WE HAVE PEACE WITH GOD
Romans 5:1-21, Key Verse: 5:1
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, …”
The key word of the entire book of Romans might be “righteousness.” We can divide Romans Chapters 1-8 into four parts, all relating to righteousness: First, the introductory section in 1:1-7, which states that God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel. Second, in 1:18-3:20, Paul describes God’s righteous judgment upon the whole world. Third, in 3:21-4:25, we saw God’s righteousness that justifies sinners through faith (3:21-4:25). We cannot earn God’s righteousness by our works; we can only receive it as a gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Today we start the fourth part, which is about the amazing blessings brought by God’s righteousness in the gospel (5:1-8:39). Since we learned God’s salvation in the last two weeks, now we start to discuss the results of salvation. In Chapter 5, we can see that God’s righteousness makes our lives very fruitful. Let’s discover the fruitful life God has given us in Christ.
I. Peace and hope from God’s love (1-5)
In M. Paul’s message last week, we saw how Abraham serves as an example for both Jews and Gentiles, because he was credited with righteousness by God while he was still uncircumcised as well as after he was circumcised. Paul concludes chapter 4 by saying that the words, “it was credited to him,” were written not for Abraham alone, but also for us, who believe in Jesus (4:23-24). Does your spiritual bank account have the credit of righteousness? Now Paul tells us what blessings we receive as a result of this credit. The words “we”, “us”, and “our” are repeated 24 times in verses 1-11. It shows that Paul considers that all these blessings automatically apply to all believers in Christ.
The most immediate effect of being justified by faith is to have peace with God. Verse 1 reads, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “We have peace with God” is one of the best ways to express our restored relationship with God in the gospel. That’s why Paul puts it first. Then what does it mean to have peace with God? The first meaning of peace is the cessation of an enemy’s hostility. Before being justified through faith, we were God’s enemies, objects of his wrath (10). This is why dread, fear, guilt and anxiety filled our hearts. But when we put our faith in Jesus, he paid the price of our sins in full. We are no longer objects of God’s wrath. We have a permanent, unbreakable peace treaty with God, signed with Jesus’ blood.
Another meaning of “peace” is a kind of inner wholeness and well-being. I’ve heard that’s one of the meanings of the Hebrew word “Shalom.” Do we also get this kind of peace in the gospel? Yes, we do. It’s what Jesus himself promised us in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
In fact, the two types of peace are spiritually related. We can enjoy that deep, abiding shalom peace in our hearts only by having faith in the first kind of peace. As we know, in this world there are so many things that attack and threaten to upset our peace. Most of all, the lingering power of guilt in our hearts and Satan’s accusations try to make us lose the peace we have in Christ. To overcome this, we must remember that in Christ, our peace treaty with God has been signed once and for all. The devil will try to make us think that God is still somehow opposed to our happiness. He wants us to feel like we are still at war with God. But it’s not true. The gospel fact is that God has no more hostility against us.
Another description of our new status in Christ is found in verse 2. “…through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” I like this word “access.” It indicates the ability to get on the inside and obtain something good. The college I work at always tries to advertise how many good resources our students have access to. I try to give my students enough access to me so they can use my knowledge and experience to help themselves learn. If they don’t take advantage of that, I tell them, it’s their own fault, because they have access. In the gospel, Paul says, we have gained access to a position of grace through Christ. Faith in Jesus is like our password to gain access. It’s because Jesus himself opens the way to God. We should definitely take advantage of this access. Hebrews 4:15 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” We don’t need to be shy about it because in Jesus we have a standing in grace, in God’s favor that forgives and accepts us unconditionally.
The joy of this standing is described in verse 2b. “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” God’s glory is higher than anything we can obtain in this world. Hope in the kingdom of God is true and eternal. It is the living hope that never perishes, spoils or fades away (1Pe 1:3). We can freely boast about having this hope, because it doesn’t come from us but from grace in Christ. The verbs “to boast in” and “to glory in” have almost the same meaning; in general, they mean to rejoice. The gospel gift of righteousness is meant to give us joy.
Having hope in God’s glory enables us to overcome all kinds of difficulties and setbacks. Let’s read verses 3-4. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Suffering is an inescapable part of human life. Job said, “man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). The gospel does not exempt us from suffering. But Paul says we can glory and boast and rejoice even in sufferings. How can we? It’s because in the grace we stand in, we can be confident that suffering serves a good purpose and leads to glory in the end.
Let’s look more at the progression of good things that Paul says we gain when we suffer with faith. First, it says that suffering produces perseverance. “Perseverance” means the capacity to bear up under difficult circumstances. In other words, it means having an unwavering spirit, a strong inner self. Just as a tree takes deeper root through storms, so we take deeper root and become strong to persevere through suffering. Perseverance is very important in our lives of faith. The life of faith is like a marathon. We will receive the crown of righteousness when we run to the end (2Ti 4:7).
When we persevere, we can grow the next step. Verse 4 says that next, perseverance produces character. Character is kind of hard to describe, but when a person has character, we know it. A person who has a developed character is mature and free from pettiness and hypocrisy. Obviously, this doesn’t happen in an instant. It’s only the quality of a person who has been tested and passed. In fact, the NASB translates the word “character” as “proven character.” Through sufferings, the image of Christ is impressed on our hearts until we grow in character to be like Jesus.
The culmination of this progression, after perseverance and character, is hope. Hope in our hearts is a beautiful, spiritual fruit, like the pearl that an oyster produces after going through many internal sufferings. Hope gives our life a heavenly glow that others want to share. Verse 5 says that hope in God’s glory never disappoints us, because God pours out his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. By the Holy Spirit, we know the love of God inwardly. If you know that God loves you, you know that your hope is sure. Thank God for the amazing work he does in us by his grace in Jesus!
When Paul thought about God’s love, I think his heart was moved to express again how great the love of God is for us in Christ. The greatness of God’s love is shown by its contrast with human sinfulness. In verses 6-8, we see three kinds of people: a righteous person, a good person and a sinner. A righteous person is morally upright. People may respect this person, but they will not sacrifice their lives for them. A good person has genuine concern for others and does good for them. In rare cases, those who are loved by them will sacrifice their lives for them. Thirdly, a sinner is an ungodly person living in willful rebellion against God. It’s very difficult to show love to such kind of people. But verse 6 says, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” This verse refers to our status before knowing Christ. We were still powerless. We could do nothing to save ourselves. We were so hopeless that we couldn’t move. We were enemies of God and objects of his wrath. No one wants to serve people like that. But verse 8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God gave the maximum expression of love, which is to die for someone, to those who were least deserving of it. Christ died for us.
This is the historical demonstration of God’s love in the gospel. But it also applies to our individual lives in the present day. In our lives, when do we see God’s love the most clearly? It’s when we are at the most desperate, awful moments of our lives, in our times of great need. It is not when we look the most lovely or worthy. Through times like these, we can gain a heart understanding of how God’s love is given unconditionally to wretched sinners.
Given all this, Paul takes this back to the original point, which is how much confidence we should have in Christ. Look at verses 9 and 10. “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” Paul is saying, if God loved us enough to send Jesus to die for us while we were still sinners, how confident should we be that we will finally be saved in every way? This also relates to Jesus’ resurrection glory, which is a reflection of our new life after being reconciled to God. In these verses, Paul repeats the phrase “how much more” to show that there is no doubt about believers’ blessedness. Let’s pray that, as a result of the reconciliation we have received in Christ, we may grow much more confident of our blessed status.
II. Death in Adam, life in Christ (12-21).
When we consider the assurance of salvation through Christ, questions arise in our minds. How can one person, Jesus Christ, give salvation to all mankind? How can Christ’s death 2,000 years ago affect me today? Paul answers by comparing and contrasting Adam and Christ—representatives of mankind.
Verse 12 says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” This tells us the principle of representation. We wonder why, since only one person Adam sinned, sin is passed on to all mankind. It is because Adam was a representative of mankind. I don’t think it means that we are condemned personally because of Adam’s sin, but that through Adam’s sin, sin infected the world, including in a generational way. When we sin, we reveal ourselves as children of Adam. Verse 13 says that sin was in the world even before the law was given. Sin was not charged to people’s account when there was no law. Nevertheless, people died as a consequence of sin, whether they recognized sin as sin or not. The disobedience of one man, Adam, continues to affect us even today, and so, death continues to reign over people as it did over Adam.
Paul says that Adam is a pattern of the Christ to come (14b). In what way is Adam similar to Christ, and in what way is he different? Like Adam, Christ is a representative of humanity. Just as Adam influenced all mankind by one single act, so does Christ. However, the content of that influence is different, as verses 15-19 show us. The nature of their actions was different, as Paul says, “The gift is not like the trespass.” Adam was given a command, a law, to not eat from the tree of knowledge. He disobeyed this command. We call it a trespass, that is, stepping over the line. In contrast, Christ’s act of dying on the cross was an act obedience to the will of God.
The effect of these two acts was also different. The effect of the trespass was disaster which meant death for everyone (15a). The effect of Christ’s obedience was to undo the damage done by Adam, and even more. The obedience of Christ brought the gift of God’s grace to everyone, and Paul emphasized that the gift overflows to the many. The “overflow” implies “rich, undeserved abundance.” Adam brought condemnation to mankind, but Christ brought justification. By the trespass of the one man, Adam, death reigned; through the one man, Jesus Christ, we who receive the abundant provision of grace in him reign in life. It is tragic that one sin, that is, one man’s disobedience, influenced all human history. However, one act of righteousness, that is, the obedience of the one man Christ, affects human history just as greatly and has the power to transform our lives even today (18-19). Adam and Christ are main characters in creating new histories. While Adam created the history of sin and disobedience, Christ created the history of life and obedience. In Adam, we are powerless, being subject to death. But upon receiving the abundance of God’s grace in Christ, verse 17 says that we reign in life. It’s a complete reversal of our situation, spiritually speaking. We should know that when we trust Jesus, we are stepping out of Adam’s history of death and condemnation and into Christ’s history of life and blessing.
If Adam and Christ are the main actors in human history, then what was the purpose of the law? Verses 20-21 state why the law was added. When there is no law, even though people sin, it is harder for them to realize their need for Christ, because there is no clear way to name or list our thousands and thousands of transgressions. That’s why the law was added. The law exposes sin as sin and increases the trespass, that is, the law-breaking aspect of sin. It may seem strange that God would actually do something that increases the sinfulness of sin. However, God did so because where sin increases, grace increases all the more. The more fully we are aware of sin, the more Jesus’ grace overflows in our hearts. Then at last, grace reigns through righteousness and leads us to eternal life.
Throughout the book of Romans, we see how the working out of God’s salvation plan doesn’t follow the obvious path that humans might think of. Maybe one reason is that sin is so tricky and makes our hearts deceived and deceitful. Regardless, we know that God does everything in the way that reveals his glory the most greatly, and thank God that includes bringing us from darkness to his wonderful light by the power of his grace and love. Thank God for his demonstration of his incredible love for us through Jesus. Because of this we can have assurance of salvation and live a hopeful and fruitful life. May God bless you with peace in Jesus Christ.