Justified by His Blood... Reconciled by His Death... Saved by His Life

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“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life” (Romans 5:9–10).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
In our Old Testament lesson, God tells Moses to remind the people of Israel how He had delivered them out of Egypt. Now, if they would only obey God fully and keep His covenant, then out of all the nations on the earth, they would be His treasured possession, His special people.
“What a deal!” we might think. “Just obey God’s commandments and keep His covenant and then it’s life on easy street!” Apparently, the people of Israel thought the same. They quickly responded, “All that the Lord has said we will do.” Of course, that was a serious overestimation of their abilities. The First Commandment had barely been etched in stone and the Israelites were holding a drunken orgy in honor of their brand new golden calf.
But we dare not cast the first stone. We, no doubt, would not fare much better. St. Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Solomon affirms this in Ecclesiastes: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins” (7:20). Our Epistle affirms—we were born sinners, enemies of God.
But in that same text, God tells us a very surprising thing: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). As we examine ourselves closer, we discover that you and I are the ungodly person God wants to justify, reconcile, and save!
How does He do this? God accomplishes your justification by covering you with the blood of His Son, Jesus! You are “justified by His blood” (Romans 5:9). As illogical and unreasonable as this may sound, in His grace and mercy, God declares Jesus the sinner, and declares you holy and pure in His sight! Amazing! God has His sinless Son trade places with you!
God’s plan to save you from sin and the eternal damnation you have brought upon yourself is called justification. Today, we will look at this doctrine more closely. As we begin, we must state one thing up front: God has only one teaching and correct understanding of His saving act of justification. God wants you not only to rejoice in your relationship with Him, He also wants you to understand clearly the new relationship He has established with you in Jesus Christ.
This is necessary because, as the Encyclopedia of Catholicism recently and correctly stated: “justification remains a fundamental theological issue and is still the central issue underlying the difference in Christian churches.”[i] I found this out firsthand a few weeks ago when I posted a meme on Facebook about being justified by grace through faith without any of our works. One of my Roman friends disagreed with me, and told me that I was teaching heresy. I guess St. Paul was a heretic, too (see Ephesians 2:8-9).
To clearly understand what God means when He uses the word “justify,” it is important to note that at its root, being justified means being declared free from guilt—instantly, totally, and completely—by a judge. This basic and correct understanding of justification did not originate with St. Paul. It was taken from the Old Testament. Over time, man distorted God’s clear teaching. No longer was God’s justification seen as similar to the judicial action of a judge that immediately and fully frees a person. Instead, it began to be taught that a judge would free the prisoner, but only conditionally, thereby causing the person to have to earn his freedom through an exemplary life, a sort of parole or lifelong probation.
This changed God’s doctrine of justification from an instant judicial act to a long, drawn-out process. For example, the Pocket Catholic Dictionary, defines justification as “The process of a sinner becoming justified and made right with God” (emphasis mine).[ii] The Encyclopedia of Catholicism says: “The Council of Trent held that justification is not simply a judicial declaration.” [iii] Thus, in Roman Catholic theology, justification is not immediate but is a lengthy process, the completion of which depends on the life lived by the sinner.
Unfortunately, many Protestants seem confused about justification as well. While they insist that they believe justification before God is instant and complete; their day-to-day practice and teaching of the faith often denies what they profess. Instead of looking only to Christ for the certainty that they are completely justified before God, they often seek confirmation of their justification before God by constantly evaluating the holiness of the life they are trying to live. They mistakenly look inward to their own life rather than outward to the cross of Christ.
It’s an easy trap to fall into. Too frequently, we also look to ourselves and our own lives rather than what God has declared to be ours because of Christ. But instead of looking inside yourself to be assured of God’s justification, look outside of yourself. Look to the certainty of being declared righteous before God because of Christ. Look to the One who died for us while we were still sinners, while we were still enemies, while we were powerless!
In discussing the difference in the way churches today teach God’s doctrine of justification, one might ask: Are we being too picky? Is this unnecessary “splitting hairs”? Absolutely not! Imagine you are a prisoner standing before a judge. Would you find comfort in the judge’s announcement that he’s freeing you conditionally, by means of a long, uncertain process, in which your freedom would depend upon your living a perfect life? Or, would you find comfort in the judge’s announcement that you are free immediately and completely, no questions asked?
The answer is clear. Any prisoner would obviously find comfort and assurance in total, complete, immediate freedom! Five hundred years ago, when Martin Luther carefully examined God’s Word, to his great comfort and joy he discovered (perhaps, we could say “rediscovered”) that God’s justification is instant, decisive, and complete, based entirely on the merits of the forgiveness Jesus earned when He died on the cross (Romans 4:25).
How you understand God’s doctrine of justification is crucial for you. It is the central message of the Bible. It is the key to understanding all of Scripture. It is also the key for godly living! St. Paul writes, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10).
Perhaps this example would help to illustrate this truth. Every year U.S. doctors perform over forty million operations. Much of this surgery is done to restore torn skin, muscles, or ligaments. Most of these surgical repairs are successful; some are not. Some are initially successful, but then regress and the repaired tissue dies, no longer a living, dependable part of the body.
Similarly, God has performed spiritual surgery on us by creating justifying faith in us. God justifies us through His Word and through the cleansing and healing power of the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. In Christ, God does the mending or justifying, by grafting and binding us back into Himself. In Christ, God “reconciles us to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
Now comes the challenge. After a surgeon has reconciled, or brought together, two body parts, this physical wound needs to be sustained constantly through the cleansing and healing blood of the body. Without blood flow to the wound, it will not heal and the tissue will die. The body must send new blood vessels into the newly reconciled area to assure that the newly reconciled parts will remain healthy, strong, and alive.
In the same way, our spiritual wound (being torn from God by our sin) is mended through God’s justification for us in Christ. For there to be sustained and healthy healing, God desires that His Son’s blood constantly flow through us. Unfortunately, too many Christians are unaware that after God justifies and heals us, He desires the cleansing and life-giving blood of Christ to circulate in the new bond between us and God, maintaining our justification.
Back in 1888, the Rev. Charles Porterfield Krauth wrote:
The current view of unLutheran Protestantism practically is, that all we need for our redemption is a dead Christ. We are to look back to Calvary to find peace in thinking of what was there done, and at the Lord’s Supper we look back to the sacrifice once made for our sins. To the theology of a large part of the Church… we have a religion of sentiment verging away into sentimentality; a religion which lives by its own thoughts about a Savior of bygone times.[iv]
In other words, most of Protestantism sees no need for a close and living connection between justification and Christ’s blood in His Holy Supper.
But we have a completely different view based on Romans 5:10: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life!” As Dr. Krauth points out:
If Christ must die to make our redemption, He must live to apply it. If the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of the redemption made by His death, it is also a sacrament of the same redemption applied by His life. If it tells us that His body and blood were necessary to make our redemption, then it tells us also that they are still necessary to apply the redemption they then made. He made the sacrifice once for all—He applies it constantly.[v]
Unfortunately, many deny the real presence of Christ’s true body and blood and see no real living connection between God’s Word of justification and His Sacrament of Holy Communion. However, just as God’s spoken Word justifies, so also does His living Word in Holy Communion keep God’s reconciliation healthy and alive in us. God’s teaching of justification is brought fully into the life of the reconciled sinner when the sinner also actually receives Jesus’ own cleansing, healing, and life-giving body and blood.
You have been justified, declared righteous by Jesus’ blood, once for all time. Reconciled to God by the death of His Son, you are kept saved by His life, sustained by His life-giving Word and Sacraments. You have been set free to live in His love and serve your neighbor. Do so with joy, knowing that your love and service are not done to bring you closer to God, nor will your failure to love and serve perfectly take you away from God; they can’t. For Jesus’ sake, forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life are already yours. You are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[i] McBrien, Richard P. (1995) The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism (p. 727). New York, NY: HarperCollins
[ii] Hardon, John. (1985) Pocket Catholic Dictionary: Abridged Edition of Modern Catholic Dictionary  (p. 214). New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group
[iii] McBrien, Richard P. (1995) The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism (p. 727). New York, NY: HarperCollins
[iv] Krauth, Charles Porterfield. (2007) The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology (p. 652-653). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
[v] Krauth, Charles Porterfield. (2007) The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology (p. 653). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.


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