"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.8)."
In reading our Bible we often come across a word or expression that is used frequently; often in a very brief span of verses. These words or expressions merit our particular and serious consideration, for such word usage does not result from the writer being limited in vocabulary, nor a paucity of ability to more appropriately express himself. These expressions are just as inspired as the subject matter they address. Such a case as we are describing is here before us in the fifth chapter of Romans. Paul uses the emphatic expression, "much more" five times in the span of only 13 verses, immediately following verse 8, quoted above.
The Lord willing, we hope to examine each of these five "much mores" in the light of the text we quoted at the head of this article. We are surely liable to mistakes and error, but if we have any light at all on this subject, we are thus persuaded that the expression "much more" in all five cases must be examined in the light of Romans 5.8.
Paul had aptly pressed the point that all were sinners, Jew and Gentile alike, (Romans 3.23) from the opening of this letter to the Romans. It made no difference if they were under the law or without law; all alike were, and are sinners. He had as well concluded to the reader that by the deeds of the law no flesh could be justified in God's sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Romans 3.20). He also summarized imputed righteousness by concluding, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin (Romans 4.8)." Using Abraham as an example, Paul then reinforced the truth of the righteousness of faith with, "And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness (Romans 4.22)." Finally, in concluding the whole of what he had affirmed in the first four chapters, Paul declares the basis of the believer's justification before God: "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification (Romans 4.25)." All the apostle had said up to, and including, this point was imperative to any spiritual understanding of what he would consequently set out in chapter five.
In our opening text above (Romans 5.8), God was said to have commended (commendeth) His love toward us. We understand God's commendation to be this; He exhibited, or displayed His love toward us. We have happily learned from elsewhere in the Holy Scriptures that God has always loved His elect, thus He loves us with an everlasting love. (We use the pronoun us here, not that we are convinced that we personally belong to that blessed number, for we can only live in hope; but rather, as it was used by Paul, saying, "Christ died for us.") Everlasting love; this is a love that knows no beginning, nor has an ending. Therefore, His commending that love to us is not the initiation of love; an impossibility with everlasting love. It is rather a particular manifestation, or exhibition, of that love. This manifestation of His love took place while we were yet sinners; before we were made alive spiritually by the quickening of the Spirit. The medium through which God exhibited or manifested His love toward us was in the death of His Son; Christ died for us. This is a striking statement; almost baffling to a trembling sinner; nevertheless it is one of exceeding great comfort to all those wretches that have ever felt the horrid weight of sin and uncleanness, and believed themselves to be vile sinners before God. "Jesus died for me" is indeed a trancendingly beautiful expression. This thought surpasses human understanding when we are given a spiritual mind to reflect on the wonder of it. What more then could a needy sinner hope for after learning such profound truth? But, may God be praised, there is more; much more!
Simplistic Arminians speak freely (and absurdly) of Christ dying for all sinners; all of them without exception; from Adam to the last human that will ever draw a breath. They admit the death of Christ was a work performed by Him alone, but then they swiftly launch into all manner of fleshly exhortations, elucidating on what they perceive all these sinners Jesus supposedly died for need to do. Need to do? Yes; according to these hawkers of duty, there is yet something the sinner must do in order that they may avail themselves of this wondrous death with its potential benefits. Paul spoke otherwise when he said, "Christ died for us." And there was much more Paul had to say about it as well. None of which could be construed as incumbent on creature effort.
1. MUCH MORE THAN JUSTIFICATION
It has been our observation over a long period of time that many in the religious world, most, in fact, assume there is little beyond a sinner being justified. They seem to believe that justification alone will just about fix one up. To them justification and salvation and regeneration are interchangeable terms, all or any well suited to make a sinner completely suited for heaven; and so, to heaven he must then go. If the Lord wills, we shall show unmistakably from this, and other passages, that there is much more.
"Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be save from wrath through him (Romans 5.9)." The apostle distinctly establishes that we need not apply at the throne of God for justification when he writes, "being now justified by his blood." Justification has been accomplished. No amount of religious subterfuge or Arminian chicanery can squeeze any creature effort in between, "Christ died for us" in verse 8 and "being now justified" in verse 9. His drift is, in one continuous flow, that as a certain result of Christ dying for us we are (now) more than justified; and much more. The whole construction of this passage verifies in the most obvious language that there is now justification by the blood of Jesus, and much more as well! And that, we think, is most unmistakable.
Here, in verse 9, Paul says we are justified by His blood. In verse 1 he says we are justified by faith. In Romans 4.25, he attributes justification to the resurrection of Christ in our behalf. In Romans 3.24, Paul views justification this way: "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." And again in verse 26 he says that God is the justifier of those that believe. See then the varied instruments of justification as Paul listed them: blood, faith, resurrection, grace, and believing. All of these, Paul affirms, justifies us. In the last item, believing, it needs to be stressed that Paul, neither here or elsewhere, attempted to make believing the source of justification, but rather a certain evidence, or by-product of it. How then, in the light of all this, does God justify His chosen family? We may be as sure as sinners can be that our infinitely holy God does fully justify all sinners for whom Christ died; but how? Is it by faith? More than faith alone. Is it by the resurrection? More than the resurrection alone. Is it by grace? More than grace alone. Is it by belief? More than that alone. Is it by the blood of Christ? Yes, even more than that alone. The momentous work of God in the justification of sinners is more than any one of these particular items mentioned above when viewed separately; much more in fact. We suggest, and hopefully with some humble conviction, that all these things are but so many streams flowing out from the one "pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22.1)." But we return to Romans 5.9.
The commendation of God's love to us while we were yet sinners, (or before we received the benefits of that love) is that, Jesus offered up Himself in death as a fit sacrifice to fully satisfy the holiness and justice of God. Christ died for us! But, God moves m mysterious ways. There was much more. The death of Christ, as fulfilling the typical sacrifices of old Israel, must be applied. The death of Christ alone did not bring the sinner into communion with the Father. Thus the blood of justification must be sprinkled upon the mercy seat, for it is there that God will meet with His chosen children.
Having mentioned the mercy seat, we shall digress somewhat to attempt to show how much more is really involved in the death of Jesus for His people. Looking back at what Paul had earlier written to the Romans we find: "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus (Romans 3.25,26)."
First, Paul wrote that God "hath set forth" Christ Jesus. This, we believe, is substantially the same in meaning with what the apostle said in our text at the heading; "God commendeth his love toward us." Jesus has been exhibited to us as our propitiation, or mercy seat, of which we shall speak in a moment. Thus, "through faith in his blood" here is identical to "much more then, being now justified by his blood" in Romans 5.9. There are no contradictions here, only different expressions of the same thought. Whatever was written in the earlier or later chapters of Romans fully complemented, but definitely did not contradict, this text.
Second, Christ was set forth to "declare his righteousness." This is the grand announcement that, rather than the supposed righteousness which some sought by the works of the law, the righteousness of the Son of God was, is, and shall be declared; a declaration which was forcefully repeated in the next verse (verse 26).
Third, this declaration fully addressed the theme of "remission of sins that are past." There are countless opinions as to what is meant by "sins that are past" but the meaning must be in harmony with the rest of the Scriptures on the subject. The sins that have been remitted are now in the past, or behind us and behind our God. As God no longer views His children as sinners, as regards their standing in Christ, all is past that could hinder their communion with God. Therefore, the sins of the saints are past because they were passed. Past and passed are similar in sound and spelling, but are very different. By virtue of the atoning (covering) blood of Christ, the sins of the saints were passed over, as was foreshadowed by the Lord passing over the homes of the Israelites their final night in Egypt: "And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt (Exodus 12.13)." When God passed over the homes where He saw the blood, all danger from the death angel was past: Even so, those that are justified by the blood of "Christ our Passover" are secure, for all their sins are past; no more remembered by God.
Fourth, this was all "through the forbearance of God." The word, forbearance, is used also in Romans 2.4 in connection with the longsuffering and goodness of God, but is found nowhere else in the Scriptures. Simply put, in the everlasting love of God to His children, He dealt with them in holy self-restraint until the accomplishment regarding the propitiation, or sprinkling of the blood of the Lamb on the mercy seat.
The same word translated "propitiation" in Romans 3.25 is translated "mercyseat" in the following: "And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly (Hebrews 9.6)." (It is important to note that only here in Hebrews 9.6 are the two words, "mercy" and "seat" used as one word, mercyseat. In all other places they form two separate words. The word "mercy" as it is used in reference to the mercy seat in the Old Testament is always translated from a word meaning "lid.") In this text, Paul refers back to the instructions given the Israelites concerning the service of the sanctuary, where God would meet and commune with them from above the mercy seat which was placed over the ark (Exodus 25.20-22). In Hebrews 9, Paul proceeds to relate the superior things signified by the old sanctuary or tabernacle, showing that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was yet standing (Hebrews 9.8). In other words, God had not yet commended His love towards them, for Christ had not yet died, and His blood had not yet been sprinkled on the mercy seat. The old tabernacle was only a figure for the time then present (Hebrews 9.9). The more perfect tabernacle would, while fulfilling all the types and shadows in God's appointed time to come, accomplish much more than could be realized by Israel of old in their temporary tabernacle service.
"But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building (Hebrews 9.11)." The expression, "Christ being come an high priest" answers to our text at the heading where it was stated, "Christ died for us" for surely this great high priest, offering not the blood of goats and calves, but his own blood must have died to make such a suitable offering. Moreover, He was an high priest of "good things to come" signifying there was more, much more, to come! And so it was also recorded, "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9.14)?" Thus we see again, here in the book of Hebrews, Paul using the expression, "much more."
We offer a final thought in this digression from our original thesis. The old tabernacle, with its mercy seat, was but a figure (Hebrews 9.9), and Christ came to answer that figure, and in so doing accomplished much more for all the spiritual Israelites that attend His priestly services than simply dying for them; much more. "It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9.23,24)." Just as "better" is stamped upon all the priestly work of Christ in answering these patterns or figures, so also is the expression, "much more." "Christ died for us" but more than that, He now appears in heaven itself as our advocate (I John 2.1). Further, He is the propitiation, or mercy seat, for our sins and there we meet with God in Him (I John 2.2).
"Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4.14-16)." These are among the much more current benefits and blessings of the death of Christ. The greatest of all benefits, however, is that blessed salvation that yet awaits us, as is promised in Romans 5.9, and in this final verse of Hebrews 9: "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation (Hebrews 9.28)." We see then Paul concludes his dissertation on the tabernacles and priesthoods much like he addressed the commendation of God's love towards us in the death of Christ. The whole of the benefits conclude in fullness of salvation.
"Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him (Romans 5.9)." Words convey meanings. So, when the great apostle says there is much more than being justified by blood, he means that there are blessed benefits above and beyond the transaction of justification; there would be more; much more. It is the salvation from wrath through Jesus our sacrifice. Salvation is deliverance, and deliverance is the work of God to secure us from any and all dangers, harm, judgment, or wrath. We ask, just what good would it finally be for the saint to be justified regarding his sins, if, at the last, he were overtaken by the wrath of God? Justification by the death of Christ secures us; but much more the death of Christ eternally secures us.
We humbly trust the Lord shall bless the reader to prayerfully consider what is written. With these few thoughts we take leave of our subject until another time. There are yet four additional uses of "much more" in this fifth chapter of Romans we hope to examine, the Lord willing.
Volume 9, No. 2 - March-April, 1995