Do You Have Peace with God?
Explore the Bible Series
October 9, 2005
Lesson Passage: Romans 5:1-11
Introduction: Commentators differ in their analysis of these verses. As I see it, the “therefore” of verse one points to the preceding section on justification, and this section (51:11) unfolds the results of justification in the life of a believer. Perhaps it would be wise to revisit the doctrine of justification.
Modern Bible scholars differ on the doctrine of justification. Roman Catholics, for instance, see justification as a process by which a sinner is made righteous, pure, and holy before God (The Catholic Encyclopedia. pp. 578-579). Faith plays an essential role in justification, but Catholics reject Luther’s concept of justification by faith alone. Good works must attend one’s faith in order to receive justifying grace. Catholics are right to remind Protestants of the importance of good works, but they, in my judgment, make some serious mistakes on justification. For instance, the New Testament does not indicate that justification takes place as a process. In this regard, Catholics seem to fuse justification and sanctification. Furthermore, they see good works as a cause rather than a result of justification. I do not agree with Roman Catholic views on justification, but I do respect the scholarship of Robert Sungenis (See Not By Faith Alone. Protestant scholars would do well to consider and answer his arguments.
Among Southern Baptist theologians, Walter Thomas Conner rejected the forensic nature of justification; that is, Conner downplayed the view that God, in justification, legally declares the sinner righteous. In addition, Conner saw justification as a corollary to the New Birth (regeneration); thus, he concluded that traditional Protestant theology badly distorted the doctrine of justification. The late Dale Moody largely followed Conner’s views but, unlike Conner, completely rejected any legal elements in justification. Thankfully, the older Southern Baptist theologians (i.e. Boyce, Dagg, and Carroll) retained and defended the forensic view of justification.
Perhaps the most seductive contemporary voice raised against the traditional Protestant view of justification comes from the British theologian N.T. Wright. Frankly, I find Wright, in many ways, very appealing. His works on Christology, for instance, have proven very helpful to me. Moreover, he evidences a sharp intellect, keen historical insight, and vibrant writing skills. His New Perspective on Paul’s theology has exerted a profound influence on evangelical thinking in recent years. Analysis of his position is far beyond the scope of this article, but I find Wright’s ideas on justification quite distressing. Wright, in a nutshell, asserts that Protestant and Catholic theologians have misinterpreted Paul. According to his understanding, justification has less to do with salvation and primarily addresses the proper relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the church. It downplays the forensic aspect of justification and denies the “imputation” claim altogether. I suggest that Bible students read Ligon Duncan’s article, “The Attractions of the New Perspective on Paul.” You may easily locate this article on the internet.
As I understand the doctrine of justification, the Bible makes these assertions.
Romans 5:1-11 serves as a transition between the previous material on justification (Romans 3:21-4:25) and a lengthy, glorious section that focuses on sanctification (Romans 5:12-3:39). The “therefore” of 5:1 connects our lesson text with the previous discussion on justification. Paul triumphantly exulted in the blessings that proceed from God’s justifying mercies. The apostle revealed three of these wonderful benefits: peace, hope, and reconciliation. Furthermore, these verses act as an introduction to the grand themes that follow in chapters five through eight. Thus, Paul tied together the majestic themes of justification and sanctification.
I. “…We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1)
A. Peace: Paul did not use this term to refer to a subjective sense of well-being; rather, this word denotes the believer’s objective reconciliation with God. Paul underscored this truth in verses ten and eleven, and he took great pains to describe the lost man’s hostility to God and the Lord’s displeasure with sin (See Romans 1:18f). For the justified man, this enmity has ceased, and peace now characterizes the believer’s new standing in Christ.
B. “having been justified”: Paul used a verb tense that indicates punctiliar action, an action that occurs at a moment in time (aorist passive participle). Notice the vital connection between justification and peace. When God justifies a sinner, he removes the guilt and penalty of sin. The believer is given a new standing before God. The object of God’s wrath has been removed by the substitutionary death of Christ. However, Reformed theologians assert that God does more for the sinner than pardon his transgressions. In addition to the forgiveness of sin, the justified sinner receives the imputed righteousness of Christ. The London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 captures well the essence of this doctrine. In quote, in part, the first article in Chapter 11.
Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth… by pardoning their sins and accounting and accepting their persons as righteous… for Christ’s sake alone. …not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness, but by imputing Christ’s active obedience unto the whole law, and passive obedience in his death for their sole and whole righteousness by faith, which faith they have not of themselves; it is the gift of God.
C. “Through our Lord Jesus Christ”: All of the mercies of God come to believers through the mediating work of Christ.
II. “… And rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (5:2-5)
A. “…through whom we have access by faith into his grace…”: Paul continued his reflections on justification by faith, by reminding his readers of their standing in God’s grace. Their status has been graciously changed. This new status brings hope of the glory of God.
B. “…in hope of the glory of God.”: This phrase refers to that future glory which the justified man will enjoy in the presence of God. Hope differs, somewhat, from faith. Faith looks back upon the promises and redemptive acts of God and centers one’s present confidence in the accomplished work of Christ. Hope anticipates the future blessings of God. Christians do not use the word hope in the sense of wishful thinking; rather, it means a confident expectation of certain good. This expectation will find its fulfillment in the believer’s glorification and enjoyment of the glorious presence of God.
C. …we also glory in tribulations…” (vv. 3-5)
1. “…tribulation produces perseverance” (v. 3): Paul used a word, translated “tribulation” that means “pressure. This pressure produces perseverance: endurance, steadfastness, fortitude.
2. “… perseverance produces character”: Cranfield translates this word “provedness.” It denotes a person who has stood the test and been found true and sure.
3. “…character produces hope”: Paul came full cycle in his argument. How is hope produced in the hearts of believers? It comes by means of a process of Christian growth and experience.
III. The Believer’s Blessings in Christ (5:6-11)
A. The believer’s unworthiness of God’s blessings
1. “without strength” (v. 6): This phrase reflects the sinner’s helplessness to aid himself in his distress. God, in due time, took the initiative and sent Christ to die for sinners.
2. “Christ died for the ungodly” (v. 6b): Sinners are ungodly: unlike God, alien and cut off from God.
3. “while we were still sinners” (v. 8): Sinners are those who have fallen short, missed the mark, of God’s glory.
4. “when we were enemies” (v. 10): Paul returned to a theme he addressed in 5:1. The sinner is hostile and rebellious against the Lord. God addresses the sinner as an enemy to which he is willing to be reconciled through the finished work of Christ.
B. God’s saving mercies to unworthy sinners
1. “God demonstrates his own love toward us” (v. 8): The word “demonstrates” occurs in the present tense, denoting an ongoing action. Of course, the crucifixion occurred at a moment in time, but the demonstration of the love of God, through the cross, continues as a living testament of the love of the Lord toward sinners.
2. “justified by his blood… saved from wrath through him” (v. 9): The death of Christ has perfectly satisfied the demands of justice, and the wrath of God against sin has been appeased.
3. “we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son” (v. 10): Not only did the cross provide justification for sinners, but the death of Jesus also brought reconciliation between God and sinners. The enmity that once characterized the relationship between the sinner and the Lord has now been removed. The sinner’s reconciliation is so complete that the enemy has now has become a son, adopted into the Lord’s family.
1. What is the purpose of Romans 5:1-11? What is its relationship to the surrounding context?
2. What are the effects of justification? What is the relationship between justification and sanctification?
3. What does this passage tell us about the cross? How might a soul-winner use this text to present the gospel to the lost?