It is the weekend and our reading thru the New Testament covers both days. Our reading continues in Romans, chapter 5:1-21. After you have read, I’d invite you to come back and spend some time thinking a bit more about what we’ve read. Thanks
The letter to the Romans is a masterpiece in explaining the Gospel. It is extremely well crafted with an awareness of things we often forget. Since we’ve just begun reading it this week, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page - i.e., where are we in the Gospel story?
Paul said the Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe” (1:16). As he explains it we become painfully aware that our capacity to receive it and believe it, does not lie in our own abilities. Some people are completely unaware that God even has a Gospel message, and they have divorced God from their lives (chpt 1:18ff) and their lives demonstrate it. Some have deluded themselves into believing that they are good enough practicing religion (chpt 2), unaware that at the core of their nature they are not that different from the God-divorcers in chapter 1. The fundamental problem is clear - “there is no one good, there is no one that seeks after God...All (humans) have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:10-11, 23). That fundamental issue is not my analysis, but God’s.
Yet it isn’t His analysis so that he can justly condemn all to eternal judgment. Instead, it’s his analysis so that he might reveal that there is a Way, no, there is “the” way, and it is through Jesus’ substitutionary atonement - his death on the cross. Christ's death allows God to justify his Holy character by giving us His Son’s righteousness as a gift of his grace, through faith, to all who believe or put their trust in Christ (3:22-26). Soak in that bath of God’s grace and let his love come to rest on you! Grace, as a gift, operating through Faith has always been God’s pattern (chpt. 4). God opened a closed-door in Christ’s finished work and credits those who believe with the gift of his grace unto salvation!
That is “good news”, the Gospel, and the emotions that come with good news follow - “Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” There it is - Peace. Wouldn’t you love to have peace on earth? With all that Paul has written, we come to realize that some ways in which people seek to establish peace cannot work. There are those who would seek to do it militarily - conquer and rule over people to establish peace. This is what Paul experienced in living under Roman rule. It didn’t work, it has never worked. There are those who see the solution in political power, passing laws to bring about a peaceful order. I think we can see that it merely divides people instead of bringing them together. There are many modern-day formulas for peace, but the moral and political solutions - as history records - do not work. Paul reminds us that peace is an essential fruit of God as we come to faith in him, and live with and in Him - “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace” (Galatians 5:22). Let that sink in. We have “peace with God”. Alienated, separated, orphaned, God reached out to save us - in Christ - in order to adopt us into his family! (Romans 8:15). We have peace WITH God, and therefore, we have the peace OF God.
This grace of God that has opened the door to a new life is what Paul describes as “we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (5:2). My great grandfathers and grandmothers brought my ancestors to America in the 1800s. I have seen the ship manifest with my Great Grandfather Pollasch’s name and his wife and children’s names as they sailed from Hamburg, Germany to Baltimore, Maryland. There’s a part of me that cannot help but imagine what they felt like when the shores of the United States came into view, and when they stepped off that ship onto the land that was their new home. Paul says, “we have gained access into this new place called ‘grace’ and so we STAND in it.” We can understand his next words - “we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” Did my Grandfather or Grandmother say, “look, we are here...we have a new home, we are in America!” I do not know, but it is not boasting of “look what I have done”, but boasting of “look what we have received!”
Landing in a new world means what? First of all, it means learning the language, learning the customs and culture. Standing in our faith in Christ means that also. It does NOT mean, “now we’re all set, everything is going to come easy”. “Now that Christ has made it possible for my Sins to be forgiven, and I have peace with God, I’m all set, I have no further problems, struggles” - to which we who know say “Hah, you now have a whole new set of things to deal with”. New lands mean new adjustments, new flexibilities, new knowledge to gain. It is Dorothy looking around and realizing, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore”.
Paul wants to make this clear. There are still things to deal with in this world - like suffering. But now with suffering, we have a new purpose, new meaning. “Suffering produces perseverance...and perseverance produces character...and character produces hope” (5:3-4). Life in Christ brings us to new ways of living life, a new language to learn, new goals, and purposes to live for. The hope is not the end, for the hope that is being produced in us leads us back to God’s love (5:5) now being understood through the work of God’s Holy Spirit.
What does it all mean? We have arrived, but we have not arrived! This “hope” Paul speaks of is broad and wide. Hope comes from a Greek word, “elpis”, which literally means “an assured outcome”. Most of us think in terms of immediate outcomes, or in working to produce outcomes. As Christians, we think that having been saved by grace, or now that we have landed on this new shore, we’re on our own! Paul says, "No", for our "Hope" is an assured outcome of God’s continuing work in and through us. How do we know? “...God’s love is poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (5:5). The old gospel tune in the civil rights movement rang out with the tune - “we’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in His word” - well, it's true, we continue in this faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in His promised word!
Is it true? Can we count on God’s continuing grace to be there, and can we say with confidence that this grace through faith relationship will be our mainstay as we walk in life with Christ? Paul reminds us (5:6-8) in three succinct ways that God’s love never ends. First, God’s love was already proven in our “powerlessness” - or “weakness” - when Christ died FOR US. He didn’t die for us because we were good, instead, he died for us even “while we were still sinners”. Interestingly, Paul does not use past tense language in describing this but uses present tense language instead. What he is saying is that God’s love is more than provable - look, "God sent his son to die even while we were actively still sinning"!
Also, Christ’s death made it possible for us to be declared perfectly righteous before God - “we have been justified by his blood” (5:9). This work of God in the past has two main effects. First, it saves us from God’s wrath (5:9) which is his just punishment for Sin, Sinners. Secondly, it assures us that IF God could do that, then most assuredly he will make sure it will continue on to completion (5:10). This now is concluded - it is not “our life of faith” that secures this assurance, but we are “saved through His life”. It is Jesus' life that reconciled us to God and it is Jesus' life that is being lived out to keep that reconciliation alive. If you can - sit back and soak in that...God is going to finish the work of His Son in our redemption!
One final long proof that I will summarize and let you read more completely on your own. Paul began chapter five with the word “therefore”. I always tell people in teaching that when you see a “therefore” ask what it is "there for"? In effect, “therefore means because the preceding information is true, the following is also an important consequence, it also is true”. So what is Paul now concluding?
“Therefore, because we have received the righteousness God as a gift of grace through faith, which is confirmed by Abraham’s story (Rom. 4:1-25); and therefore, as believers, we have peace with God and have the right or opportunity to live with assured confidence that when Christ eventually sets all things right, we will share that triumph (5:1-11) - "therefore", be assured that “the Sin that entered the world through one man, Adam, most assuredly will be overcome by the death of the one man, Jesus” (5:12).
“Paul’s “therefore” behaves like a comma rather than a period. The first truth naturally, or biblically, leads to the other.
Paul wraps us his argument about Salvation and Justification in Christ by comparing and contrasting - both theologically and biblically - two pivotal people of human history: Adam and Jesus. Succinctly put, the argument of Paul in 5:12-21, is two-fold. With Adam’s Sin, all human beings became sinners, and because of that Sin, death followed. We know from the biblical account that God told Adam and Eve that “in the day you eat of the tree you will die”. It was not instantaneous death that God was stating, but rather, that Adam's Sin would lead to the Sinful decay all of the creation, making death the inevitable consequence of Sin. Adam’s sinful nature has been passed down from generation to generation even to today. Death is proof that Sin’s decay still is true.
BUT, the truth of Adam’s sin does not define either the identity or the finality of a believer in Jesus Christ. It is summed up by Paul in 5:17-19, “For if, because of one man’s trespass (Sin), death reigned through that one man, (how) much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” That is the issue and the outcome. While we are guilty of being Sinners, Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension have changed it all, and the death that came upon all humanity because of Adam’s Sin is not the final story.
Again, Paul’s word for consequential returns: “Therefore, as one trespass (Sin) led to condemnation for all men (mankind), so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men (mankind)” (5:17-18).
We might ask, or say, “How can this happen? Why would it be true?” Again the answer is clear as Paul contrasts what each of these pivotal men did (5:19) - “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” He frames the outcome by making it clear that Jesus’ perfect obedience has made it possible for God’s righteousness to be given.
I often trick students, or listeners in teaching, by asking them the question: “Are we saved by works?” Almost always I get the same response - “No”. Then I get confused looks and furrowed brows by saying, “Most certainly we are saved by works”... then pause...and I’ll add, “We are not saved by our works, but we are saved by Christ Jesus’ perfect obedient works”.
This is the end of the argument. The theological teaching Paul is making is called “imputation”. It means that something is imputed, or given, without regard to our choices. All of us have looks, bodies, things that identify us and also remind us that we came from someone(s). Our body, hair, eyes, etc...is imputed to us from our parents. We would love to have the ability to make a choice sometimes, but we can’t.
In relation to Paul’s argument, he ends here with imputations. The one-man - Adam - imputed to us all, Sin. We might not like it, and we wished it could be different, but then it is our pride (the worst sin) that wants to argue against Paul. The other man - Jesus - imputes righteousness which God gives to who? He gives it to “Sinners” (5:19)! Theologically, it is a double imputation. God gave Jesus our Sinfulness, our actions of Sin, and God put that Sin upon Him. Christ Jesus died for our Sin! Then God gave to us Jesus’ perfect righteousness, and we are justified - declared righteous, not guilty, forgiven, set free! That’s the end of the story...my story...your story...anyone’s story who knows Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. It’s why I always sign off on these pages the same way.