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Romans 5:1-11 Biblical Commentary:
ROMANS 5:1-2. WE HAVE PEACE WITH GOD
1Being therefore justified (Greek: dikaiothentes—from dikaioo) by faith, we have peace (Greek: eirenen) with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; 2through whom we also have our access (Greek: prosagogen) by faith into this grace in which we stand. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
“Being therefore” (v. 1a) points back to the foundation that Paul established in chapters 1-4 that none is righteous (3:9-20) but we are justified by the grace of God as a gift (3:24)—a reality that we appropriate by faith (4:13-25).
“justified (dikaiothentes—from dikaioo) by faith” (v. 1a). The word dikaioo means to be made just or righteous—not guilty. This is important, because God is holy, and those who are guilty cannot be admitted into God’s presence. Those who have been justified can.
But Paul says that Christ died for our sins while we were yet sinners. We are justified by his blood—by his sacrifice. Therefore, we have been reconciled to God (Romans 5:8-10)
Dikaiothentes is perfect tense, indicating a completed action. It might better be translated “having been justified.” Our justification has already been accomplished. As Paul made clear in 3:21-26, it is by the grace (undeserved gift) of God that we are justified (3:24), but our faith gives us access to that grace (3:26)—i.e., it is grace rather than faith that saves us, but faith makes it possible for us to experience grace.
“we have peace (eirenen) with God through our Lord Jesus Christ“ (v. 1b). Paul uses the Greek word for peace—eirenen—but as a Jew his understanding of peace with God is grows out of the Hebrew shalom. Shalom suggests something more than the absence of hostility. It speaks of “the well-being, prosperity, or salvation of the godly person” (Moo, 299).
In the context of this verse, “peace with God” bespeaks spiritual harmony with God—having one’s heart and will allied with God’s will. While a harmonious relationship with God naturally leads to inner peace, it is peace with God that Paul means here. It is possible for us to have peace with God only because of the work of “our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul is writing to Christians in Rome, who would be familiar with the Pax Romana (Roman peace). Rome established peace through domination. It pacified by force of arms and insisted that conquered peoples acknowledge Caesar as Lord.
But the peace offered by Christ is not achieved by domination but by love.
“through whom we also have our access (prosagogen) by faith into this grace in which we stand“(v. 2a). This word prosagogen suggests more than mere access. It suggests being ushered into the presence of the king. Through the salvation work of Jesus Christ, we have been ushered into the presence of “this grace in which we stand.” Grace, of course, is “God’s unmerited favor toward humanity and especially his people, realized through the covenant and fulfilled through Jesus Christ” (Myers, 437). Grace is not just something for which we hope, but is something that we already possess. The grace that we possess is so substantial that Paul calls it “this grace in which we stand.”
“We rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (v. 2b). Paul has spoken earlier in this epistle of boasting but never favorably—his earlier references had to do with our boasting of our works (2:17, 23; 3:27; 4:2), and we have done nothing that justifies boasting. However, it is appropriate for us to boast of what God has done for us. Such boasting is a kind of proclamation that spreads the word about God’s generosity.
ROMANS 5:3-5. WE REJOICE IN OUR SUFFERINGS
3Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering works perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character (Greek: dokimen); and proven character, hope: 5and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
“Not only this, but we also rejoice in our sufferings” (v. 3a). In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul boasted of his sufferings, which demonstrated the selfless quality of his ministry (2 Corinthians 11:16-33).
How can a person boast about suffering? Paul is no masochist, so he is not suggesting that we should solicit suffering or find pleasure in it. His counsel is instead rooted in his faith that God transforms Good Fridays into Easters—that God embeds a blessing in every hardship for those who trust him.
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul speaks of suffering for Christ, but goes on to say, “Yet I am not ashamed, for I know him whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed to him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
“knowing that suffering works perseverance” (v. 3b). In vv. 3-5, Paul outlines the blessings that come through suffering. Suffering produces endurance—and endurance produces character—and character produces hope—and hope does not disappoint us.
“and perseverance, proven character (dokimen); and proven character, hope“ (v. 4). Dokimen has to do with testing, so Paul is saying that endurance produces a tested or a proven character—the solid character of a veteran rather than the uncertain character of a recruit (Morris, 221). This then produces hope, because the veteran, having triumphed over adversity in the past, can hope to triumph over adversity in the future.
“and hope doesn’t disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (v. 5). No matter what happens, God loves us. We are beloved sons and daughters whom God will never abandon. God provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, so we can be sure that God will provide for us (Matthew 6:25-34).
ROMANS 5:6-8. CHRIST DIED FOR THE UNGODLY
6For while we were yet weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man. Yet perhaps for a righteous person someone would even dare to die. 8But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
“For while we were yet weak” (v. 6a). By using “we,” Paul includes himself among the weak and ungodly.
“at the right time” (v. 6b). There are at least three ways that the time was right:
• It was the right time in history. The Pax Romana (Roman peace) made it possible for people to travel and communicate widely, making it easier to spread the Gospel.
• It was the right time in our lives. We were needy because of our sin, and Christ’s death and resurrection satisfied our need for reconciliation and forgiveness.
• It was the right time eschatologically—the time that suited God—that fit God’s plan for the salvation of the world.
“Christ died for the ungodly” (v. 6c). This is an astounding idea. Christ didn’t die for godly people (which we would expect) but for the ungodly (hard to imagine).
“For one will hardly die for a righteous man” (v. 7a). This fits our experience. Many people might consider risking death in behalf of a good cause or a good person, but few of us would knowingly risk our lives to save a rapist or a murderer or a drug addict.
“Yet perhaps for a righteous person someone would even dare to die” (v. 7b). Again, this fits our experience. A father runs in front of a moving truck to save his child. A mother drowns trying to rescue her child. A soldier throws himself on a live grenade to save his buddies. A secret service agent throws himself in the path of a bullet to save the president.
“But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”(v. 8). It doesn’t seem to make sense that Christ would die for sinners, but Jesus says, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do” (Matthew 9:12). Jesus’ logic is compelling. Why would he save people who do not need it? Why wouldn’t he save sinners—those in need of salvation?
We might have expected this verse to say that Christ proved his love for us by dying for us, but instead it says, “God commends his love toward us” by Jesus’ death (see 1 John 4:10).
ROMANS 5:9-11. WE WILL BE SAVED FROM GOD’S WRATH
9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we will be saved from God’s wrath through him. 10For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life. 11Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
“Being now justified” (v. 9) equates to “were reconciled” (v. 10). “By his blood” (v. 9) equates to “through the death of his Son” (v. 10). “Saved from God’s wrath” (v. 9) equates to “saved by his life” (v. 10).
“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we will be saved from God’s wrath through him” (v. 9). Both verses 9 and 10 argue from the greater to the lesser. If God justified us by the blood of his Son, he will surely spare us from his wrath (v. 9). If God has reconciled us by his Son’s death, he will surely save us by the Son’s life—i.e., by his resurrection (v. 10).
“Justified” (v. 9) and “reconciled” (v. 10) have similar but different meanings. Justified has a courtroom ring to it. To be justified is to be declared innocent—to be vindicated. Reconciled has to do with relationships, suggesting a bringing together of those who have been estranged. There is a natural progression, then, from justified (v. 9) to reconciled (v. 10a) to saved (v. 10b). One could hardly be reconciled to a righteous God without first being justified, and one could hardly be saved without first being reconciled.
“For if, while we were enemies“ (v. 10a). In what sense were we ever enemies of God. Jesus said that Satan was God’s enemy (Luke 10:18-19). James tells us that “whoever wants to be a friend of the world (Greek: kosmos) makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). The kosmos is the world that is opposed to God.
“we were reconciled (Greek: katallasso) to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life” (v. 10b). The idea of reconciliation is important in Paul’s epistles. He mentions reconciliation ten times in Romans (5:10, 11; 11:15); 1 Corinthians (7:11); and 2 Corinthians (5:18, 19, 20).
Reconciliation involves a change in a relationship from bad to good––from enmity to friendship. When used of nations, it involves establishing peace between nations that were previously at war with one another.
Note that it is God who reconciled us––restored us in our relationship with God through the death of his Son. This is not something we could have done for ourselves. It required God’s initiative, because our unholiness was incompatible with God’s holiness.
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (v. 11). Paul earlier said that our boasting is excluded (3:27)—by which he meant our boasting of our accomplishments.
It is appropriate, however, to boast about the gift of God’s grace that has justified us, reconciled us, and saved us (vv. 9-10). It is appropriate to sing for joy in celebration of our salvation. It is appropriate to shout it from the housetops. To do so is to proclaim the saving power of Christ—which proclamation will draw others to Christ and help them to share in that salvation.
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
Craddock, Fred B.; Hayes, John H.; Holladay, Carl R.; and Tucker, Gene M., Preaching Through the Christian Year, A (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1992)
Dunn, James D. G., Word Biblical Commentary: Romans 1-8, Vol. 38A (Dallas: Word Books, 1988)
Gaventa, Beverly R. in Brueggemann, Walter; Cousar, Charles B.; Gaventa, Beverly R.; and Newsome, James D., Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV — Year A (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995)
Hunsinger, George, in Van Harn, Roger E. (ed.), The Lectionary Commentary: The Second Readings: Acts and the Epistles (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001)
Moo, Douglas, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Romans (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996)
Morris, Leon, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co, 1988)
Mounce, Robert H., The New American Commentary: Romans, (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995)
Myers, Allen C. (ed.), The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987)
Witherington, Ben III with Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary,(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004)
Wright, N. Thomas, The New Interpreter’s Bible: Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Vol. X (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002)
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