56 - Spiritual Skills and Virtue Development [b]
Spiritual Skills and Virtue Development
Romans 5:3–5; 2 Peter 1:3–8
Romans Lesson #056
April 5, 2012
Several weeks ago, we started in Romans 5:2–4 as an outgrowth of what Paul had said in his discussion and explanation of justification by faith which began, in terms of laying the foundation, back towards the end of chapter 1 and chapter 2. The foundation being that every human being, moral or immoral, still falls short of the glory of God – the conclusion being stated in Roman 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Therefore, man is incapable of ever overcoming his own deficit. The only solution is a divine solution, is grace, is for God to provide that which needs to be accomplished.
It was foretold through many different means and pictures, what we call typologies which are pictures made from either events, objects, animals or people that were designed to portray something about God’s work of salvation. The greatest of these types or pictures in the Old Testament was that of the lamb. From the very beginning of time following Adam’s sin, when Cain and Abel were to bring a sacrifice to God, Cain brought from his own produce, which was the result of his own effort, and it was rejected. Abel brought what God had instructed him, which was a sacrifice of a lamb. It was Abel’s sacrifice that was accepted because it was done by faith and in obedience to God, according to Hebrews 11.
From that point on throughout the Old Testament, you see this development of the imagery of the animal sacrifice, the sacrifice that is a substitute for the individual who is coming before God. The sacrifices of an animal can never take away sin. We know that an animal’s life and blood (life being portrayed by the blood) are not sufficient to pay the penalty of sin. It is not sufficient for expiation, for cancelling out the debt of sin. There had to be a sacrifice that was worthy.
The worthiness of that sacrifice was depicted by the lamb that was without spot or blemish at the Passover especially. At the original Passover, it was a lamb roasted on a skewer that would have been shaped somewhat in the shape of a cross. The sacrifice was chosen four days earlier, it was evaluated to be sure it was without spot or blemish, and then it was sacrificed. The blood, which depicts life (as taught in Leviticus), was smeared on the doorposts and the lintel of the house. When God, who was bringing death throughout Egypt upon the firstborn in every family, saw the blood that was applied, He would pass over – the meaning of pesach. The death of that lamb had provided a covering for that household, and death did not come.
This was the basis for the Jews’ redemption: a purchase that brought them out of the slavery of Egypt. That becomes the primary picture in the Old Testament, as also in the New Testament, for God’s redemptive work. It is God who provides the sacrifice, the lamb, whose death pays the price for sin. The lamb could not do that, so someone becomes a man. Like has to substitute for like. The eternal second person of the Trinity comes into human history, born of a virgin, called Yeshua, the Savior of His people. This is from the Hebrew verb yasha, which indicates salvation or deliverance. He will pay the penalty for sin as the Lamb of God who goes to the Cross.
That death provides a foundation for justification. Justification is then explained by Paul in Romans 4 as being grounded in what happened with Abraham. Long before there was even the Mosaic Law and 2000 years before there was a Jesus of Nazareth, there is an act that takes place by Abraham when he trusts in God, and God seeing that faith declares Abraham to be righteous. It is not because of who Abraham is or what he has done but because of the object of his belief. He believes that God will provide this salvation.
To Abraham at that point in his life, long before we meet him in Genesis 12 when God calls him out of Ur of the Chaldees, his understanding of God and salvation and the promise of the Savior was probably as somewhat fuzzy as it was for many of us when we first trusted Christ, especially if that was at a young age. There was an understanding that God provided a solution to a problem and that was through Jesus. We just grabbed hold of that in faith and believed it. It is because of that that God declares us to be righteous.
Paul goes into this in Romans 4. As an illustration, Abraham is justified before he is circumcised; he is justified before the Mosaic Law is given and before any of the rituals come into practice in Israel later. It shows that justification is totally apart from ritual, from circumcision, from obedience to the Torah. It is exclusively based on faith in the promise of God, and it is ultimately God’s work that is the basis for our justification.
Paul begins to develop the benefits of justification in Romans 5:1. This is one of the toughest chapters in all of Scripture to exegete and deal with. Often this chapter, I think, is misunderstood. I always heard that up through Roman 5, you are dealing with justification, and the spiritual life or sanctification does not begin until Romans 6. But the more I am studying Romans 5, the more I am realizing it is the transition chapter to the spiritual life. This is the first chapter in Romans where Paul begins to talk about life. His discussion of justification is completed by the end of chapter 4, and now we are talking about the benefits of justification, which are that we now have a new life in Him.
Romans 5:2 “Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand …” It is a perfect tense, which indicates completed action; we have already come to stand in this place. When we look at the phrase “in which we stand,” it is talking about the present results of standing, which happened at some undetermined time in the past when a person trusted in Christ as Savior.
Romans 5:1–2 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have [present tense] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope [confidence] of the glory of God.” Hope is the focal point. We have hope mentioned in verses 2, 4, and 5. Hope is not mentioned again until we get to Romans 8.
When we go to Romans 8, it gives the conclusion of what Paul says about the spiritual life. He wraps it all up and brings this to a conclusion by verse 30. Romans 8:31–39 are a summation of that first section. As he builds to his conclusion, he says in verse 18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
What I want you to do is think in terms of what Paul has said and where Paul is going. I learned a long time ago when I was reading a book that was difficult, it was helpful to read the conclusion so I knew where the author was going. Once I had a handle on where he was going, it was easier to follow how he got there.
Where have we seen the terminology “with the glory” before? It is right here in Romans 5:2 “… and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:3 “Not only that, but we also glory [rejoice] in tribulations [THLIPSIS—adversities, sufferings] …” We see those ideas again in Romans 8:18–19. Verse 19 “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” Expectation means a forward-looking focus; we are looking forward to something that is going to bring things to a conclusion. Verse 20 “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope.” It is the first time we see the word hope after we get out of Romans 5:5.
There is a procedure in the military when you are shooting big guns off of a ship or any artillery. It is called bracketing. You know where your target is, but your first shot is to get the range and you overshoot the target. Then you back up your next shot where you undershoot it. This brackets the target. The third shot goes dead center and takes out the bad guy.
You do the same thing in literature, and it is called an inclusio. You have certain words, phrases or structures at the beginning and at the end, which tell the reader that this is the structural unit of thought that we are focused on.
This tells us that the structural unit of thought here begins at Romans 8:2–5, focusing on the benefits of justification, which is our new spiritual life in Christ and that it all points to this thing called hope, our future expectations. Paul says that God subjected the universe and the world to this judgment of sin, this penalty of sin, in hope. That is because there is a future reality, and there is a need in order to prepare for that future reality, certain things had to happen that that hope may be brought to reality. It is explained in Romans 8:21–22, which we will go through eventually.
Verse 24 “For we were saved in this hope …” There is language very similar to what we find in the beginning of Romans 5. Hope that is seen is not hope. That tells us that hope is something that is related to this time frame, just as faith is related to this time frame. 2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” When we die and are face-to-face with the Lord, we are going to be walking by sight, and so faith is no longer operative. It is not based on what we see, not based on empiricism; it is based on trust in the witness of God.
Hope is the same way. Hope is not based on something that is seen; it is based on a promise. This is what Paul emphasized with Abraham that Abraham believed God and His promise of salvation. That is what gave his life meaning and definition because he was focused on something that God is going to give him in the future and that gave him hope to endure whatever he went through in life. Hope is not just wishful optimism, but it has a certainty, something that is definite and is based on a promise.
Romans 8:25 “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” The hope has to be based on a promise because it is based on faith, and hope and faith are bound to time. Then Paul goes into a discussion of the role of the Holy Spirit and God’s overall plan down to verse 30. We see the focal point of hope and its relation to a promise and the certainly of that promise because it is grounded in the character of God.
The 1600s were a difficult time in England. They were not quite as difficult as the Reformation period in the 1500s, especially the time during the reign of Mary Tudor, who was known as “Bloody Mary” during her very brief reign. Over three hundred Protestant Christians were burned at the stake. They made the ultimate sacrifice as a witness for Jesus Christ.
But in the 1600s, England continued to go through these religious tumults. You have the claims of the Stuarts to the divine right of the monarchy and the claims of the Puritans that they did not have absolute authority from God, but their authority was limited by virtue of the laws of England. This was a time when there were not only problems related to the authority assertions of the Stuarts, but after the end of the Cromwell period and the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II (he came back as a Catholic), this created another measure of problems in England.
It was during that time that there was couple named Andrew and Elizabeth Renwick, who were just common laborers in Scotland. They had lost all of their children to disease, and they were left in a state of bereavement. The wife, much like another Elizabeth in Scripture, sought the Lord in prayer that God would give her another child. God answered that prayer. A young boy came into their life, and they named him James. From the very beginning of his youth, they taught him the Scriptures. He was extremely positive to the Word and was extremely bright.
He was the son of weavers, and yet he was so bright he was accepted at the University of Edinburgh. He was denied a degree and refused the right of graduation because he refused to accept Charles II as the head of the Scottish church. His family were devout Presbyterians.
Nonconformists in Scotland were being martyred quite frequently during this time. The English would nail their severed heads and hands to the city gates as a warning to others. James left Scotland, as many did during this time, and went to the Continent and to Geneva where he received further training and ordination, but he still had a love for his own people back in Scotland. He eventually returned to Scotland, where he began to teach, preach the Gospel, and organize churches. He worked diligently around the clock and rarely slept. Frequently when he did sleep, he was just camping out on the moors in the cold and stormy nights. Often the only place he had to study was in a cave or somewhere out in the wilderness.
He soon became known and was a wanted man by the English. He frequently had to evade the King’s soldiers until one day he was captured in Edinburg, put in prison, and convicted of treason. His mother visited him in prison, and you can imagine how she felt. She hated to know the fact that he would soon be martyred, and it was his head and his hands that would be hanging from the gates of Edinburgh.
On February 17, 1688, he smuggled out a message to her and said, “There is nothing in the world that I am sorry to leave but you. Farewell, Mother. Farewell, my wanderings, cold and weariness for Christ. Farewell, sweet Bible and preaching of the Gospel. Welcome, crown of glory. Welcome, o thou blessed Trinity and one God. I commit my soul into thy eternal rest.” The next morning he embraced his mother, and they went to the scaffold. He was 26 years old.
He had that peace because of his focus on the promise of God. He knew exactly where his destiny was. There were no fears or terrors. He knew he was justified by faith alone, and so he had that complete confidence and complete rest. He had a sure and certain hope.
That hope was in the essence of God, the glory of God which is what Paul says here in Romans 5:2–3 “… and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory [rejoice] in tribulations [adversities].” He is rejoicing in adversity because what this produced in his life.
This is a type of construction that is based on a form of logic that was developed during the 5th century BC called a “sorites,” which is sort of a stair step of logic. If one thing is true, then the next thing develops from that, and the next thing develops from that. I pointed out there were these virtue stair steps in several passages of Scripture.
We looked at the stair steps of virtues in Romans 5:3–4, where we went from adversity to endurance, endurance to tested, approved character, and then that yielded hope or confidence. The more we see God intervene in our lives and provide for us, the more confidence we gain, and our faith is strengthened.
We saw the same kind of thing in James 1:2–4, where James writes, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces patience [endurance]. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” It is the idea of maturing work or the end goal that God has in mind in terms of our Christian life, our growth to spiritual maturity.
Romans 5:3–4 James 1:2–4, 2 Peter 1:5–8
See Slide 11
The stages in the James stair step are a little different, but there is a lot of similarity. We begin with the trial. This leads to testing or the evaluation of faith as we see the utilization of the doctrine in our souls as it is applied to the particular situation or adversity. The more we do that, the more it produces endurance. This is the point where the two stair steps relate to one another, and then it yields maturity.
We went from there to 2 Peter 1:5-8 that focused on a lengthier list of virtues that also relate to this same idea - the stair step to virtue. Peters writes that we are to give all diligence, focus on, make it a point or goal in our life to add to faith, which is trust in a faithful God. That is the starting point.
Verses 5–8 “… add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control [a fruit of the Spirit], to self-control perseverance [the commonality in the 3 stair step lists], to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”
Brotherly kindness is an interesting word. philadelphia [filadelfeia] where we get the name of our city Philadelphia and also the name of an ancient city in western Asia Minor or modern Turkey, focuses to the love for those in the body of Christ. Jesus said in John 13:33–34 that we are to love one another as He loved us. That is brotherly kindness or brotherly affection.
Then in 2 Peter 1:7 “… [add] to brotherly kindness love”—the ultimate in this list of values. Love really comes at a maturing level. Love is not something in the full sense that we have as young believers. To really have that as part of our life, our character makeup spiritually only comes as a result of spiritual growth. It is not something you can expect of an infant. They have a measure of love, just as any infant does, but love has to reach maturity, and that only comes as you go through this process and come to understand the Word of God and see God work in your life experientially.
The one commonality in the 3 stair step lists above is endurance. Hanging in there, not giving up and not quitting no matter how much the opposition is that we face. Think of someone like James Renwick and his martyrdom. There were so many at that time who were focused on doing what God said to do, whether that involved the overt preaching of the Gospel in the face of opposition or just being a faithful parent or whatever area of life God called you to.
Virtue, as the Bible uses the term, is not grounded in an Aristotelian or Platonic concept of virtue but is really grounded in a way the Old Testament talked about God. There are only three or four times in the Hebrew Old Testament that the rabbis translated a couple of different Hebrew terms into the Greek word arete when they translated the Septuagint. What they were saying is that this virtue, in their understanding, was related to the perfections of God’s character. It was not something that was found in man or in creation, which is what the Greeks came up with in their ideas, but this is something that is rooted in the very character of God.
The Image of God (imago Dei)—see Slide 13
Man is created in God’s image in Genesis 1:26–28, but then that image is defaced, corrupted, marred in Genesis 3 when Adam sins. All of Adam’s descendants are still in the image of God, but it is a defaced image and cannot be what God intended us to be because of corruption from sin. When we are saved, justified positionally in Christ, then God begins to work in and through us according to Romans 8:28–29 to conform us back to that image of Christ. As the image of Christ is developed in us, then it produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is the character of Christ, and we have that transformation.
In the past, we have talked about spiritual skills (stress busters). A skill is something you have to practice again and again to perfect it; it is not something you just go and do. I remember when I was young and was taking piano lessons. I had to practice 30 minutes every morning. You probably did the same thing, and if it wasn’t piano lessons, then it was sports, dance or other things. But you had to master those skills and do them over and over again. That is how you learn.
That is how we must drill ourselves. Whenever we face adversity in life, whenever we have a decision to make in how we are going to react or respond to a set of circumstances, we have to decide whether we are going to do it God’s way or my way. Are we going to apply the principles of Scripture or the doctrine to the situation or are we just going to react in our own emotion, out of our own selfishness and arrogance? Every decision then becomes a test. A test does not mean it is something big; it just means it is an opportunity to either obey or disobey God.
When we disobey God, there is a means of recovery, and that is the first skill which is to learn 1 John 1:9. My mother had me memorize it, and it was the first complete sentence I ever said. I guess she decided I needed to learn how to confess my sins in light of where I would probably go in life. That is our recovery tool. When we fail and initially react in anger, bitterness or resentment, immediately we think we reacted too quickly, we confess our sin, and we are back in fellowship. That is simply a restoration and reorientation of direction.
In the Old Testament, they used the term shub, which means to turn. Repent in Hebrew is teshuvah, which means to turn toward God. The confession is a turning. It does not move us anywhere; we are just reoriented in the direction of our life. We may sin again two seconds later, and before long, we end up spinning in a circle. If we stay focused in the same direction, which the Bible refers to as abiding in Christ or walking by the Spirit, then we have another tool or skill to develop for handling the problems of life. We refer to this as the filling by the Holy Spirit, who fills our soul with the Word of God and brings it to our memory, and walking by the Holy Spirit.
Then we have the faith rest drill, grabbing hold of the promises of God. You have to have something to grab hold of. You have to memorize those promises. We have to learn about God’s grace, which is really what is going on in Romans 5. Why does Paul jump in verses 2–5 to this virtue ladder, this stair step of spiritual growth right out of the chute as he comes out of this section on justification? The focus is on understanding grace, and you cannot implement or walk up this virtue ladder if you do not understand grace. The place to understand grace is the cross. That is what becomes the focal point of verses 5 ff.
Basic Spiritual Growth (Slide 14):
Spiritual Skills for Developing Virtue
Recovery: Confession, 1 John 1:9
Spiritual Power: Filling of the Holy Spirit, Walking by the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 5:18
Spiritual Knowledge Base:
Faith Rest Drill, 2 Peter 1:3, 4
Grace Orientation, 2 Peter 3:18
Doctrinal Orientation, 2 Peter 3:18
We have these three spiritual skills. Grace orientation is where we learn about God’s grace, and doctrinal orientation is where we learn all of the procedures and principles that God has in His Word. They really work together. It is not a linear thing; it is an inner dynamic between these three things. In the faith rest drill, our mind is grabbing hold of a promise, a doctrine. The fact that we have it is because of grace. They all really interconnect.
Interplay of Spiritual Knowledge Skills (Slide 15)
As we implement that, we grow in our understanding of God’s grace and the fact that He is constantly providing for us, and we do not deserve it at all. We continue to grow as we learn more promises. That is one of the great things about memorizing promises: you usually have to repeat about 80, 90 or 150 times before I have got it. Three weeks later, I have forgotten it and have to go back and review it. Every time you repeat it in your mind, you are thinking about it. As you are memorizing a passage, your mind is really drilling down into the meaning of that verse or set of verses, so that you understand and are not doing rote memory without understanding the concepts. You are thinking it through and assimilating the principles and promises that are embedded within that particular promise.
As we go through this whole procedure under the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit begins to change us from the inside out. It is not this top-down/outside-in kind of change, which comes from legalism. Legalism says that if you want to impress God, you need to clean up your life in these 25 areas. You cannot do these things, and you need to start doing these things. There is an element of truth to that, but if it is done without the recognition of the work of the Holy Spirit, then it is nothing more than wood, hay and straw (1 Corinthians 3).
Your body takes the food you swallow and then begins to metabolize it, break it down, put it into the blood stream, and then it goes out to strengthen and nourish the cells in your muscles and your brain.
As we spend time walking by the Spirit and being nourished by the Word of God, it is the Holy Spirit inside of us who begins to take the Word and breaks it down, assimilates it into your thinking and your life, and it is spiritually metabolized so it becomes part of your thinking. The more you use it, the more it becomes second nature and becomes a habit. You have to practice it and not wait until the big moment and then figure out how to practice it. It’s too late.
Read Proverbs 3 sometime. Wisdom goes crying through the streets, “Come and get me now. If you do not get me before the crisis, then when the crisis comes, it is too late.” You cannot learn it after the fact; it does not help.
Galatians 5:22–23 is another one of these kinds of these lists of virtues. The fruit of the Spirit or the production of the Spirit – not the production of you but is what the Spirit produces in you as a result of the command in Galatians 5:16 to walk by means of the Spirit. As we walk by the Spirit, the Spirit produces these character transformations in our life.
“Love,” “Joy”—that is the rejoicing that is mentioned back in Romans 5:2-3 We rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and we rejoice in adversity. “Peace”—we have peace with God, but that is a positional peace. As we walk by the Spirit, as we grow spiritually, we develop an experiential peace, tranquility, contentment, relaxed mental attitude, so that as we go through the exigencies of life, we do not hit the panic button quite as much. The sin nature is never eradicated and pops up at some of the most inconvenient times. “Longsuffering” in the Greek it is MAKROTHUMIA, which means long on anger; it takes a long time to get upset over something. It is the opposite of being short-tempered.
“Kindness” and “Goodness” are byproducts of grace orientation as we recognize how nasty we have been toward God. That only comes after you have been saved and have begun to realize life before you were saved was not all that significant for God. He did not save you because you are so sweet, wonderful, brilliant, accomplished, and heaven just would not be the same without you; God saved you in spite of yourself, just a dirty, rotten, obnoxious sinner like everyone else. There is nothing good in us that would cause God to want to save us.
We finally realize that everything we have in life is due to His goodness to us. He is kind to us when we do not deserve it. “Faithfulness”—we become more faithful to God in our walk with Him.
“Gentleness”—has the same idea that we are not prone to anger, being upset or bitter, but we are treating people in grace.
“Self-control”—self mastery, which is a mastery of the passions defined in Galatians 5:19–21 (the works of the flesh, the sin nature).
In this growth progression chart (Slide 20), at the base you have the 5 basic spiritual skills: Everything grows out of those. At the next level as we move out of spiritual childhood, we get a personal sense of eternal destiny. That means we begin to realize more and more where God is taking us, and that future expectation that we have, the certainty of that future destiny begins to impact our present decision making. We have all seen examples of that—if you are a parent and have children and, if not, if you can just remember your own childhood. I always remember one of my mother’s favorite sayings it seems was “you have to learn to think beyond the end of your nose.” Most children are that way: they just don’t think in terms of consequences an hour or two hours or a week or three weeks or further down the road. Then one day, it begins to dawn on them that there are consequences, good and bad, and they need to make decisions today in light of what the ultimate consequences need to be, what they would like to see.
This is developing just within a human realm, sort of a sense of where we are going, and we make decisions today in light of what we want to do a year or two or three down the road. The same thing happens spiritually, as we realize where God is taking us. This is a preparation and training period; God is taking us through circumstances to prepare us to rule and reign with Him in the future. That is our eternal destiny. That begins to impact the decisions that we make today.
These three adult skills (Slide 21) all relate to God; they interact. We have a personal love for God that is related to learning more about all that God has done. It is an outgrowth and a response to grace orientation. The more you really understand grace, all of a sudden, we begin to realize all that God has done for us. It is related to loyalty. Love for God is really defined in Scripture as loyalty to God, and loyalty is manifested by obedience. This is why Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” He is not talking about having warm feelings in your tummy about God. He is talking about loyalty. How do you know if you love God? If you are obedient.
We come out of a culture where love relates to emotion and feeling, but emotion and feeling are pretty flighty and do not last all the time. We have to have the integrity and the character to be loyal. We build on that personal love for God. As we come to love God and understand grace, then it impacts how we treat others – both others in the body of Christ (love one another as Christ has loved us) but also loving those outside of the body of Christ. Galatians 5:14, James 2:8, and a couple of other places quote from Lev. 18 that we are to love our neighbor as our self. We are to focus on Christ—occupation with Christ is a form of love for Christ (Heb. 12:2).
Ultimately, the result of this is happiness. It is that joy that James talks about in James 1:2. The reason I have this happiness, sharing the happiness of God, at the end of the progression is because James starts off, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (vs. 2–3). I think that the rest of James is teaching how you do that. The ultimate end of it is what James starts off commanding at the beginning, which is to “count it all joy.” The only way we can do that is to go through the growth progressions that are defined in the book of James.
In Romans 5:1, we read this conclusion: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have [present reality] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is in this “grace in which we stand” (vs. 2). Then he moves from talking about what we have in this position we are now in (vs. 1–2) to talking about this virtue ladder, this stair step progression to spiritual maturity in vs. 3–5. Why does he do that and how does this fit within his thought flow? It fits within the thought flow when we look at how these verses begin in the Greek. It is somewhat clear in the English.
Some versions will put a paragraph after verse 5. Some of my Greek texts do not even put a paragraph break until verse 12. I think Romans 5:1–11 represents one basic paragraph, which is a collection of thoughts surrounding one basic idea.
Romans 5:5 “Now hope does not disappoint…” That initial word “now” really is a break from what he has said in vs. 2–4, which just get us to the word “hope.” How do we get hope? There is the progression. What Paul really wants to talk about though is hope. Why does hope not disappoint? Because he says “the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” It is not as clear in the English, but that verb “is poured out” in the Greek is a perfect tense. That means it is a completed action. If that pouring out of God’s love is completed, when did that happen? That happened when we were justified, at the instant you trusted Christ as your Savior. At that instant, God poured out His love to us by means of God the Holy Spirit. It is a completed action with results that go on through the rest of our life and on into eternity.
It is poured out by the Holy Spirit. What is the focal point in that verse? Understanding the dimensions of this love which has been poured out in our life. Why is that so important? Then Paul has to explain it in verse 6. He says “for …” “For” in English almost always translates a Greek connective, the word gar, which means an explanation or, in some cases, it could almost be translated as “because.”
Now he is going to give the reason or cause for the principle in verse 5. Verse 6 “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” He goes right back to the fact that if you are going to understand how to make it through this stair step progression, you really have to take some time to think about what God did when you got saved. You really have to take some time to try to probe into the dimensions of God’s love and all that He did for each of us at that instant of salvation. The more we learn that, we become grace oriented, doctrinally oriented, and our love for God begins to grow and develop.
Paul explains this. “For [because] when we were still without strength …” When we were spiritually impotent, in fact spiritually dead, we were incapable of saving ourselves. “… in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” That is what all unbelievers are called. The Greek word is ASEBES; it is a technical term that always describes unbelievers. Christ did not die for the godly, the popular, the good-looking and talented, the brilliant—He died for everybody, and they are all ungodly. Every human being is born ungodly.
Then he explains it again in verse 7 “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.” If you are really good, it is still almost impossible that somebody is going to die for you. Maybe if you are a righteous man, it might happen, but it will be rare. Verse 8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He didn’t die for you because you were righteous or good; He died for you because you were ungodly and a sinner. He died for people who did not deserve anything.
Verse 9 “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” “By His blood” comes from chapter 4. Verse 9 is where Paul had this loose thread hanging out here, and he is going to tie that into what I have been saying about what Christ did on the cross. That is where we were justified by His blood—by His death for us as sinners on the cross. That is completed action.
We were justified the instant we trusted in Christ as Savior, but then he says, “… we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” If you look at that word “wrath” as it has been used in Romans 1:18 ff that the wrath of God has been poured out on those who have rejected Him and who are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, wrath is a term for God’s judgment in time on individuals and on the human race, for divine discipline, divine judgment in time. So the term “we shall be saved” is a future tense. It can be that as you grow and mature as a believer, you are being saved from wrath. It could also refer to something that happens further away.
It probably relates to the whole process of sanctification. We often talk about the three stages of sanctification. At the cross, we are saved from the eternal penalty of sin. In phase two, we are saved from the power of sin. What are we also delivered from? The wrath of God, the judgment of God, experiencing the divine discipline of God not only on those who are unbelievers suppressing the truth in unrighteousness but on those who are believers who are living in carnality suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.
Verse 10 “For [explanation] if 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.” Here he uses an a fortiori argument, which means he is arguing from the greater to the lesser. Paul sets up what he develops in the first part of Romans 6: it is the death of Christ that relates to justification, but it is His resurrection life that is the foundation for the Christian life. That is one reason why the resurrection is so important.
According to the reformed theologians, especially those who are Calvinists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, they often look at this term as related to the physical life of Christ on the earth between His birth and His crucifixion. If we look at this as foreshadowing to what Paul develops in Romans 6, it is not His pre-crucifixion life; it is His post-crucifixion resurrection life that is the foundation for the Christian life. Reformed theologians want to say that not only was Christ’s death on the cross redemptive, but also any suffering He went through in life was redemptive.
What I hope you are catching from this is how important it is not just to do the in depth, microscopic exegetical analysis but to look at how somebody’s thought develops within the context and how he uses certain words in certain ways in a broader spectrum than just looking at the minutia. You have to do both.
Verse 11 “And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” “Rejoice” is an inclusio. He started off by talking about rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God in verse 2, and now he comes back to rejoicing in verse 11. That brackets the text (vs. 1–11). “Reconciliation” ties us back to the fact that we have peace with God in verse 1. You see how verse 11 connects us back to the opening thought in vs. 1–2. As we tie this whole thing together, we are going to come to an understanding that the foundation for moving forward in the spiritual life is understanding what really happened at the cross. God’s love is demonstrated to us in that He died for us, and we did not deserve one thing. That is the key to grace orientation. If you do not get grace orientation, which necessarily implies a heavy dose of humility, there cannot be any growth. Growth demands submission to God’s authority, which means humility, dependence upon God providing the solution, and we just rest in it.