he took our weaknesses. In due time, kata, are not to beconnected with the preceding participial, ‘we being weak according to (orconsidering) the time,’ secundum rationem temporis, as Calvin and Luther,after Chrysostom and Theodoret, render it, but with the following verb,apeqane, he died kata kairon. This may mean, at the appointed, or atthe appropriate time. The former is more in accordance with the analogy ofScripture. Christ came at the time appointed by the Father. The same ideais expressed in Galatians 4:4, by “the fullness of time;” compare Ephesians1:10; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 1:3; John 5:4. Of course the appointed wasalso the appropriate time. The question only concerns the form in whichthe idea is expressed. He died uper asebwn, for the ungodly. As theapostle had said, ‘when we were weak,’ it would have been natural for himto say, ‘Christ died for us,’ rather than that he died for the ungodly, had itnot been his design to exalt the gratuitous nature of God’s love. Christ diedfor us the ungodly; and therein, as the apostle goes on to show, is themysteriousness of the divine love revealed. That God should love thegood, the righteous, the pure, the godly, is what we can understand; but that the infinitely Holy should love the unholy. and give his Son for theirredemption, is the wonder of all wonders. “Herein is love, not that weloved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation forour sins.” 1 John 4:10. As the love of a mother for her child, with whichGod condescends to compare his love towards us, is not founded on theattractive qualities of that child, but is often strongest when its object isthe least worthy, so God loves us when sinners. The whole confidence ofthe apostle in the continuance of this love (and therefore in the finalperseverance of the saints) is founded on its being thus gratuitous. If heloved us because we loved him, he would love us only so long as we lovehim, and on that condition; and then our salvation would depend on theconstancy of our treacherous hearts. But as God loved us as sinners, asChrist died for us as ungodly, our salvation depends, as the apostle argues,not on our loveliness, but on the constancy of the love of God. This ideapervades this whole paragraph, and is brought more distinctly into view inthe following verses. Christ died for the ungodly; that is, in their place, andfor their salvation. The idea of substitution is not indeed necessarilyinvolved in the force of the preposition uper, which means for, in behalfof, while anti means in the peace of. None the less certainly, however, isthe doctrine here taught. To die for a man, means to die for his benefit.And therefore, if this were all that the Scriptures taught concerning therelation between Christ’s death and our salvation, it would remainundecided, whether he died for us as an example, as a martyr, or as asubstitute. But when it is said that he died as a sacrifice, that he gave hislife as a ransom, that he was a propitiation, then the specific method inwhich Christ’s death benefits us is determined. It is therefore with uper,as with our preposition for; whether or not it expresses the idea ofsubstitution depends on the context, and the nature of the subject. In suchpassages as this, and 2 Corinthians 5:15, 20, 21; Galatians 3:13; Philemon 13, uper involves in it the meaning of anti.
VERSE 7. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventurefor a good man some would even dare to die. The greatness and freeness ofthe love of God is illustrated in this and the following verse, by makingstill more prominent the unworthiness of its objects: ‘It is hardly to beexpected that any one would die, in the place of a merely righteous man,though for the good man, this self-denial might possibly be exercised. But we, so far from being good, were not even righteous; we were sinners,ungodly, and enemies.’ The difference between the words righteous andgood, as here used, is that which, in common usage, is made between justand kind. The former is applied to a man who does all that the law orjustice can demand of him, the latter to him who is governed by love. Thejust man commands respect; the good man calls forth affection. Respectbeing a cold and feeble principle, compared to love, the sacrifices to whichit leads are comparatively slight. This distinction between dikaioV andagaqoV is illustrated by that which Cicero, De Officiis, Lib. 3:15, makesbetween justus and bonus: “Si vir bonus is est qui prodest quibus potest,nocet nemini, recte justum virum, bonum non facile reperiemus.” Theinterpretation given above is the one generally adopted; it suits the contest,the signification of the words, and the structure of the passage. The designof the apostle is to represent the death of Christ as an unexampledmanifestation of love. Among men, it was never heard of that one died fora man simply just; the most that human nature could be expected toaccomplish is, that one should die for his benefactor, or for the good man- one so good as to be characterized and known as the good. There isevidently a climax in the passage, as indicated by the opposition between(moliV and taca) scarcely and possibly. The passage, however, has beendifferently interpreted. Luther takes both dikaiou and tou agaqou asneuters: “Scarcely for the right will any one die, possibly for somethinggood some one might dare to die.” Calvin makes no distinction between thewords: “Rarissimum sane inter homines exemplum exstat, ut pro justo quismori sustineat quanquam illud nonnunquam accidere possit.” Meyer takesdikaiou as it is without the article, as masculine, but tou agaqou asneuter, and renders the latter clause of the verse interrogatively: “Hardlyfor a righteous man will one die, for who can easily bring himself to die forwhat is good (to agaqon, the good)?” The common interpretation isperfectly satisfactory, and to these, other objections more or less decisivemay be adduced. Instead of dikaiou, the Syriac reads adikou, ‘Scarcelyfor an unrighteous man will one die.’ But this is not only unauthorized, butthe sense is not so appropriate.
VERSE 8. But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we wereyet sinners, Christ died for us. ‘Commendeth,’ sunisthsi, proves, orrenders conspicuous; see 3:5. What renders the love of God so peculiarly conspicuous, is his sending his Son to die, not for the good, nor even forthe righteous, but for sinners, for those who were deserving of wrathinstead of love. The word sinners expresses the idea of moral turpitude,and consequent exposure to the divine displeasure. It was for, or in theplace of those who were at once corrupt, and the enemies of God, thatChrist died.
VERSE 9. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall besaved from wrath through him. This and the following verse draw theobvious inference, from the freeness and greatness of the love of God, asjust exhibited, that believers shall be ultimately saved. It is an argument afortiori. If the greater benefit has been bestowed, the less will not bewithheld. If Christ has died for his enemies, he will surely save his friends.Being justified. To be justified is more than to be pardoned; it includes theidea of reconciliation or restoration to the favor of God, on the ground of asatisfaction to justice, and the participation of the consequent blessings.This idea is prominently presented in the following verse. ‘We are justified by his blood.’ This expression, as remarked above (chap. 4:3), exhibits thetrue ground of our acceptance with God. It is not our works, nor our faith,nor our new obedience, nor the work of Christ in us, but what he has donefor us; chap. 3:25; Ephesians 2:13; Hebrews 9:12. Having by the death ofChrist been brought into the relation of peace with God, being nowregarded for his sake as righteous, we shall be saved from wrath throughhim. He will not leave his work unfinished; whom he justifies, them he alsoglorifies. The word wrath, of course, means the effects of wrath orpunishment, those sufferings with which the divine displeasure visits sin;Matthew 3:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Romans 1:18. Not only is ourjustification to be ascribed to Christ, but our salvation is through him.Salvation, in a general sense, includes justification; but when distinguishedfrom it, as in this case, it means the consummation of that work of whichjustification is the commencement. It is a preservation from all the causesof destruction; a deliverance from the evils which surround us here, orthreaten us hereafter; and an introduction into the blessedness of heaven.Christ thus saves us by his providence and Spirit, and by his constantintercession; chap. 8:34; Hebrews 4:14, 15; 7:25; Jude ver. 24; 1 John 2:1.Olshausen here also introduces his idea of subjective justification, and saysthat the meaning of this passage is, “If God regenerates a man, we may hope that he will uphold and perfect him, and reduce his liability toapostasy to a minimum.” According to this, to justify is to regenerate, andto save from wrath is to reduce our liability to apostasy to a minimum.
VERSE 10. For if, when we were yet enemies, we were reconciled to God bythe death of his Son, etc. This verse contains nearly the same idea as ver. 9,presented in a different form. The word enemies is applied to men notonly as descriptive of their moral character, but also of the relation inwhich they stand to God as the objects of his displeasure. There is notonly a wicked opposition of the sinner to God, but a holy opposition ofGod to the sinner. The preceding verse presents the former of these ideas,and this verse the latter most prominently. There it is said, ‘though sinners, we are justified;’ and here, ‘though enemies, we are reconciled’.The word ecqroi has the same passive sense in 11:28. And this is theprincipal difference between the two verses. To be reconciled to God, insuch connections, does not mean to have our enmity to God removed, buthis enmity to us taken out of the way, to have him rendered propitious, orhis righteous justice satisfied. This is evident,
- Because the reconciliation is ascribed to the death of Christ, or his blood, ver. 9. But, according to the constant representations of Scripture, the death of Christ is a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, or to propitiate the favor of God, and not immediately a means of sanctification. The former is its direct object, the latter an incidental result. This is the very idea of a sacrifice. The most liberal commentators, that is, those least bound by any theological system, admit this to be the doctrine of Scripture, and of this particular passage. Thus Meyer: “Christi Tod tilgte nicht die Feindschaft der Menschen gegen Gott;” that is, “The death of Christ does not remove the enmity of men towards God, but as that which secures the favor of God, it removes his enmity towards men, whence the removal of our enmity towards him follows as a consequence.” So also Rückert: “The reconciled here can only be God, whose wrath towards sinners is appeased by the death of his Son. On man’s part nothing has happened; no internal change, no step towards God; all this follows as the consequence of the reconciliation here spoken of.” De Wette also says, that “katallagh must mean the removal of the wrath of God, and consequently the reconciliation is of God to man, which not only here, but in 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19; Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:16, is referred to the atoning death of Christ.”
- The object of the verse is to present us as enemies, or the objects of God’s displeasure. ‘If while we were the objects of the divine displeasure,’ says the apostle, ‘that displeasure has been removed, or God propitiated by the death of his Son, how much more shall we be saved,’ etc. That is, if God has been reconciled to us, he will save us.
- This is the proper meaning of the word, 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19. See also Matthew 5:24, “First be reconciled to thy brother,” i.e. go and appease his anger, or remove the ground of his displeasure; compare Hebrews 2:17, “He is a priest to make reconciliation (eiV to ilaskesqai) for the sins of the people.” It is the appropriate business of a priest to propitiate God, and not to reform men. See also 1 Samuel 29:4: “Wherewith should he reconcile himself (diallaghsetai) to his master? should it not be with the heads of these men?” Ephesians 2:16, “That he might reconcile (apokatallaxh) both unto God by the cross,” not remove their enmity to God, but secure for them his favor and access to the Father, ver. 18. The verbs katallassw, diallassw, and apokatallassw, are used interchangeably. The main idea, of course, as expressed by allassw, to change, is slightly modified by the force of the several prepositions with which it is combined – to change kata in relation to, dia between, apo from. The three verbs, however, are all used to the idea of reconciliation, i.e. changing the relation of parties at enmity, so that they are at peace. Whether this reconciliation is effected by the propitiation of the justly offended party, or by a change of feeling in the offender, or both, depends on the connection.
- The context obviously requires this sense here. “Being reconciled by the death of his Son,” evidently corresponds to the phrase, “Being justified by his blood.” The latter cannot mean that our feelings towards God are changed, but is admitted to express the idea that we are forgiven and restored to the divine favor. Such therefore must be the meaning of the former. Besides, it is the object of the apostle to illustrate the greatness and freeness of the love of God, from the unworthiness of its objects. While sinners, we are justified; while enemies, we are reconciled. To make the passage mean, that when enemies we laid aside our enmity, and became the friends of God, would be to make it contradict the very assertion and design of the apostle. We shall be saved by his life. This rather unusual mode of expression was doubtless adopted for the sake of its correspondence to the words, by his death, in the preceding clause, and is a striking example of Paul’s fondness for such antithetical constructions; see chap. 4:25; Galatians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 3:6. The meaning is obvious: ‘If while we were enemies, we were restored to the favor of God by the death of his Son, the fact that he lives will certainly secure our final salvation.’
- His life is a pledge and security for the life of all his people; see John 14:19, “Because I live, ye shall live also;” Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:23.
- He is able to save to the uttermost, “because he ever lives to make intercession or us,” Hebrews 7:25, etc.
- At his resurrection, all power in heaven and earth was committed to his hands, Matthew 28:18; and this power he exercises for the salvation of his people; Ephesians 1:22, ‘He is head over all things, for the benefit of his Church;’ Revelation 1:18; Hebrews 2:10; 1 Corinthians 15:25, etc.; see also the passages cited on the last clause of ver. 9. There is, therefore, most abundant ground for confidence for the final blessedness of believers, not only in the amazing love of God, by which, though sinners and enemies, they have been justified and reconciled by the death of his Son, but also in the consideration that this same Savior that died for them still lives, and ever lives to sanctify, protect, and save them.
VERSE 11. Not only so, but we rejoice in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ; ou monon de, alla kai kaucwmenoi en tw Qew. There are three ways of explaining the participle kaucwmenoi; the one is to make it antithetical to katallagenteV, ‘not only reconciled, but exulting in God, shall we be saved.’ But this is not only an unnatural form of expression, but in ver. 9, katallagenteV is not a qualification of swqhsomeqa. The meaning is not, ‘We shall be saved reconciled,’ but, ‘Since we are reconciled we shall be saved.’ Another interpretation supplies the verb from the preceding clause, ‘Not only shall we be saved, but saved rejoicing in God.’ The best sense is obtained by supplying esmen after the participle, as is assumed in the English version, and advocated by the majority of commentators: ‘We shall not only be ultimately saved, but we now glory the God.’ The benefits of redemption are not all future. It is not only deliverance from future wrath, but the joy and glory of the present favor and love of God, that we owe to Jesus Christ. Thus the Vulgate, which renders kaucwmenoi as a verb, (sed et gloriamur,) as does Luther, “wir rühmen uns auch Gottes.” We glory in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, it is to him that we are indebted for this joy in God as our God and portion. Through whom we have now received atonement. This is the reason why we owe our present glorying in God to Christ; it is because he has secured our reconciliation. The word rendered by our translators, atonement, is katallagh, the derivative of katallassw, properly rendered in the context, as elsewhere, to reconcile. The proper rendering, therefore, of the noun would be reconciliation: ‘Through whom we have received reconciliation, that is, have been reconciled.’ This verse therefore brings us back to verse 2. There it is said, ‘Having peace with God, we rejoice in hope of his glory;’ and here, ‘Being reconciled, we glory or rejoice in God.’ Salvation is begun on earth.
- Peace with God is the result of that system of religion which alone, by providing at once for the satisfaction of divine justice and the sanctification of the human heart, is suited to the character of God, and the nature of man. All history shows that no system other than the gospel has ever produced this peace, ver. 1.
- All the peculiar blessings of redemption are inseparably connected with and grow out of each other. Those who are justified have peace with God, access to his presence, joy under the most adverse circumstances, assurance of God’s love, and certainty of final salvation; see the whole section, and compare chap. 8:30.
- The Holy Ghost has intimate access to the human soul, controlling its exercises, exciting its emotions, and leading it into the knowledge of the truth, ver. 5.
- The assurance of hope is founded on the consciousness of pious affections, and the witness of the Holy Spirit; and is a grace to which believers may and ought to attain, verses 4, 5.
- The perseverance of the saints is to be attributed not to the strength of their love to God, nor to anything else in themselves, but solely to the free and infinite love of God in Christ Jesus. The praise is therefore no more due to them, than condemnation to a helpless infant for its mother’s sleepless care. “Can a woman forget her sucking child,” etc., verses 6-10.
- Redemption is not by truth or moral influence, but by blood, verses 9, 10.
- The primary object of the death of Christ was to render God propitious, to satisfy his justice, and not to influence human conduct, or display the divine character; for the sake of the moral effect of that exhibition. Among its infinitely diversified results, all of which were designed, some of the most important, no doubt, are the sanctification of men, the display of the divine perfections, the prevention of sin, the happiness of the universe, etc. But the object of a sacrifice, as such, is to propitiate, verses 9, 10; Hebrews 2:17.
- All we have or hope for, we owe to Jesus Christ – peace. communion with God, joy, hope, eternal life; see the whole section, and the whole Bible.
- If we are the genuine children of God, we have peace of conscience, a sense of God’s favor, and freedom of access to his throne. We endure afflictions with patience. Instead of making us distrustful of our heavenly Father, they afford us new proofs of his love, and strengthen our hope of his mercy. And we shall have, also, more or less of the assurance of God’s love, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, verses 1-5.
- None of these fruits of reconciliation with God can be obtained until the spirit of self-righteousness and self-dependence is removed. They are secured through faith, and by Christ Jesus, and not by our own works or merit, ver. 1, etc.
- The hope of the hypocrite is like a spider’s web; the hole of the believer is an anchor to his soul, sure and steadfast, ver. 5.
- Assurance of the love of God never produces self-complacency or pride; but always humility, self-abasement, wonder, gratitude, and praise. The believer sees that the mysterious fountain of this love is in the divine mind; it is not in himself, who is ungodly and a sinner, verses 8-10.
- As the love of God in the gift of his Son, and the love of Christ in dying for us, are the peculiar characteristics of the gospel, no one can be a true Christian on whom these truths do not exert a governing influence, verses 9, 10; compare 2 Corinthians 5:14.
- True religion is joyful, verses 2, 11.