What God Begins, He Completes – Romans 5:9-11
By: Alistair Brown
(Part 4 of a study of Romans 5:1-11.)
I’ve known people who had a hundred new ideas before breakfast, but hardly any of those ideas ever turned into viable projects. I’ve known other people who didn’t seem ever to have any original ideas. But they were good at working on other people’s initiatives; it’s just that they never had any of their own.
I’ve just described the difference between those who are great at beginning things and those who are great at completing them. The genius that imagines something that doesn’t yet exist is usually not the same genius who gets their head down to work through all the details to see a project finish.
God does both. In the passage we will look at today, the apostle Paul’s fundamental point is that what God begins, he completes.
Romans 5: 9-11
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Paul uses a writing technique here which scholars call “arguing from the greater to the lesser.” It’s really very simple:
- If Bill is strong enough to cut down trees with a giant ax, then Bill won’t have any problem chopping up firewood with a small hatchet.
- If Hilda can cook gourmet food for fifty important guests, then Hilda will be able to put an excellent meal on the table for her own family.
The logic is straightforward. If the greater is true, then the lesser will be true too. If the harder thing is accomplished, then the easier thing will also be accomplished.
That is exactly the argument of verses 9 and 10:
- If God would give his Son to make us right with him, then because of Jesus we will certainly also escape God’s final judgment.
- If while we were out and out enemies of God he would reconcile us to himself by Jesus’ death, then we shall certainly be ultimately saved because of his new, resurrected life.
The biggest things – dealing with our sin and bringing us to God – have already been accomplished, so God will see the work through to its finish: escaping his wrath and enjoying full and final salvation.
Five things come through strongly in what Paul writes:
- We used to be God’s enemies. We were separated from God, but not just separated. Our wills and our way of living were hostile. God was never against us, but we were certainly against him.
- God – the one we opposed – has done everything needed to rescue us. He gave his only Son, and we have been “justified by his blood” and “reconciled… through the death of his Son.” We did not initiate or effect our own salvation; God did. We owe it all to him.
- The justification and reconciliation Paul describes are already achieved. Paul says “we have now been justified” and “we were reconciled.” Those are accomplished facts.
- Our journey to glory, though, is not yet over. We’re not yet as much like Christ as we should be; there is work to be done here on this earth; there is the final business of standing one day before our Maker.
- But there is a risen Savior who is with us every step of the way. He is not only present, he’s our helper. Three chapters later in Romans 8:34 Paul writes: “Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” We are not reconciled, pointed toward heaven and then left to struggle down eternity road on our own. He is with us, helps us, prays for us, and ensures we get there. So, as Paul says back in chapter 5: “How much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
So, these five things:
- We were enemies.
- God changed that and reconciled us to himself.
- That’s been done – past tense because it’s a past event.
- However, we are not yet in heaven.
- But Jesus lives, and supports us along the way to our ultimate, eternal destination.
God has done everything and continues to do everything for our salvation.
I remember reading the story of a couple whose son was murdered in a dreadful act of violence by another young man. After a time of torment, the couple found peace and an ability to forgive their son’s killer. They visited him in prison and built a relationship with him. He was a lost young man, but their care for him changed his life. After many years the day came when he was released. Outside the prison that day was the couple – the parents of the boy he’d murdered – and the one who had so wronged their son was welcomed into their home and to a new life.
What God has done for us is so much more, so much greater, than that story. But perhaps the story gives some sense of how God has reached into the lives of those who were his enemies, reconciled them, and now shares his life and ultimately his glory with them.
No wonder, then, Paul finishes these verses by describing just how marvelous, how amazing, how exciting all this is. Because of these great truths Paul writes, “We also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (v. 11).
Imagine you were a student in college. Right at the start you were distracted by everything in college life away from the classroom, and you failed your first exam in college. Now imagine there was no way to retake that exam, no remarking of your work, no way at all to get past that failure. Finally, imagine then how hard it would be to keep going through other courses and taking other exams, always knowing that no matter how well you did now there would be only one final verdict: failure.
God has taken away all early, middle, and late failures. He has dealt with every wrong, every sin, every bad thought and deed. God has disposed of everything that went with being enemies of him. Every sin, every failure was laid on Jesus and he died for them all. For them all. Nothing unresolved. No sins unforgiven. We are free. We are saved.
Therefore we boast in God. We exult in God. By the death of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, God has reconciled us now and forever to him. This is good news. This is great news. This is the most wonderful news there has ever been.
From beginning to end, God completes our salvation.
To God be the glory, great things he hath done!
So loved he the world that he gave us his Son.