Response of Grace
After setting forth the basis of the gospel message (that man is considered worthy of eternal life based on his faith in Jesus and not in how perfectly he obeys the Law), Paul now goes on to respond to four questions his readers may have based on what he has just taught.
Question #1: What about the Law, does the gospel message void the Law?
Answer: Salvation by faith demonstrates the nature and purpose of the Law, which is to reveal sinfulness and the condemnation that results from it. This revelation should bring man to search for mercy and forgiveness which is ultimately found in the gospel. As far as the gospel is concerned, this is the purpose of the Law, not its only purpose but its ultimate purpose.
Question #2: What about Abraham, how did he become righteous without the Law?
Answer: Abraham was considered righteous because he continued to believe that God would fulfill His promise to him, even when it seemed hopeless. Abraham was not righteous because he was perfectly obedient, he was righteous because he continued to believe God despite his failures.Those whose faith is like Abraham's are righteous even if their lives are imperfect.
In this chapter we will look at a third possible question that Paul's teaching might produce among his readers.
What Salvation Does For Me — Romans 5:1-21
Until this point Paul has talked about why salvation was necessary (universality of sin), how it was accomplished (atonement of Christ), and upon what basis was it received (faith in Jesus Christ).
Question #3: What does this salvation do for me?
A Jewish reader might say, "After all, before Christ we had the Law, the prophets, the temple and we were God's chosen people. What advantage does salvation in Christ bring us?" In the same way a Gentile could say, "Before Christ we were free to do whatever we wanted, we were a law unto ourselves. How does salvation through Christ benefit us?"
Answer: Paul answers both groups by enumerating six blessings that come with salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
1. Peace with God
1Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2athrough whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand;
Salvation produces a clear conscience and freedom from fear, guilt and shame. A saved person can talk to God openly with knowledge that He hears and is sympathetic to his prayers, something that was difficult for Jews and impossible for Gentiles.
2band we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
Salvation in Christ produces a joy based on the hope that Christians will ultimately triumph over suffering and death. The trials of everyday life serve to strengthen a Christian's character, not destroy it. This is because trials, for Christians, are always viewed from an eternal perspective, not a temporal one. What seems hopeless for the unbeliever is only a temporary reversal for the one with a promise of eternal life.
Perseverance (proven experience) creates hope as believers see over and over again how God sustains them in different ways through various difficulties. This builds confidence (hope) that this pattern of God's help will continue (and this confidence shows in their character). However, this hopeful view of life is only possible for the faithful believer in Jesus.
5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Being saved does not suddenly enable a person to be more loving and kind. This comes with practice and maturity. Being saved, however, leads believers to the realization that God loves them! Those who are justified become conscious of God's love through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who works in them in a variety of ways. For example:
- A strengthened prayer life (Romans 8:26).
- Comfort during times of trial (Acts 9:31).
- For unbelievers comfort comes through a sense of stoicism or acceptance/resignation to the inevitable.
- For Christians it is a conscious comfort and hope in Christ produced by the presence of the Spirit within them.
- For Jews the Holy Spirit only empowered certain leaders among them (kings/prophets/judges) for a time and a specific purpose. They had a promise that the Holy Spirit would be available to all, but only in the future when the Messiah would come (Joel 2:28-29).
- A motivation to love others and do them good as a result of the promptings of the Spirit within, replacing former attitudes of selfishness and other weaknesses of the sinful flesh.
In these and many other ways Christians experience the love of God working within themselves. Jews had a knowledge of the Holy Spirit but not a personal experience of His power. Gentiles had neither the knowledge nor the experience of Him since they were mired in the superstitious rituals of their pagan religions.
4. Assurance/Security – vs. 6-10
Christ's death pays for all of our sins. In addition to this, His resurrection and continued presence serves to assures us that we will continue to be saved.
6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
We know how much God loved us and wanted us saved because He sent Jesus to die when we were at our very worst, when we hated Him. This knowledge builds confidence in His love for us.
9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Paul completes the argument by saying that if Jesus was ready to die for us when we hated Him, imagine what He will do for us now that we believe and love Him, and He is alive and able to receive that love?
Christians have great security in the knowledge that their Savior is alive and active in making sure that they remain saved.
11And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Different English versions of the Bible use the word "atonement" or "propitiation" here. This was an Old Testament word meaning "to cover," originally referring to the cover over the ark located in the Holy of Holies part of the temple. In time this word evolved to mean the "appeasement" or "payment" for sin.
In this context it refers to the sacrifice and the reason that it was offered. Paul refers to an exchange or a change (atonement/reconciliation) of a very special nature. It is the change on one party induced or caused by the action of another. In the Bible it is not man who does something to "change" God's attitude towards him. This is the basis of pagan and occult thinking that use all manner of rituals and incantations in order to change or manipulate their gods' and spirits' attitude so that they will show favor to those offering the rituals.
In the Bible it is God who does something to change man's condition. God changed His relationship with lost man from judge to redeemer, and sent Jesus to eliminate (pay for/redeem) man's sins. This action on God's part changed man from being a guilty, condemned sinner to becoming a righteous saint. This change (reconciliation) is also a constant source of joy (exultation) for both parties. Man will enjoy it for as long as God does, and God will enjoy it forever.
6. Eternal Life – vs. 12-21
The Law revealed sin and its consequences: death. The Jewish sacrificial system was built around the exposition of man's sins and the reminder that death was the punishment due on account of sin (millions of animals were sacrificed over many centuries to highlight these truths). In this passage Paul highlights the two ultimate realities of life and death by going back to Adam since he was the first to live and the channel through which sin, and consequently death, originally entered the world. In order to explain the benefit of eternal life, he must first explain the source of sin and its destructive result: death.
12Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
Paul reminds his readers that sin entered humanity through Adam, and death entered through sin which ultimately spread to all men because all men eventually sin. Man is not subject to death because he is born guilty of sin but because, like Adam, he has sinned through disobedience.
Here, Paul explains that theoretically, a person cannot be charged with committing an offense if there is no revealed law of some kind that exists. However, he goes on to make two other observations:
- There was no revealed law during the time between Adam and Moses.
- People died anyways.
His conclusion is that even though the Law was not revealed to man during this time, its principles were still in operation. This is similar to our experience with the law of gravity. It was explained by Newton in 1678, but even without his discovery and explanation of gravity's principles or laws, people were nevertheless aware of this phenomena, subject to it, and responded to its existence by observation and intuition. In other words, people were subject to the law of gravity long before it was explained scientifically.
In the same way, Paul says that people were subject to God's Law and were affected by it long before it was clearly articulated and recorded by Moses. Adam was an example of this and so were those who, even though they did not sin as grievously as he did, were subject to God's Law and bore the consequences for breaking it (i.e. God's spiritual law said that if one disobeyed God's command they would die).
Paul mentions those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam's sin. Adam's sin was greater than those who sinned after him because:
- He had no cumulative weakness of the flesh.
- He had intimate knowledge of God and yet he sinned.
- He had great privilege and opportunity but sinned anyways.
His great sin brought death to him, and even though subsequent sins by those who came after him were lesser in comparison to Adam's sin, these people still suffered the consequence of death because of their own sins (e.g. Person A is killed by a bomb and person B dies from a single bullet. In the end both are dead). The conclusion is that all sin causes death to the soul of man.
In the same passage Paul also says that Adam, even in his sinfulness, was a "type" or preview of Christ:
- Original in form
- First of the human race
- Channel for sin and death
- Only begotten
- First among the resurrected
- Channel for forgiveness and life
In the last few verses of this chapter, Paul will compare the significance of what came through Adam (sin and death) to what came through Moses (Law and condemnation) to what eventually comes through Christ (forgiveness and eternal life).
15But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
The sinfulness that came through Adam was great but the grace that brings forgiveness for those sins is greater, it needs to be in order to cover sins.
16The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.
The result of sin is condemnation, but Christ brings innocence. What Christ provides is not only greater in power but also better in quality. Christ brings justification that leads to peace, joy, etc. Sin only brings guilt, fear and death. The "experience" of what Christ brings is superior in quality than what the Law brings.
17For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
Sin brings death, Christ brings supremacy over death which is eternal life.
18So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
Here Paul summarizes what he has just said: Adam/sin equals condemnation and death; Christ/atonement equals justification, righteousness and eternal life.
20aThe Law came in so that the transgression would increase;
Paul makes a parenthetical statement here. He explains again why the Law was originally given, not to eliminate sin and death but to clearly reveal and condemn it.
20bbut where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Law, in revealing sin and death, served as an instrument to also highlight the power of God's grace revealed in the work and person of Christ. This grace is shown to:
- Be wide and deep enough to cover the ugliest sin in nature or quantity.
- Powerful enough to change the sentence hanging over man from death to eternal life.
Paul proclaims that mankind is saved by faith and he describes the wonderful blessings that come with this salvation: peace with God, joy with God, love of God, safety with God, reconciliation with God and eternal life with God. He also emphasizes the fact that all of this is "only" available through faith in Jesus Christ.