Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 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. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Reconciliation with God Is a Gift from God
We focus today solely on verse 11. Let's begin this morning with the Christmas note in this verse. The Christmas note is in the word "received." "We have now received the reconciliation." The word "received" means that this reconciliation is a gift and we receive it. That's what gives it a Christmas note. God gives a gift and we receive it.
This means that, once, you and I were at odds with God. We had sin; he had wrath. We saw this clearly last week from verses 9 and 10. Verse 9 speaks of being saved from God's wrath. And Verse 10 speaks of a time when we are all enemies of God. But something has happened to change that.
Verse 10 tells exactly what happened. "We were reconciled to God through the death of his Son." The death of Christ happened. And when the Son of God died for our sins, he absorbed into himself, as he died, all the enmity that God had against his people. So the death of Christ is the objective, historical, unchangeable, rock-solid foundation of our reconciliation with God.
Don't miss this great fact. God accomplished reconciliation, that is, God provided the foundation of reconciliation - he purchased the privilege of reconciliation - outside of us. Before we were on the scene or had done anything to help, the decisive work of reconciling was done. When there is sin there must be punishment. Where we have belittled the glory of God, it must be vindicated, and the belittling of God shown to be as horrible as it really is. That is what the death of Christ did. And he did it without our help or partnership.
This principle of justice holds true in ordinary legal affairs today. Suppose you break the law - say you were doing 70 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone. Now the state is at enmity with you. You have broken trust and offended against its authority and right to put limits on your life for the common good. So the state demands a payment for there to be reconciliation between you and the state. Maybe you lose the ticket and forget about the offense. But the state does not forget, and they mail you a summons to appear in court. They are not friendly. There is an offense and it must be settled. There will be punishment. That is what the law requires to restore the honor and right of the state.
So it is with God and us. We have broken his laws. We have belittled his glory. We have neglected his fellowship. We have broken trust with his promises. We have rejected his right and authority to lead us. And so we are rebels and alienated. But long before we arrived on the scene acting this way, God had purchased our reconciliation. The infinite traffic fines of all God's people were fully paid before we were ever born. So, Paul says in verse 11, all that's left for us to do in being reconciled to God is to "receive the reconciliation." It's a glorious phrase. "Receive the reconciliation." Don't perform it. Don't earn it. Don't work for it. Don't suffer for it. Don't pay for it. Receive it.
That's the great Christmas note in verse 11. Reconciliation with God is a gift from God.
Who Is the Gift for?
If you ask now, who is the gift for, the answer is: it's for whoever will receive it. Which raises the stakes very high in understanding what receiving really involves. So let's ponder that for a while and look at the rest of the verse.
Verse 11 says, "And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation." So the main point of this verse is that Christians exult in God. That is, we rejoice, boast, glory in God through Christ.
When the verse begins "and not only this" what is it referring back to? Well, it seems to me that Paul wants us to see verse 11 as an advance on verse 2 and verse 3 because the same language of exultation is used there. Verse 2b says, "We exult in the hope of the glory of God." The same word for "exult" is used here as in verse 11. So the stress in verse 2 is that the glory of God is not fully present to us. It is future. We hope for it and in that hope we are exulting, rejoicing, boasting, glorying.
Then in verse 3 Paul uses the very phrase that he does in verse 11 to show that there is something else that we exult in besides the hope of the glory of God. Verse 3 says, "And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations." So Paul wants to make sure that our exultation is not only in hope but in the very pain and affliction that tests our faith and makes us more confident that we are true beneficiaries of the hope of the glory of God. Pain produces endurance, and endurance produces proven, refined, tempered, steel-like faith, which gives us hope that we really are Christians and will inherit the glory of God.
Paul labors in verses 6-10 to give us this assurance that we really will be saved from wrath and inherit the glory of God. Then in verse 11 he says the same thing he did in verse 3 to take our exultation to a new level. He says, "And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Now what's new in this exultation? What's new is that it is present and very personal.
In verse 2 we exult in the hope of the glory of God.
In verse 3 we exult in our tribulations that refine our faith and help us hope fully in that coming glory.
The Gift of God, Reconciled
But in verse 11 it's no longer an exultation in hope, but a present exultation in God himself. Not only this - not only do we exult in hope and in tribulations - but we exult now in God himself. And notice he does not say that this is some second stage Christianity. Or some special experience for very mature Christians. "We exult in God." That is what we Christians do.
Now this goes a long way to answering our question about what it really mean to "receive the reconciliation." Receiving reconciliation means experiencing God as reconciled and friendly and personal and present and helpful and satisfying. The gift of reconciliation with God is the gift of God reconciled. So "receiving the reconciliation" means receiving God as reconciled. But be sure you get the Biblical stress: receiving God, reconciled. That's the point of verse 11a: "We exult in God." Not just the hope of the glory of God. Not the tribulations that strengthen that hope. We exult in God. The time is now. The satisfying person is God.
Now contrast this kind of receiving with another kind and test yourself to see if you have received the reconciliation. Suppose someone very wise and very loving and very powerful wraps a very precious gift for you and gives it to you with the promise, "If you receive this gift, it will go well with you and you will be satisfied and rejoice." So you take the gift into your hands, but instead of opening it and looking for the joy and satisfaction in the gift, you put it on a shelf in the attic still wrapped. And every now and then you think about the promise that, if you receive the gift, things will go well with you and you will be satisfied and happy. And you comfort yourself that you have indeed received the gift. It's there in the attic. And you believe things are a little better than before. But you are not so sure. And you struggle with doubts about whether the promise is true.
Is that what "receive the reconciliation" means in verse 11? Does Paul mean, take the gift of God's reconciliation, hear the promise that if you receive it, your sins will be forgiven and you will have eternal life and God will work all things together for your good and say, "That's sounds like a good deal. Who wouldn't want that?" So you take the gift of reconciliation and put it on a shelf in the attic of your brain - "There, I have received the reconciliation." Is that what Paul means by "receive the reconciliation"?
I don't think so. That's not Christianity, that's magic. And if there's one thing Christianity isn't, it's magic.
Let's alter the illustration a little. Even when you open the package, reconciliation is not like most other gifts. Say a gift of a box of fuses. You get a box of fuses, and you may be really thankful because they are absolutely essential for having electricity in your house. And everybody wants electricity. So you are happy with this very useful gift. You screw in the ones you need at the moment so that all your beloved appliances will work, and you put the others on the fuse box, and then forget about them entirely till something breaks. Then you feel thankful again for the gift and you go downstairs and put a new fuse in and forget about them again.
Receiving the Gift of Reconciliation
For many people in the church, this is what they call Christianity. This is what they think it means to be saved and to be on their way to heaven. But this is not what Paul means by receiving the gift of reconciliation. He means receiving it in such a way that what is in the package makes you exult. And what is in the package is God reconciled.
The gift of reconciliation is not the gift of God doing things for you. You might say that the gift of "salvation" is the gift of God doing things for you - rescuing you from sin and guilt and hell. And you might say that the gift of "justification" is the gift of God's doing this for you -forgiving your sins and counting you righteous for Christ's sake. But the gift of reconciliation is different. It is God offering us God as himself.
And for what? To put in the attic? To be plugged into our appliances? To become the great grease for all the wheels of our worldly lives so that things go better with all the stuff we really enjoy? No, Paul makes really clear in this verse why God gives us himself reconciled. The answer is that we might exult in him. In him. Not in his gifts mainly. Not his effects mainly. But in him. "We exult in God."
There's the test of whether you have received the reconciliation. Have you opened the gift? Do you like what is inside the gift of reconciliation? Really like it. Namely, God.
So practically then, how do you do this?
Through Our Lord Jesus Christ
One key is that we receive reconciliation through Jesus Christ and we exult in God through Jesus Christ.
Utterly crucial all through these first 12 verses of Romans 5 is the agency of Jesus Christ for our experience of God. We saw it last week: the past work of God was through Jesus Christ. The future work of God will be through Jesus Christ. You can see it back in verses 1 and 2: we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and through him we have access into the grace in which we stand.
Now here it is again in verse 11 at two different levels: "We also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ [there's one level], through whom we have now received the reconciliation [there's another level]."
So one answer to the question: How do we practically receive reconciliation and exult in God, is do it through Jesus Christ. Which means, at least in part, make the portrait of Jesus in the Bible - the work and the words of Jesus portrayed in the New Testament - the essential content of your exultation over God. Exultation without the content of Christ does not honor Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 4:4,6, Paul describes conversion two ways. In verse 4 he says it is seeing "the glory of Christ who is the image of God." And in verse 6 he says it is seeing "the glory of God in the face of Christ." In either case you see the point. We have Christ, the image of God, and we have God in the face of Christ.
Practically, to exult in God, you exult in what you see and know of God in the portrait of Jesus Christ. And this comes to its fullest experience when the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, as verse 5 says.
So hear the closing Christmas point. Not only did God purchase our reconciliation through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 10), and not only did God enable us to receive that reconciliation through the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 11b), but even now, verse 11a says, we exult in God himself through our Lord Jesus Christ.
* Jesus purchased our reconciliation. * Jesus enabled us to receive the reconciliation and open the gift. * And Jesus himself shines forth from the wrapping - the indescribable gift - as God in the flesh, and stirs up all our exultation in God.
Look to Jesus this Christmas. Receive the reconciliation that he bought. Don't put it on the shelf unopened. And don't open it and then make it a means to all your other pleasures. Open it and enjoy the gift. Exult in him. Make him your pleasure. Make him your treasure.