Romans 5:1-11

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on March 19, 2017.

This text contains an array of topics: peace with God, grace, hope, suffering, God’s love, and reconciliation. It consists of a 223-word passage that begins and ends asserting two facts: (1) justification by faith (5:1b) and (2) reconciliation with God (5:11b). It appears to be connected to a larger pericope (8:18-39) that ends with the avowal of victory and firm hope due to the assurance of “the love of God” (8:39).

Hitherto, Paul has addressed the topic of justification by faith, particularly, the need for it (1:18-3:20), and the ground of it in God’s work in Christ (3:21-4:25). Chapter 4 ends with the phrase “our justification” whereas chapter 5 begins with “Therefore, since we are justified.” It conveys that justification is an attained fact. In 5:1-11, Paul proceeds to examine its effects expressed in a new life of peace and hope, based on God’s love.

Paul asserts that the direct effect is “peace with God” (v.1b). What would “peace with God” mean to the countless voices worldwide suffering persecution and desperately crying out for peace? Does it mean the cessation of hostility and anguish? Is he alluding to Old Testament prophecies of God’s ultimate peace to be granted in the latter days as we read in Isaiah 52:7; 54:10; Ezekiel 34:25, 37:26? To be sure, the “peace” Paul speaks about cannot be threatened by suffering (5:3), not even the deadly persecution many Christians were experiencing under Nero’s reign.  Paul seems to be focusing on the New Testament perspective of peace fulfilled “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.1b).

The use of “access” suggests that one can enter into a personal relationship with God through faith in Christ. Every believer can experience “peace with God” through the possibility of having personal entree into the presence of God by faith and by grace (v.2). “Peace with God” provides a place to stand. Paul’s Roman audience undergoing persecution no longer needed to keep hiding in the shadows because they could stand in the light of God’s grace. Thanks to their access to God and personal relationship with him, they could expect his glory to be fulfilled in their day-to-day lives (v.2b).

How does the peace and glory of God fulfill? Does it mean that all fears and tribulations vanish? Paul claims that God uses “suffering” to shape and mold believers into his hope and love (v. 3-5). Contrary to what the prosperity gospel endorses, God’s peace fulfills in the ups and downs of life. Not that suffering in and of itself is a good thing, yet Paul affirms that “We also rejoice in our sufferings” (v.3; James 1:2-4). Suffering has endurance as its fruit. The word rendered “character” is best translated “proven character.” Thus, its effect is a spiritual state that has shown itself proof under trial. Through this process, the children of God learn to never give in. When character has been proven, hope quickly directs the lives and fills the talks of God’s children. Paul then assures that God’s promise of hope will never prove deceptive (v.5). Paul restates this steadfast hope in 9:33 and 10:11. Actually, the challenges believers face, serve to strengthen their hope in Christ who is at work in “all things” (8:28; Genesis 50:20). Besides, no present suffering can compare with the future glory (8:18), perhaps, as depicted in John 1:14.

How is Paul so confident of this glorious peace and hope? His conviction rests on God’s unconditional love for sinners (vv. 6-8) and God’s salvific act in Christ (vv. 9-10). Like in the Pentecostal episode of Spirit pouring (Acts 2:17-18), God pours out his love into the believer’s heart through the work of the Holy Spirit (v.5). God’s love, however, is not just an objective love, it is an existential love that Jesus proved by pouring his own blood to save sinners from the wrath of God and reconcile them to God (vv. 6-11; John 3:16). His love is real and powerful, and Paul’s prayer is that believers everywhere fathom the dimension of God’s love (Ephesians 3:14-19). Hopefully, followers of Christ will become persuaded, as Paul is, that none of life’s vilest predicaments can separate us from his love (8:35-39). This is consistent with his claim that this letter is addressed “to all in Rome who are loved by God,” (1:7) and “to everyone who believes” (1:17). Paul certainly highlights the central place love plays in God’s kingdom purposes. The preacher could approach this text exploring God’s missional purpose for the believer in offering his love. It could have some connection with the love command in Mark 12: 30-31. The believer’s call to love rests on the assurance that God first loved us (1 John 4:19).

It’s interesting how suffering recalls attention to God’s love and promises. Believers in many parts of the world today are experiencing suffering on a critical level. The prospect of anguish is not far from any community, family or individual person. The sermon should reassure people about God’s love and of the hope and salvation in Christ. We all need to learn to cling deeply to God for strength to face our sufferings. Likewise, the sermon should help us rest confidently that God’s peace is certain even in the midst of the worst affliction. We all need to be reminded afresh of God’s reconciling love and of the peace and hope made possible through it. Echoing through these assurances is the creed that ends Romans 8 and which upbears all those who, through God’s mediation, are justified by faith and reconciled by his love: no suffering or persecution can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Yet, the sermon should convey that ultimate peace is possible when believers come to terms with God and allow Christ’s love become their love.

 

 

Edgardo Martinez Mitchell
Minister of Missions and Evangelism
First Baptist Church El Paso
emartinez@fbcep.com

 

 

 

 

Tags:  Justification, faith, peace, hope, suffering, love, salvation, reconciliation

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