It’s really important to pay close attention to “connecting words,” since they really help us understand what a biblical author is trying to say. Like I mentioned before, one of the most significant words in the English language is the little three-letter “but”: We were lost, spiritually dead, under God’s just wrath, etc., but . . .
Here’s another small package with a lot of meaning hiding inside of it: “How much more. . .”
Let’s review from yesterday. We were not just good people who need a tweaking or a better set of instructions. Our sin made us mortal enemies of God, and as I mentioned before, in any war between God and, well, anyone, the outcome’s not in doubt.
So Christ died for us, his enemies.
This is where it’s important to pay attention, since the payoff for doing so is incredible comfort. Paul is arguing from lesser to greater. We were his sworn enemies, John Hinkley Jr’s to him, and Christ died for us. The two parties were reconciled. The peace treaty, signed in Jesus’ blood, was signed and sealed and put into effect.
Paul’s point is that since then, things have only gotten better: “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
Christ didn’t stay dead. Three days in that tomb was enough, thank you. He walked out of that grave, and. . .this is really important. . .ascended into Heaven to a hero’s welcome and to sit at the Father’s right hand. And what’s he doing there? Still bleeding for our sins? NO! That’s past him forever. But one of the things he is doing up there is pleading our case before the Father. Hopefully as we mature in Christ we’re going to sin less and less, “But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”
This is why it’s so important that Jesus not only died (which paid for our sin and which justified) but that he rose. Paul mentioned in the last verse of chapter 4 that he “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” What does that mean? Once again quoting MacArthur, it means that “The resurrection provided proof that God had accepted the sacrifice of His Son and would be able to be just and yet justify the ungodly.” In other words, the Resurrection placed God’s “stamp of approval” on Jesus’ sacrifice, certifying before all creation that all of our sins were completely paid for, that his wrath was satisfied.
You see, because of the Resurrection and Ascension, we know that now we’re more than just “not enemies.” We’ve moved waaaaaay past that stage. We’re now his children, his heirs, co-heirs with Christ. Through Christ the Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.
That’s why Paul says what he says in the last verse in today’s passage: “Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Of course, this isn’t “boasting” in the normal sense of the word, as if we did anything to merit this; that’s why the NET Bible translates it as “rejoice,” and the NASB renders it as “exult.”
This is about as far past “not enemy” as you can possibly get. He’s our loving Father now. If he strikes us, it’s because it’s what we need, not because for the sake of punishment, at least in the sense of giving us what we deserve.
The reason I’m emphasizing this so much is first and foremost because Paul is doing so. But I think there’s more here than just explaining the Good News to lost people. Jerry Bridges says that we need to “preach the Gospel to ourselves every day.” We need to remind ourselves that our relationship with God is still completely based on what Christ did and is doing, with no mixture of our performance involved. It’s not 90% Jesus and 10% us; it’s not even 99% Jesus and 1% us. There’s not a smidgeon, not a molecule of our performance to either boast about or fear regarding failure. If there was, then we could fall into either prideful self-boasting or fear of failure, that we could commit “that sin” and end up losing our salvation.
It’s all Jesus. Rejoice in him. Exult in him.
Lord Jesus, it is all about you. “Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the cross I cling.”
“Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.”