The Miracle of Reconciliation

An Enlightening Study of Romans 5:1-11

5:1-2 – Since then it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future.

5:3-5 – This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys – we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.

5:6-8 – And we can see that it was while we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men. In human experience it is a rare thing for one man to give his life for another, even if the latter be a good man, though there have been a few who have had the courage to do it. Yet the proof of God’s amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us.

5:9-11 – Moreover, if he did that for us while we were sinners, now that we are men justified by the shedding of his blood, what reason have we to fear the wrath of God? If, while we were his enemies, Christ reconciled us to God by dying for us, surely now that we are reconciled we may be perfectly certain of our salvation through his living in us. Nor, I am sure, is this a matter of bare salvation – we may hold our heads high in the light of God’s love because of the reconciliation which Christ has made.  (JBP)

In the first four chapters of Romans, Paul sets forth doctrine of Justification by faith, stressing that it is real and necessary.  In chapters 5 through 8, Paul shows his readers that this doctrine is also effective and fruitful (Hendriksen).  This is important because justification by faith is far more than a nebulous idea that’s hanging “way out there” for only theologians to talk  about.  Far from  it; justification by faith is doctrine that is highly practical and applicable to the lives of all believers, for it imparts to him many blessings.

1.  Verses 1, 2

Translation problems abound at the very outset of verse one.  The Greek text is not uniform, and over the years there have been two ways to translate this verse, a subjunctive and an indicative way:

Subjunctive:  Let us have peace
Indicative:  We have peace

J. B. Phillips has translated verse one in a way that captures, perhaps more accurately, the meaning Paul wished to put forth to his readers:  let us grasp the fact that we have peace.  Justified people, those who are born again, simply have this peace with God; it was given to them, they do not say “let us have peace” because they already possess it.  However, this spiritual reality sometimes gets lost in the course of living everyday life; the believer may feel as though this peace from God is non-existent.  Hence, the reality that we possess this peace from God needs to be continually reaffirmed and considered.

So, at the very beginning then, we see that justification by faith is not some “heady” theological doctrine, but rather a marvelously practical doctrine that gives the believer something he can actually use:  peace.  The basic meaning of this peace is reconciliation, a peace between God and man that puts man in complete harmony with God.  Peace with God, then, is the very first benefit a sinner receives by grace from God the Father.  Colossians 1:20 says:

[A]nd through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (NIV)

Christ made peace possible through His vicarious death on the cross, where He took the punishment for man’s sins.  Paul writes in Ephesians 2:14:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. (NIV)

This amazing peace works in two directions: horizontally and vertically.  Horizontally, in that in Christ, we are all one regardless of our sex, or upbringing or nationality. Vertically, in that we all have peace with  God because Christ bore the wrath intended for us.

The second benefit of justification by faith is “access.”  The NIV translates verse two like this:

[T]hrough whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

Literally, this verse is  translated:  “We have obtained our introduction…”  The idea is that we  have been introduced to a king or monarch.  “Access” may not the best way to translate ten prosagogen because it ignores the fact that we do not come in our own strength, but we need one to introduce us to the King.  It is Christ who brings the believer into the presence of God.

This “grace in which we now stand” (NIV) sums up the privilege of all believers.  Literally the  phrase is: “We stand firm,” and refers to the confidence Christians have in their future.  The RSV captures the though:

[Let us] rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

John Calvin eloquently wrote:

Although believers are now pilgrims on the earth,yet by their confidence they surmount the heavens, so that they cherish their future inheritance in their bosoms with tranquility.

Verses 3, 4

Sadly, peace with God does not bring about peace with the world.  We may expect peace among the body of Christ, but not with people outside the Church.  Yet even in “the midst of our sufferings” we are able to experience peace because nothing can take away that which God has given us.  The word for “sufferings” is also translated “trials” or “tribulations,” and far from harming us, they should serve to strengthen us if we accept them as being part of the “all things”  of Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)

If we face problems with the right attitude, they will produce in us the kind of character God wants us to have.  John Knox, however, adds this word of caution:

Godly character is not the source of our hope.  That source is clearly the grace in which we stand.  But the experience of tribulation properly sustained can serve to fortify the very hope they seem calculated to destroy.

This hope believers have is real, it is not an illusion, therefore we will never be disappointed.  Paul is actually quoting here from Isaiah 28:16:

I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. (NIV)

The hope of the believer is anchored in the love (agape) of God, and God does not express His love to us one drop at a time.  Indeed, by the Holy Spirit, it is “poured out” in the hearts of believers.  God’s love is given freely, abundantly, copiously, lavishly.

Verses 6-8

Paul, having just dealt with the influence of God’s love ministered to the hearts of believers by the Holy Spirit, now explores the depths of that love.

First, it came at “just the right time” (NIV).  This recalls what Paul told the Galatians:

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman. (NIV)

For centuries the law served to show man his inadequacies:  there was no way any man could measure up to God’s righteous requirements.  He sent His Son at exactly the right time.  Man’s character needed a Savior, and the time was right in God’s plan.  Man was totally helpless and powerless to help himself against the effects of the fall.  And so Christ, motivated by sovereign love and not by any human merit or accomplishment, died for the ungodly.  Theologians calls this “prevenient grace,” or grace the precedes justification.

If we want to know what God’s love is, all we need to do is look to the Cross.  There and there alone is there a revelation of love such as we will find nowhere else.  Greathouse writes:

Through the Cross we have an aperture into the very heart of God, and we see it to be self-giving, self-sacrificing love.

In these powerful verses, Paul contrasts human love with God’s love.  Human love is motivated by the nature of its object; for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  Contrast this with what God did: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Behind the death of Christ for sinners in the Love of God.

God loved, Christ died, a sinner is saved.

Note the word “demonstrates” (NIV) at the beginning of verse 8.  It is in the present tense; a powerful reminder that even though Christ’s death is a accomplished, historic fact, it’s effects continue to be felt in the present.

To summarize what Paul’s purpose so far, we turn to Greathouse:

The manifestation  of God’s love is through a historical event-the Cross; the application of it is by the Holy Spirit.

Verses 9-11

Verses 9 and 10 relate back to  the previous verses like this:

We have a great hope in our future, for in Christ, God loves us with a perfect love that was so strong He sent His Son to die for us while we were sinners.  If, by His death we are justified, much more shall we be saved from any future wrath of God.

Hendriksen sees a parallel in these two verses.  The first concerns our legal standing with God; the second our personal relationship with Him.  Each of the two statements is in the form of an a fortiory argument:  If God did the greater, will He not even more readily do the lesser?  The greater is the saving of your soul, the lesser is keeping you safe from His wrath.  E.K Harrison reasons it this way:

If God loved us and saved us when we were His enemies, now that He has made provision for us an infinite cost, much more will He go on to see us through to the final goal of our salvation.

How great is our salvation?  How secure is it?  Consider the following conclusion of Barth on the matter:

Christ’s risen life sets a seal upon our justification effected by His death, and because He lives, this peace and our reconciliation, and the pouring forth of the love of God in our hearts, mark a turning point in our journey beyond which there is no turning back,going on from which we have only one future and in which we can only glory.

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