Friday, April 7, 2023

The Goodness of Good Friday - A Meditation On Romans 5:6-21


    Today is what Christians the world-over call "Good Friday". Why call a day "Good" when the most evil act perpetrated by men - the crucifixion of Jesus Christ - took place? The ultimate cause behind the crucifixion was God Himself (Acots 2:23-24; Acts 4:26-28).

    He as the Father sent the Son to become the incarnate Jesus of Nazareth. The Divine Son would live a perfect human life as "The Word made flesh" (John 1:14), to qualify as the "perfect Lamb of God", to die once and for all for sin (1 Peter 1:17-18; 3:18). The goodness achieved that day far outweighed the evil. 

    As we consider this Good Friday, we will look at one of the clearest passages in the Bible on the atoning death of Christ - Romans 5:6-21. What we will discover is the goodness of Good Friday.

1. The Goodness of salvation accomplished.   Romans 5:6-8 (WHAT HAPPENED FOR ME)

Paul writes in Romans 5:6-8 "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." 

John Murray, past Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, wrote a classic book in 1975 on the atoning work of Jesus Christ entitled: “redemption accomplished and applied”. I’ve always found the terms he used in that title helpful in wrapping my arms around this weighty doctrine so central to Christian salvation – the atoning work of Jesus Christ. 

For me, “salvation accomplished” means the historic event of the cross, along with His resurrection from the dead. This is what Jesus Christ did for me or what we could also call "what happened for me". 

    The cross is where sin’s debt was paid for, and the empty tomb is where the payment was approved. Murray’s book discusses at length how necessary Christ’s death was on the cross to accomplish salvation. There were no other methods or ways God could had set forth His saving work. 

    For Murray, the plan of God in proposing His plan of salvation required an absolute effort from Himself in bringing that plan to its completion. As it concerns Jesus’ work on the cross, Murray writes: 

“Without it, we lack the elements necessary to make intelligible the meaning of Calvary and the marvel of its supreme love to men.”

Remember, in salvation accomplished, I’m talking about what Christ did for me. This is what had to happen for me, on my behalf. It would require all four Gospels to present what Jesus accomplished "for me" in a span of six hours. Let me mention two verses from the Gospels of Mark and Luke that highlight "salvation accomplished".

A. He bought me from my sin. 

 Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” 

    The term “ransom” concerns the price paid to emancipate a slave. In His humanity, Jesus lived a perfect life of 33 years, fulfilling what was required by God’s Law. He offered up a perfect life through His active obedience. 

    For Him to be qualified to accomplish redemption at the cross, He had to live a perfect life prior to it. It was His perfect humanity that provided valid payment for my sins, and it was His deity that provided infinite value in payment for my sins.   

B. He sought me despite my sin. 

Luke 19:10 "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” 

    Now we have the act of death on the cross. The perfect life offered up in being the ransom for sinners qualified Him to be our Savior leading to the cross. It is here that what He accomplished paid for salvation at the cross. Remember, we have not only a perfect humanity, but the undiminished deity of the Divine Son of God. He paid the ransom to God as man and acted salvation as God. The title “Son of Man” speaks both to His deity and humanity. As man, Jesus Christ sought after Zachaeus. As God, He knew where to find this wee little man. 

    So, we see that the first good of Good Friday was that "salvation was accomplished by Christ", defining what needed to happen for me". But now notice secondly....

2. The Goodness of salvation applied.   Romans 5:9-11 (WHAT HAPPENED TO ME, IN SAVING FAITH)

In salvation accomplished, I understand that something had to happen for me. I could not bring it about. But now in salvation applied, upon the work of saving grace in saving faith, I understand something happens to me. That which “happened for me” is a historical, physical event, acted forth by God, for God, for sinners such as myself. Now what is needed is a connecting heavenly work, done by the Holy Spirit to apply that accomplished work to me. 

    The historical event becomes the heavenly reality granted "to me" at saving faith. We don’t have time to expound on all the graces that the Holy Spirit works forth in the sinner’s salvation. We know that those whom He calls on the inside of the heart by the Word of God (Romans 10:17), He brings forth that miracle of the New Birth, saving faith, and repentance. John 1:12-13 spells this out, as well as 2 Timothy 2:25. What happens to sinners so drawn, called, and converted by the Spirit through faith in salvation applied?

A. My legal problems with God ended in justification.  Romans 5:9

    Paul writes in Romans 5:9 " Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." 

    Why God's wrath? Why did the settled opposition of the Divine Father need directed at the Divine incarnate Son on the cross. We read in Deuteronomy 27:26 "Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’" 

    The Law of God was violated originally in the Garden of Eden. When God made man, He placed within his heart the law of God in the form of the human conscience (Romans 2:14-15). 

    This form of God's Law was broken in the treachery of our original parents. Millennia later, that same Law, given to Moses and Israel in inscripturated form, came with a curse for any who violated it. The Apostle Paul comments in Galatians 3:10 "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” Gal 3:24 "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith." 

    Unless Christ bore the curse, I and all descended from Adam would have legal problems with God. Because Christ bore the curse as the New Adam, that meant His perfect life of righteousness could be "imputed" or credited to my otherwise bankrupt spiritual account at saving faith. This is what the Bible calls " justification by faith". But notice also...

B. My spiritual plight with God ended in reconciliation.  Romans 5:10

    We read further in Romans 5:10 "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" (see also Romans 3:23). We are spiritually separated from God from conception and birth (Psalm 51). What is needed is reconciliation. 

    Paul explains how bad off we all are in Ephesians 2:12 "remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world."

     When a sinner, so drawn by the Spirit in saving faith, trusts in all that Christ is and has accomplished, the grace of reconciliation is applied. 

C. My relational pain with God ended in adoption. Romans 5:11

    We read on in Romans 5:11 "And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation." How can a reconciled, justified sinner have confidence to exalt in God lest they are also considered as adopted sons and daughters? Paul writes in  Galatians 4:6-7 "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'  7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God." 

    We then read in Ephesians 2:18 "for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father." The argument of Romans 5 follows through into Romans 8, where Paul brings forth the truth of the believer's adoption by God (Romans 8:14-16). 

    These three truths of justification, reconciliation, and adoption comprise the three-braided rope of "salvation applied" at saving faith - a rope that cannot be broken. Then, what we find in Romans 5:12-21 is an introduction to what will be the overall argument that follows in Romans chapters 6,7,8, what I am calling "salvation experienced". 

    We saw in "salvation accomplished" that something happened for me. We observed in "salvation applied" that something happens to me in saving faith. But the Christian life doesn't stop there. Notice....

3. The Goodness of salvation experienced.  Romans 5:12-21 (WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ME, SANCTIFICATION)

As mentioned, Paul is introducing what He will expound upon in Romans 6, namely the experiential union the Christian has with Jesus Christ. To introduce this truth, Paul places side-by-side the first Adam, original Adam, and then of course Jesus Christ, whom Paul calls elsewhere the "New Adam" (see 1 Corinthians 15:45-47). 

    Adrian Rogers has noted that we gain more in Christ than we lost in Adam. The Scriptures bear out that our overall experience and identity is defined by whomever we have union. As I cite the remainder of Romans 5:12-21, I'll insert headings in parenthesis that expound what we can call "the badness of sin experienced in Adam" and "the goodness of what is experienced in Jesus Christ".

A. The badness of sin experienced in Adam.   Romans 5:12-14 

    Romans 5:12-13 (Sin’s consequences) Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (sin’s condemnation) for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 

     Romans 5:14 (sin’s corruption) Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

B. The goodness of salvation experienced in Jesus.  Romans 5:15-21

    Romans 5:15-21  (imparation of the Son’s consequences) But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 

    Romans 5:17 (the imputation of the Son’s credited righteousness) For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

    Romans 5:18 (the inwardness of the Son’s completed work) So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    The above gives us a taste of the goodness acomplished on the cross, applied in saving faith, and experienced in sanctification.  

    For any reading this post today, let me ask you: have you received by faith all that Jesus accomplished for you? If not, wherever you are at, simply pray and ask God to forgive you of your sins and ask the Lord Jesus Christ to become your Savior, Lord and Treasure. Acknowledge that you trust in His finished work on the cross and that you believe He raised from the dead. You too can then have applied the goodness of Good Friday, and from this day forward experience the goodness of Good Friday worked forth in you by the Holy Spirit. 

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