Skip to comments."We Have Now Received Reconciliation" (Sermon for Good Friday, Tenebrae Vespers, on Romans 5:6-11)
Posted on 04/22/2011 3:38:44 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
We Have Now Received Reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11)
Our text this evening is the same as it was earlier today, a portion of Romans 5. At noon, under the theme Christ Died for the Ungodly, we focused on these verses: For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Now tonight we continue on from that point: Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 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. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
We Have Now Received Reconciliation: That is our theme for tonight. Tonight we want to consider the results, the benefits, of Christ dying for the ungodly. What is the changed situation now between God and us, because of what Christ has done?
There are many ways we could express that. The one weve been using a lot throughout this series on Romans--because Paul uses it a lot--is the language of justification. Justification, that is, the fact that God pronounces us not guilty, righteous, for Christs sake. Justification is a legal metaphor. Its like were on trial in Gods court room, the law books are brought out, the charges against us are read, the evidence is brought forward, and the verdict is that we are guilty according to the law. Guilty as charged, and the sentence is death. However, here comes Christ Jesus, the righteous one, the only one who has kept Gods law of love as it should be kept, and he offers himself as our substitute. He takes our sentence upon himself, suffers death under Gods judgment in our place. And because he is the holy Son of God, his sacrificial death is sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world, yours and mine included. In turn, Christs righteousness is credited to us. And so God is indeed being a just judge--no soft slacker--when he acquits us sinners, justifies us and declares us righteous, and welcomes us into his kingdom. Gods law, his justice, has been upheld; it has not been brushed aside. That, in a nutshell, is justification, and it is the dominant image here in the Book of Romans.
But it is not the only image. There are other ways to talk about what God has done in Christ, and the one that Paul moves to here in Romans 5 is that of reconciliation. We have now received reconciliation, Paul writes. If justification is a legal metaphor, reconciliation would be more along the lines of a personal relationship. Two parties have been estranged from one another, there has been a separation, a gap, and now something has happened such that they are brought back together. Thats what a reconciliation is.
I suppose were most familiar with the language of reconciliation in terms of a marriage. Husband and wife have been living apart, separated, anger simmering perhaps, but somehow theyve worked things out, and now they have come back together.
Now the difference between that kind of reconciliation and the reconciliation between God and us is that, when God reconciles us to himself, its not like both parties were at fault to some extent and both parties had to give a little bit. No way. The fault was entirely on our side, and it was God exclusively who acted to bring about the reconciliation. We were the enemies of God, hostile toward him, and God is the one who does the reconciling.
Lets take another family situation to show this. A disloyal son has run off from home, perhaps taken a chunk of the family fortune with him, run off to parts unknown, disgraced the family, squandered his money, making a mess of his life--hey, this sounds familiar! Jesus told a parable just like this, The Prodigal Son. There we saw a great example of a reconciliation. But remember how that worked. What happened to effect the reconciliation? It wasnt the sons plan, which was to work off his guilt by laboring as a hired hand. No, it was the father, the waiting father, who welcomed his wayward son back with open arms and even threw a feast for him. That is Gods kind of reconciliation, when he welcomes back sinners as sons.
But it does not come without a cost. The cost is borne by Christ. We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, our text says. The death of Gods Son Jesus Christ, the death that this Good Friday is all about. The death of Christ is what effects the reconciliation. Christ makes peace in his own body on the cross. Hanging between heaven and earth, Christ is our mediator. We sinners were enemies of God, and Christ is the great peacemaker. He is our peace, he makes the reconciliation.
Now the peace that Christ makes is not just the absence of a negative. It is the presence of a positive. Peace is more than the absence of war, the cessation of hostilities. Peace is a positive wholeness, a new and good situation existing between God and us. God is smiling down upon us. He is favorably disposed toward us for Christs sake.
So its not just what weve been saved from. Its what weve been saved for. We have been saved from Gods wrath, yes. We are no longer Gods enemies. Christs death took care of that. But much more, more than that, Christs life, his rising again, means that we have been saved for life--for a whole new life, eternal life, a qualitatively different kind of life, in which we know God and are at home with him. Reconciled, thats the word.
God through Christ has reconciled us to himself. Fully. There is no simmering discontent lingering under the surface. No, everything is back together as it should be. God is not holding any grudges against you, ready to smack you down. Thats not how it is. Rather, God is glad to have you back in the family. Theres a feast going on, a joyous, happy feast that will last forever.
And so we rejoice. Yes, even in a Good Friday Tenebrae Vespers. The shadows are deepening here tonight, as we recall the ghastly price it took to effect our reconciliation, namely, the bloody death of Gods Son Jesus Christ, on that Friday when darkness fell over the land and it looked like the whole thing was over. The women wept when Jesus was taken down to be buried. But weeping turns to joy when we realize all that Christ accomplished by his death and that death was not the last word. Not by a long shot.
The death of Christ is really our ticket to life. Its safe to come home. There is no more wrath to be poured out. Welcome home, son, daughter! Your Father is reconciled to you. No more estrangement. Youre at home now. Youre at home for good.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 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. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
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