19 April 2021Romans 5.1-11
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… (v. 1)
St Irenaeus, an early Christian writer, once wrote that scripture is like a fountain that never dries up; we can go to it over and over again without ever emptying it of meaning. That’s certainly true of the passages that we visit over the next few days. Romans 5-8 has some of the best-known and most closely studied verses in the whole Bible. They were central to the message of the Reformation, with its emphasis on the doctrine of justification by faith, but they can speak to those of us who read them in the very different circumstances of the 21st century. You might want to ask how they resonate with your experience of the upheavals and challenges of the last year.
That opening word, ‘therefore’ is important. Paul wants to build on the picture he sketched in chapters 1-4. It’s a picture of the universal human need for salvation from the power of sin and of the universal possibility for humanity to become part of God’s people through Jesus Christ. Jew and Gentile alike have fallen short of the glory of God, but all can become ‘children of Abraham’; we are all, as it were, on a level playing field in relation to God.
'Justification' is another key word. The same Greek word refers to justice and righteousness. To be justified is to share in the justice and goodness that God has shown us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Paul puts it: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (v. 8). But we shouldn’t think of justification as some kind of legal transaction. It is rooted in the infinite love of God, a love that we see in the death of Jesus and a love that we experience in the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. ‘Grace’ is the word that sums up this self-giving divine love. With the grace of God we can endure anything that comes our way, we can even enduring suffering because we have an unquenchable hope.
- Christians have found many ways of expressing the significance of the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. What does it mean to you?
- How different might your life be if you shared God’s sense of justice?
- What sustains you in times of suffering? How would you express your sense of hope?