14 March 2012Romans 5:1-11
"Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (v. 1)
Chapter 5 opens with a great statement which demonstrates how a
lofty theological theme like justification has a down-to-earth
outworking in the life of the Christian. Justification may be
something we find difficult to understand, peace is something we
all know about. Those who are justified, says Paul, are at peace
with God. Earlier in this letter (2:17, 23; 3:27; 4:2) boasting is ruled out as having no grounds
for the Christian, as for Abraham.
Here, however, we find Paul gives three grounds for boasting, not in human achievements, but in what God has done. Firstly believers boast "in our hope of sharing the glory of God" (v. 2) - something which is entirely God's free gift through the justification God offers through faith by grace.
Secondly, Paul claims, Christians can boast about sufferings (verse 3). For Paul, the cross is the heart of the gospel, and ultimate allegiance to the gospel can be measured less by achievements and more by identification with Christ's suffering. Perhaps he is making a point to some of his fellow-preachers and critics who see his repeated disasters as a sign of failure (2 Corinthians 11:21-33). Suffering reflects the path taken by Jesus, but Paul also claims (in verses 3-5) that suffering has positive results in the life of the Christian, producing endurance, which in turn produces character, and character bears fruit as hope, which does not disappoint, because God's infinite resources of love are available and will meet every eventuality.
The proof of that love is, of course, the death of Christ "for us" (v. 8), offered despite the fact that no one is worthy of it. It may seem strange that Paul would go so far as to describe himself, and other Jews, as "ungodly" (v. 6); he does so to emphasise the absolute necessity of God's atoning act in Christ. Salvation is by grace, he constantly reminds his readers, not out of merit. This salvation and this justification will save the sinner from the wrath of God, from whatever consequences sin inevitably brings. Because, in Christ, God has reconciled humanity, restored a broken relationship, and that is the third ground for boasting.
Is peace with God a reality to you? If not, what might there be in this passage which can help you discover the peace Paul writes about?
How, in your life, has suffering produced endurance, character, and hope? Does this mean that suffering is God's plan for us? Why?
How do you feel about Paul's description of all those for whom Christ died as "ungodly" (v. 6)?