LIFE IN CHRIST Romans 5
“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one Man, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).Life or death do not just lie at the end of two pathways. They are the two pathways.
Justified by faith, we have peace and joy (5:1–5). This is all because of Christ, who died for us sinners (vv. 6–8) and who lives to maintain our new harmony with God (vv. 9–11). As the sin of one man, Adam, doomed our race to death (vv. 12–14), so the gift of one Man, Jesus Christ, overflows to bring life to all who believe (vv. 15–19). In Christ grace reigns, and eternal life is ours (vv. 20–21).
Understanding the Text
“Peace with God” Rom. 5:1–2. The very first benefit of the believer’s new relationship with God that Paul mentioned was “peace.” As I wrote this, the Berlin Wall that isolated East and West Germany began to go down. Hundreds of thousands of Germans crossed once impassable barriers to visit relatives in the West that they hadn’t seen for nearly 30 years. But even as the wall began to go down, there was no guarantee of peace. No guarantee that complete harmony between the deeply divided East and West will ever be restored. Paul exclaimed that we have “peace with God.” Not only has the wall that sin created between us gone down, but we now pass freely into once forbidden territory, knowing that a permanent harmonious relationship between us and the Lord has been established. Paul said we “have gained access” (v. 2). We now stand securely within the circle of God’s grace (v. 2). The two Germanys are uneasy and uncertain about the future; we are filled with joy, for our future is sure. “We rejoice in the hope” Rom. 5:2. Don’t let the word “hope” throw you. In our language “hope” is a word that suggests uncertainty. “I hope I’ll be able to go with you,” means I’d like to, but I don’t know if I can. A young woman’s “hope chest” was traditionally a place where she stored precious items she would use when—and if!-she married. “Hope” to us is a “maybe” kind of thing. But it’s not this way in the New Testament. In fact, it’s just the opposite! Hope (elpis) is the settled and confident expectation that we will obtain a future good. Hope is being sure that what God has promised will be ours, even if today we only glimpse it from afar. What a blessing to remember as we read the New Testament. Because of Jesus, we have hope. We know that we have a share in the glory of God. “We also rejoice in our sufferings” Rom. 5:3–5. “Hope” is a word about our tomorrows. All too often “suffering” seems to be the word for our today. But Paul said that, because of our peace with God through Jesus, we even “rejoice in our sufferings.” Perspective provides the reason. A young woman experiencing the pains of childbirth still rejoices—because she knows that her suffering will give birth to a precious new life. She looks ahead, and the promise the future holds gives meaning to her present pain. It’s just this way with Christians. Knowing that we have peace with God, we are sure that our present is pregnant with promise. We experience joy in suffering because we know out of pain God will bring something good. Paul even tells us one good our suffering will bring! Our pain will produce perseverance, and this will produce character, and character will produce hope. Through hope, that expectant gaze we fix on the future, we will find the true meaning of life. This doesn’t mean we’ll have a grim life here, in exchange for a joyful future. Oh, no. It means we will have joy now as well as then. Learning to hope will save us from trying to anchor our souls on the slippery bottom of this world’s riches or fame. As we put our hope in God, His Spirit will flood our hearts with a sense of His love. And this, the present experience of the love of God, will give us present joy. “Christ died for the ungodly” Rom. 5:6–8. The unmistakable sense of God’s love that floods our hearts even in suffering is a very personal, subjective kind of thing. We know we are loved. We can tell others. But how can they know that God’s love is real? Paul answered that there is objective as well as subjective evidence of the love of God. Christ’s cross towers in history, casting its shadow in every century, vivid and unmistakable proof that God does love us indeed! While an unusual person might give his life to save a truly good man, Jesus Christ gave His life to save us despite the fact that we were sinners. There may be times when you and I can’t feel the love of God. But there need never be a time when we doubt it. We need only look to Calvary, and remember why Jesus died. “We have now received reconciliation” Rom. 5:9–11. This is another of those important “theological” words of the Bible. As with most such terms, its meaning is actually quite simple. It is something like a man who wakes up, finds that his watch has stopped, and turns on the radio to learn the time. When he hears, he sets his watch by the radio time. What he’s done is to “reconcile” his watch to the radio. Through the death of Jesus, God “reset” our inner clock. Our hearts now ticking in time with His, our values match His own. We are “saved by His life,” for the risen Christ lives within us, to enable us to actually live in harmony with God! Through Jesus we are saved from the wrath that spills over today as the consequences of sinful acts. Through Jesus we have this unutterable joy. You’ve trusted Jesus to save you from the eternal consequences of your sins through His death. Have you trusted Him to save you in the present by His life? Trust Him, rely on the strength He provides, and you will be able at last to live a life that is truly in harmony with God. “The gift of righteousness reign[s] in life through the one Man, Jesus Christ” Rom. 5:12–20. The whole passage contrasts Adam and Jesus, each of whom fixed the future of all living in the epoch he initiated. Adam initiated the epoch of sin, and all who descended from him have found themselves trapped in a morass of sin and death. Jesus initiated the epoch of grace, and all who trace their relationship to Christ are freed from sin, to be righteous and to live righteously. Consider some of the differences brought out in this chapter, shown on the following chart. And rejoice. You have been adopted into the family of the Son whom God loves. ADAM / CHRIST in Romans 5:11–21
|12||Introduced sin, death||Introduced grace,||15|
|16||Men condemned,||Men given righteousness||16|
|19||made sinners||and life, and justified||21|
|16||Judgment a consequence||Grace reigns as a consequence||21|
|17||All subject to death||Many brought to eternal life||19|
“Before the Law was given, sin was in the world” Rom. 5:13. When a friend of mine went through a stop sign, he got a ticket. Later he went to court and argued that the stop sign had been put up only the day before and was hard to see. It was an interesting argument. The highway commission had determined that that particular intersection was dangerous, and that a sign should be there. My friend didn’t argue about that. He even admitted going through the sign. He argued only that he wasn’t guilty, because the sign was new and obscured. Paul’s point is something like this. Sin has been in the world since Adam. And because of sin, human beings have been dying since Adam, as a necessary consequence of sin is death. But people were not guilty of sin before there was a law that, “this is wrong.” To be guilty of transgressing the law, law must exist, and be known. The argument was important for reaching the Jews, who placed altogether too much importance on their possession of Moses’ Law. In essence, Paul said the Jews were worse off than the Gentiles. Gentile and Jew had both suffered spiritual death as a consequence of sin. But the Jews, who had the Law and had broken it, were also guilty! Thank God, neither death nor guilt is a problem for Christians. Jesus gives eternal life to all who believe in Him. Through Christ we are raised from death to life, freed from the present power of sin, and forgiven every violation. What a difference Jesus makes to those of us who know Him.
Everywhere You Look(Rom. 5:1–11)
There’s an old riddle that says: What direction did the polar bear look when he turned his head to the right? To the left? And when he looked straight ahead? The answer in each case is south. He was standing on the North Pole. It’s something like this with a term we find in Romans 5:1–11. What does a Christian see if he looks back? If he looks ahead? If he looks around? Reconciliation! Looking back, we realize that the death of Jesus has changed our condition and our heart. We have been reconciled to God, and He has transformed us from enemy to friend (v. 10). Looking ahead we see an endless future in which Christ stands by our side, till ultimately we stand by His throughout eternity (v. 9). Looking around us, we find that we experience joy in serving Jesus. We have a “now” experience of reconciliation as well. Even the word “saved” is like this. Look back: you have been saved. Look ahead: you will be saved. Look around: you are being saved. Jesus is even now at work within to give you the power to live a holy life. Our past, our present, and our future are all transformed because of Him. Wherever we look, everything is bright and new, and completely different, because of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
Let Jesus change your perspective on everything in life.
“If you were to spend a month feeding on the precious promises of God, you would not be going about with your heads hanging down like bulrushes, complaining how poor you are; but you would lift up your heads with confidence, and proclaim the riches of His grace because you could not help it.”—D.L. Moody