The second quarter of the letter is Romans 5-8 and focuses not so much on our being justified through Christ but on our having righteousness in Christ. After spelling out the implications of justification in 5:1-11, Paul steps back and divides humanity into two eras, the era of Adam and the era of Christ. Adam and Christ each determine the course of history through a single action: one sin in Adam’s case and one act of righteousness in Christ’s case. At present, everyone is either in Adam or in Christ (5:12-21). The law belongs only to Adam’s side; it does not bring righteousness (5:20-21). That is not to say that obedience is irrelevant (6:1). Through baptism Christians have died with Christ to sin and risen with him into a new life (6:1-11). In Christ’ death our old selves have died, and we are no longer tied through the law to that old self but now have a new master, God (6:12-23). The law’s connection to sin and the old life does not mean that the law itself is a sinful power, though it has been an instrument of sin (7:1-25). The law promised life, but it is only through Christ and the Spirit that this promise has come to fulfillment (8:1-4). Condemnation for those in Christ is impossible, and the presence of the Spirit provides assurance (8:5-17). Sufferings do not threaten that assurance (8:18-27), and nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ (8:28-39).
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 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. 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.—5:1-5
Paul begins the second major section of his letter (5:1-8:39). He starts by applying the great doctrinal teaching in the first section. We were locked in contention, in a legal dispute, with God, but now God has brought this to an end by counting us miraculously righteous, justified. What the Lord Jesus Christ has done is the basis of our justification, and we receive it by faith. The hostilities with God now over, we are no longer enemies in need of reconciliation (5:10), so the peace here is not only psychological comfort but also the cessation of enmity with God.
Not only are we at peace with God, but we have the privileged access of a child to a father and his grace. Having excluded boasting in human status or obedience, Paul says that Christians can boast—have confidence—in everlasting security because of what Christ has done (5:2). This is the first of three boasts in Romans 5:1-11. The second boast is in sufferings, because Christians see suffering as a testing ground for faith and hope (vv. 3-4). The opposite of being able to boast is being put to shame, and Paul believes that is impossible, because the seal and guarantee of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14) assures us of God’s love, which will never leave us (Romans 8:28-39).
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.—5:6-8
Paul sets the love of God in Christ in contrast to us being powerless, ungodly (v.6) and sinners (v. 8). He also contrasts the death of Christ with other examples of heroic deaths he knew from literature or real life (v. 7). Such deaths are substitutionary, one person dying in place of another or others. But these other examples are radically different from what Christ did because the others are deaths rooted in mutual love or friendship. Jesus died for ungodly enemies. He took the place of sinners who had disregarded his Father.
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! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.—5:9-11
Paul reinforces the point that justification is rooted in Christ’s death (3:25-26 and 4:25). Since God has brought that about, he is not likely to forget or be unable to finish the work of salvation (5:9). The final stage to come is God delivering us from his end-time judgement (2:3-6). Similarly, since God has handed his Son over to death for his enemies (5:10), now that we are his friends, he is not likely to fail to complete our salvation; his living Son will rescue us (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). As a result of what God has done (Romans 5:6-8) and will do (vv. 9-10), we have a confidence that enables us to have a third boast—a boast not in ourselves but in God through Jesus Christ. And that is where we will pick tomorrow as Paul sets Christ’s death in the wider context of God’s plan by contrasting Christ with Adam.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Isaiah 19-21, Galatians 2:1-16, Psalm 59:1-17 and Proverbs 23:13-14
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