God Recommends His Love to Us
“Undeserved kindness [will] rule as king through righteousness with everlasting life in view.”—ROM. 5:21.
1, 2. What two gifts might be considered, and which is the greater?
“THE Romans’ greatest . . . bequest to those who succeeded them [was] their law and their sense that life should be lived according to law.” (Dr. David J. Williams of the University of Melbourne, Australia) However valid that might be, there is a bequest or gift of far greater value. This gift is a divine means to have an approved and righteous standing with God and the prospect of salvation and everlasting life.
2 In a sense, there were legal aspects to how God made this gift available. In Romans chapter 5, the apostle Paul did not present these aspects as a dry, legalistic treatise. Rather, he began with this thrilling assurance: “We have been declared righteous as a result of faith, [so] let us enjoy peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Those who receive God’s gift are moved to love him in return. Paul was one. He wrote: “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy spirit.”—Rom. 5:1, 5.
3. What questions logically arise?
3 Why, though, was this loving gift necessary? How could God offer it in a just, equitable way? And what are individuals called upon to do to qualify for it? Let us find the satisfying answers and see how they underscore God’s love.
God’s Love Versus Sin
4, 5. (a) In what great way did Jehovah express his love? (b) Knowledge of what background enables us to understand Romans 5:12?
4 In an act of great love, Jehovah sent his only-begotten Son to help humans. Paul expressed it this way: “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) Think of one fact there mentioned: “We were yet sinners.” All need to know how that came to be so.
5 Paul outlined the matter, starting with this point: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) We are in a position to understand this because God had a record made of how human life began. Jehovah created two humans, Adam and Eve. The Creator is perfect, and so were those first humans, our ancestors. God gave them but one limiting directive and informed them that disobeying that law would bring a death sentence. (Gen. 2:17) However, they chose to act ruinously, violating God’s reasonable directive, thus rejecting him as Lawgiver and Sovereign.—Deut. 32:4, 5.
6. (a) Why did Adam’s descendants die both before God gave the Mosaic Law and thereafter? (b) What can be illustrated with a disease like hemophilia?
6 It was only after Adam had become a sinner that he fathered children, passing on sin and its effects to all of them. Of course, they had not violated the divine law as Adam had, so they were not charged with the same sin; nor had any law code yet been given. (Gen. 2:17) Still, Adam’s descendants inherited sin. Thus, sin and death ruled down to the time when God gave the Israelites a law code, which clearly showed that they were sinners. (Read Romans 5:13, 14.) The effect of inherited sin might be illustrated with certain inherited diseases or defects, such as Mediterranean anemia or hemophilia. You may have read that Alexis, son of Russian Czar Nicholas II and Alexandra, inherited the bleeding disorder hemophilia. Granted, even in such a family, some children do not suffer from those diseases, but they still may be carriers. Not so with sin. The defect of sin from Adam was inevitable. All are subject to it. It is always fatal. And it is passed on to all children. Could that predicament ever be overcome?
What God Provided Through Jesus Christ
7, 8. How did the course of two perfect men lead to different results?
7 Lovingly, Jehovah made a provision for humans to overcome inherited sinfulness. Paul explained that this was possible by means of another man, a later perfect man—in effect, a second Adam. (1 Cor. 15:45) But the course of each of the two perfect men has led to very different results. How so?—Read Romans 5:15, 16.
8 “It is not with the gift as it was with the trespass,” Paul wrote. Adam was guilty of that trespass, and he justly received an adverse sentence—he died. Yet, he was not the only one to die. We read: “By [that] one man’s trespass many died.” The just sentence on Adam demanded the same for all his imperfect progeny, including us. Still, we can take comfort in knowing that the perfect man, Jesus, could produce an opposite result. What is the result? We see the answer in Paul’s mention of “a declaring of [men of all kinds] righteous for life.”—Rom. 5:18.
9 What is the sense of the Greek words underlying the expressions “declaration of righteousness” and “declaring of them righteous”? One Bible translator wrote of the concept: “It is a legal metaphor that makes a quasi-legal point. It speaks of a change in a person’s status in relation to God, not of an inner change in the person . . . The metaphor pictures God as the judge who has reached a decision in favor of the accused, who had been brought before God’s court, so to speak, on a charge of unrighteousness. But God acquits the accused.”
10. What did Jesus do that provided the basis for humans to be declared righteous?
10 On what basis could the righteous “Judge of all the earth” acquit an unrighteous person? (Gen. 18:25) Laying the groundwork, God lovingly sent his only-begotten Son to earth. Jesus did his Father’s will perfectly, despite temptations, extreme ridicule, and abuse. He kept his integrity even to the extent of dying on a torture stake. (Heb. 2:10) In sacrificing his perfect human life, Jesus offered a ransom that might release, or redeem, Adam’s offspring from sin and death.—Matt. 20:28; Rom. 5:6-8.
11. The ransom is based on what correspondence?
11 Elsewhere, Paul termed this “a corresponding ransom.” (1 Tim. 2:6) What was the correspondence? Adam brought imperfection and death to billions, his descendants. It is true that Jesus, as a perfect man, could have been the source of billions of perfect descendants.a Hence, it was understood that a combination of Jesus’ life plus that of all his potential perfect descendants formed a sacrifice equivalent to that of Adam and his imperfect descendants. However, the Bible does not say that any potential offspring of Jesus formed part of the ransom. Romans 5:15-19 makes the point that the death of just “one man” provided the release. Yes, Jesus’ perfect life corresponded to Adam’s. The focus is, and should be, on Jesus Christ alone. It became possible for men of all sorts to receive the free gift and life because of Jesus’ “one act of justification,” his course of obedience and integrity even to death. (2 Cor. 5:14, 15; 1 Pet. 3:18) How did that result come about?
Acquittal Based on the Ransom
12, 13. Why do those who are declared righteous need God’s mercy and love?
12 Jehovah God accepted the ransom sacrifice that his Son offered. (Heb. 9:24; 10:10, 12) Still, Jesus’ disciples on earth, including his faithful apostles, remained imperfect. Though they strove to avoid doing wrong, they did not always succeed. Why? Because they had inherited sin. (Rom. 7:18-20) But God could and did do something about that. He accepted the “corresponding ransom” and was willing to apply it in behalf of his human servants.
13 It is not that God owed it to the apostles and others to apply the ransom because they had performed certain good works. Instead, God applied the ransom in their behalf out of his mercy and great love. He chose to acquit the apostles and others of the judgment against them, viewing them as absolved of inherited guilt. Paul made that plain: “By this undeserved kindness, indeed, you have been saved through faith; and this not owing to you, it is God’s gift.”—Eph. 2:8.
14, 15. What reward was placed before those whom God declared righteous, but what did they still need to do?
14 Think what a gift it is for the Almighty to forgive the sin a person inherited as well as the wrongs he committed! You could not count how many sins individuals committed before becoming Christians; yet, on the basis of the ransom, God can forgive those sins. Paul wrote: “The gift resulted from many trespasses in a declaration of righteousness.” (Rom. 5:16) The apostles and others receiving this loving gift (being declared righteous) would have to continue to worship the true God in faith. With what future reward? “Those who receive the abundance of the undeserved kindness and of the free gift of righteousness [will] rule as kings in life through the one person, Jesus Christ.” Indeed, the gift of righteousness works in the opposite direction. The gift has life as its outcome.—Rom. 5:17; read Luke 22:28-30.
15 Those receiving that gift, being declared righteous, become God’s spiritual sons. As joint heirs with Christ, they have the prospect of being resurrected to heaven as actual spirit sons to “rule as kings” with Jesus Christ.—Read Romans 8:15-17, 23.
God’s Love Manifest to Others
16. How might ones with an earthly hope receive a gift?
16 Not all who exercise faith and serve God as loyal Christians expect to “rule as kings” with Christ in heaven. Many have a Bible-based hope similar to that of God’s pre-Christian servants. They hope to live forever on a paradise earth. Can they even now receive a loving gift from God and be viewed as righteous with earthly life in view? Based on what Paul wrote to the Romans, the reassuring answer is yes!
17, 18. (a) In view of Abraham’s faith, how did God consider him? (b) How was it that Jehovah could view Abraham as righteous?
17 Paul discussed a prime example, Abraham, a man of faith who lived before Jehovah provided a law code to Israel and long before Christ opened the way to heavenly life. (Heb. 10:19, 20) We read: “It was not through law that Abraham or his seed had the promise that he should be heir of a world, but it was through the righteousness by faith.” (Rom. 4:13; Jas. 2:23, 24) So God counted faithful Abraham as righteous.—Read Romans 4:20-22.
18 That cannot mean that Abraham was sinless while serving Jehovah over the decades. No, he was not righteous in that sense. (Rom. 3:10, 23) However, in his limitless wisdom, Jehovah took into account Abraham’s exceptional faith and his works resulting therefrom. In particular, Abraham exercised faith in the promised “seed” to come in his line. That Seed proved to be the Messiah, or Christ. (Gen. 15:6; 22:15-18) Accordingly, on the basis of “the ransom paid by Christ Jesus,” the divine Judge is able to forgive sins that occurred in the past. Thus, Abraham and other men of faith in pre-Christian times are in line for a resurrection.—Read Romans 3:24, 25; Ps. 32:1, 2.
Enjoy a Righteous Standing Now
19. Why should God’s view of Abraham be heartening to many today?
19 The fact that the God of love counted Abraham as righteous should be heartening for true Christians today. Jehovah did not declare him righteous in the sense that he does those whom he anoints with spirit to be “joint heirs with Christ.” The limited number of that group are “called to be holy ones” and are accepted as “God’s sons.” (Rom. 1:7; 8:14, 17, 33) In contrast, Abraham came to be “Jehovah’s friend”—and that before the ransom sacrifice was offered. (Jas. 2:23; Isa. 41:8) What, then, about true Christians who hope to live in the restored earthly Paradise?
20. God expects what of those whom he today views as righteous, as he did Abraham?
20 These have not received “the free gift of righteousness” with heavenly life in view “through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:24; 5:15, 17) Nevertheless, they exercise deep faith in God and his provisions, and they manifest their faith by good works. One such work is that of “preaching the kingdom of God . . . and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 28:31) Thus, Jehovah can view these as righteous in the sense that he did Abraham. The gift such ones receive—friendship with God—differs from “the free gift” the anointed receive. Yet, it certainly is a gift that they accept with deep gratitude.
21. What benefits are available because of Jehovah’s love and justice?
21 If you hope to enjoy everlasting life on earth, you should realize that this opportunity has not come to you because of a capricious act by a human ruler. Rather, it reflects the wise purpose of the Universal Sovereign. Jehovah has taken progressive steps to accomplish his purpose. These steps have been in line with true justice. More than that, they have reflected God’s great love. Well could Paul say: “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”—Rom. 5:8.
a For example, that view involving descendants, or progeny, was included in Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, page 736, paragraphs 4 and 5.
Do You Recall?
• Adam’s progeny received what inheritance, and with what result?
• How was a corresponding ransom provided, and in what sense was there a correspondence?
• The gift of being declared righteous brought what prospect to you?
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The perfect man Adam sinned. The perfect man Jesus offered “a corresponding ransom”
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What good news—by means of Jesus we can be declared righteous!