Posts Tagged 'Romans'



HOLINESS AND FREEDOM FROM SIN, PART TWO

HOLINESS AND FREEDOM FROM SIN, PART 2

Romans 6

Paul continues his line of thought, relating the believer’s present position in Christ to how that believer should live his life.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. (Romans 6:8—10)

After giving his readers a lot of information about the believer’s identification with Christ as illustrated by water baptism, Paul begins this new section with the assumption that “we died with Christ.” His readers are true believers, not just Christians in name only, but Christians who have experienced Jesus Christ in a real, personal way. All of us who have named Christ as Savior are related to Him and we share in His death to sin and His resurrection. But what “died to sin” mean?

1. Christ’s experience with sin: Our experience with sin

When the Son of God entered the sphere of humanity, He left the glories of Heaven. He left a place of sinless perfection; a place of purity, uncorrupted by sin, and completely separated from sin in every sense of the word. He left that place and entered a world dominated by sin and evil. Jesus was immediately confronted by sin’s presence and power. Think about it; for some 33 years our Lord walked among the evil of sin; it’s tentacles always reaching out to Him, seeking to get Him in their grip. Jesus, like all men, lived a life surrounded by the darkness of sin.

When He went to the Cross, He assumed our sin, for He had none of His own. He bore the wrath of God against our sin; He was punished for all the sinful, rebellious acts every single human being had ever and will ever commit.

When we consider the awful, horrendous hours our Lord spent on the Cross, preceded by over 30 years of having to deal with sin after leaving an environment of complete sinlessness, no wonder He cried out “It is finished” when He died! What a relief it must have been for Him to bow His head and release His Spirit. At that moment, it was over for Jesus. His time on Earth was finally over. His nightmare with sin and the effects of sin were over forever.

In much the same way, Christians who are united—glued—to Christ, can throw up their hands and rejoice in the fact that just like their Lord, they may cry out, “It is finished” and breathe a sigh of relief because they are dead to sin and no longer under any obligation to look for or yield to sin. The tyranny of sin, as far as the redeemed is concerned, is over!

But, not only did Jesus die to sin, He rose to a new life, and we did too! What a marvelous thought! You see, when Jesus was alive, in the flesh, He had an obligation to deal with sin. Though He never sinned, He had to deal with sin and the effects of sin. But after His death, Christ arose, completely done with sin, able to give full attention to God the Father and the glories of Heaven. In same way, believers who are continually besieged by sin day and night; having to deal with it over and over and over again; strangled in its relentless grip, are finally released and are finally able to devote more of themselves to serving Christ and pleasing God the Father. Like Christ, believers have a new life.

2. How to live that new life

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (vs. 11)

Here is how Paul helps his readers to experience what Jesus experienced: “In the same way…” We have to acknowledge that this is not the easiest thing to do. We do, after all, live in a world of sin. Unlike Christ who got to return to sinless paradise, we’re stuck here on Mother Earth. So how in the world to we live a “new life” while we are still here, in the same old place? Paul gives us the answer in verses 12—14 with a series of exhortations. The interesting thing about Paul’s exhortations is that without them, we have a very unbalanced view of the Christian life. Without the exhortations, we get the impression that “God does it all.” All the Christian has to do is coast along until he dies then goes to Heaven. Talk about unbalanced! With these exhortations, though, we see that while our salvation is a work of God alone, our Christian life is ours to live; God won’t live it for us. For the whole of our existence on Earth, we must consciously fight against and rebel against sin’s rule. The decisions to sin or not sin are ours to make; God won’t make them for us.

This is the great paradox for the believer. We are dead to sin, yet sin is all around us. We are alive to Christ, yet still living in the flesh. We have been declared fully righteous by God, yet still sinners who need forgiveness. We are called to live NOW like we are already living in the Kingdom, yet the Kingdom is nowhere in sight. How can we do that? Paul gives us the key in three points:

a. Counting, verse 11.

This is a real challenge to believers: to become in reality what we are in Christ potentially. Hodge comments:

If in point of fact believes are partakers of the death and life of Christ; if they die with Him and live with Him, then they should so regard themselves. They should receive this truth, with all its consoling and sanctifying power, into their hearts, and manifest it in their lives.

b. No reign, verse 12.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.

The implication here is that sin has been reigning, but it should not any longer. The believer must do his part and refuse to obey the calling to sin. The word “obey” means “to listen” or “to heed.” If a believer wants to live a holy life, then he himself must STOP listening to the wooing of sin. This we must do for ourselves; God won’t do it for us. He can help up; this is one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit in fact, but in the end, we must decide to obey God instead of listening to lies of Satan.

c. Offering, verse 13.

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.

To “offer” comes from the Greek parastesate, written in the aorist imperative meaning, “present yourselves by one decisive act”. Christians are to refuse to offer themselves to sin and encouraged to offer themselves to another: God. We are to stop offering parts of our bodies to sin (eyes, hands, free will, mind, etc.) as instruments against God. Instead, we are to offer those parts to God, for the sake of righteousness.

So, it’s not enough to simply will ourselves to stop sinning. If we do that, a vacuum is created and, lo and behold, what will get sucked into the vacuum? Different kinds of sins, that’s what. In order to avoid creating a vacuum, when we stop offering ourselves to sin, we must start offering ourselves to God.

3. A new kind of bondage, 6:15—23

Now, Paul has claimed that believers are not under the Law. However, this does not mean that they are free from the demands of righteousness. Just because one has been set free from the Mosaic Law as a covenant system does not mean they are now indifferent to God’s moral will. In other words, freedom from the the legalism of the Law is not freedom to sin. All believers, not just Jewish converts, need God’s moral law to help them see the seriousness of sin. Even though it sounds like Christians are free from God’s law, in a sense they aren’t:

To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. (1 Corinthians 9:21)

It’s vitally important for believers, in this day of moral relativism and pluralism, to remember that while we are no longer in bondage to sin, we are in bondage to the will of God. It sounds funny, so Paul adds this:

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. (vs. 19)

The “example” he is speaking about is the “slave-master” illustration, which helps us understand the simple fact that, as Jesus Himself taught, nobody can serve two masters. Serving God is an all or nothing proposition. The fact that Paul had to use an “example from everyday life” shows us how difficult a concept this is. Once we were completely sold out to sin, now we need to be completely sold out to Christ. Once we were forced to sin, now we able to walk away from it.

This is a result of our acceptance of the Gospel; we are not only set free from captivity to sin, but enslaved us to a new master: righteousness. In this context, “righteousness” refers to ethical goodness.

This is also what holiness is. Instead of letting sin use our bodies, leading us to a sense of moral indifference, we are to offer our bodies in the service of God, leading us to perform acts of righteousness.

Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. (vs. 19b)

The word “holiness” comes from the Greek hagiasmos, which itself is part of a word group that includes such words as “holy,” “saint,” “purify,” “hallowed,” and “holiness.” Primarily, the sense of hagiasmos is to be set apart completely for the use of God. This is hagiasmos as far as God is concerned. But it has a secondary meaning as far as man is concerned. Because he has been set apart for God’s use, man now has an obligation to fulfill God’s will for him, which includes performing acts of righteousness. This is something a believer needs to do for himself; God will not force him to perform holy acts, but He often places the believer in the position of having to make the choice of performing them or not. In this way, man’s free will is protected and at the same time, the believer is developing a character like his heavenly Father’s.

F.F. Bruce paraphrases the last part of Paul’s thought like this:

A slave’s former owner has no more authority over him if he becomes someone else’s property. This is what happened to you. You have passed from the service of sin into the service of God: your business is now to do what God desires and not what sin dictates.

Finally, verse 23 is really a contrast to help drive home Paul’s point of the nature of our new life in Christ (it’s God’s gift to us) with it’s benefits and our old life with it consequences:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To help the believer make the right choice, we see on the one hand that sin produces death as a just reward for living in a way that displeases God. But on the other hand, God is full of grace, which results in the calling of many people to Himself.

Most commentators see the word “wages” being used here in the military sense of a soldier’s rations or pay. Sin, then, is viewed as a General who pays out these wages to those under his command. What a depressing way to view life without Jesus Christ! What a contrast to God’s free gift of grace! Instead of being ordered around by an overbearing General, not having any say in the matter, we instead have been placed into a relationship with a loving Heavenly Father who loves us, respects us, and gives us far more than mere wages.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

HOLINESS AND FREEDOM FROM SIN

If you misunderstand God's grace, you'll end up like this guy, Rasputin, the Mad Monk!

By the end Romans 5, Paul has concluded the main points of his teaching. All human beings stand condemned before God as sinners—rebels against Him. That same God, however, has intervened on behalf of all those sinners by providing acquittal and forgiveness through the substitutionary death of Jesus His Son, Jesus Christ. What’s awesome about this acquittal is that it comes to sinners initially irrespective of our lack of moral values and sinfulness. Acceptance by God is based solely on our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

As if that weren’t enough, our continuing standing before God—our salvation—does not depend on anything good thing we do, but on God’s amazing grace. Paul even goes so far to state that as sin increases, grace increases even more.

1. Paul and a mad monk

Without a doubt, all that sounds good; maybe too good to be true. No wonder God’s grace is so abused! Paul foresaw the potential that for some believers, God’s grace and forgiveness could lead to a kind of spiritual laziness. Such was the case with a monk; a man of God who confused the gospel of grace with a form of “antinomianism,” a perversion of doctrine that encourages the casting off of all moral restraint so as to experience more and more of God’s grace and forgiveness. This monk, because of his misunderstanding of grace, became a chief contributor to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917.

His name was Grigory Yefimovich Novykh (1972—1916). He was born into a poor, peasant family in a desolate region of Siberia, Russia. Until his religious conversion around 18, young Grigory became known as “Rasputin,” a Russian word for “debauched one,” because of his immoral lifestyle. After his conversion, however, he found himself at a monastery, which was part of Flagellants sect. Thanks to Rasputin’s ungodly influence, their sect became perverted—leaving the teachings of Scripture and embracing absolute antinomianism. The monks believed that one drew closest to God through sexual escapades and prolonged partying.

Eventually Rasputin left the monastery, traveling thousands of miles through Europe and much of the Middle East, finally lighting in Jerusalem. It was there that the “mad monk” solidified his reputation as a holy mystic with supernatural healing and prophetic powers, and in 1903, Rasputin was welcomed by church leaders and by politicians into the highest political circles in the land in spite of the fact that he hadn’t bathed in years.

Emperor Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra were completely taken in by the charismatic Rasputin, largely due to a supposed miracle wrought by the monk which saved their young son and heir to the throne, Alexey. This event endeared Rasputin to the royal family and gave him extraordinary influence with them. Within the royal court, Rasputin was viewed as a humble, gifted monk, sent by God. But outside the court, he lived up to his nickname wholeheartedly.

In spite of persistent rumors that Rasputin was having an affair with Alexandra, he was placed in charge of Russia’s internal affairs when Nicholas II left St. Petersburg to command Russian troops when World War I broke out. The “mad monk’s” influence proved to be so disastrous, that a group of conservatives, some related to Nicholas II, met to plot the assassination of Rasputin, ending his evil influence over the nation. They accomplished this in December of 1916, but it was too late to save the political structure of Russia. The Bolsheviks seized the opportunity of national discontent and their revolution broke out in 1917. Russia became as godless as the Emperor’s closest adviser.

Misunderstanding the nature of God’s grace can lead to all kinds of problems, which Paul refutes in Romans 6.

2. An answer to two questions, vs. 1—4

With the beginning of chapter 6, Paul picks up a line of thought he began back in 5:20—

The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more…

We can imagine how some might interpret a statement like that! As if to head off any misunderstanding of what he was teaching, Paul asks the obvious question:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? (vs. 1)

This, of course, was the fatal flaw in Rasputin’s thinking. It’s a good question to ask, though, because it explains a fundamental truth about grace that isn’t always obvious. To answer the question, Paul exclaimed using a favorite Greek phrase of every student of that language: me genoito. The reason we all like me genoito is because it can mean so many different things:

  • Not at all!
  • Certainly not!
  • By no means!
  • Never!
  • Absolutely not!
  • May I never!

The sense of me genoito is obvious: “No way!” There is no way that Paul means to say that the more you sin, the better it is. After getting their attention, Paul warns the Roman church:

By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (vs. 2)

The two tenses of the verbs in verse 2 are important to note:

  • We died to sin. “Died” is in the aorist tense, indicating a past, completed action.

  • How can we live in it any longer? “Live” is in the future tense, suggesting an ongoing, habitual action.

The NIV’s translation here is, perhaps not the best. Eugene Peterson paraphrased verse 2 in a way that brings out the tenses using a clever word-picture:

If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good?

The NIV of 1984 leaves out a very important word that the NIV of 2010 has included:

We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? NIV, 1984

We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? NIV, 2010

It’s a minor point, but an important one. The word left out in the older NIV is a specialized Greek form of “who.” The sense of the phrase is this: We who are true believers, we have died. The suggestion is that there may be those who call themselves Christians or who are at best nominal Christians who have not died to sin. The fact is, to be a true Christian means to have died to sin. Therefore, it is a moral contradiction for a Christian to remain living in sin, when he has, supposedly, died to it.

But, what does it mean to have died to sin? To answer this question, Paul uses the example of the believer’s baptism:

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (vs. 3, 4)

Here is Paul’s theology of water baptism, for this is the baptism to which he is referring. Notice he begins with “don’t you know.” The idea he is conveying is that it was the norm for Christians to be baptized in water; it was something each and every member of the Roman church would be familiar with because they would have experienced it firsthand. For the Christian, water baptism is not an optional experience.

The ordinance of water baptism, though not spiritually efficacious in any way, demonstrates outwardly in dramatic fashion an inward truth. To be baptized into the name of Christ means to be baptized, or placed, into union with Christ. It means to be dedicated to Him, and it means to participate in all that Christ is and has done.

To be baptized into Christ also means to be “baptized into his death.” When Christ died, He died to sin. His death literally cut Him off from all further contact with sin. Our water baptism demonstrates that we, like Jesus, have been cut off from sin. What that means precisely is covered in the next verses.

3. Killing my old man, vs. 5, 6

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. (vs. 5)

The phrase “united with him” comes from the Greek symphutoi, which means literally, “grown together.” The sense of the word is that of “grafting,” as in a tree graft, or a “vital joining together” or “fusing.”  The believer has been “glued” to Jesus; our identification with Him is that complete.

Paul is still using the water baptism metaphor to illustrate a spiritual truth. Clearly, the believer didn’t die when Christ died, nor does he die at his baptism. He also won’t rise from the dead in the future the way Christ was resurrected. Paul’s point in verse 5 is actually must simpler than most people think. Water baptism is designed to show to the whole world that a change has occurred within the believer that is as radical as Jesus’ death and resurrection.

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin… (vs. 6)

Believers have been freed from sin because they have been crucified with Christ; that is, just as Christ severed all contact with sin when He died, so sin’s constant contact with us has been severed. Only one thing can free a man from the temptation to sin: death. The highway of sin leads to one destination: death. The only way to get off that highway is to die before reaching the end of it. Now, obviously, believers haven’t really died; we’re all very much alive. What is verse 6 teaching? What is “our old self?” All those who have identified with the death and resurrection of Christ—believers, “glued to Him”—still have the potential to sin, but no longer the obligation to sin. Identification with Christ through faith, demonstrated by water baptism, does nothing to free one from the possibility of sinning, but it does free one from having to sin.

If we look at what Paul is saying in verse 6, his point become crystal clear:

  • Our old self was crucified with Christ. Again, Paul is not saying a believer is given the ability to never sin, but the ability to say NO to sin.

  • The body of sin has been done away with. This refers to our tendency to sin. Obviously, this tendency has not been eradicated. The Greek word translated “done away with” is katargeo, which is a broad word that means anything from “abolish” to “render powerless” and everything in between. Kata means “according to” argeo means “to be idle,” the cessation of work or activity. But since that tendency was not eradicated, what happened to it? We know that we still have the tendency to sin, and even Paul did, because in verse 13 he encouraged the Roman Christians not to sin! The tendency to sin has not been eradicated, but it has been rendered powerless as we walk in God’s power.

  • We are no longer slaves to sin. This is how our “body of sin” as been rendered powerless. While old habits are hard to break, it is possible to NOT sin because believers are no longer bound to sin. We have total freedom to turn around and walk away from the temptation to sin.

What does it mean to be “freed from sin?” This is the tie which binds the first five chapters of Romans together. The Greek word is dikaio, one of Paul’s favorite words, which means “to justify”or “to pronounce righteous.” We have been “freed” or “justified” from our sins. We have been declared righteous in spite of our sins. Believers have been set free because the price for our sins has been paid for any Another. We have been provided with an off ramp on the highway to death because One went on ahead of us, making a way off the road that leads to death.

HOW ALL MEN BECAME SINNERS

Romans 5:12—21

Paul has gone to great lengths to show that all men are sinners. Without exception, every human being is born a sinner. And the only answer to man’s sinful condition is Jesus Christ, who was born sinless, remained sinless, but was more than a mere man. He alone can redeem even the worst. The question Paul now endeavors to answer is one as old man himself: How is it that all men became sinners? To answer that question, the great apostle goes as far back in time as you can go: to the very beginning, to the first man, Adam. We will learn that what Adam did affected every single human being that followed him.

This whole section of Romans is so difficult to read in English, that many Bible readers (and Bible teachers, too) gloss right over it, never stopping to discover the very deep and rich truths in it.

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…so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. (vs. 12, 18b)

Here begins Paul’s extended contrast between Adam, the first man, and Jesus Christ, the “Second Man.”Or, if you please, the contrast is between “two ages.” Adam symbolizes the old age, Jesus Christ the new age. But in dealing with these two ages, we must understand that they are not really datable. It is true that at the death and resurrection of Jesus the new age was begun, in a very real sense we are living in a period of “overlap.” That is, there are those who are living today who remain entrenched in the “old age,” not having claimed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That claim is what moves a sinner from the old age to the new age. Every single human being is either in Adam (by birth) or in Christ (by faith). God’s act of justification removes us from the old Adamic order and makes us a “new creation,” part of the new order. So all human beings alive right now are either under the headship of Adam or of Christ.

Technically speaking, verses 12 and 18 are connected, separated by a very long parenthetical thought. Within the parenthesis, thoughts pour out of Paul’s mind like wet cement. For that reason, coming up with any kind of sane outline is difficult. The best way to study this section is to just “let Paul be Paul.” If anything, this part of Romans is an excellent example of “inspiration.” Here we see Paul being carried along by the Holy Spirit, writing what He wanted Paul’s readers to read.

For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)

Verse 12. Here is where it all fell apart. Through the act of the first man, Adam, “sin entered the world.” A new concept is introduced: he hamartia, “the sin.” Up till now, Paul has been writing the guilt associated with sin, but now he deals with sin as an outright rebellion against God. The Greek he hamartia refers to “the principle of revolt whereby the human will rises against the divine will.” (Godet) This is the sin that entered the world: willful rebellion against God. The thing is, Adam’s rebellion was not just an act which affected himself alone as an individual; but by his act, he set the course which every human being after him would follow. But how do we know that Adam’s rebellious nature was passed on to all his descendants? Because all his descendants die! Adam’s act of rebellion opened the door for death to enter the world of man. The proof that all men are sinners is that all men will eventually die.

Verse 12 really teaches us three things:

  • Through Adam’s fall, “sin entered the world.”
  • As a consequence, “death came to all men.”
  • This is because “all have sinned.”

But in what sense have “all sinned?” We need to understand this in order to understand the nature of sin. There are three possibilities as to what Paul meant:

  • All men sinned implicitly in Adam. Just as Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek because he was Abraham’s descendant (Hebrews 7), so every human being sinned when Adam sinned because we came from Adam. Since the days of Augustine, this has been a popular view. There is some truth in it; Adam is considered as the representative of the whole human race. The Hebrew word ‘adam, in fact, means “humanity.” But can one be guilty of something they didn’t do? Can I be deemed guilty of Adam’s sin? This seems to be the basic problem of this position—the idea of “inherited guilt.”
  • All men die because they personally sin. Pelagius taught that all men die because the imitate Adam; they follow his example and therefore die because of their personal sins. Even Calvin taught that all of Adam’s descendants are subject to death because we have all sinned. However, this idea seems to contradict the whole idea of the passage, which is that the death of all men rests squarely with Adam, just as the righteousness of all men rests squarely with Jesus.
  • The consequences of Adam’s sin and fall are what was passed on to the whole human race. It wasn’t his bad example or his quilt that was passed on, it was the consequences of death, spiritual and physical. And we might also say that the urge to sin was a further consequence inherited by all men.

It seems that the context of this section of Romans favors the third possibility. It must also be acknowledged that there is grain of truth in each position.

Verses 13, 14. Here begins the great parenthesis. Paul sort of stops in midstream to deal with something that, perhaps, some of his Jewish readers may have struggled with. What about all the people who lived between Adam and Moses? What about the reality of sin before the Law was given? Paul makes it abundantly clear that long before the Law was given, sin was in the world, but then turns right around and seems to contradict himself by saying this:

But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. (vs. 13b)

Paul’s point seems to be is that from Adam to Moses the Law was not yet given and so sin was not present in mankind in the sense of transgression (ie., the breaking of a certain law or code). Men had not been given either the Law by God or instrucions by God, like what was given to Adam to follow. But, the very fact that people were dying from Adam to Moses proved that there was sin present in mankind in some form, for death is the consequence of sin.

Adam is described by Paul as “the pattern as the one to come.” Adam, in other words, is a type of Christ, which may seem odd, given that Adam is so different from Christ. There is, however, one very important similarity between the two. Just as Adam passed on to those he represents what he possessed (the consequences of sin, and to a different degree the urge to sin), so Jesus Christ passes on to those He represents what He possess (righteousness and eternal life).

Verses 15—19. Even though Adam is a type of Christ, Christ is as different from Adam as night is from day. In these verses, Paul shows that the parallel between Adam and Christ is one of contrast, not similarity. The good that came into the world and into every redeemed man through Jesus Christ is vastly superior and far outweighs the evil that entered the world through Adam. This is why Christ’s “free gift” is “not like the trespass.” It is, in fact, far more effective than the trespass.

Notice the power of the words “how much more” as they relate to “grace” and “the gift.” Adam’s sin and its consequences were horrendous, affecting not only each and every human being, but also the nature of the world itself! And yet, Christ’s work produced results that were “much more” significant than those of Adam. Our Lord’s work on the Cross not only effectively neutered the effects of Adam’s transgression, thus putting man back in a state of innocence under probation like Adam had before he sinned, but gave redeemed man much, much more than even Adam ever had. This “free gift” was prompted by God’s grace, and includes things like righteousness and eternal life and the fact that believers will eventually share in God’s kingdom and His glory.

With verses 18 and 19, Christ is considered to have been “the obedient man,” as opposed to Adam, who was the disobedient one. Man is declared to be righteous in Christ because of Christ’s “act of righteousness.” But something important is declared about the state of man: every man stands either condemned in Adam or justified in Christ.

Maybe the best commentary on this section of verses, and verse 18 especially is one Paul wrote himself:

For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. (Romans 11:32)

Verse 19 presents a challenge both for translators and interpreters of God’s Word:

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Two questions come to mind: In what sense did Adam’s sin make us sinners? In what sense did Christ’s obedience make us righteous? The Greek is of no help in this. Most scholars agree that we are “made” either sinners or righteous through our relationship to and with Adam or Christ, but we are not “made” so in actuality. “Adam’s sin” simply means that every human being is born into a race that is in a state of rebellion against God. If, however, we side with Christ, we are able to enter into a whole new relationship with God. We are no longer viewed as rebels, but as rebels saved by grace.

Verses 20, 21. Readers of this letter have learned that righteousness is by faith, not by works or the Law. But where does the Law come into play? The Jews understood that they had been given the Law by God with the expectation that it would guide their life and their conduct. But now Paul gives his Jewish readers a blunt explanation of the Law’s purpose:

The law was added so that the trespass might increase. (vs. 20a)

This curious verse may sound like God acted in a nefarious way by giving the Law, but what Paul is teaching is something so simple it’s profound: God gave the Law to make sin even worse. The Law was never intended to save anyone, but to convince the people of their sin and to make them aware of their need for salvation. That’s what the second part the verse says:

But where sin increased, grace increased all the more… (vs. 20b)

When man became aware of how bad off he was, God was able to shed His grace on him like never before. God’s amazing grace far exceeds the extent of sin. Sin is made to stick out like a sore thumb because of the Law.

so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (vs. 21)

Here is a succinct statement of the purpose of God’s grace: to enable man to triumph over death, just as Jesus Christ did.

Summary. In the first five chapters of Romans, we are taught two great truths: salvation is desperately needed by every human being, Jew and Gentile alike; and salvation is provided by God freely to those who come to Christ by faith. Adam bequeathed to his descendants a sin nature and death. Christ, on the other hand, through grace, provides a new life for believers, deliverance from the sin nature and, as we shall learn more in depth later, a victorious life. Up until we confess Christ as Lord and Savior, we are under the complete dominion of our sin nature and in a constant state of rebellion against God. But when Christ came into our lives, He changed us and enabled us to live according to our new natures. How this incredible victory over sin is achieved, and how we are able to live lives that please God every day will be discussed at length in Romans 6, 7, and 8.

SOME FRUIT OF JUSTIFICATION

Justification makes a believer happy!

Romans 5:1—11

Chapter 5 of Romans marks a turning point. Up till now, Paul has been a professor of New Testament doctrine, teaching his readers all about the doctrine we call Justification By Faith. The first four chapters of this letter are what Joe Friday would call “only the facts.” In chapters 5 to 8, Paul leaves the facts of justification to cover the fruits of justification. The kind of fruit varies from chapter to chapter, and in chapter 5 Paul discusses a number of fruit that justification brings, all of which result in hope in the life of every believer.

1. Peace, vs. 1

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…

The first fruit or benefit of having been justified by faith is “peace with God.” It seems as though this is one thing human beings have been looking for almost since the very beginning. For most people, a life of peace is a fleeting dream. Grasping peace is like trying to remember the details of a dream you just awoke from. The problem is that while people want peace, they want it on their terms, not God’s terms. And unfortunately, almost always your terms will be in conflict with other peoples’ terms. This is true of God. If you pursue peace on your terms, you will be in conflict with God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ comes between man and God and paves the way for peace between the two.

The Greek word for “peace” that Paul used is eirene, and it does not primarily suggest an attitude or a relationship between people but rather a “state” or a “time of peace” in between an everlasting state of war. Thanks to the work of Jesus Christ, man has been set free from the continuing state of war that exists between God and the human race and can now be at peace.

This peace is both objective and subjective. We have been given peace through Jesus Christ, but it is up to us to enjoy it; to claim it. In fact, this is how J.B. Phillips translates the second part of verse 1:

Let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God.

The believer must never lose sight of the fact through the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, we have an unshakable hope for the future. This hope is rooted and grounded in our relationship with Christ:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… (Romans 8:1)

Peace with God is available only to those who have embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Peace with God is the foundation of all other peace in the world. This is why there will never be peace in the world or permanent peace in the human heart until all men everywhere submit to the rule of God.

Martin Luther once preached a sermon on Romans 5 and made some interesting observations, which are worth sharing:

  • The righteous man has peace with God but affliction with the world because he lives in the Spirit.
  • The unrighteous man has peace with the world but affliction and tribulation with god because he lives in the flesh.
  • But as the Spirit is eternal, so also will be the peace of the righteous man and tribulation of the unrighteous.
  • And as the flesh is temporal, so will be the tribulation of the righteous and peace of the unrighteous.

2. Access, vs. 2a

…through whom we have gained access by faith…

Here is the second benefit of justification: access to the presence and reality of God. This reminds us of something else Paul wrote:

For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18)

This was accomplished through Christ’s vicarious sacrifice. It was the shedding of His blood that brought reconciliation and it was the Holy Spirit that causes believers to appropriate and appreciate this great act of redemption.

The Greek ten prosagogen, translated “access,” means “our introduction.” The idea Paul is trying to get across is that of entrance into the presence of a monarch. It does not suggest that our access is accomplished on our own strength, but rather that we need an “introducer”–Jesus Christ. The French word entree is a good word for what Jesus has done for us. He brings the the justified believer into the full favor and grace of God the Father, and thus into His presence.

3. Grace, vs 2b

into this grace in which we now stand.

This statement sums up the privilege of all believers. We are currently able to enjoy every spiritual blessing in Christ. Grace is like a key we hold in our hands that will, one day, open wide the door that will permit us entrance in reality into the very presence of God Almighty. Right now we can enjoy God’s presence spiritually, but in the future, we will be literally and forever in the same “time” and “space” as He is!

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

4. Hope, vs 2c

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Closely related to faith is hope; these two great virtues have much in common. Our hope of eternal happiness with God the Father in Heaven is grounded in the glory of God. As we sit and reflect on God’s glory, our hearts are filled with hope. Thus, we can face the future with joy, confidence, and optimism. In fact, God’s plan is that we should reflect His glory. God is not gloomy or depressed. God is not downtrodden, sullen and melancholy. And neither should we be.

5. Suffering, vs. 3—5

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Depending on our current circumstances, these verses can be a little hard to take. Another benefit of our justification is a new understanding of suffering. The believer’s joy or glory is not something we hope we may experience some time in the future, but it is a present reality today, even during times of distress. Suffering of all kinds will come and go, but the peace, access, grace, and hope never leave the justified believer.

In the Christian life, suffering is helpful; it has real value. It produces a number things:

  • Perseverance, or “steadfast endurance.” This gives us the ability to literally “bear up” in the face of any pressure or trial.

  • Character is something that perseverance leads to. The word translated “character” denotes the quality of being approved, what has been proved by trial. This was something Job understood well: When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10)

  • Hope is produced by character. Interestingly, “hope” is the final step toward spiritual maturity. The other two steps lead to this one. It’s not that Paul is suggesting that our hope is in our character or that our character is the source of our hope. That source is clearly the grace in which we stand.

Paul stresses that the Christian hope does not put believers to shame. In other words, the Christian hope will never disappoint us. Our hope is not an illusion because it has been poured into our hearts by the Spirit. Get it? God gives us the hope we possess.

Our new understanding of suffering couldn’t be more different than the world’s. Christian suffering is a source of joy because it has a purpose: to build character.

6. Judgment, vs. 6—11

This wonderful benefit of justification relates to the final judgment.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (vs. 9)

Christian hope is not to be confused with things like wishful thinking that says, “I hope God will kind to me on judgment day” or “If I get to go to heaven.” In fact, our hope is based on something concrete: the things God did for us in the death of His Son. God did all that He did for us out of love for us. God, were were just told, poured His love into our hearts, and now we are told why:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (vs. 8)

We were so full of sin, we were powerless to help ourselves and powerless to latch onto God’s love. God, out of love, took the initiative and poured His love into us! God’s love is so unique, Paul gave a simple illustration to help his readers understand:

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. (vs. 7)

God demonstrated His love for sinful man in a most unique and remarkable way: He did it while we were at our worst! God’s love for sinful man, as revealed in Jesus Christ, is unprecedented and unparalleled.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (vs. 8)

Nothing we could have done would have moved God to send His Son to die for us. He did it “while were still sinners.” Moreover, we are told, Jesus died “at just the right time” or, as it can also be translated, “at the appointed time.” In other words, Jesus died at precisely the time set by God, not by us.

Of importance is the present tense of the word “demonstrates.” Even though Jesus died once for all; His death occurring at a point in history two thousand years ago, the fact is the death of the Son of God continues to impact and influence the present generations, so powerful it was.

Paul’s argument in the concluding verses of this section is a marvel of pure logic. If God did all these good things for us while we were at our absolute worst, how much more will He do for us now that we are on His side! When we look at the love He HAD for us, surely we can HAVE hope and confidence for the future.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (vs. 9)

The fact that we have “been justified by his blood” indicates that man’s sin problem has been thoroughly dealt with. The consequence of our sin is inescapable: sure and certain judgment. However, praise God, the love of God made it possible for us to know beyond the shadow of any doubt that we “shall be saved from God’s wrath through him.” As wonderful as this is, Paul says there is “much more” to our salvation that simply being saved from what we have done.

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! (vs. 10)

That last phrase is the game-changer: “We shall be saved through (or by) his life!” In other words, Christ got rid of our sinful yesterdays and He is the answer to what we are today. Christ not only died, but has also risen. He saved us by His death, but because He rose, ahead of us also lies salvation. Barth observes:

Christ’s risen life sets a seal upon our justification effected by His death, and because He lives, this peace, our reconciliation, and the pouring forth of the love of God in our hearts, mark a 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, as long as we remain in Christ.

Paul set forth the wrath of God in the first part of Romans (1:18—3:20) and the righteousness of God in this second section (3:21—5:11). Next, we will tackle how the wrath of God and the righteousness of are seen in Adam and Christ.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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