Lesson 9: What Christ Has Done (Romans 5.1-11)

Chapters and verses are handy in remembering and finding where a certain thought is found, but when we take up a chapter to read and study it, we must remember that it is found in a particular context. In other words, Paul didn’t set out to write Romans 5, rather he has been developing his thoughts about the importance of the gospel, that through faith in Christ both Jew and Gentile could be justified before God. Let’s review Paul’s line of reasoning so far.

  1. The gospel defined (Romans 1.1-17). The gospel, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” was Paul’s message to both Jew and the Gentile. It’s aim was to bring about the “obedience of faith”, making the Gentiles God’s “called”, “loved” and “saints”. The Jew-Gentile tension is evident in this passage, nevertheless Paul was not ashamed of the gospel he proclaimed.
  2. Man’s need for the gospel (Romans 1.18-3.20). All men need the gospel because all sin. Paul’s focus in this section is to show that all have fallen from God’s glory (3.23). The Jew accepted that the Gentiles had fallen from God’s glory, and Paul shows that to be the case in 1.18-32. But what about the Jew? Tragically, they had a false reliance on their national covenant with God, boasting in the Law and circumcision. Paul strikes down these means of boasting in chapter 2, emphasizing that only those who keep the Law could possibly be justified by the Law. Since the Jews committed transgressions under the Law, they had no means of boasting. Their inability to boast is further emphasized in chapter 3, particularly vss. 9-20. All need the gospel (Jew and Gentile), because all have sinned (both Jew and Gentile).
  3. Justification is found in Christ (Romans 3.21-4.25). Again, you can see Paul’s argument aimed at Jewish Christians who still thought justification lay with observance of the Law, particularly circumcision. NOTE: Paul has no issue with obedience to the commands of God, in fact faith is suppose to obey (see 1.5). The issue was whether justification could be found under the Law. The answer has been a resounding NO! Justification can only be found by faith in Christ. Chapter 4 shows that Abraham was justified by faith in God, not by works of the Law (i.e. circumcision). Taking Abraham as our example we know that his faith was a matter of being fully convinced that God would keep His word and faithful obedience on the part of Abraham. We are exhorted to the same kind of faith.

Chapter 5 serves as an important link between Paul’s argument in chapters 1-4 and the issue of sin and the Law in chapters 6-8. The line of thought is something like this:

  • Salvation is achieved in Christ (Romans 5.1-11).
  • Sin reigned in Adam, but life reigns in Christ (Romans 5.12-21).
  • In light of what Christ has done, what should be our attitude toward sin? (Romans 6.1-23)
  • Our wretched condition under the Law (Romans 7.1-25)
  • Our blessed condition in Christ (Romans 8.1-39)

As we’ve stated numerous times, Paul’s point has been that salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ. So far, Paul has focused on faith over Law, but in chapter 5 Paul focuses on the object of faith: Jesus Christ. It’s interesting that Paul used the words Jesus and/or Christ only once in chapter 2 (vs. 16), only 3 times in chapter 3 (vss. 22,24,26) and just once in chapter 4 (vs. 24). They are found 7 times in chapter 5 (vss. 1,6,8,11,15,17,21). By contrast the term “faith” is used only twice in Romans 5.1-2, and not again until Romans 9.30! Paul started this shift in chapter 4 by establishing how Abraham was righteous because of his faith in God; the God who “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (4.17). We are called to follow in the steps of Abraham and “believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (4.24-25). What Christ has done now takes center stage.

Salvation in Christ (vss. 1-5)

Often times when we think of salvation we think of a single, point-in-time event; i.e. having our sins forgiven. But the salvation we have by faith in Christ is so much more!

  1. We are justified, i.e. declared innocent and in good standing before God (vs. 1).
  2. We have peace with God (vs. 1). Note that this is “through” Jesus (a thought repeated in vss. 11 & 21). Peace with God was a covenantal promise (see Numbers 6.22-27), but one that would truly be achieved in the Messianic covenant (see Ezekiel 34.25-31; 37.26).
  3. We have “obtained access” into grace (vs. 2). The language would have brought to mind the Temple, and how limited access was to God. Not so in Christ (Hebrews 10.19). We who once fell short of His glory (3.23) now have “obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand”.
  4. And salvation isn’t just about what we currently enjoy, but what is to come: “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (vs. 2).
  5. Vss. 3-4 deserve special attention. First, you will note the term “rejoice” in vss. 2 & 3. This was the same word translated as “boast” in (Romans 2.17, 23). Paul had previously said that the Jews had no room for boasting (Romans 3.27). But those who are justified by faith can boast (rejoice) in God! Furthermore, they can exult even when facing tribulation! This may be aimed at the Jewish national covenant, that they boasted in their status as favored nation, believing that if they kept covenant Law all would go well (see Deut. 28). Paul’s point is that even when things do not appear to be going well, the Christian can still boast in His God, knowing that all will be well in the end.
  6. Note: thus far Paul has not said much regarding the Holy Spirit (vs. 5 ; see Romans 1.4). The giving of the Spirit was prophesied to be a key aspect of the Messianic kingdom (see Isaiah 34:16; 44:3; Ezek 11:19; 36:26–27; 37:4–14; Joel 2:28–32). In Christ, that promise has been realized. Paul will return to this concept in chapter 8.

Assurance of salvation (vss. 6-11)

  1. Through Christ we have hope for the future… but what assurance do we have that this hope will be realized? Just consider what God has already done! Note Paul’s use of “much more” in vss. 9-10 (also vss. 15,17).
  2. Note also the escalating descriptions of our condition:
    1. “weak” (vs. 6)
    2. “ungodly” (vs. 6)
    3. “sinners” (vs. 8)
    4. “enemies” (vs. 10)
  3. The point: if God loves us enough to send Christ to die for us (when we were sinners and enemies no less), won’t He save us eternally now that we are reconciled to Him? Of course He will!
  4. Through His death we have been reconciled to God, through His life (resurrected life) we are saved! This likely carries the idea of Jesus’ current role as our High Priest and mediator. We have every assurance, every reason to hope because now that we have been justified by faith in Christ, saved from our sins by His death, His current live secures our ultimate salvation.

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