by Mike Ratliff
33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NKJV)
There is a lot of dispute in our day about the nature of Christ’s atonement on the cross. What did Christ purchase for His people that day? Many imply that our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross was not necessary. Others say that He did not die for the sins of His people, He simply suffered for them. Let us not rely on tradition or ‘feelings’ here. Let us go the source, God’s Word, to see what the Holy Spirit revealed to us about this through the Apostle Paul.
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1 (NKJV)
1 Δικαιωθέντες οὖν ἐκ πίστεως εἰρήνην ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν θεὸν διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ Romans 5:1 (NA28)
In Bible study we must always be careful to maintain context because it is scripture that interprets scripture and if we pull passages out of context we are actually making the Bible say what it more than likely does not say. This passage begins with ‘therefore,’ so we must look back to see what Paul is referring to that is the thesis for the conclusion he is making in Romans 5. In this case, if we go back to Romans 1:1 and read through Romans 4:25 we see that all men are dead in their trespasses and sins. None are righteous and all are under condemnation by God. Paul makes sure we understand that Man is completely helpless to be reconciled to God based on any internal merit. No works, no matter how good they may be perceived are sufficient either. Paul makes the case that God justifies sinners on the basis of faith alone. Then we come to Romans 5 and Paul says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. “ Here is my translation of v1 directly from the NA28 Greek text, “Having been justified by faith, therefore, we have peace toward God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul is speaking to Christians here, those who are justified by faith. The personal pronoun “we” that we read in our English translations is not present in the Greek in verses 1, 2, or 3. Some have tried to make the case that this means that Paul is speaking to all people here not just believers. However, in v1 we see the possessive pronoun ἡμῶν or hemon, which is translated as “our.” This is speaking of “our Lord Jesus Christ.” If I had translated it word-for-word that phrase would have said, “peace we have toward God through the Lord of us Jesus Christ.” I ask you, is Jesus Christ the Lord of the unbeliever? I agree that Jesus Christ is Lord, but in this passage, the word used for “Lord” is κυρίου or Kurios. This word means “Lord, Master, or Owner.” The κυρίου is Master or Owner of δοῦλοι, or slaves. Is the unbeliever a redeemed slave of our Lord Jesus Christ or are they slaves to sin?
The clincher here, however, is Paul’s statement at the beginning of this verse, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith.” Have unbelievers been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ? The Greek word that is translated here as “have been justified” is δικαιωθέντες or dikaioõ. This word’s definition takes over a page and a half of my Greek lexicon. Here is a small part of it:
“verbs which end in -oõ generally mean to bring out that which a person is or that which is desired. They do not have reference to the mode in which the action takes place. In the case of dikaioõ, it means either to bring out the fact that a person is righteous or if he is not, to make him righteous. To justify someone, therefore, means to bring out the fact that he is just or to make him just without necessarily referring to how he is made just.”
In other words, to be justified is to be declared righteous, but the the word itself does not tell us upon what basis. However, Paul tell us very clearly that those who are justified are declared righteous “by faith.” The Greek word for Faith used here is the noun πίστεως or pisteōs, which is the genitive, singular, feminine case of πίστις or pistis. This is saving faith my brethren. This is the core of our doctrine of salvation. This is the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone apart from any works or personal merit.
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10 (NKJV)
Yes my brethren, we were saved by God. It is His work from beginning to end. He has made every provision for us, those who are justified by faith, to enable us to come to Him because we have been reconciled to Him by the work of the Son in his atoning death on the cross.
2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:2-5 (NKJV)
This could only apply to believers my brethren. We have obtained access by faith into this grace. In this grace we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Our justification was a declaration of righteousness. It was God imputing Christ’s righteousness to our account. However, the result of our right standing before God is that we now have God’s grace working in and through us to conform us unto Christlikeness. This process, our sanctification, involves sufferings. Paul makes the incredible statement that believers actually rejoice in their sufferings. Why? It is because we know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope. This sure contradicts much of the teaching we hear nowadays from the Word of Faith people doesn’t it? Notice also that believers have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. What a blessing!
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when 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. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11 (NKJV)
The phrase, “For when we were still without strength,” has been misinterpreted by many to say that unbelievers are not really spiritually dead, only weak and wounded. However, the Greek word translated here as “still weak” or “without strength” in the KJV is ἀσθενῶν or asthenēs. It means, “without strength or powerless or without ability.” Paul was saying that all of the unregenerate are in this state. We were all without spiritual ability until God had mercy on us and cleansed us through the washing of regeneration, giving us the faith to believe and repent. Jesus Christ died for those who had no ability to comprehend the profundity of His sacrificial death on the cross. When I was very young boy a Roman Catholic friend gave me a picture of Jesus Christ on the cross as a birthday present. My mother hung it on my wall in my bedroom. I remember looking at this representation of a man nailed to that cross and my only comprehension of it was that it was a tragedy. Now, however, by the grace of God, I do understand that he died for this ungodly and undeserving sinner.
From what were those who are in Christ saved? Those who have been justified by His blood are also saved by Him from the wrath of God. This is the Father’s wrath against all sin. Christ’s blood covers all of our sins. Our sins were paid for at the cross. We will never stand in judgment before the Father because we have been reconciled to Him through the Son. Should we not be full of joy my brethren? What a miracle salvation is!
Soli Deo Gloria!