18 March 2015

Romans 5:1-11

“We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” (v. 2)

Psalm: Psalm 125


Boasting is a very unattractive habit, and is generally considered rather ill-mannered and self-centred. Paul, who wrote today's passage, has previously criticised such boasting in others (Romans 2:17-21; 3:27), even though elsewhere he seems to have been criticised for this very failing himself (2 Corinthians 10:13-15). Here, however, Paul boasts not once but three times (verses 2, 3, 11). The important difference is that he is not boasting about his own achievements or abilities, but is seeking to express his delight in what God has done for all humanity in Jesus Christ.

The passage comes from Paul's letter to the church in Rome, arguably one of the most important texts in the New Testament. Great Christian thinkers like Augustine, Martin Luther, John Wesley and many more have discovered the true depths of God's love in these verses, and it has changed their lives forever. Paul seeks to explain how we are "justified" with God (ie how we are made right with, or reconciled to, God) and can now live at peace with him (v.1). This was not the result of our actions but of God's reaching out to us in Jesus. Because of what God has done we can endure all kinds of sufferings and disappointments and still retain hope. This was something that Paul, who was beaten, imprisoned and shipwrecked because of his God-given mission, knew all about!

Perhaps even more importantly, Paul stresses how this wonderful gesture of reconciliation all took place before we deserved it, while we still preferred evil to God (verse 8). The Christian theologian Karl Barth described this passage as probably the hardest part of Romans for us to understand because we struggle to grasp the enormity of what is being said: "God is for us, while we are against God". In the logic of our world, such generosity and openness would most likely be considered foolishness or weakness. For Paul, though, such incredible love is most definitely good news and something to boast to the whole world about!

To Ponder

  • What is the difference between boasting about what God has done for us and simply boasting about your health, happiness and good fortune?
  • How might our world look today if we were willing to take the initiative in healing divisions and disputes, even when we were in the right?

Bible notes author

The Revd Geoffrey Farrar

Geoffrey Farrar is currently a Methodist presbyter in the West Hertfordshire and Borders Circuit of the Methodist Church, where he has pastoral charge of three churches in the Watford area. He trained at Wesley House in Cambridge and has recently completed an MA in Ancient History with the University of Trinity Saint David.