Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Romans 5:7-8 - Who provided justification, and how?

Paul is continuing to explain the doctrine of justification, and in 5:7-8 he reminds us who provided it. The answer is God. But we can ask another question, Why did he provide it? Paul gives us the answer in verse 8 when he says that God shows his love for us.
We are not told why God chose to love us, apart from the fact that he does everything for his own glory. So his loving us is connected to the display of his glory, his best, his wonder, his status. It would have been inappropriate in a sense for God not to have loved sinners, because if he had not he would not have done what brought him the greatest glory. This is not to say that he would not have been glorified if he had not loved them. Yet the Bible does stress that his greatest glory is seen in the plan of salvation.
Much has been said about the love of God. Here are three brief comments. First, it is a love of compassion shown towards the helpless, the weak. Second, it is a gracious love shown towards the rebellious, the ungodly, who did not deserve this divine attitude towards them. Third, it is an overflowing love because it will give incredible blessings to those who experience its benefits, and we will think about them briefly tomorrow.
How did God provide justification? Paul here focuses on the death of Jesus, that he died as a substitute for sinners on the cross. His death is a marvel because it is impossible to conceive of a righteous person dying for an unrighteous person. In fact, it is hard to imagine a righteous person being willing to die on behalf of a good person, although sometimes this has happened, for example when a spouse will die on behalf of the partner, or when someone will give his life to rescue a person in danger.

Paul stresses the substitutionary aspect of the death of Jesus, that he died in the place of sinners and paid the penalty that their sins deserved. This is remarkable and Paul highlights the wonder by calling Jesus by the title Christ, which is the Greek rendering of Messiah. The Messiah was the promised hero of the Old Testament who would come and provide deliverance for sinners and obtain universal power. Truly he would be a great person, one deserving of high honour. But Paul says that the one who deserved such high honour went to the cross in order to deliver sinners from the penalty of their sins.

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