In the opening chapters of Romans, Paul is making a case for justification by faith. We are set right with God by faith in what Jesus Christ has done, not based on what we do. We can see “therefore” laced throughout Chapter 5, in verses 1, 9, 12, and 18, indicating that Paul is now giving us the implications, or applications, or consequences of the theological truths he’s laid out for us in chapters 1-4.
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
In verses 1-5, Paul is leading us to one place: God’s love. Justification by faith grants us access to God in a new way. Thus, there are four big advantages that the Christian now has.
First, we have peace with God (v. 1). Paul has put forth a convincing argument that we are sinners worthy of the wrath of God. We, who were made by God for his glory, have rebelled against God and declared open war on him. He loved us into existence, and at the first opportunity, we raged back at him in sin. But that doesn’t stop God’s love from coming to us. He justifies us through Jesus Christ, granting peace with God. When God waged war against our sin, he didn’t unleash the full storehouse of his wrath upon us. He sent a baby to Bethlehem. He sent a boy out of Egypt. He sent a man to a cross. He did this to save us completely—so completely that it extends to our present reality and our future hope. We have genuine peace with God because Jesus bore the wrath we deserved.
Second, we stand in the grace of God (v. 2). Through Christ, we have obtained access by faith into grace. Notice the present tense-ness of it. The Christian life actually exists in three tenses. In the past, God saved from the guilt of our sin. In the present, God saves from the power of sin. In the future, God will save from the presence of sin. We tend to understand the past salvation fairly well. We also tend to comprehend the future salvation well, though we cannot fully imagine it. The real battle is our present salvation from the power of sin. In the life of a Christian, there is always a struggle. Martin Luther said Christians are simul justus et peccator, meaning we are simultaneously justified and sinful. As sinners, we need to behold our justification as we wage war against sin. It there that we experience the grace of God.
We need more than a vague awareness of the love of God for us in the past or the future. We need a present reality with God, moment by moment. We need to see the wonder of Christ’s blood forgiving us and transforming us right now. Every moment of the Christian’s life is a time of present standing in grace. The same power that saved us is the power by which we can live. We have the grace of Christ. Francis Schaeffer says that to understand this is to have the key to the Christian life.
Third, we can rejoice (v. 2-3). We may want to say that the benefit is that we can now rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. But that is not the full advantage. We can also rejoice in our sufferings. We can rejoice no matter what is happening in our lives. We have a great hope of glory—we will be glorified in heaven one day—and we have a great hope of endurance, no matter what suffering comes our way we can endure it. How?
Justification allows us to rejoice in the hope of glory because we have lost our condemnation. But it also helps us rejoice in sufferings because we know nothing can snatch us out of God’s hand. We realize that nothing can ruin the relationship we have with God now. Our sin wasn’t powerful enough to separate us, so how can suffering severe the bond? We can know that God isn’t punishing us because our justification says that we’ve been put right with him. He can’t punish us for sins that have already been paid for and forgiven. That would mean our justification wasn’t real, it was just theoretical, and God doesn’t deal in theories. He deals in realities. We have peace with God (v. 1). So, the worst that can now happen in our suffering is that we grow more in the hope of glory. During the pain, God is drawing us nearer to himself.
In suffering, we can experience reality with God. The theoretical ideas die and what remains is the raw reality of our relationship with God. Personal relationship replaces the mechanical Christian life. Our sufferings produce endurance. Endurance produces character. Character produces hope. As you suffer with Christ, you grow in Christ. He who has experienced all the pain this world has to offer, he who suffered the full wrath of God against sin will stand with you and for you as you endure the hardships of life. He will prove, moment by moment, the worthiness of his sacrifice and the unfading crown of glory awaiting you in heaven. The result of suffering for the Christian is a greater hope than ever before. Apart from Christ, we can only wallow in sadness. This world is the best we will ever get. But with Christ, we can rejoice in hope. This world is the worst we will ever get.
Fourth, we have the Holy Spirit (v. 5). This is the greatest benefit of all. We have God living within us now. It was always the plan of God to dwell with his people, and through the Spirit, by way of the justifying work of Jesus, he makes residence inside us. The Father justifies us, the Son reconciles us, and the Spirit testifies to us. The triune God thoroughly saves us and keeps us.
These four benefits point us to one overarching reality: the love of God. That’s the goal toward which Paul is racing. This supports his statement in 1:16 about not being ashamed of the gospel. We are unashamed of the gospel when we see that everything from God leads us to God. When we see the glory of the gospel, we become willing to endure anything. The Christian has merely believed his way to the point of eternal life. We are the patient on the deathbed. Jesus is the doctor healing our soul.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
The totality of salvation creates in the Christian a robust trust in God to protect and provide. Though it may include suffering, Paul wants to show us that our suffering should not discourage us from trust. The argument in 5:6-11 is this. God has already done the hardest thing in saving you through Jesus’ coming, living, dying, and rising. And he did that when you were in love with sin. How then can he not do the easier thing of keeping you safe and secure for eternity? He’s earned the fortune. What can stop him from spending it now on you?
God didn’t wait until we became savable. He’s not like us, weighing the options, trying to decide if action is rational at this point or that point. God had a plan for the world, and he worked out that plan. It was when we were still sinners that Jesus died for us. It was not when we were cleaned up or even when we became repentant enough. We offer him nothing but our trust in him.
Paul continues to drive home his central point of God’s love. How does God show his love for us? In dying for us. When does he show this? When we’re still sinners. The love of God would not be as clear if he died to save good people who make some bad mistakes from time to time. The love of God is most explicit when we see that he died to save bad people who never can do enough good to find their way to him.
That’s the theological truth. God saves sinners. In verse 9, he shows us the result. Since God justified us, he will keep us for eternity. Notice the verb tenses in verses 9-11. Past tense: “we have been justified by his blood.” Future tense: “much more shall we be saved by him.” Past tense: “we were reconciled to God.” Future tense: “much more shall we be saved by his life.” Present tense: “more than that, we also rejoice in God.” Past tense: “through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Paul uses prior justification for present and future hope.
Paul is showing us how to live the Christian life. When things pop up, how do we respond? We can look to the past justification of God, and from it draw implications that inform and transform our current circumstances. If God has justified us in the past, he must be able to keep us in the future. God doesn’t save partially. He saves entirely. He’s not giving us a get out of jail free card only to put us back in the world to see how we do now. He’s giving us an eternal hope. In moments of trial, we can look to the past reality of our justification to enjoy the present and future hope of glory on that basis. God showed his love at the cross, it is experienced in the present, and is kept in endless storehouses for us in the future. Whatever our need is at any moment, meditating on the justification we have received in Christ sustains us.
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, 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.
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 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. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul now deals with what we may call “federalism.” Federalism means one person acts as a representative for one or more persons. In the biblical view, God has appointed two representative heads: Adam and Jesus. Sin came into the world through Adam. Righteousness came into the world through Jesus.
Some people struggle with the idea of federalism, especially when it comes to accepting Paul’s words in verses 12-14. It’s hard for some to accept that they inherited sin. Some people believe man is basically good, and from time to time does bad things. But that’s not what the Bible says. Because Adam sinned, we are all born in sin. The theological term is Original Sin. Our Original Sin is a birth defect, and no amount of scientific or meritorious effort can change that which with we were born. Sin stained us from the womb because of our federal head, Adam.
But federalism actually works to our advantage, if we trust in Christ. Sure, it’s a bummer that we’re born into sin because of Adam. It may seem we don’t even get a fair shake at life. But give us enough time, and we would sin our way out of God as well, especially now that we have the law to show us what sin is. We don’t merely miss the mark with our sin; we stomp on top of the law on our way to sin. Whether we are born sinners or not, no one can look at his life now and declare righteousness apart from God. So, to be represented by Adam helps us understand from where we came. Adam was a terrible representative, yes, but he is our representative, and to deny that truth is to put ourselves in more danger, not less. Federalism is to our advantage because if it’s true that in Adam we all sinned, then it can also be true that in Jesus we are all made righteous.
Commentator Douglas Moo says, “The universal consequences of Adam’s sin are the assumption of Paul’s argument; the power of Christ’s act to cancel those consequences is its goal.” Paul has labored to prove the universality of sin. Now he is working to show the universal character of justification for those who believe. If sin condemns all in the church through one man, it makes sense that through one man all are justified. If Adam got us into the war, Jesus got us out.
Adam, as the first man, represented all humanity to follow. The result of his life is, therefore, universal and inescapable. In Adam, all die. But in Christ, all live. Paul calls the benefits of Christ the “free gift.” He mentions this free gift five times in verses 15-17. The point is exactly what it sounds like: the righteousness of Christ is both free, meaning we don’t have to do anything to earn it, and it is a gift, something we receive. Some gifts are as a result of hard work. (Think of a Christmas bonus for employees at a company.) But other gifts are given because of love. (Think of a Christmas gift to a child in a home.) The righteousness of Christ is of the latter kind. God gives the full benefits of Christ’s perfect record to his children because he loves them. All we have to do is receive the free gift with the empty hands of faith.
It would be appropriate to compare ourselves in Adam to a poor family that has made ruin of life. We started out well, with plenty of money in the bank, a beautiful house on a hill, abundant resources, and friends abounding. Then, out of sheer defiance, we decided we didn’t need what got us here anymore. We didn’t get there on our own, but we decided we could make it her on out on our own. We left the one who provided it all to blaze our own trail. In doing so, we cut ourselves off. In an instant, we lost the money. Over time, we lost the house. In the end, we found ourselves on the streets, wandering from town to town just trying to survive. As the generations were born, they didn’t realize the plight. They were born into this family. It just seemed to fit. Then one day a generous donor comes and says he understands what has happened to us and he would like to make it right. He aims to restore all that we squandered. He says he came into some money and it was more than he needed. He wants to share it. So, he gets out his pen and checkbook and writes the check to cover all the debts plus enough to meet every need from here on out.
We are in this family that squandered and lost it all. And then Jesus comes and begins to make all things new. He tells us of his righteousness, shows us his holiness, and grants us his forgiveness. In a moment of realization that came from somewhere outside our own heart, we believe him, give up our rags and follow him.
Joseph Hart, the 18th-century English pastor, put it this way.
I can feelingly say, he hath proved himself stronger than I and his goodness superior to all my unworthiness. He tells me (and enables me to believe it) that I am fair, and there is no spot in me. Though an enemy, he calls me his friend; though a traitor, a child; though a beggared prodigal, he clothes me with the best robe and has put a ring of endless love and mercy on my hand. And though I am sorely distressed by spiritual and internal foes, afflicted, tormented and bowed down almost to death with the sense of my own present barrenness, ingratitude and proneness to evil, he secretly shows me his bleeding wounds and softly and powerfully whispers to my soul, “I am thy great salvation.” His free distinguishing grace is the bottom on which is fixed the rest of my poor weary tempted soul. On this I ground my hope, often times when unsupported by any other evidence, save only the Spirit of adoption received from him. When my dry and empty barren soul is parched with thirst, he kindly bids me come to him and drink my fill at the fountain head. In a word, he empowers me to say with experiential evidence, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Amen and Amen.