Romans 5:1-11 The Pattern of Overcoming

Thoughts from Passage

I have been an athlete my whole life. The truth is I am today much more of a has-been than a will-be. To declare myself an athlete takes very little work, in fact it takes none at all. However, if I then went on to tell you about 6AM workouts from the age of 14 on, nights in the weight room or on a court, showed awards, shared injuries, and had other tell you stories you would actually believe that I was an athlete.

This is not a perfect analogy to what Paul is writing, but it is somewhat helpful. It takes our faith and repentance to be justified before God, to be in right relationship with Him. That’s it. No more work needed. Jesus has done the work. However, if you are a follower of Jesus there will be evidence of that, like callouses on the hands of an athlete who works out. Paul is saying that if you follow Jesus, that if you are in right relationship with God that your life will show the evidence of that.

I may no longer look like a college athlete, but there is evidence that I was. The truth is, I am still an athlete, I always will be. When we truly follow Jesus there will always be evidence of our faith. The marks of a believer are not callouses on their hands, but it is love and a desire to be reconciled to God and to help others come to the same place.

  1. 1-5

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5-8 is bound together by two “bookends”: 5:1-11 and 8:14-39. The two passages are bound together by hope- a hope that rests upon the peace with God resulting from justification (5:9, 8:31-34) and effected by the Spirit of promise (5:5, 8:14-15 and 23-27). It is a hope, moreover, that confronts and endures the sufferings of the present (5:3-4, 8:17-18) and 35-39) and guarantees final salvation in Christ- “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we share in His glory” (v17).”[1]

“Romans 5:1-11 is not about how we are put right with God. It is about the consequences of justification. When we are right with God, there are tangible consequences. Here Paul mentions three: peace, grace, and hope. But these three gifts, described as abstract nouns express concrete realities.”[2]

Paul begins this section with the word ‘therefore’ which is often his way of saying that what is to come is based upon his preceding argument. He has been building his case around the belief that God’s new work in and through Jesus is centered on faith and not national identity. In other words, everyone, regardless of upbringing, family origin, socio-economic class, or any other factor is equal in the eyes of God and each one equally needs faith in Jesus to be saved. This is the backdrop in which Paul begins writing these words. Or as NT Wright puts it, “Having laid the foundation in chapters 1 to 4, Paul is beginning to build the structure: a picture of Christian life in which all the ancient promises of God are coming true. And at the centre of these promises is the establishment of a loving, welcoming personal relationship between individual humans and the creator God himself.”[3]

Faith leads to justification and faith leads to accepting the grace of God. Paul is wanting the recipients of this letter to know that their hope comes from their faith in Jesus and he has done the work. This work does not preclude us from suffering or hardship. What we often miss in our Americanized Christianity is that God does not promise health, wealth, and prosperity. What God promises is a right relationship with Him through His Son, and that relationship is one that leads to a peace that surpasses understanding, a joy that can be seen no matter the circumstances and a belief that God is making all things new of which believers are a part.

Paul points out in the first two verses that justification by faith leads to peace, grace, and hope. These are words that so often are heard among followers of Jesus, but it is here that Paul is reminding the believers in Rome that those things come through faith which leads to justification. This is no peace that just means the absence of conflict, but the kind of peace that represents wholeness, completeness, and even health.[4]

Paul is not writing that we have to enjoy suffering, but what he is saying is that through suffering we see growth. If we have never faced resistance of any kind (in any area of life) is it possible to see growth? What Paul is saying is very true, suffering leads to perseverance and perseverance leads to character and character leads to hope, and that hope leads to the love that comes from the Holy Spirit’s work in us through these moments. “We live in a world that wants everything immediately; that has no stability of character except a hollow media image; that wanders this way and that because it has no idea where it might be going. The gospel of Jesus the Messiah calls us to swim against the tide on all counts.”[5] In other words, sometimes we work out our faith.

William Barclay paints a picture using the original Greek language of an individual being surrounded by pressure and through the pressure there is produced fortitude, or perseverance. He goes on to point out that the same Greek word used for character is the same word that is used for metal that is refined by fire. Barclay is saying that Paul is attempting to show that Paul is wanting the reader to know that though times may be tough that out of the tough times the believer will experience a deeper and stronger faith than before.[6]

Verse 5 ends with “because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” As a way of saying that God’s love is now overflowing through those that know Him. God doesn’t just want his believers to know Him, but he wants them to share His love with the world, to be reconciled to Him and to one another, to reconcile the world.

  1. 6-11

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

We are all powerless to be freed from sin and death on our own. No matter how good we are, our good is not good enough. However, God, through Jesus, brings about a way for us to be made right. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the avenues through which we too can die to sin and find true and abundant life. The abundant life comes as it were, through “the fact that Jesus Christ died for us as the final proof of God’s love.”[7]

I don’t believe we can miss the importance of the fact that Jesus came, while we were still sinners. None of us can get our lives right with God before Jesus. In fact, the more we try without Him it is likely that we will go the other direction.

Paul writes we are enemies of God. Does He really mean God does not love us? Quite the opposite in fact. If we remember the words of Jesus His call was to love your enemies. In God’s upside down Kingdom it is the enemy, the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized who he wants to see His love. However, God is holy and as such He expects His people to be holy and that happens through His son. So we are transformed from enemies on the outside looking in, to people that are in right relationship with God and then called to bring others into right relationship with God. We are justified and then God does the work of sanctifying (we will talk more about this in weeks to come), or making completely holy.

Paul ends this section talking about reconciliation. This is not the only place in Paul’s writings that he talks about this, he writes even more in his second letter to the church in Corinth. Reconciliation, or putting things in right relationship, is not only what God does in us and for us, but it is what he calls us to do!

If we remember back in the previous chapters of this letter we see that Paul has written how boasting in one’s works really is a waste of time, that it means absolutely nothing, in fact he has admonished those who do boast. But now, Paul is inviting the boasting, but not in our works, in the work of Jesus in us.

[1] Greathouse, 150.

[2] Greathouse, 151.

[3] Wright, 81.

[4] Greathouse, 153.

[5] Wright, 84.

[6] Barclay, 72-73.

[7] Barcley, 74.

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