05 March, 2017

Romans 5:10—“For if, when we were enemies …”

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life (Rom. 5:10 KJV).

This text is sometimes thought to teach that God was once our enemy, and that before we were saved God hated us. This is inferred from the “we” in the text—“when we were enemies.” The “we” in this sense is then supposed to be “us and God”—we hated God, and He hated us.
Another use of this text is that since all men by nature are “enemies” of God, if God is said to love His elect enemies, then why not His reprobate enemies?


Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)

It has been asked what that phrase when we were enemies means. It may mean when we were the objects of God’s enmity. In this passive meaning, God hated us. But the phrase may also have an active meaning. Then it means that we were the enemies of God in the sense that we hated Him.

What is the meaning in the text? It is usually explained that when God was our enemy, we were reconciled by the death of His Son. I don’t believe that this is possible, for then we would have to read the text this way: “When we were yet the objects of God’s hatred, we were reconciled by the death of His Son.” If this were true, if it might be said that God hates us, if there might ever be a moment in which God becomes our enemy—at that moment reconciliation would be impossible. But God is never our enemy. Hatred and love do not exist in God at the same time and with a view to the same objects. Love and wrath may exist together, but not love and hatred—not with a view to the same objects. This is impossible. Especially is this impossible in the text. Hence, the statement there does not mean that we were reconciled when God was our enemy. Instead, the meaning is that we were reconciled when we were the enemies of God. God tells us that He loved His enemies. He loved them to the extent that He died for them. When we were enemies, we creatures rising up in rebellion against the living God, He died for us. This is the Scripture. This is reconciliation. If the love of God had not been so great, we never would have been saved.



Rev. Martyn McGeown

In Scripture, God has two kinds of enemies: His reprobate enemies, whom He destroys; and His elect enemies, whom He reconciles to Himself and saves. God’s reprobate enemies are the devil, the reprobate demons and reprobate human beings. These are preordained to damnation (Rom. 9:22; I Pet. 2:8; Rev. 17:8). God has decreed not to save them. God’s attitude toward these enemies is one of hatred (Rom. 9:13). He curses them and sends them to hell (Luke 19:27). This hatred, this curse and this eternal punishment do not mean that God is evil, spiteful, malicious or cruel, for God’s hatred of the wicked is a righteous, holy hatred of their persons and their sins (Ps. 5:5; 11:5). The Canons of Dordt explain the decree of reprobation in these sobering words:

What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election is the express testimony of sacred Scripture that not all, but only some, are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal election of God; whom God, out of His sovereign, most just, irreprehensible, and unchangeable good pleasure, hath decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have willfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but leaving them in His just judgment to follow their own ways, at last for the declaration of His justice, to condemn and punish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins. And this is the decree of reprobation, which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares Him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous judge and avenger thereof (Canons I:15).

But God also has elect enemies. They are “the unthankful” and “the evil” of Luke 6:35. God’s elect enemies are sinners chosen in Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world to be saved through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. God’s attitude toward these enemies is love: God blesses them, God has mercy on them, God is kind to them, God delivers them from sin and death, and God brings them to everlasting life. God changes these enemies into friends. Believers were these enemies: by nature we were the enemies of God for we once lived as the enemies of God (Eph. 2:3) as those who once hated Him, cursed Him, despitefully used Him and persecuted Christ in His saints (Acts 9:4-5). Paul writes, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10). “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight” (Col. 1:21-22).



More to come! (DV)

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