Romans 5

Paul begins this chapter with authoritative word “Therefore”, thus begins his summary of the preceding chapters. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This peace that Paul speaks of is peace with God, this is not the common philosophy of a feeling of tranquility or absence of conflict with neighbors, but the sure knowledge that the things that have separated us from God have been satisfied, dealt with in a permanent way so that we are at peace with the Creator of the Universe.

Before we had peace with God, we are described as being enemies, strangers and hostile to God. Make note of this: man is the enemy of God not the reverse, God put to end the hostility I had towards Him – He reconciled me through the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition to peace with God we also have “access by faith into this grace in which we stand”. Part of the peace we have with God is the privilege to approach the King of Kings, to approach His Throne of Grace with the concerns of our heart. We can do this with confidence, knowing that all the evil that separates us has been washed clean.

“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”. So now we boast in the hope of the glory of God, knowing that the purposes and plans of God will be accomplished and we will share in Christ’s glory. We also, “rejoice in our sufferings”, because we know that when our faith is tested by our present sufferings, it will develop endurance, and that will produce confidence and the assurance that our faith in the Creator God is not in vain, He will not fail. Because we can trust in His love for us, a love so great that Christ died for us while we were still steeped in our sin. We rejoice because we have been declared righteous and we are reconciled to God!

Important point from the JOY notes on rejoicing in our sufferings: “We are not talking here about people who suffer from clinical depression or bipolar disorder or some other medical condition that causes a state of depression. It is not sinful or unspiritual to be afflicted with a mental disorder. Paul directs his concern at those Christians who are capable of rejoicing if they would simply focus on their Christian hope instead of on thoughts of bitterness and self-pity”. We rejoice because we have been justified by faith, are now at peace with God and “we can draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith”.

Redemption, atonement and reconciliation are entirely the work of God, accomplished through the death of Jesus Christ. God has removed the enmity that stands between people and God and He restores His relationship with the people of God. This reminds us of the peaceful relationship Adam and Eve had with God in the garden before the fall.

Paul concludes this section of Romans by contrasting the first man Adam and Jesus Christ. Through Adam sin and death entered the world; it spread to all people – because all have sinned. Death reigned from Adam until Moses, many died through the sin of one man, Adam. But at just the right time, while we were helplessly mired in sin Christ came as the Savior for the ungodly. Adam brought death to all; Christ brings life to all; through one man, “the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ!”

“Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.” (The Message)

Romans 4

Paul continues with his explanation that righteousness comes by faith alone! Paul proved that no person is declared righteous by their own merit and that we are declared righteous by God based on our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul now uses the great patriarch of the Jewish faith, Abraham, to further prove this point.

Abraham and family lived in area of Ur, with his father Terah, brother Nahor, their wives, extended family and servants. God appeared to Abraham and commanded him to leave his family, their way of life and go to the land of Canaan. Abraham obeyed this revelation, traveling first to Haran, and then finally moving into the land that God promised him; all without taking possession of the land during his lifetime. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, and he went out without understanding where he was going”. (Hebrews 11:8)

When Abraham was 100 years old and his wife Sarah 90; God promised that he would have a son born of Sarah who would inherit the promises that God gave to Abraham. “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness”. (Genesis 15:6) Paul’s point, Abraham was counted as righteous before he ever did anything to gain favor with God, he did not earn a reward for the works accomplished, he was given the gift of righteousness because he believed God when God said he would do the seemly impossible.

Paul raises the question, is the blessing of being counted righteous by faith, just for the circumcised (Jews) or is it also for the uncircumcised (gentiles)? And was Abraham circumcised at the time that God credited him with righteousness? The answer is an emphatic no; Abraham was uncircumcised at the time that God declared him righteous. God’s declaration of righteousness was approximately 14 years before He gave the command of circumcision for Abraham and his descendants. Paul writes, “Abraham received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised”.

Therefore, Abraham is the father of all the believing Gentiles (uncircumcised) because he was credited by his faith and He is the father of the believing Jews (circumcised) because he was faithfully circumcised. Justification is by Faith alone! Paul is correcting the Jewish worldview: Abraham was not credited with righteousness based on the merits of the coming Law, but on faith alone. And the promises given to Abraham was not given for the Jews alone, the blessings were for “heirs of the world” by righteousness that comes by faith.

“For this reason it is by faith so that it may be by grace, with the result that the promise may be certain to all the descendants—not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”

God made Abraham the “father of many nations”; both Gentile and Jewish Christians look to Abraham as their ancestor because he was the physical patriarch and the spiritual patriarch for all who believe. Just when all seemed hopeless, Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah 90, quite unrealistic to think they would have a child from who many descendants will come. But Abraham believed God would do what needed to be done and he acted on that faith, he stepped forward in action and God accomplished the miracle. “Abraham did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. He was fully convinced that what God promised he was also able to do”.

“But the statement it was credited to him was not written only for Abraham’s sake, but also for our sake, to whom it will be credited, those who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was given over because of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of our justification”. By faith alone we are justified and by faith alone we are made righteous before God.

Romans 2–3

Paul continues with his logical argument, having stated clearly that the Gentiles are without excuse because the truth about God can be plainly seen; he then turns his attention to his fellow Jews saying that they too are without excuse.

Paul speaks from experience; he was a Pharisee and knew the common thinking of his day and he was quite accustomed to arguing with Jews in the synagogue. The first century Jews looked down on the Gentiles because of their ignorance of God’s revelation in the Old Testament and thus their immoral lives, lived out in ignorance. Paul says “now we know that God’s judgement is in accordance with the truth”, here is God’s clear truth: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

The truth about God’s mercy extends to the ignorant and the self-righteous, God’s kindness and patience gives us time and room to recognize our need, repent and turn towards God. Paul warns his fellow Jewish Christians that their personal judgement against the sinners reflects their stubbornness and unrepentant hearts which is storing up wrath for them on the Day of the Lord.

Wrath is God’s righteous judgement, a judgment that is impartial, based on what we have done with what we have been given. Paul is not contradicting his continual emphasis that a person is saved by faith in what Christ does for him and not in their works. Rather, Paul is laying the ground work of the principle of judgement according to deeds, that all mankind will be judged “by what is written in the books, according to their deeds”. God will judge according to the light received and He will judge the secrets of human hearts. God judges according to the truth, God judges according to deeds and God judges according to the light the person has received.

Paul addresses the Jewish Christians directly, Jews considered themselves the “keepers of the Truth”, they boasted of their special relationship to God and their understanding of the Law. Paul challenges them on their sins, they teach but do not teach themselves; they boast about the Law all while breaking the Law! Paul concludes chapter 2 with a discussion about what is “true” circumcision; true circumcision is a heart that is circumcised, the person who obeys God’s Laws inwardly led by the Spirit.

Paul continues with this train of thought, He asks and answers some oblivious questions for those of Jewish descent. So what advantage does the Jew have or what value is there in circumcision? Paul emphatically answers, “There are many, first of all the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God”. Notice the phrases “were entrusted”, this is past tense – there is building tension that now things are different.

Paul poses the next question, since some of the Israelites have proved unfaithful; does that mean the God will abandon His promise to bless Israel? Paul’s quick answer is “Absolutely not!” God is faithful even when we are not. The next two questions are similar to each other, if my lying, for example, glorifies God by showing Him to be the only perfectly truthful being, why does God punish me for lying? Basically, this is “the ends justify the means” argument –posing that I can do evil, (sin) if ultimate good comes from it, Paul is clear anyone who does this deserves condemnation!

Paul concludes this discussion stating that Jews and Greeks alike are under condemnation of sin; “there is no one righteous not even one”. Paul quotes Old Testament scriptures, seven times saying “not even one” stressing that not a single exception in the human race can be found, except for Jesus.

“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, through the law comes the knowledge of sin”. The Law is not an instrument of justification (just as if I never sinned); the Law reveals how great our sin truly is and thus our need for Jesus’ sacrifice.

“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed”. Paul discusses God’s provided righteousness for everyone through Jesus; God is offering righteous standing before Him to all sinful people on the basis of faith in Christ alone. For all who believe, there is no distinction because we all fall short. “We are justified by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”.

A couple of interesting points: “all fall short” is present tense; stressing our continuing action of not measuring up to God’s standard. “Are justified” is also present tense; in that we keep on being declared righteous. “Freely by His grace”; this is a free gift, without charge, God’s unmerited favor; Paul uses this term grace twenty-four times in Romans.

This freely given grace comes “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed Him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith”. God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement; the KJV uses the word propitiation. Once a year on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest offered a goat as a sacrifice for all of the Israelites. This sacrifice satisfied God’s demand against sinful Israel for year, when the blood of the goat was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies.

Paul uses the language of the law-court (justified), the slave market (redemption) and the altar (atoning sacrifice) to give us a complete understanding of God’s grace. God has pardoned us, liberated us from slavery to sin and accepted the sacrifice of atonement by faith in Jesus Christ. God has declared me righteous (as if I never sinned) because Jesus paid the penalty for my sin by dying in my place. Jesus’ death satisfied the demands of the Law, now I can stand before God’s throne with Christ’s righteousness imparted to me.

Paul final point in chapter three, both Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith, therefore there is no need to boast of keeping or possessing the Law. We are justified by faith alone through Christ alone! Does this mean that the Law given by Moses is null and void? No, rather we uphold the Law knowing that, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.