We complete our study of Romans 5:1-11, in which Paul enumerates several blessings we now enjoy as a result of being justified through faith in the blood of Christ.
The first is “peace with God.” The second is “introduction into this grace in which we stand.” The third is “exultation” in worship and in life. The fourth is the “love of God poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” The fifth is:
Much more, then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Romans 5:9-10).
I read somewhere, a poll I cannot just now locate, that 95% of Americans believe in Heaven but a much smaller percentage believe in Hell. We must remember that the same gospel that declares Jesus offers salvation to all, also declares a coming day of wrath. In fact, Jesus uses the same word “eternal” to describe both punishment and life (Matthew 25:46). If we doubt the one, we must doubt the other.
This passage in Romans 5 is not the first time in this letter Paul mentions the wrath of God. He says in Romans 1:18, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” He says in Romans 2:5-8,
Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds; to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
The results of becoming an object of God’s wrath are not abstract; they are specific and fearsome! The Bible describes a lake that burns with fire (Mark 9:43-48), a place of active and constant torment (Revelation 20:10), a place away from the presence of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
And so, what was in verse 1 being “justified by faith” is here in verse 9 “justified by His blood.” For on the cross, at the shedding of His blood, God demonstrated the punishment of death due to sin. The shed blood grants justification. As we read so powerfully in the keystone section, “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
So, if Jesus’ blood grants justification from sins, what does Paul mean when he highlights a different way that Jesus’ life grants salvation from wrath?
First of all, the phrase, “…much more, then…” suggests that justification through His blood is the hard part, relatively speaking, and bringing us safely through the wrath to come is the easier part. If God accomplished the hard part, how could we doubt that God will accomplish the easier part? The hard part is making us children; the easy part is protecting those who have become His children. To illustrate, if my child wondered if I would help him pay for college, I might respond, “I fed you, I took you to school, I demanded you get good grades, I helped you with homework, I enrolled you in activities, I drove you to college visits, I made sure you filled out the forms and took the tests and got admitted to college … if I did all the hard work to get you admitted, I’m certainly going to help you pay for it!” Obviously, this illustration falls short, but you get the idea.
But we still haven’t answered how the justifying properties of Jesus’ blood differ from the saving properties of Jesus’ life. Thankfully, in the next chapter, Paul explores it.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:8-11).
The death and blood of Jesus takes away the sin. But Jesus didn’t stay dead! He was raised to eternal, glorified life. The life of Jesus grants us victory, and enables us to live a good, righteous life in His family, with the full expectation of eternal life. Baptized into Christ and raised up with Him, we now live as fellow children of God.
As those made children of God through the blood of Jesus, let us live accordingly, that we may be carried safely through. For,
You, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober… But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:4-10).