Lesson 6 Romans 5:1-21
While romans 3:21-4:25 gives us the blessing of justification by faith for both Jews and Gentiles, the first five verses of chapter five begins to treat the fruits of justification.
The Fruits of Justification
The first blessing is “peace,” a concept that comes from the Hebrew shalom, a term meaning complete well-being. Obtaining peace of heart and mind is a universal desire. It is the goal of all religions as people seek relief from the sense of guilt and alienation from God that comes from having a less-than-flawless life.
Paul claims that a Christian has genuine, and lasting “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 1), who died “for our trespasses and was raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). Accepting God’s gift of justification through faith, the apostle points out, is the secret of genuine and lasting peace with both God and our inner turmoil. Thus, Christian peace rests on the objective fact rather than subjective feelings. Christ’s death and resurrection put it on firm ground.
A second fruit of justification is “access” to God. Here is an important truth that we too often fail to recognize. A sense of alienation from God plagues the human heart, but believers in Christ have direct access to the Father through the Son. It was not so in the Old Testament services connected to the temple. Only the priest could enter the temple proper. And only the high priest once a year had access to God’s throne room – the Holy of Holies. But through Jesus we can approach God any time we desire it.
The death and resurrection of Christ that resulted in the justification that Paul reflected upon in Verse 24 and 25 opened the way for HIs followers into the very throne room of God. As the book of Hebrews puts it, Christ’s followers can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, KJV)
A third major fruit of justification by faith is that Christians have joy: “We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). Note the pronoun “we.” This is not a universal joy but only for those who “by faith” enter into “this grace in which we stand” (verse 2). The interesting thing about the word translated as “rejoice” is that it is the same word rendered “boast” in Romans 2:17 and 4:2 in which boasting is wrong.
But, there is a difference in Romans five. Verse two urges us to boast. Why the change? Because Christians are not exalting their own accomplishments but rather what the Lord has already done for them and will continue to do for them through Christ in the future. Christians boast in the goodness and graciousness of their LORD. This is not boasting as you and I do on a regular basis, rather it means a triumphant rejoicing and confidence in God and His saving mercy.
The fourth fruit of justification by faith is hope, a gift that comes to all who are right with God. For many of us hope is something we wish for, or think might happen. But that is not the way Paul employs the word. For him hope is certitude. Hope implies not the slightest doubt.
Hope is the ultimate outcome of life’s journey which is central to Paul’s thought, but he doesn’t neglect those struggles in day-to-day living that can crowd out hope and destroy faith if people do not have a Christian understanding of the developmental aspect of Christian existence. Thus, the apostle raises the issue of suffering in verse 3, in which he suggests that as Christians we should “rejoice in our sufferings.”
The Bible is clear that people of faith are not immune from suffering and tragedy. After all, John the Baptist’s head ended up on a platter, the apostle John purportedly was dipped in boiling oil, Paul was repeatedly beaten, and Jesus had His own cross.
Suffering, of course can do one of two things to people. It can crush them as the olive in the press. Or they can view hardships as instruments to open up new opportunities for growth and development.
Paul focuses on the second option, writing that Christians can rejoice in hardship because it produces “endurance,” which in time creates “character,” which ultimately generates “hope.” Christians discover through hardship that instead of sufferings being causes of quitting, they can be the means of utilizing their faith to enter a deeper relationship with Jesus. A Christian in a Communist country, pressured to give up his faith and conform, declared, “we are like nails: the harder you hit us the deeper you drive us.” This is endurance. That is “staying under” the rule of Christ.
But endurance, Paul tells us, is not an end in itself. Rather, it develops character (verse 4). Character was the word used when testing precious metals to purify them and to demonstrate their purity. Just as the metalsmith uses intense heat to melt silver and gold in order to remove physical impurities, so God uses hardships and suffering to rid His children of spiritual impurities or to develop their characters. Strength of character does not come through avoidance of whining but through meeting problems head-on in a faith relationship to God through Jesus.
Verse 5 tells us that “hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” The ultimate hope of Christians is grounded in God’s abundant love for them. His love will never give them up.