OUR PEACE AND JOY IN JESUS
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,… Romans 5:1
Chapter five begins with some of the most triumphant verses in scripture. Paul here shifts to first person and “raises the voice of the justified sinner to hymnic heights.”1 He declares that through faith we “have been justified.” This is not something we hope for or long for but something that is already accomplished, as the Greek aorist passive tense (dikaiothentes) makes clear. 2 We remember that Paul has been developing this whole subject of justification by faith since Romans 3:21.
The matter of our having peace with God has brought about much discussion among the commentators. The question is whether the verse should read as a Greek indicative, “We have peace with God,” or as a subjunctive, “Let us have peace with God.”3 The textual evidence supports the latter reading, but as Stott points out, this might be one of those rare cases when the internal theological evidence takes precedence over the textual evidence. 4 It is usually the apostle’s custom to present his doctrinal material and then make his exhortations after he has finished doing that. Some examples of this can be seen later in Romans chapters 12-16 or in Ephesians chapters 4-6. Also, obviously, if we are justified as Paul claims, then peace with God would naturally flow from that position.
Peace with God means many things in the Bible but it primarily means here that the war between God and man has ended (Rom. 8:7; Jas. 4:4). It ended on the cross with the shedding of Jesus’ blood for our sins. The commentator Stuart Briscoe who grew up in wartime England speaks of the ecstasy with which the people of Britain welcomed VE Day in 1945. Although a child at the time, he still remembers how the lights were allowed to shine freely after being blackened for six long years; how the church bells rang out and how the people danced in the streets. 5 Peace as used here means that the war with God is over. We can now enter into a glorious and joyous new era.
Guzik relates some of the many benefits of peace with God: “I don’t have to prove I am worthy of God’s love… God is my friend… the door of access is permanently open to him… I am free from the score sheet—the account is settled in Jesus… I spend more time praising God and less time hating myself.”6
Because we are justified, we enjoy this peace with God: “…through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (5:2). It is of note that the perfect tense of the verb for “we have” is eschēkamen. This indicates a standing permanent possession or a lasting privilege for the saints of God. 7
It is interesting that in the last few years, with the dawn of the computer age, the word “access” (prosagōgē) has become illuminated somewhat for us. If we have the proper codes and passwords we can gain access to all kinds of computer programs and websites today. Without access we are locked out. Of course, the biblical ideas behind “access” are those of gaining entrance into the presence of royalty or of approaching to worship God.
The “hope of the glory of God” as seen here is not just some vague hope for “pie in the sky by and by when we die.” It is also a hope for this earth that believing hearts will receive glory with Jesus even as we live here. This can be seen as a restoration of Adam’s glory but likely it is a greater glory than Adam had. Paul will later discuss this hope in more detail (Rom. 8:18 ff.). It seems that our whole “groaning” creation is waiting for the revelation of this hope and for the revelation of the restored sons of God on this planet.
THE PROBLEM OF CHRISTIAN SUFFERING
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4
At certain times in the past, and by some groups, salvation has been pictured as an end to all a person’s problems. This is a gross misunderstanding of the Christian faith. In actual experience it seems that almost the reverse is the case. When we become believers in Christ we begin to experience all kinds of problems. This is true because the Holy Spirit, now residing within us, brings these fleshly problems and sins to the surface so that they can be dealt with and so that we can gain the victory. It is also probably true that the enemy of our souls takes a new interest in us once we are kingdom subjects.
So, we can say that problems are virtually guaranteed when we become believers. The Bible says in Acts 14:22, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” We thus see that suffering and hardship are the “normal experiences” of the Christian. This suffering and hardship can take many forms such as outright persecution, rejection, slander, opposition, spiritual attack, and on some rare occasions even sickness that is of a redemptive nature (2 Cor. 12:7). The blessed thing is that God will be with us to strengthen us in our sufferings. He even prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies (Psa. 23:5). In the last analysis, although we will have trouble in the world, Jesus has in fact overcome the world (Jn. 16:33).
As a result of our suffering we can say with Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Paul was a sufferer in the greatest and deepest sense. Edwards remarks that Paul “could have written a guide to the jails of the Roman world.”8 A list of his many sufferings is found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.
Suffering, tribulation or pressure (thlipseis) produces some wonderful things in us providing we are able to endure and even to glory or exult in our suffering (cf. Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:7). When we persevere or maintain a steadfast endurance through suffering, we then gain character (dokimē). This character is an inner strength that comes about through severe testing. The word also incorporates the idea of being approved as one who has passed through a trial. It is a word used for metal which has been put through the fire, having all the base things purged from it. 9
Briscoe relates the testimony of some Korean Christians who had undergone great tribulation for their faith from their Communist masters. They said: “We are like nails: the harder you hit us the deeper you drive us.”10 This is perseverance; this is Christian character being formed. The universal witness of the Bible is that the time will come in the last day when Christians will have to endure the greatest tribulation of all. We should be preparing ourselves for such a time by putting on the whole armor of God or the armor of light that we may be able to stand in that evil day (Eph. 6:13; cf. 1 Thess. 5:4-8).
Some time ago it seemed that the Holy Spirit whispered this bit of information to me. I felt so strongly about it that I wrote it in the flyleaf of my Bible: “Through fire, through blood, through horrible and unspeakable tribulation, God will bring forth his holy remnant refined as purest gold.”
Paul goes on about the hope and love that result from all this: “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (5:5). We are told that suffering or pressure produces steadfast endurance and that in itself produces character, resulting in hope. The hope is not the deferred or false kind that makes the heart sick (Prov. 13:12). It is not the kind that will disappoint us or embarrass us. It is an exuberant and enduring hope that is born out of difficulty (Psa. 22:4-5; 25:3). It is a hope rewarded by the pouring out of God’s love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
It is clear in the Bible that every true believer has received the Holy Spirit (Jn. 7:38; Tit. 3:5-6). Here we see that with the pouring out of the Spirit is also the pouring out of God’s love into our hearts (v.5). This is the perfect passive indicative of ekcheō in the Greek. 11 Thus it is not something we are still hoping for but something that we can begin to enjoy at present. We can claim it now! Denny translates it that God’s love “has poured in, and still floods our hearts.”12 We continue to see mounting evidence that all the blessings of heaven are given to us in Christ if we can but accept them.
JESUS CHRIST DIED TO SAVE SINNERS
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6
There was a right time for Christ’s coming into the world. For ages God had been building what we might call a “salvation infrastructure” in Israel. This infrastructure not only included many faith people like Abraham but it also included lawgivers, prophets, priests, kings and common folks of faith. Not only was the law given to Israel but Israel was brought into her inheritance and established there. In addition, the glorious temple of God was constructed and God’s holy presence dwelt in its midst. Many prophets had spoken of Christ’s coming. The way was also prepared with the universal Greek language and the convenient Roman roads as well as a time of Roman peace. It was the exact right time for Christ to come. Poole says that “the world was prepared spiritually, economically, linguistically, politically, philosophically and geographically for the coming of Jesus and the spread of the gospel.”13
It was the right time so far as humankind was concerned. People were desperate, oppressed and without hope. Indeed, they were powerless and in deep spiritual need. At that moment Christ came into the world as a small babe in Bethlehem. As Galatians 4:4-5 has it, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”
What an amazing thing that Christ, the King of the Universe, would step down from his glorious heavenly throne and come to earth specifically to die for the ungodly. Paul remarks about this: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man 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” (5:7-8). Paul says that seldom will anyone die for a righteous man. This may picture someone who is correct in everything but cool toward others. However, some might die for a good man, for instance, a noble, warm, beneficent man who would command much affection. 14
We must stop and ponder what Christ has done. While we were worthless sinners and enemies of God, Christ came and died for us all. That fact opens the door to amazing possibilities. Paul says: “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when 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! (5:9-10). This is an argument that moves from the greater to the lesser also known in Latin as argumentum a fortiori. We should note that there are two types of argument included in a fortiori, from the greater to the lesser and from the lesser to the greater. The apostle is saying that if Christ did such a great thing for his enemies, how much more will he do for his friends! 15 Truly he will save to the uttermost those who come to God through him (Heb. 7:25). He will most surely deliver them from the wrath to come. If he can do the hard thing, it is simple for him to do the easy thing of protecting us and completing the work of sanctification in us. This sanctification is now possible because he lives in us.
“Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (5:11). Because of the great things God has done for us, our response should be one of joy. Joy should be the mark of all justified believers. As Paul says in Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it
CONSIDERING THE FALL OF ADAM
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—Romans 5:12
It is quite impossible for us to realize the depth of Adam’s fall from the Garden of Eden. Adam was created just a little lower than the angels (Psa. 8:5). He was created to have dominion over the earth. Every day he was able to walk and talk personally with God. The Garden of Eden was thus a little bit of heaven. In addition to his fellowship with God, we cannot imagine all the things Adam lost when he chose to sin. His knowledge, understanding and vision must have become terribly restricted and clouded. Even his physical strength must have become impaired, for Adam was once given the task of caring for a vast garden. As the spiritual dimension was snatched from him, he was reduced to the physical realm with all its limitations. He traded eternal life for suffering and death. He gained some other things too, but unfortunately they were things he didn’t want. He gained the burden of guilt and sin. He gained the pain and travail of living in a curse-infested world.
This section of Romans (5:12-21) is often considered by commentators as being one of the most difficult sections of the whole Bible. Since this portion deals with the fall of Adam and the human race it is certainly one of the most important sections as well. Barclay says of it: “No passage of the New Testament has had such an influence on theology as this; and no passage is more difficult for us to understand today.”16 Although humanists and others in our world would deny and scoff at the implications of these scriptures, we see in this passage that humankind has a problem. It is a problem that is very old and extremely serious. It is mankind’s greatest problem and it cannot be helped or cured through
Let us examine this problem more closely. We see that sin entered the world through one man, Adam. Because of Adam’s sin, death also entered the world, with sin and death coming to all humanity (cf. Rom. 3:23; 6:23). This is often referred to as “original sin.” Admittedly this concept is difficult for our postmodern, western world to grasp. Western people have come to highly value their independence with its so-called freedom of choice. Today people feel perfectly capable of making their own decisions and living their own lives. Some are probably offended at the idea that one man who lived so long ago could have such an effect upon their lives today.
And yet, our common experience tells us that something is dreadfully wrong with the human race. As we have mentioned, we only have to flip on the TV to have this quickly verified. Although it may sound strange to modern and postmodern ears, the Bible’s analysis of the human problem seems to be the one that best squares with the reality around us. So we have a problem, and we have had it since the dawn of the age. The problem is sin, and not just our actual sins, but our uncontrollable inclination toward sinning. No one has to teach us to sin for it is perfectly natural. Even tiny babes display a selfishness which is obviously not learned from others or in school (cf. Psa. 51:5). It is almost as if something were wrong with our genetic makeup.
Now specifically, what is Paul saying about this sin and its origin? He says that our sin problem goes all the way back to Adam our forefather. God gave Adam dominion over all the earth but Adam sinned and lost his dominion. Some have referred to Adam’s position as one of “federal headship.” Others have called it “natural headship.” In ways we cannot explain, Adam represented us all. “In a mysterious and terrible way Adam’s sin becomes our sin.”17 When Adam sinned we sinned and when he fell we also fell. Although this is a difficult concept for western minds to grasp it is not difficult for others in various parts of the world. In these areas family headship is much more important than it is in
the west. 18
It appears that in Bible times ideas of family headship and of an individual representing a whole group of people were not uncommon. We see that Abraham was called to be the faith father of many nations. Later when Abraham met Melchizedek (Gen.14:18ff.) we are told that he paid tithes to this one who was called “king” and “priest of God.” The author of Hebrews points out how Levi, the renowned head of Israel’s Levitical and priestly families, thus paid tithes to Melchizedek. Of course, Melchizedek was an ancient messianic type (Heb. 7:9-10, 17). The Bible regards Levi as still being in the loins of Abraham and thus represented by Abraham’s actions. Also in Joshua 7:1 and 25, we see where all Israel was represented and punished through defeat in battle by the sinful acts of one man, Achan.
Let us make clear that our only problem is not just the sin of Adam. Because we ourselves have inherited a sinful nature, we all sin just as Adam did. Calvin referred to this as “our innate and hereditary depravity.”19 In the last clause of verse 12, Paul explains why death came to all humankind. Moo assures us that the Greek construction “eph hō” (v. 12) must be translated “because.” Somehow every human being sins and dies “because” of his or her own sin as well. 20
In dealing with this complex subject Paul begins a statement about the parallels of Adam and Christ in 5:12, but abruptly breaks off his thought in order to discuss related matters. He will not pick up on this thought and complete it until verses 18-19.
Paul goes on further saying “for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law” (5:13). We see here that sin preceded the law, since it originated with Adam the first man. In fact, it preceded the law by some 2500 years. During this lengthy period of time there were no specific statutes regarding sins and therefore God could not judge people for breaking specific statutes as he did in
“Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come” (5:14). We see that although specific sins could not be singled out and judged, nevertheless there was death in the world and that death was the evidence that people were sinners. So in place of Adam reigning as God’s representative on earth,
We see in the above passage that Adam was a pattern for the coming one. In 1 Corinthians 15:45, Paul calls Christ the “last Adam.” Some have mistakenly referred to him as the “second Adam.” Edwards states, “He is not called the ‘second Adam,’ i.e., a repetition or even improvement of the first Adam. Christ is not Adam’s successor, but his redeemer.” 21 Although the Greek word meaning “type” (tupos) is used here, the basic idea is one of analogy rather than typology. “Adam and Christ were in analogous circumstances and exposed to analogous temptations. Adam fell, Christ did not.”22 Adam was a man of shame but Christ is the Lord of Glory.
To sum up, the Lord gave Adam dominion over the old creation. Adam sinned, losing his kingdom and allowing sin, death, and condemnation to reign over the world. On the other hand, Christ came to be King over the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Because of his obedience, even to death on the cross and afterward a glorious resurrection, he brought righteousness and justification to believing humanity. As is stated in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22: “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”
ADAM AND CHRIST CONTRASTED
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. Romans 5:15-16
Paul’s argument here is the standard a fortiori or qal va-homer, as it is known in Hebrew. It is the argument from the lesser to the greater or visa-versa. We have seen this argument before. As Calvin would later put it: “Christ is much more powerful to save, than Adam was to destroy.”23 In the case of Adam we see that many died. To be more specific we can say that everyone died, with the possible exceptions of Enoch and Elijah who apparently were both taken directly to glory for God’s own special purposes. Even Christ experienced physical death but he was raised to eternal life after three days
in the tomb.
So for the descendants of Adam death has been their lot. The mortality rate has been one-hundred percent since Elijah’s time at least. However, those who are born again and who are sons and daughters of God have the gift of eternal life. Just as in the case of Adam, this gift has also come through one man, through Jesus Christ. This prompts Barnes to remark: “The evils which they suffer in consequence of the sin of Adam bear no comparison with the mercies of eternal life that shall flow to them from the work of
“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (5:17). Paul continues with his a fortiori argument but now applies it to the matter of exercising authority or reigning on behalf of God. We remember from Genesis 1:26 and 28 that God’s first command to humankind was to increase in number while his second command was to rule over the earth and subdue it. In Psalm 8:6 this mission is restated: “You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet…”
With this mission of ruling over the earth in mind, we can see how utterly disastrous the fall of man was. Man’s authority for ruling over the earth was in essence turned over to Satan. Later in scripture we see Satan called “the prince of this world,” and it is Jesus’ promise that this prince will be driven out (Jn. 12:31). We also see Satan strutting in heavenly places having at least some access to God’s court (Job 1:6-7). We get the idea that Satan is standing in the place where Adam should have stood. It is now Satan, not Adam, who is communicating with God.
The concept of ruling with God is a very big one in scripture. This concept stands at the heart of the kingdom of God teaching in the Bible. In essence the teaching says that Jesus is the King and that the time will come when all earth’s kingdoms will be handed over to him (Rev. 11:15). It is clear in the Bible, especially in the Book of Revelation, that the kingdom of God will come to earth after great struggle. In Revelation we actually see the triumphant saints of God having a part in removing Satan from his heavenly position. They do so with the help of mighty angels (Rev. 12:10-12). They have a part in overcoming him because of their confession and because of the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). Obviously this is a partial reversal of the fall. Satan is then cast down to earth for his final battle and what is probably a three-and-one-half-year period of judgment. Afterward he becomes confined for a long period of 1000 years, otherwise known as the Millennium. During this time he will have little or no influence on earth.
So just as sin and death came through Adam, righteousness and life come through Jesus. The reign of righteousness and life given to us through Jesus far exceeds the reign of sin and death given to us through Adam.
At the end of the Millennium Satan will make one final attack on God’s saints and invade the land of Israel. This will bring about his final end and his eternal damnation in Hell. It is interesting what Daniel says about this end-day period. He remarks: “But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever” (Dan. 7:18). Barrett remarks about Romans 5:17: “The sentence as it stands asserts that they who were reigned over by the tyrant shall themselves reign.”25 Fallen man will once again be elevated to the position of rule and authority over the earth (cf. 1 Cor. 6:2-3). The fall of man will thus be completely reversed. We see this again in Revelation 22:5, where speaking of the saints of God he says: “… And they will reign for ever and ever.”
We don’t want to miss a vital point in verse 17. Not only will fallen man be lifted up to a great place of authority under Jesus in the last day but it also has something to do with the present day. We are to reign in life under Jesus’ authority at this present hour (v. 17). This is the part of the kingdom message that has been missed so often in the church. Wiersbe comments here: “In Adam we lost our kingship, but in Jesus Christ we reign as kings.”26 Witmer adds, “In the one case people are dying victims under a ruthless ruler; in the other they themselves become the rulers (cf. Rev. 1:6) whose kingdom is
one of life!” 27
“Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” (5:18). Here the apostle is likely resuming and concluding the statement he left off in 5:12. He is making the point that the effect of Adam’s act and Christ’s act extends to all humanity. Some have taken this to mean that all people will be saved. We must note that elsewhere Paul refutes such ideas of universalism (Rom. 2:12; 2 Thess. 1:8-9). He is saying that while all people belong to Adam, only those people who come to Christ by faith belong
to him. 28
Paul continues with his thought: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (5:19). What Paul is stating is not only a biblical principle but one we see working itself out in everyday life. For instance, a father’s disobedient act will often affect not only himself but his whole family. For instance, a drunkard, a thief or an adulterer may find that his children walk in his steps. Dr. Lloyd-Jones draws out the contrast between Adam and Christ a little further. He says, “Look at yourself in Adam, though you had done nothing you were declared a sinner. Look at yourself in Christ; and see that, though you have done nothing, you are declared to be righteous.”29
THE PLACE OF THE LAW
The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,… Romans 5:20
As strange as it may seem the law plays no major role in this drama of redemption, and of course it was added long after Adam’s sin (Gal. 3:19). We certainly do not wish to belittle the law however. In scripture we see that the law of the Lord is perfect (Psa. 19:7). There is nothing wrong with the law but there is something dreadfully wrong with us as we have seen. We simply cannot keep the law. We note that the law has a purpose of actually increasing sin or bringing sin into focus. It calls sin what it is so there can be no confusion in our minds about what is right and what is wrong. In Galatians 3:21 Paul asks: “Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.”
While the law increases sin so to speak by bringing it into focus, grace increases or abounds much more than sin. Guzik says the meaning in the Greek here is that grace actually “super-abounds.”30
Paul closes the chapter by saying: “so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (5:21). Once in Adam death reigned, but now in Christ grace reigns. What a difference! Also what a difference in eternal death and eternal life! That difference is found in Jesus our Savior. In 1 Corinthians 15:48-49 Paul exclaims:
As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth;
and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of
heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly
man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.