Paul introduces some difficult concepts in this chapter. He demonstrates the truth of the gospel in ways that stretch our thinking.
To begin to understand the next four chapters, it helps to keep in mind the two-sided reality of the Christian life. On the one hand, we are complete in Christ (our acceptance with him is secure); on the other hand, we are growing in Christ (we are becoming more and more like him).
At the same time, we have the status of kings and the duties of slaves. We feel both the presence of Christ and the pressure of sin. We enjoy the peace that comes from being made right with God, but we still face daily problems that help us grow.
If we remember these two sides of the Christian life, we will not grow discouraged as we face temptations and problems. Instead, we will learn to depend on the power available to us from Christ, who lives in us by the Holy Spirit.
|5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith.NRSV|
Here he begins to describe how justification affects our relationship with God. First, there is peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Peace anticipates Paul’s claim that we have been reconciled with God (5:10). Peace (eirene) means there is no more hostility between us and God, no sin blocking our relationship with him. More than that, a new relationship has been established, so we no longer dread the outcome of judgment but live under the protection established by God.
Peace with God is only possible through Christ, because on the cross he met the conditions required for peace. Not only was “the punishment that brought us peace” (Isaiah 53:5 niv) borne by him, but he also fully lived up to his given title, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
The basic teaching is that through our Lord Jesus Christ peace is established between us and God, whether or not we feel it from moment to moment. In Christ we claim peace with God, even when we are experiencing turmoil.
5:2 Access . . . into this grace.NKJV
|Not only has Christ justified and reconciled us to God, but he also has given us personal access to God. The grace of God initiating our salvation is the same grace in which we stand.|
The word access (prosagogein), has also been translated “introduction” (nasb), “brought us into” (tlb), “been allowed to enter” (neb).
The thought is not about possible access to God, but accomplished access to God. Having been introduced to grace, we, now . . .
Rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.NIV Mankind was created for glory (more about this will be said in chapter 8) but, because of sin, had fallen “short of the glory of God” (3:23). It is God’s purpose to recreate his image, his glory, fully in us.
Because of Christ, we now hope for (anticipate, look forward to) the time when we will share Christ’s glory. This hope helps us overcome our present frustrations when we fail to be all that we want to be or all that God wants us to be.
Paul mentions three occasions for rejoicing:
- In the hope of the glory of God (5:2). Anticipating our future with God ought to bring moments of joy. We stand in God’s grace, and the outcome of our lives is secure in his hands.
- In our suffering (5:3). We are not to be glad for our suffering, but to be glad that suffering can perfect a person’s faith.
- In God (5:11). Our faith in Jesus Christ frees us to deeply enjoy our relationship with God. We no longer need to be haunted by thoughts of judgment; now we can reflect upon and respond to his grace.
5:3 Rejoice in our sufferings . . . suffering produces perseverance.NIV
The key was that he learned to rejoice because he knew that suffering produces perseverance—the ability to face difficulties without giving in. For Christians, suffering does not negate the reality of God’s love, but provides the occasion to affirm and apply it.
|DON’T JUDGE TRIBULATION BY ITS OUTWARD APPEARANCE|
|We rejoice in suffering not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know God is using life’s difficulties and Satan’s attacks to build our character. That is one of God’s loving purposes. Our problems will develop perseverance which, in turn, will strengthen our character, deepen our trust in God, and give us greater confidence about the future.
It is likely that our patience will be tested in some way every day. Rejoicing begins by thanking God for these opportunities to grow and then facing them, relying on his strength.
|5:4 Perseverance, character.NIV Endurance, in turn, deepens character. The word character (dokime) includes the idea of “approved as a result of testing.” A person with this kind of character is known for his or her inward qualities rather than any outward appearances. There is a progression that begins with suffering and ends with character.
The end result of this chain reaction is hope—confidence that God is in control and will see us through. God’s work in us now, conforming us “to the likeness of his Son” (8:29), gives us a glimpse of the wonderful things he has in store for us in the future.
If we can maintain our love for Christ and see his work through all our difficulties, the result is increased faith, hope, and love. The difficulties of life are not random, meaningless, or wasted when we are trusting God.
5:5 Hope does not disappoint us.NRSV Our hope in God’s promises will never disappoint us by being unfulfilled. When our hope is in God, we are absolutely assured that he will fulfill all that he has promised—we will be resurrected to eternal life and will be with him in glory.
The first hope Paul mentioned (5:2) is one that primarily looks to the future, when we will share in God’s glory; this hope, the maturing product of a life trusting God, focuses on the more immediate experience of God’s love. So hope, for the believer in Jesus, includes a future worth rejoicing over and a present that will not disappoint either!
God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.NIV
It is the Holy Spirit who has filled our hearts with God’s love and who continues to encourage us as we hope in God.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “[God] anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
5:6 Christ died for the ungodly. Paul wants to make sure that there is no misunderstanding about who Christ actually died for—the ungodly. Nor can there be any doubt about who the ungodly are, for Paul uses the same terminology at the end of 5:8, exchanging us in place of the ungodly.
We can have hope in God because of the nature of his love. God’s plan, from the beginning, was to send his Son to die for us, at just the right time, when we were still powerlessNIV.
The right time refers to both the timing in history and the timing in God’s plan (see Galatians 4:4). In the face of our powerlessness, God was fully in control.
The events in human history did not determine the plan of salvation; the plan of salvation was designed by God to happen at just the right time.
We are saved only because God took the initiative and demonstrated his incredible grace and love by sending his own Son to take the punishment we deserved.
5:7 For a good person someone might actually dare to die.RSV The highest expression of human love is when someone gives his or her life so that another person can continue to live. People are able to understand sacrificial love, even though it is rarely practiced. This kind of sacrificial gesture is almost always dependent on a relationship that already exists between the one sacrificing (parent, friend, lover, fellow soldier) and the one benefited. People do not readily die for their enemies.
5:8 God demonstrates His own love.NKJV People do not have to hope blindly that God loves them; he has openly demonstrated it.
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Christ did not die so that we could be made lovable; Christ died because God already loved us and wanted to bring us close to himself. No matter how lonely or alienated we feel, we have the unalterable objective fact that Christ died for us. Every time we celebrate communion, we hear the words from Jesus, “this is my body broken for you; this is my blood shed for you.”
5:9 Justified by his blood. God bases our justification on the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross (see 3:25). Because God is holy, he could not accept us by simply disregarding or ignoring our sins. Instead, those sins had to be dealt with.
And God did this through the sacrificial death of his Son. Again, this justification is God’s approval, given to us only on the basis of what Christ did. It is an acquittal that sets free all of us who were otherwise hopeless prisoners of sin.
Saved from God’s wrath.NIV Those who have been justified and pronounced righteous are also delivered from God’s wrath at the final judgment. The comparison implies that justification is a present event, while the full display of God’s wrath will come only in the future.
5:10 Enemies . . . reconciled to him through the death of his Son. Alongside the theme of justification, Paul introduces the theme of reconciliation. Our peace with God has legal as well as relational aspects.
We were enemies because we were rebels against God. “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:21-22 niv). Because of Christ’s death, we are reconciled—our proper relationship with God has been restored.
Much more. As in verse 9, Paul is using a comparison of wonder. He holds up one wonderful idea for consideration (our reconciliation with God through Christ’s death) and immediately follows with an even more wonderful thought of what Christ’s life accomplishes for us and in us.
Reconciled. Those who are reconciled are those who were once enemies of God but have now been brought into a relationship of peace with God.
There are two steps in the reconciliation process:
(1) God made the first move toward reconciliation by sending his Son to die on the cross (see 2 Corinthians 5:19),
(2) believers then accept the work Christ has done for them and thereby become reconciled to God (see 2 Corinthians 5:20). Reconciliation removes the hostility and establishes unity between believers and God.
Saved by his life.NKJV Because Christ’s death accomplished our reconciliation with God, so his life—his present resurrection life in which he intercedes for us (see Hebrews 7:25)—insures our complete and final salvation.
|The love that caused Christ to die is the same love that sends the Holy Spirit to live in us and guide us every day. The power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that saved us and is available to us in our daily lives. We can be assured that having begun a life with Christ, we have a reserve of power and love to call on each day for help to meet every challenge or trial. We can pray for God’s power and love as we need it.|
5:11 Rejoice in God.NIV It is not enough to list the marvelous facts of our relationship with God. Knowing all that God has accomplished should cause us to be filled with joy.
|We rejoice in God because Christ took our sins upon himself and paid the price for them with his own death, instead of punishing us with the death we deserve (see introduction to this chapter).
We have now received reconciliation.nrsv Through faith in his work, we become his friends (received reconciliation) and are no longer enemies and outcasts.