by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 1 Study # 11 Lincolnton, NC April 4, 2006
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
1901 ASV Translation:
11 and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
I. Paul's Final Basis for Exulting.
A. In Romans 2:17 Paul turned his attention upon the Jews and particularly focused upon their "boasting in God".
1. This terminology is the same as in our current text. The "Jews" exulted in their claim to be "the people of God" in the context of the many "peoples" and the many "gods". It is no small thing to be properly connected to the one true God. It is, without debate, the most significant reality to be found in the realm of creation to be in a relationship of blessing with the one and only true God.
2. In Paul's mind, the "problem" with the "Jews" was not that they claimed to be the people of God; it was, rather, that they claimed that this highest status of all was the result of their own doings. In Romans 2:23 he challenged the "Jew's" claim of being in the possession of this status through the "Law" which he "broke". Paul's challenge rested upon his accusation that the Jew "dishonored" the God by the breaking of His Law.
B. In Romans 5:3 Paul used exactly the same grammar and words ["And not only so, but we also glory in..."].
C. In this text (5:11) Paul makes the very claim that he challenged when he addressed the "Jew".
1. It is one thing to "claim" a proper relationship with the true God on the basis of one's own "performance issues" -- a claim that inevitably leads to the evil of "boasting" of one's own accomplishments -- and it is altogether another thing to "claim" a proper relationship with the true God on the basis of His "love" and "grace".
a. It is still a "boast" to claim that one has a true knowledge of, and relationship with, the true God -- an enormous boast.
b. But, to "boast" of that reality on the basis of His love and grace is significantly different from boasting of that reality on the basis of one's own accomplishments.
1) It is a fact that "boasting" generates interrelational conflict because all men are deeply immersed in the desire for great status and "boasting" is an expression of being in possession of that status. Such boasting invariably, in a sinful reality, generates "envy".
2) But, it is also a fact that when the "boast" is made on the basis of one's own accomplishments, the interrelational conflict exists at the human-to-human level, but when the "boast" is made on the basis of God's plans and actions, the interrelational conflict exists at the God-to-human level. It is one thing to be in competition with human beings; it is another thing to be in competition with God.
2. In his claim, the apostle clearly recognizes the beneficial impact of "boasting".
a. God created His creation.
b. Of all of the issues which regard creation, the issue of the creature having a created, internal, "lust" for the status of being in a relationship of harmony withtheGod is of the greatest significance.
1) Without this "lust", there can be no solid foundation for the maintenance of the relationship.
2) The greatest single danger in this realm of "lust" for status is the danger that it will be subverted from the desire for a relationship of harmony with the God to the desire for a relationship of dominance over the God.
3) This was the issue of the Genesis 3 "test": man needed to fuel the desire to be in a relationship of harmony and to deny the desire to be in a relationship of dominance. It was necessary for the "relationship" to develop that man "grow" from ignorance into mature knowledge, and the necessity involved the process of being "tested". But we all know that man failed to focus upon harmony and opted for competition.
4) The problem for man since the failure has been that he now "competes" with his fellow men over the status issues and has been "rooted" in the soil of dominion rather than harmony. Thus, the "boast" of a right relationship with the God is fraught with the danger of its being used to "dominate" rather than "harmonize". He who preens over his relationship with God on the basis of his own accomplishments is seeking to dominate and be superior; but he who preens over his realtionship with God on the basis of His love is simply exulting as a creature who lives in the blessing of harmony with his Creator.
D. In this legitimate boasting, the foundation is "our Lord Jesus Christ" and His provision of the "atonement".
1. This is fundamentally different from boasting on the foundation of the Law (2:23) for one reason: the claim "in the Law" is a claim of personal accomplishment, whereas the claim "in grace" is a claim of participation in the accomplishment of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The word translated by the Authorized Version translators as "atonement" is, actually, the noun form of the verb found twice in the previous verse ("...we were reconciled...being reconciled...").
a. The issue of the word is "relational harmony" based upon both love and faith (clear agreement on what is valuable and what is true).
b. The claim that it is "through" the Lord Jesus Christ indicates that we have been brought into relational harmony on the basis of the Person/work of Jesus, the Christ in some way (that way being explained in the following context -- 5:12 and following).
1) Just in case someone might "miss" it, Paul reiterates that it is "through" Jesus that we have "received" the reconciliation just as it is "through" Jesus that we "exult" ("...we exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom...").
2) The only "fly in the ointment" is the issue of "how" this reconciliation came our way "through" Jesus.
a) It has been Paul's argument throughout the early chapters of Romans that we are "justified" by grace through faith (3:24-25; 5:1, 9-10).
b) Thus, the question of "boasting" raises this question: whence our "faith"? If we are the authors of "faith", the problem of "status competition" remains and we are not really any different from those who boast in their "works". But, if "faith" is among those things which we have "received" (1 Corinthians 4:7), the difference that exists is rooted in divine choice, not our superiority. This does not eliminate the "conflict" between us and those who lust for a greater status than we have, but it does root that conflict in God's choices instead of ours, thus pushing the real issue back into the realm of "fighting against God".
c) What, though, do we do about the "smugness" of those who go about arguing for a "divine" election while giving all manner of evidence of a proud confidence in a "superiority of intellect"? Clearly, simply having the reality of divine election in our "theological system" does not get rid of the human frailty of lusting after a "superiority" over others. Therefore, we must understand that "status lust" is not dealt a mortal blow by the simple inclusion of unconditional election into our "system". Whence, then, the "mortal blow"? There can be no "mortal blow" unless there is a "chief of sinners" orientation. In other words, humility is not produced by "divine election" if there is not an attendant, and significantly held, "brood of vipers" orientation that makes one invariably aware (consciously aware) of one's own on-goingandabsolute lack of personal qualification [witness John the Baptist's "I am not worthy to loose the thong of His sandal" in view of his being filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb]. This never changes. Our existence in an "accepted" status before God is never to be rooted in us in any sense; it will be rooted in Christ alone even in eternity future.