Reconciled by His Death, Saved by His Life

Romans 5:10  For if when 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.

It is good for us that Paul chose to use these words in this way, for it gives us a glimpse into things not frequently spelled out in the scriptures as clearly as we might like.  I have written several articles on “salvation” (save, saves, saved, salvation) and the importance of understanding just what we’re talking about—as opposed to tossing the words about blurrily, and merely assuming that we all understand it.  An exhaustive study of the topic reveals several surprises to the traditionalist, including the fact that most of the salvation talk in the New Testament is about some event that was yet future to those to whom the letters were written.

In this present passage, we see Paul speaking of something yet future to him when he writes, “we shall be saved by His life”.  In stark contrast to this, he employs the past tense, however, when speaking of their reconciliation through Jesus’ death.  So, regardless of how people today understand these things, we see here that Paul, the authorized and prophetically-gifted apostle of Jesus, understood that these people had been brought near to God by Jesus sacrifice and the forgiveness that went with it, but that they were not yet “saved”—in whatever sense he had in mind.  And in this present passage, we don’t have to guess at that from which they were to be “saved”, for we are told as much in the verses that immediately precede it:

Romans 5:8  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when 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.

Note that they were to be “saved from wrath”, and that it was to happen in their future.  It had not happened in their past—as so many view “salvation” today by default.  No, Paul was pointing to a specific danger that it was not yet possible for them to be saved from.

And why was it not possible?  It’s because it was not yet time for judgment.  Each of the believers had been forgiven his past sins and imbued with the indwelling Holy Spirit—a fortification against the powers of the evil one.  Yet even so, each was charged to live out their lives in a manner worthy of Christ.  (There are many such passages, and I will not take the time to list any of them here.)

They were expecting to be “saved by His life”.  That is, they believed him when he told them that if they would “overcome” and “endure to the end”, they would be saved from wrath and granted eternal life.  So what remained from them?  Doing it!   They would not be saved from wrath if they did not overcome and endure to the end, “keeping in step with the Spirit” and refraining from “putting out the Spirit’s fire”.  That was the choice, and it was all theirs.  They could have chosen disobedience just as well as obedience.  To judge them before they had had a chance to live out their faith, therefore, would have been silly.  That would be like picking a college football championship team before the season has run its course and the teams have had a chance to prove themselves—good or bad.

So where does that leave us today?

Surely, a great many err in believing that they are “saved” into eternal life immediately upon whatever they consider to be their “conversion” event.  By examining the scriptures, however, we can see that this modern notion is simply not the model that was taught in the beginning.  Indeed, the whole world was then under the sway of Satan, and they all had gone over to him. Those who would be influenced to be sorry for that decision were forgiven for that sin when they were baptized into Jesus, but even so, it remained to be seen whether this “pledge of a good conscience toward God” would rule in their lives from then forward, or whether it had been a vain pledge.

1 Peter 3: In it [Noah’s ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

What would have happened to Noah and his family had they jumped off the ark during the flood?  They would have drowned, right?  Of course, they would have.  Yet here we see the ark being used as a symbol of baptism into Christ (and what all went with it:  forgiveness, indwelling, submission, etc.).  What, then, should we expect to happen to a Christian who “abandoned ship” before Jesus had returned?  Or course he or she would “drown”.

Let us be careful to note that the baptism was said to have been saving them (present and ongoing).  Peter’s audience were not standing in the baptismal pool when he wrote this.  No, they had been baptized previously, but that baptism was still saving them.  And how did this work?  Peter tells them exactly how it worked:  “It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…”  This is quite in keeping with what Paul had written, which I have copied here from above:

Romans 5:10  For if when 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.

Through baptism, they were “reconciled” to God.  (They were baptized “into his death”, as Paul put it in Romans 6:3.)  And their salvation from wrath would happen as long as they were participating actively in Christ’s “life”—with which they were imbued via the Holy Spirit.

After having been reconciled in baptism, these people could no more have been saved from wrath without continuing in the life of Jesus than a suffocating man can be saved from an early death by taking only one more breath.

It is interesting to me that so very many people are not content to call Jesus the “Savior”, but are compelled to edit that title by calling him their “Personal Savior”.  As needless and suspect as that practice is, it is also ironic in a couple of ways:

  1. Jesus personally walked with each of the members of his ekklesia through the indwelling of his Holy Spirit.  This does not happen today as the indwelling (and the ekklesia, too) are no longer in force on the Earth.
  2. Jesus did not save from that coming wrath those who failed to “walk the walk”.  Many today, however, believe that their “Personal Savior” has given them a free ride, and that not even habitual and deliberate sin can disqualify them for eternal life.

We are not indwelt today.  Nor are we cleansed from the association with Satan through baptism.  And why not?  It’s because Jesus rid the entire Earth of Satan such that it is impossible for us to be what they were nearly 2,000 years ago.  Yes, we can still sin, but we do so under our own power.  We are not possessed and harassed as were so many then.  What awaits us, therefore, is the meeting each of us will have with God upon the occasion of our death.  At that meeting, we will be delivered either to eternal life in Heaven, or to annihilation in the Lake of Fire—which is, interestingly, where Satan and his fellow (evil) angels are kept in agony forever.

Even though Satan has long been removed from the Earth, those who insist on living according to his teachings will get the opportunity to meet him.  And how fitting that is.  Meanwhile, those who insist on living according to Jesus’ teachings, even though Jesus does not live here on the Earth, will get their opportunity not only to meet him, but to live with him forever.

 

 

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