6 June 2017

Romans 5:1-5

“Since we are justified by faith…” (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 33


"To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints" (Romans 1:7)

Having addressed his letter in this way, in today's passage Paul explores how that calling is expressed in Christian formation. It begins with justification - being put right with God - thorough faith (verse 1). This right relationship with God brings a new-found peace. Further, along with this sense of acceptance, Christ is also the gateway to God's grace in which the believer (or saint) is to dwell. Paul's call to 'boast' can, at first, reading seem vainglorious (verse 2) and positively perverse (verse 3). He is, however, in both cases referring not to boasting about self, but rather about God's great power in Christ. It is a believer's hope to share in God's glory eternally through the saving work of Christ (verse 2) and not through any human action. To call suffering 'character forming' can sound callous but Paul's point in verse 3 is similar again. It is not that suffering is meritorious or desirable in itself, but rather that when suffering comes, Christian endurance is not a trust on one's own limited human resources but rather a reliance on the work of God achieved through Jesus' suffering and death. Such dependence can produce further growth in Christ-like character and deeper understanding of the hope to share eternally in God's glory through the saving work of Christ. Furthermore, the indwelling Holy Spirit is God's pledge of that glory for which the believer hopes (verse 5) and love, the primary fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), flows into the hearts of Jesus' followers as a result.

Paul's reasoning is closely argued and detailed theological ideas are packed into just five verses and less than one hundred words! Effectively he is contending that faith in Christ brings a right relationship with God. And a right relationship brings peace and grace, a state for the saint (or believer) to dwell in, and the hope of sharing in God's glory, a truth for the saint to declare or "boast in" (v. 3). This hope causes the saint to boast not in self-dependence but in God who works through Christ. It is the Lord who is to be depended on and whose Spirit fills the saint's heart with love.

To Ponder

  • To what extent can we ever reclaim the biblical use of the word 'saint' to describe flawed human believers? Or does it have too much baggage now?
  • How far is it possible to 'boast' about the God we have faith in without sounding like it is us that have 'all the answers'?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Tim Woolley

The Revd Dr Tim Woolley is superintendent minister of the Hinckley Circuit in Leicestershire and an adjunct faculty member at Cliff College. Tim has a passion for Wesleyan theology and for fresh ways of being church and doing evangelism, and he is a vice chair of Methodist Evangelicals Together.