I don’t normally do requests, but I do consider recommendations. From a blog I follow, I was directed to an entry on another blog about biblical perspectives on hell, and from there entered into a discussion about life and death. That discussion led me to Romans 5. I don’t typically study topically, my method of study makes topics excruciatingly difficult and inordinately long. I’ve spent around 30 years, off and on, studying the biblical meaning of life and death…see what I mean?
So, I want to begin by thanking Amanda from “Kindling Truth” for the nudge toward this chapter. She actually had a very long page of references, but many at the top were from this chapter. Anyway, she can’t be blamed for what I say here, she’s simply the one the Holy Spirit used to direct me to this chapter.
I believe that Romans 5 is a “hinge” in Paul’s explanation of his understanding of the good news of Jesus. I see in this chapter a point where Paul’s explanation pivots, swinging from an emphasis on the problem to an emphasis on the solution. In chapters 1 through 4, Paul describes that we are separated from our Creator, whether we have the law of God from the Hebrew Scriptures or not. Basically, after chapter 4, the conclusion is that we’re all lost, Jews and Gentiles.
In chapter 5, the discussion swings into a focus on the solution, and how the solution perfectly fits the problem. In this chapter, Paul uses a lot of different words, all referring to a covenant violation of some sort. If you want to know how Paul can pin “covenant violations” on Gentiles, the answer is found in Romans 2:12-16. And, honestly, calling these actions “covenant violations” is simply convenient, more than being accurate. Essentially, our Creator doesn’t want us to do them. Call them what you will, define them how ever you like, but the basic truth underlying the problem of humanity is that we do what our Creator doesn’t want, and don’t do what He does want.
But, why? There are lots of answers to this question. The writer of the blog I followed to find Amanda’s believes that we have no choice. God’s sovereignty means that every thought and action that follows is predetermined by God, and we are powerless to do otherwise. I don’t subscribe to that belief, but I don’t fault him for it either. He supports it through Scripture, Jesus is his Master, and his relationship with God is through the Jesus of Scripture. So, disagree all you want, he’s still a fellow disciple.
Still, if the answer to why isn’t predetermination, then what? In Romans 5:12, Paul introduces a theme he will return to later. He writes of the “one through whom sin entered the world”, and most readers agree he refers to Adam in Genesis 3. Paul begins a contrast between Adam and Jesus, point for point, showing how Jesus solves the problem created by Adam. He will return to it again in Romans 7 in much more detail. Here, Paul simply touches lightly the points of contrast.
But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. (Romans 5:15 NASB)
Did you notice the “much more” element of the contrast? Look again at verses 9, 10, and 17, and you will see this same element. The solution through Jesus overwhelms the problem. Wait, have you noticed that I haven’t defined the problem? Okay, here’s the “hint” from Paul:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 NASB)
The problem is defined here, by the solution, “…we have peace with God…”. The problem is that we have been aligned against Him, enemies of our Creator. And, because of this, we deserved wrath (see verse 9). This is described in a lot more detail in chapters 1 through 3, but here, in this “hinge” of his discussion, Paul contrasts the resulting “death” with the gift of “life”. Look at verses 17, 18, and 21. These are contrasts where our death is traded for life. Why? Because of what Paul has said in verse 10,
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 5:10 NASB)
The solution through Jesus overwhelms our problem. We were dead, but the life of Jesus overwhelms our death. We are supposed to be dead. We earned it, death is our “wages” earned as a part of the rebellion against our Creator. Many today embrace it, they love death, revel in it, consider it their privilege. Yet, read, again, verse 10, “…while we were enemies…”. Yes, many do wallow jubilant in their death, but that didn’t stop our Creator from solving their problem, and ours, through His Son, Jesus.
What I learn from this is that death is optional. I know my buddy at Perfect Chaos disagrees, and that’s fine, but even he agrees that the problem of death, predetermined though it may be, is solved in Jesus, even if for another predetermined population. It’s still Jesus, He’s still the answer to the problem of death. I believe I have a choice in this, he doesn’t, you may nor may not. Regardless, a solution exists. I don’t have to remain in death. Neither do those who claim to revel in that existence the Scripture defines as death. Even though they “love” it, they can be saved from it. Jesus’ willing action in death overwhelms the problem of our death, and, as He rose from death, so His life now becomes ours. And the life defining our existence has no end, no wrath, and no death.
I have chosen life, others have submitted to the determination of our Creator to live, and both of us call Him Lord.
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19 NASB)
What does your view through the knothole lead you to believe this morning? Are you bound for eternity in the promised land?