Sermon on Romans 5:6-11 – “Much More Assurance”
September 16, 2018 at Dillingham Presbyterian Church
“Billy” Lee was a servant—a slave—of General George Washington. For eight years before the Revolutionary War, he had served as valet, huntsman, and butler at Washington’s Mount Vernon home. Coming along with Washington into battle, Billy Lee, it is said, would attempt to stand between Washington and enemy gunfire while verbally encouraging the General to find safety. Billy Lee—who should himself be considered a great man—loved Washington and recognized him as a great man; a leader of the revolution, and a man he was willing to risk his life for.
The story of Billy Lee is notable because it is rare for a man to be willing to risk his life for another. Few are the men who are willing to die for another man. And usually, or exclusively, a man is only willing to die for another if it is some great man for whom he is to die. Billy Lee risked his life for George Washington, but not for any lesser officer, and certainly not for any common soldier.
In our passage from Romans, Paul tells us:
“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–”
Yet, in Jesus Christ, we have one not only willing to die for a great man, but one who did die for wretched sinners. And so, while the story of Billy Lee is rare, that of Jesus Christ is entirely unique. It is one of a kind. As the commentator William Hendricksen has said “God’s love is both unprecedented and unparalleled.”
And it is this unique fact about Jesus Christ—that he died for sinners—that Paul uses in our passage today to lead us finally to a proof of the assurance of our salvation. Paul uses the fact of God’s love for us in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross to encourage his readers to have an assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ. Repeat: (An Assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ).
But before we get to that main point—assurance—we need to look at how Paul frames that point in the passage.
This really is a fascinating passage, both theologically and structurally.
I. “3 WHILES”
The first structural element to notice in the passage is what I call the “3 whiles.” (Repeat: the “3 whiles”)
1) While we were still weak
2) While we were still sinners
3) While we were enemies (of God)
These “3 whiles” all point back to a time BEFORE we had faith in Jesus Christ. In that time we were weak, we were sinners, and we were enemies of God. We were not neutral nor in any position to decide for God ourselves. In fact, we had already decided against him. We were sinners. And because of this we were God’s enemies.
And then Christ came, not to a bunch of people who had it all figured out, but to a mass of sinners whom God had chosen before the foundation of the world and whom He had elected to salvation in Him.
Christ’s life, and particularly his death on the cross, should be seen as the central point of all history. We have in Western society delineated our time as B. C. (before Christ’s birth) and A. D. (Anno Domini), the estimated year of the Lord’s birth. But in many ways it is Christ’s death on the cross that forms a more central point in history than even Christ’s birth. It was on the cross that we were objectively justified. It was on the cross that Jesus bore our sins. It was on the cross that Jesus said “It is finished.”
The central date in history thus was not so much the year of Jesus’ birth, 1 A. D. (or even 4 B.C., which is more likely the year of his actual birth), but the central date in history is the day of Jesus’ death, very possibly April 3, 33 A. D.
In our modern times, an important date is Sept. 11, 2001. This past week marked the 17thanniversary of that dreadful day when America was attacked by terrorists. And you have may see many promoting the message “Never Forget, 9/11/2001.” But the most central event in world history is Jesus’ death. We might remind ourselves, Never Forget, April 3rd, 33 A. D.
So Paul’s “3 whiles” are before this date, matching the time before Jesus’s death on the cross. And then, corresponding to the time after Christ’s death, Paul has “3 nows.”
II. “3 NOWS”
The “3 nows” are set in contrast with the “3 whiles.” So we haver another— a second—notable structural element in the passage. The “3 nows.” They are:
1) now (we have) been justified by his blood,
2) now that we are reconciled
3) now (we have) received reconciliation
These emphasize our regenerated, redeemed, justified, and adopted situation NOW that we do have faith in Jesus Christ.
The contrast between the “3 whiles” and the “3 nows” marks that difference between our former selves and our new selves, being reborn in Jesus Christ.
And Paul’s repetition brings out the emphasis. It makes sure we don’t miss his point. Jesus came not to holy men, but to sinners. To enemies of God. But NOW we are reconciled, justified by His blood.
III. CHIASM – POINTS TO “HOW MUCH MORE”
Then there is third interesting structural element in this passage.
The passage forms what is called a chiasm.
A chiasm is literary technique commonly used (particularly by Jewish writers) to focus the reader’s (or listener’s) attention on a central point. Chiasm is related to the Greek letter “chi” which is like our letter “X.” The letter X, when you look at its shape, starts open on the top, closes in the middle, and opens again on the bottom. It has a symmetry. A chiasm or chiastic construction then is when a passage starts AND ENDS with the same comment or comments, framing a central middle point. That central point then is central.
Chiasms can have any number of framing elements.
In our passage today there are two levels of framing elements:
In verses 6 and 11—the outside of the frame—Paul states what Christ has done for us. He has died for the ungodly. He has provided brought us reconciliation.
Then, in verse 8 and 10—the inner part of the frame—Paul states what condition man was in when Christ saved us. We were “still sinners” and “enemies of God.”
Then, in the center of the “X” we have his central point of the passage. With a chiasm, the central point is easy to find. X marks the spot.
IV: A LOT MUCH MORE
“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” This is the central point.(Repeat:“much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.)
Some Bible translations turn this into a question, asking, “HOW much more shall we be saved by him from God’s wrath?” (REPEAT: “HOW much more shall we be saved by him from God’s wrath?”)
And the answer is in the very asking of the question. How much more shall we be saved by him from God’s wrath? Pardon my poor grammar: A LOT MUCH MORE! How much more shall we be saved by him from God’s wrath? A LOT MUCH MORE!
This answer is clear in seeing that Paul is working from the lesser to the greater.
God loved us even WHILE we were to all appearances unlovable sinners.
NOW that God
– has justified us
– paid a price for us
– and has worked sanctification in us
– now that we have the Holy Spirit of the living God in us
– and now that we are part of his body, the church,
HOW MUCH MORE shall we be saved by him from God’s wrath? Now that God has done all of those things for us, How much more clear is it that God loves us? A LOT MUCH MORE! A WHOLE LOT MUCH MORE!
But what does Paul mean when he says “we shall be SAVED by him from God’s wrath”?
What is it to be saved?
Salvation is one of the most commonly used words in our Christian vocabulary. But what does it mean? What is salvation?
Is it that we are saved from our sin? – Sure. The angel said to Joseph that he is to name his son Jesus, for Jesus (the Hebrew name meaning “God is salvation”) will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)
Is Salvation that we are saved from this world? – Sure.
But ultimately, salvation is to be SAVED from the wrath of God. (REPEAT: salvation is to be SAVED from the wrath of God)
The wrath of God will bypass us because of Jesus Christ.
It is no wonder therefore that Paul says we are to rejoice. We can rejoice in the reconciliation we have in Christ; the salvation which saves us from the wrath of God.
Paul has said a lot about the wrath of God so far in the book of Romans. And he has more to say throughout the book. In fact, of the 36 times where the “wrath” in mentioned in the New Testament, 11 of them are in Romans. Almost 1/3 of all references to “wrath” are here in Romans.
And what does Paul say about wrath?
Paul teaches that the wrath of God comes down on ungodly and unrighteous men who do evil, and that this wrath manifests itself both in pains of this life and in particular in the “day of wrath” to come when men shall be judged. But we—believers—shall be saved from wrath through Jesus Christ. It is only here in Romans 5:9 out of the whole New Testament that this exact explicit point is made. We shall be saved from the wrath of God.
And this is not a maybe, it is a “shall be,” a secured future promise because it is from the Lord. We have God’s promise of salvation.
The purpose of this whole passage is to give us assurance of salvation; assurance that we are saved from the wrath of God.
“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
There is a very similar verse later in Romans.
Romans 8:32. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
Jesus Christ died, not for great men, but for sinners.
And, if He loved us WHILE we were enemies of God, how much more can we be sure that He love us NOW that we are reconciled with God? A LOT MUCH MORE.
We—God’s people—were bought at a price. God will not then discard us. We belong to God, for keeps, forever. And are sheltered by the blood of Jesus Christ from the wrath of God.
Because of Jesus Christ we have ASSURANCE of salvation. Assurance not based on ourselves, but on Christ.
Assurance, as we teach in the Reformed church, solidifies and completes the good news of salvation. Those who don’t teach assurance don’t have good news as we do. If the gospel is without assurance, it just isn’t good news. Without assurance, there is a salvation that is only temporary, incomplete.
The Roman Catholic church teaches against assurance. For them, to say that you are assured of your salvation is presumption. Because they teach salvation by grace and works, you can never know that you’ve done enough works, or good enough works to be assured of salvation. So if say you are sure of your salvation they think it is arrogance. But we don’t believe in salvation by grace plus works. Salvation is entirely of God’s grace. And we have assurance not in our works but in God’s grace. There is no arrogance; for we do not trust in ourselves for salvation, we trust in God for salvation. We have assurance because Jesus paid it all.
Arminian theologians likewise also do not accept assurance. The Arminian cannot be assured of his salvation because that same erroneous “free will” by which he claims to have chosen God may turn on him, and may ruin him tomorrow. Assurance does not come from trusting in our own decisions.
Only trusting in God, do we have assurance. With faith wehavefreedom from doubt; a confidence that salvation awaits.
Assurance is taught in a number of places in the New Testament:
John 10:28-29 where Jesus says of his people:
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
And Paul says in Ephesian 3:11-12
11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with CONFIDENCE through our faith in him.
And in First John 5:13 the apostle tells us:
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.
And in 2 Timothy 1:12:
But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am CONVINCED that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
And finally, later in Romans (10:9) Paul writes,
9 if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you WILL be saved.
Assurance is CONFIDENCE, the sure KNOWING that you WILL be saved and no one can snatch you out of God’s hand.
Assurance is what is spoken of in the famous hymn “Blessed Assurance.”
Heir of salvation
Purchase of God
Born of His Spirit
Washed in His blood
All of these are ACCOMPLISHED and assured. Heir, purchase, born, washed. All past tense.
Because of this assurance, we can, like Paul, rejoice.
That is why we sing:
“This is my story, this is my song, PRAISING my savior all the day long.”
Blessed Assurance. Jesus is mine!
And assurance is taught in the Old Testament as well.
Psalm 23:6 “SURELY goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Job 19:25-26 “For I KNOW that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand up the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed yet in my flesh I shall see God.”
APPLICATION # 1: STRUGGLING WITH DOUBT
But what if you don’t believe you have assurance? What if you are doubting your salvation? It is important to note that you’re not alone. Many Christians have struggled with assurance of salvation.
The Westminster Confession tells us:
“a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of assurance.”
“True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted”
“This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened”
But, the Confession also explains:
[faith] gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.
So, while struggling with assurance does not mean you are not a Christian, we are not to encourage doubt, but, asking not whether we have had sufficient faith, we are to point to Jesus Christ and rest assured in the His promise of salvation.
If you are struggling with assurance. Do not look inward trying to muster up greater faith, but look outward. Look to the Promises of the Lord. Know that much more will he save you from the wrath to come.
APPLICATION #2: ASSURANCE LEADING US TO GOOD WORKS
Because of our assurance of salvation, we can joy in doing good works. Not out of guilt, trying to appease God. But out of joy knowing that our salvation is assured.
Assurance of salvation should bring you great joy, praising God, and rejoicing in His name. And this joy overflows from you into doing good works also in His name. Good works then are the fruit of our justification, not the grounds of our justification. They result from our already being justified, and with assurance we are to seek the Lords will, doing good things in His name as the Holy Spirit leads us both to will and to do.
So, we conclude.
You have faith in Jesus Christ that he died for your sins. Therefore, also be assured that you will be saved from the wrath to come. Much more should you be assured. A LOT MUCH MORE. Amen, Let us pray.