13 Aug 2018
A Commentary by John Stott
Romans 5:9-10. e). We shall be saved through Christ.
So far the apostle has concentrated on what God has already done for us through Christ. We have been justified. We have peace with God. We are standing in grace. We rejoice in our hope and in our sufferings. Yet there is more – much more – still to come, which is not yet ours. In fact, verses 9 and 10 are notable examples of the familiar New Testament tension between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’, between what Christ has accomplished at his first coming and what remains to be done at his second, between our past and our future salvation. For salvation has a future tense as well as past and present tenses, and the words common to these two verses are the statement that we shall be saved. If, therefore, we are asked by some brash evangelist whether we have been saved, it would be just as biblical to say ‘No’ as ‘Yes’, although the correct answer would be ‘Yes and no.’ For yes, we have been saved through Christ from the guilt of our sins and from the judgment of God upon them, but no, we have not yet been delivered from the indwelling sin or been given new bodies in the new world.
What, then, is the future salvation which Paul has in mind here? He uses two expressions, the first negative and the second positive. First and negatively, we shall *be saved from God’s wrath* through Christ (9). Of course we have already been rescued from it in the sense that through the cross God himself turned it away from us, so that now we have peace with him and are standing in his grace. But at the end of history there is going to be a day of reckoning which Paul has called ‘the day of God’s wrath when his righteous judgment will be revealed’ (2:5) and his wrath will be poured out on those who have rejected Christ (2:8) (cf. Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6). From that fearful coming wrath we shall be saved (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9), for, as Jesus put it, the believer ‘will not be condemned; he has (sc. already) crossed over from death to life (Jn.5:24).
Secondly, and positively, we shall *be saved through his life* (10). For the Jesus who died for our sins was raised from death and lives, and means his people to experience for themselves the power of his resurrection. We can share his life now, and will share his resurrection on the last day. Paul will elaborate these truths in Romans 8; he does no more than sketch them here in promising that we shall be saved through Christ’s life.
So the best is yet to be! In our present ‘half-saved’ condition we are eagerly looking forward to our full and final salvation. But how can we be sure of it? It is mainly to answer this question that Paul pens verses 9 and 10. Both are *a fortiori* or ‘how much more’ arguments. The basic structure of both are identical, namely that ‘if one thing has happened, *much more* will something else take place’. What, then, has happened to us? The answer is that we have been *justified* (9), and *reconciled* (10), both of which are attributed to the cross. On the one hand, *we have now been justified by his blood* (9a), and on the other, *we have been reconciled to him (sc. God) through the death of his Son* (10a). So the Judge has pronounced us righteous, and the Father has welcomed us home.
In addition it is essential to Paul’s argument that he stresses the costliness of these things. It was *by his blood* (9a), shed in a sacrificial death on the cross, that we have been justified, and it was *when we were God’s enemies* (10a) that we were reconciled to him. Here then is the logic. If God has already done the difficult thing, can we not trust him to do the comparatively simple thing of completing the task? If God has accomplished our justification at the cost of Christ’s blood, *much more* will he save his justified people from his final wrath (9)! Again, if he reconciled us to himself when we were his enemies, *much more* will he finish our salvation now that we are his reconciled friends (10)! These are the grounds on which we dare to affirm that we *shall…be saved*.