And Justification For All

If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. (Ro 5:17-18)

I was reading Romans 5 yesterday. I was reading it out loud actually. I love the reading of the Scriptures, even if I am just reading them out loud to myself. When I do it, I wonder why I don't do it more often! Something I have done before, when I really want to get into a book of Scripture is to record myself reading it out loud (a PC and a microphone is all you need) and then burn it to CD to listen to on the way into work. After all faith comes by hearing. I did this with the book of Daniel before I did my series of teachings on it, and I'm doing it now with the book of Romans (not because I'm teaching it, but because we are studying it as part of a course on Evangelism).

The first thing that struck me about chapter 5, is just how difficult it is to read in the ESV! (Try it if you want a challenge.) Part of the ESV's accuracy means all Paul's clauses and sub-clauses are preserved in all their complexity. There are some sentences that you really need to know where they are going before you start off.

Part of the difficulty is the phrase "much more". For someone like me, who has read the NIV for seventeen years, the urge to say "How much more" was overwhelming. Just "much more" didn't quite sound right. It was hard to construct the sentence around this and still make it sound right.

But it does highlight something. Paul was not asking a question; not even a rhetorical one! The work of Christ is much greater than the work of Adam. If it is true that all receive sin and death because of Adam, then it is even more true that all are offered justification and life because of Jesus. This is Paul's main argument in this chapter.

I believe absolutely in the total sovereignty of God. Even the slightest hint of dualism is an anathema to me. But this chapter is the reason I can never consider myself a Calvinist. There was nothing limited about Christ's atonement. There is no economy in his blood. It is of infinite worth, and cleanses not just all who turn to him, but the Cosmos itself!

Although all those who turn to him have their names recorded from the beginning of time, God does not predestine anyone to hell. It's not his will that anyone should perish. Christ did not just die for the elect, or for his church - his blood was more than sufficient for every need of the whole world even if they were multiplied a million times over.

God's power of salvation and justification is offered to all who would believe. I'm catching again why evangelists love this book! I love it too.


Matthew said...

Thanks Chris for that post. I love the phrase "even more true" - which expresses the idea so well. God is a God of black and white - right and wrong - there are no shades of truth, but somehow somethings are "much more"!

Libbie said...

That's why I prefer the phrase 'specific atonement'. Besides, us mean old Calvinists don't think that there is no benefit to the wider cosmos.

Chris HH said...

Thanks, Libbie. I have no problem with Calvinists; I admire rigorous and thoughtful theology. The proof of theology, however, is in its outworking. Not just in the one who instructs, and who understands all the intricacies and shortcomings of the language used, but also in the fruit produced in the ones instructed.

Some of the language of TULIP is unhelpful. Even Calvinists admit as much. So I prefer to base my teaching on the Scriptures themselves, rather than any framework of human logic, no matter how sound, that is subject to corruption and misinterpretation.

Libbie said...

Agreed. Like I said, I'm not gung-ho for the TULIP thing as is - RC Sproul feels the same about the limited (no pun intended) usefulness of such theological terms and shorthands.
Their usefulness remains so long as we can take time to unpack them and qualify what needs to be qualified - but that's probably a job for a teacher, really, not an evangelist, I wouldn't have thought.

Chris HH said...

I'm happy to agree with you on that. Thank you for taking the time to raise this, and so causing me to unpack and qualify my own position.