Essay on Romans 5 and John 17 for Systematic Theology

When it comes to soteriology, the work of Christ, scripture does not speak with one voice. Furthermore, within the academic discipline of theology, theologians do not speak with one voice on this topic either. This is evidenced in John 17 and Romans 5.6-21 as I will expound on below. I will also show how they passages are somewhat similar.

In the Romans passage and in reformed doctrine, Adam is the representative of the fall of humanity, which is where we get the doctrine of original sin. In Romans, Paul expounds on justification and compares Adam and Christ. Furthermore, in Romans “this passage presents sin and salvation from the perspective of two types, Adam and Christ…Adam is a type of trespass, sin, disobedience, judgment, condemnation, law, and death. Christ is a type of obedience, justification, grace, and life.”[1] That is what Paul presents in the Romans passage is that Adam represents the sin of humanity and Christ is the second Adam who takes on the sins of the world on himself on the cross and than we are saved by that substitutionary atonement of Christ. This is justification by grace due to the fact that “God’s grace becomes supremely manifest in the death of Christ for undeserving sinners”[2] on the cross. As Romans 5.6 says: “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”[3] Hence, “the cross was not a misfortune but ordained by God at the right time.”[4] Jesus did not go blindly to the cross, as the Gospel of John and the synoptic gospels show. Jesus knew he was going to the cross. The words “Christ died for us is the gospel for us in four words.”[5]

Moreover, this passage in Romans describes substitutionary atonement by stating in verses 8 and 9: “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.” That we will be saved through him from the wrath of God is evidence that this passage has theology of substitutionary atonement. “God’s love is demonstrated in the cross” by showing that for if while we were enemies “that is estranged undeserving.”[6] Furthermore the love of God is shown in that “we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life”. That passage shows that due to Christ dying on the cross we are indeed reconciled with God. God sees our imago dei because Jesus took on our sins.[7] This is justification by grace through faith, also because “grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” By the grace God shows us by us being reconciled to God by the cross, we indeed have eternal life through the cross. Ultimately the work of Christ is that he was “The victim of sin became victor.”[8] He was a victim of sin “Because God’s righteousness requires that man who has sinned should make reparation for sin but the man who is himself a sinner cannot pay for others.”[9] Sin puts humans in separation from God due to “Adam’s acts, everyone must die.”[10] This is why Jesus went to the cross to have victory over sin and death.

John 17 presents Jesus as having the “authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom [God has] given him” which this authority is from God. John presents Jesus as the one sent to earth to proclaim salvation. Jesus is depicted as a messenger for God. Jesus has “made [God’s] name known to those whom you gave me from the world.” Jesus is praying for the sake of those ones who have believe what Jesus has proclaimed and taught for protection. This passage depicts a remnant of people who acknowledged Jesus as the one sent from God. But it also shows that the world did not accept Christ. Furthermore, it shows that Jesus sent the people into the world to proclaim the “words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you.” Jesus prays that all who believed him would be come one. It shows the unity that the Son and the Father have, they are one. And they are to become one “so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

In this prayer from John it highlights the unity the Son, the father, and humans have. In this passage, eternal life is not about the future rather it is about “a life shaped by the knowledge of God as revealed in Jesus.”[11] The formation of the believing community that Jesus is praying for is the result of Jesus’s own teachings in revealing God to them. In this passage it is presented that Jesus has a sense of mission for his community.[12] In this prayer Jesus gives over his community to the care of God. Jesus prays that his community would be sanctified to do the work of God in the world. Hence, “Jesus and the community are set apart for God’s work (sanctified) in the full truth.”[13] This oneness in the prayer severs as a witness to the world. Moreover, the community is formed and shaped by Jesus’s glorification on the cross. Love defines this community in action and in their relationship with God. Ultimately what John 17 has to say about the work of Christ is “Jesus’s final enactment of this love will be the gift of his life.”[14]

What John 17 and Romans 5.6-21 have in common is that Jesus’s crucifixion on the cross was a gift to us from God. God’s love for us is shown “in we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Both passages show that God’s grace is manifestly shown in Christ taking on the sins of humanity on the cross. Furthermore, both passages show Christ as mediator. In Romans, Christ is mediator because he takes on our sins on the cross and is mediator in John by praying for us. How John 17 and Romans 5.6-21 differ? They differ in the way they have been used in reformed doctrine and theology. Romans 5.6-21 is a major passage used by the reformers and writers of reformed confessions. John 17 on the other hand is not as major passage as Romans in this regard. Ultimately, Good Friday is central to reformed theology[15], without the atonement; there would be no Easter.

In closing, as John 3:16 states “for God so loved that world that he gave his only son.” Jesus died for all humanity since we all deserve the same fate. Hence, “God gave Jesus in love to all people”[16] so that all might be saved. As Romans 6.1-8 states is that we participate “in Christ’s death and resurrection overcomes the tyranny of sin and death.”[17] Finally, Sanctification “is the new life in Christ that proceeds from righteousness by faith.”[18] Sanctification, in Greek, means holiness and in the Holiness Code in Leviticus, “holiness is an ideal for the whole community.”[19] Thus, Christ called the church in to being and gives all it needs for sanctification and witness to the world[20] and “Through God’s sanctifying grace, we grow and mature in our ability to live as Jesus lived.”[21]

Word count of just the essay before footnotes:
[1] “Romans.” In The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, edited by Walter J. Harrelson, 2017. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003.

[2] Ibid

[3] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+5.6&version=NLT

[4] “Romans.” In The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, edited by Walter J. Harrelson, 2017. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003.

[5] Ibid

[6] “Romans.” In The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, edited by Walter J. Harrelson, 2017. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003.

[7] Dr. Charry said something along the lines of this during her lecture on Soteriology. If Jesus did not take humanities sins upon himself, our imago dei is damaged.

[8] From the Confession of 1967 from the PC(USA) Book of Confessions. Page 264. 2004 edition.

[9] From the Heidelberg Catechism from the PC(USA) Book of Confessions. Page 31. 2004 edition.

This is the answer to Question 16: Why must he be a true and righteous man?

[10] “Romans.” In The HarperCollins Study Bible, edited by Harold Attridge, 1917. Revised ed. New York: HarperOne, 2006.

[11] “John.” In The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, edited by Walter J. Harrelson, 1942. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003.

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] Another Dr. Charry quote from her lecture on Soteriology

[16] “John.” In The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, edited by Walter J. Harrelson, 1913. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003.

[17] “Romans.” In The HarperCollins Study Bible, edited by Harold Attridge, 1917. Revised ed. New York: HarperOne, 2006.

[18] “Romans.” In The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, edited by Walter J. Harrelson, 2018. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003.

[19] “Leviticus.” In The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, edited by Walter J. Harrelson, 171. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003.

[20] Paraphrase from the PC(USA) Book of Order. Page 1. 2013/2015 edition.

[21] “Our Wesleyan Heritage – The United Methodist Church.” The United Methodist Church. Accessed March 21, 2015. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/our-wesleyan-heritage.

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