Exposition of Romans 5:9–10 God offers amnesty by Christ’s death

If the Bible shows us anything about humanity, it demonstrates humankind in rebellion against God. Disobedience was the tragic story in Eden (Gen. 3), and violence led to the destruction of the world by the great flood (Gen. 6–8). Even after God saved them from slavery in Egypt (Exod. 12–14), the Israelites rebelled against God (Num. 14) and perished in the wilderness during 40 years of wandering. Nor did the story change from that point forward.

Will wrath be God’s last word to a rebellious creation? What will he do to his enemies?

(ESV) Romans 5:9–10  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

We are all accustomed to reading certain formats of information. For example, a dictionary arranges word meanings in the format of alphabetic order. A cookbook briefly describes the dish, lists the ingredients, and provides a step-by-step process for preparing the food.

In Romans 5:9–10, Paul uses a format familiar to rabbinic scholars for analysis of the Old Testament. This is the way Paul had been trained by Gamaliel, the greatly respected teacher of the Mosaic law (see Acts 22:3 and 5:34). A common format was called “light and heavy” — arguing from the greater to the lesser or the reverse. If someone completes medical training (the harder thing), then we may argue they will certainly begin to practice medicine (the easier thing).

With the above facts in mind, Douglas Moo summarizes Romans 5:9–10:

The argument proceeds from the ‘major’ to the ‘minor’: if God has already done the most difficult thing — reconcile and justify unworthy sinners — how much more can he be depended on to accomplish the ‘easier’ thing — save from eschatological [end-time] wrath those who have been brought into such relationship with him.[1]

Verses 9 and 10 each independently follow the major-to-minor argument described above. We will look at these verses in turn.

In Romans 5:9a, the harder thing is described as follows: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood.” The fact that believers in Jesus have been declared righteous by faith is presented as already accomplished “by his blood” (5:9a). This last phrase is a figure of speech called metonymy, in which a part stands for the whole. Jesus’ shed blood represents his death.[2] An example of metonymy in contemporary life is when we call an automobile someone’s “wheels.”

The difficulty of declaring us righteous should not be understated; it took nothing less than the death of the Son of God to allow a just God to justify the ungodly (4:5).

So, if the justification of the helpless, ungodly sinners was the harder part, what is the easier part? Paul says “. . . much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (5:9b). Why is this easier? C.E.B. Cranfield says that God will “save from his wrath at the last those who are already righteous in his sight.”[3] Wrath was never meant for the righteous!

Moo ably discusses how Paul uses the Greek verb s?z? (“save”) in 5:9b:

While he sometimes uses the verb to denote the deliverance from the penalty of sin that comes at conversion (e.g., Rom. 8:24; Eph. 2:5, 8), he more often uses the word . . . to depict the final deliverance of the Christian from the power of sin, the evils of this life, and, especially, judgment (e.g., 1 Cor. 3:15; 5:5; Phil. 2:12).[4]

So, salvation in Romans 5:9 becomes an example of the “already — not yet” pattern of NT fulfillment. We now (“already”) have some benefits from our salvation, but many other benefits will come later (“not yet”).

In Romans 5:10, the harder thing is described as follows: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” First, the language of reconciliation was shocking to those from Greco-Roman culture. Osborne points out, “Cranfield says reconciliation language was never used in the religious language of the Hellenistic [Greek] world because it was too deeply personal, but Paul (Rom. 5:10, 11; 11:15; 2 Cor. 5:18–20) uses it to show the new personal relationship established by God’s justification.”[5]

Did you get that? No other ancient religion imagined God having or wanting a personal relationship with anyone, so they never used reconciliation language. The Greek verb katallass? here (5:10) means: “the exchange of hostility for a friendly relationship, reconcile.”[6]

Christianity is fundamentally different because God has provided the basis for his enemies to become members of his own family (Rom. 8:14–17). Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism-Taoism (the predominant religion of China), and atheism offer no such idea of a personal relationship to God.

Recall that reconciliation “by the death of his Son” (5:10a) was the harder task; the easier sequel is described as “much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (5:10b).

How “shall we be saved by his life” (5:10b)? Thomas Schreiner has the right idea when he says, “Believers are assured that they will escape condemnation since for their sake Christ died, was raised from the dead, and intercedes. . . . Christ’s death and resurrection are inseparable in effecting salvation.”[7] We will be saved in the end because the one “appointed the Son-of-God-in-power” (1:4, NET) will stand up for us!

God has built a bridge for our return to him

God has done the harder part of salvation and will do the easier part at judgment, but only for those who have accepted the reconciliation he offers through Christ.

1. Read 2 Cor. 5:19–20. How and when have you taken advantage of God’s reconciliation through faith in Christ?

2. If you have taken the reconciliation God offers, how are you extending this chance at amnesty to others?

The church father Origen (185–254 AD) said, “Christ’s death brought death to the enmity which existed between us and God and ushered in reconciliation.”[8] For a little while longer, God’s amnesty is still available. Do not miss the last call!

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 310.

[2] Moo, Romans, 310, confirms this analysis.

[3] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 266.

[4] Moo, Romans, 310-311, footnote 91.

[5] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 135, citing Cranfield, Romans, 267.

[6] BDAG-3, katallass?, reconcile, q.v.

[7] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 264.

[8] Gerald Bray, ed., Romans, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998) 133.

Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:23–24

Matthew 5:23-24
“So then, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift.”
(NET Bible)
Note: any Bible reference containing only a chapter number and verse number is understood to be in the Gospel of Matthew.

The feelings of others

The largest room in my home church is called a Worship Center. In light of what Jesus says in today’s Bible passage, perhaps we should build a larger room and call it the Reconciliation Center. Alternatively, we could simply start doing what Jesus says, no matter what we call it!

Yesterday, we developed the idea that Jesus has great concern for our actions, feelings and attitudes toward others (5:21–22). Today the focus shifts away from us to the inner life of others. To be a disciple of Jesus means you must be concerned about how others feel about you, not just about how you feel about them.

Note carefully that the person in 5:23 — the word you is singular — is involved in an important spiritual activity: bringing a gift to the altar as an offering to God. There he recalls that his brother has an issue against him. This concept casts a very big net; has something against you (5:23) could also be translated has anything against you. Anything!

R.T. France reminds us of some basic facts: 1) such an offering could only be made at the temple in Jerusalem, and 2) Jesus spoke these words to his disciples in Galilee. He says Jesus “envisages a worshipper who has travelled some eighty miles to Jerusalem with his ‘offering’ (probably a sacrificial animal), who then leaves the animal in the temple while he makes a journey of a week or more to Galilee and back again to effect a reconciliation with his offended brother or sister before he dares to present his offering.”[1] Wow!

So, today’s passage makes a very simple point. Keener summarizes it by saying that a disciple’s relationship to God partly depends on how the disciple treats others.[2] Walking away from damaged relationships displeases God. A disciple may not find reconciliation, but they are obligated to seek it.

Broken toys

Those of us who are parents know that broken toys get abandoned. In the case of toys, that does not matter very much. But adults quite frequently have the same attitude toward broken relationships. Jesus demands a higher standard from his disciples!

After writing this lesson, I had just sat down in the Worship Center when I realized that a lady down the aisle was someone I had offended and now avoided. The Spirit impelled me down that aisle and onto one knee to apologize. She graciously accepted my apology and we were reconciled before the worship service began. That felt very good!

This subject of reconciliation is more important than you and I have thought. Would not today be a good day to set matters right with someone you know?

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007) 203.

[2] Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1999) 185.