A Super Overabundant, So Great Salvation: Romans 5:1-117 min read
In my studies of Romans, I have often enjoyed Paul’s enthusiasm for his topic. This is evident in that Paul ends his sections with climaxes. For instance, after Paul’s personal introduction in Romans 1 he triumphs by saying, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Though I would love to go through all of those climaxes, I simply don’t have the space nor the scope in this paper.
But I would like to share one of them with you. It’s found in Romans 5:1-11. (Even if you don’t agree with me that this is Paul’s summation, at least Mr. Ironside does). My goal is that you will enjoy with me that God’s salvation is a super overabundant, so great salvation. It has to be this because it gives us a standing, a state, security, and satisfaction.
In the first four chapters of Romans, Paul establishes the foundation of Christianity’s very existence, that is, justification by faith. In chapter 5 he builds on it and encourages his readers to rejoice in its results.
He begins by outlining our standing before God. In the past we were declared righteous, and that declaration will never be annulled. In the present we enjoy a relationship with God in Christ, the one who introduced us to divine favor. And still there is the future element of our expectant hope of the glory of God. This is our key to peace. Mr. Mackintosh well said on this theme, “The unsettled state of God’s people. . . . we believe it will be found, in almost every case, so common amongst the Lord’s people, is the result of not seeing, not believing, what God has made His Christ to be to them and for them, and that forever.”
So then, God has delivered us from our past, given us a relationship in the present, and promised us glory in the future. If Romans ended here, we would still have a reason to be the happiest people on earth. It would seem presumptuous for a creature of the dust to want any more.
Yet Paul knew something of the infinity of God’s grace. Thus, he continues with the phrase, “And not only so” as if to say, “Wait, there’s more!” How could there be more? Ah, there is more because God not only answered the need of our position but of our condition. He brought us into a new state as well as a new standing.
What kind of state is it? It is a state of Christian growth that builds upon itself–so much so that we can even boast in tribulation. The reason is that patience grows out of it. Then character grows out of patience. Then hope grows out of character. Could there be more? There is more! In addition to all of this, we grow in a shameless appreciation for the unfathomable love of God. After all, he has flooded our hearts with it by his Spirit.
After mentioning the love of God, Paul cannot but return to the cross. A tree only grows in proportion to its saturation in the ground from which it sprang. Yes, our Christian experience builds upon itself, but we must never leave where it all began.
There is something special about remembering that we were once helpless sinners, for that memory brings us again to the greatest display of divine love in the cross. We were once helpless. We do not rejoice in our helplessness, but we rejoice that the Saviour answered it with His compassion.
Yet there is something more extreme than compassion for the helpless; it is grace for the condemned. Paul proves this by saying, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die” (Romans 5:7). In other words, humans will rarely sacrifice themselves even for society’s best. Thus, Christ would still have epitomized love if he willingly died for the societal elite. But his love belongs in a category of its own; his is divine love. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is tremendous!
In his commentary Mr. Phillips illustrates divine love with a story. He writes,
. . . a young man. . . gave his love to a vicious woman who demanded of him as proof of his love that he bring to her his mother’s heart to feed to her dog. The young man took a knife, slew his mother, and cut out her heart. As he was running back to the evil woman, the young man stumbled and fell, and his mother’s heart flew from his grasp. As it rolled by, that mother’s heart was heard to cry in a still, small voice, “Are you hurt, my child, are you hurt at all?”
Though God demonstrated his love, he does not ask us to understand it. Rather, he pours it out into our hearts that we might constantly find new delight in it day by day. Worshiping at the thought of Calvary epitomizes the Christian’s growth experience. This is when Christianity builds upon itself the most.
Could there be more? Paul has shown us a marvelous standing in verses 1-2. He has encouraged us with the triumph of our state in verses 3-8. Surely this is enough for an eternity of joy. Yet Paul introduces us to an everlasting security in verses 9-10. Evidently there is more.
To prove eternal security, Paul capitalizes on our link with the risen Christ as the basis for his logic. He states his thesis in verse 9. “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” To prove this he uses two supports, namely, our reconciliation and the life of Christ.
Notice his logic. Premise one is that we were reconciled as enemies by Christ’s death. Premise two is that we are presently reconciled and linked with Christ’s life. Since friendship is better than enmity and life is better than death, it is necessary that we be completely and eternally saved from God’s wrath. This is the security of God’s salvation.
Is there more than this? You probably guessed that there is. Yes, in verse 11 Paul says again, “And not only so.” There is one more level needed to complete his climax.
Here we reach the pinnacle. Paul says that “we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement [reconciliation].” Joy in God is the pinnacle of our Christian experience. John Piper said in Desiring God,
The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is not an “extra” that a person might grow into after he comes to faith. . . . Saving faith is the heartfelt conviction not only that Christ is reliable, but also that he is desirable. It is the confidence that he will come through with his promises and that what he promises is more to be desired than all the world.
We are amazed by our standing, baffled by the potential of our state, and dumbfounded by our security. The only logical result is our complete satisfaction in him. Can you blame me for calling my essay “A Super Overabundant, So Great Salvation”?
If you are interested to know what they are, you can find a chart of my study here: http://www.insidethebible.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Structural-Analysis-of-Romans.pdf
Harry Ironside, Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1928), p.57.
Charles Henry Mackintosh, “The All-Sufficiency of Christ,” in The Mackintosh Treasury (Eschenburg, Germany: GBV-Dillenburg, 1999), p. 79.
John Phillips, Exploring Romans (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1969), p. 91.
John Piper, Desiring God (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1986), p. 55.