Saved by the Life of God’s Son (Romans 5:1-11)

The full present and future life of the believer can never be separated from the resurrection life of Christ.

It is not simply the resurrection as an event that is in view, however. Paul does not say, we shall be saved by his resurrection, but ‘by his life,’ and therefore it is the exalted life of the Redeemer that is intended. The resurrection is in the background as conditioning the exaltation life.

 

The eschatological life of the believer requires the legal restitution of sin’s guilt by means of an imputed righteousness for justification—a kingdom benefit received only in union with Christ by his Spirit through faith. While Paul spoke of the death of Christ in Romans 1:3–4 and its application for salvation to all who believe in 1:16–17, now in 5:1–11 he expounds its substitutionary nature, having just declared Abraham justified before God on account of the righteousness he received not by works of the law, but through faith. Christ did not die for his own sin, but for us while we were helpless (v. 6), sinners (v. 8), and enemies (v. 10). The death of Christ established peace with God (5:1) for by it we were reconciled to God (5:10)—both forensic terms in keeping with justification.

Vos, commenting on Romans 5:9–11, states, “The objective reconciliation took place in the death of Christ; its subjective result is justification. … The two are entirely equivalent. … [Reconciliation] consisted in the removal of objective legal obstacles…. According to Romans … the two transactions of reconciliation and justification are in substance identical. They both rest on the death, or the blood, of Christ.” [1]

Ridderbos gets at the eschatological thrust of reconciliation by defining it as “the work of redemption going out from God in Christ to the world, for the removal of ‘enmity,’ for the restoration of ‘peace.’ … [I]t is primarily a matter of removing that which stands in the way of the right relationship between God and (in the most comprehensive sense of the word) the world; in other words, of the eschatological restoration of all things.[2]

Of particular interest for understanding the eschatological aspect of Paul’s conception of life is his statement in 5:10, “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.[3] The reference to the “life” of the Son[4]comes after mention of his “death,” which leads us to understand it not as his earthly life, but specifically as his resurrection life in the power of the Spirit (1:4). John Murray observes,

It is not simply the resurrection as an event that is in view, however. Paul does not say, we shall be saved by his resurrection, but ‘by his life,’ and therefore it is the exalted life of the Redeemer that is intended. The resurrection is in the background as conditioning the exaltation life.[5]

[1] Geerhardus Vos, “The Pauline Conception of Reconciliation,” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, 363–64

[2] Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, 183.

[3] This is the same sequence as 1:3–4. In other words, the life-experience of Christ is repeated in those united to him by the Spirit through faith.

[4] This is the first time the title “Son” has been used since the prologue.

[5] John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 1:174.

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