We have peace with God because we have been granted continued access to God’s presence so that we might grow in grace.
Through this lesson, students should:
Understand that God has granted us perpetual access to his presence.
Understand that God loved us while we were weak and, in our sins, and that God will continue to love us as we seek to grow in grace.
Be encouraged to boast (proclaim in word and deed) about the goodness and grace of God, which is helping us overcome our sinful weaknesses.
Catching up on the Story
In the first section of Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul laid out the case for how Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection have justified (made right) humanity with its creator. This justification comes about not by our initiative but through the grace of God, which is given to all. The grace given prompts us toward faith. Therefore, we are justified through God’s grace, which enables us to respond with faith.
Justification is a legal term that lacks any sense of a personal relationship. A judge who has the power to condemn or acquit has no significant association with the accused, in either affection or hostility. One commentator on the book of Romans says this:
“God’s justification involves a real self-engagement to the sinner on His part. He does not confer the status of righteousness upon us without at the same time giving Himself to us in friendship and establishing peace between Himself and us—a work which, on account of the awful reality both of His wrath against sin and of the fierce hostility of our egotism against the God who claims our allegiance, is only accomplished at unspeakable cost to Him.“ (Cranfield, 258).
As we begin looking at this next significant section in Paul’s letter to the Romans, we’ll start to explore the results of our justification, our being made right with God – friendship with God.
Romans 5:1-6 – Peace, Access/Presence, Suffering, Endurance, Character, and Hope
Paul begins chapter five with a “therefore.” As we have said in the past, anytime we see a therefore, we have to go back and see what it’s there for. Of course, we’ve already laid that out; we have been justified by grace through faith. In a legal sense, we’ve been made right with God. But, as we have also said, this isn’t the end of it. God’s relationship with us is much more than that of a judge to lawbreaker. So, Paul begins to explain….
The first result of our justification is that we now have peace with God. This peace isn’t just the absence of conflict, as in an uneasy truce to which two warring parties have begrudgingly agreed; it is true peace, the full and final cessation of conflict between God and us. At least as far as God is concerned. God will no longer view us or act toward us as enemies, even when we break the peace from our end. Any discipline that might happen to us, either now or in what comes next, is a result of God’s love for us and not God’s anger. We are the ones who break the peace, but God is always willing to extend forgiveness again.
What brings about this peace? Through our Lord Jesus Christ would be Paul’s response to that question. Of course, that phrase “Our Lord Jesus Christ” carries a ton of freight. Our peace comes not from the mere reality of Jesus’ incarnation nor solely from his death. Neither does it come just from his resurrection or ascension. Instead, it comes from the totality of Jesus’ life, teaching, death, resurrection, and ascension. Not to mention his future return to set things right finally.
What’s more, is that we aren’t just granted peace with the creator and sustainer of the universe; we are granted permission to be in his presence. Our English translations of verse two say it like this, “through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we now stand….”
This translation makes Paul’s words so cold and formal, like you’ve been granted permission to edit a shared document for work…or that you’ve been granted access to the WIFI at your friend’s house or the coffee shop. Perhaps a better way to capture the fullness of what Paul says is to read the verse like this, “through whom we have a standing invitation into the presence of God’s great glory where we will now make our home.”
In other words, the total work of Jesus invites us into the presence of God, not just for a little bit, either. We are invited in and told to pull up a chair and make ourselves comfortable. The word translated “stand” really means to “firmly remain, to steadfastly stay.” The image is one of continual and permanent communion with God, so much so that we have hope that we will not just bask in the presence of God’s glory but that we will someday share in that glory. In other words, our hope is to be transformed into what we were created to be in the first place, perfect and whole. It is only then that we’ll know the full extent of God’s glory and the joy that comes with it.
We boast in suffering…
At the end of verse two, Paul begins to talk about boasting. Usually, we would identify boasting as something to be avoided because it draws undue praise and attention to ourselves. But what Paul is suggesting that we boast about, literally, showing off verbally, is not about ourselves but the work that God has done through Jesus Christ for us. It is a mode of proclamation, a method of praise. We proclaim verbally about what God has done so that others may know and find the same continued presence with God.
In verse three, the passage gets a little less triumphant. Not only are we to boast in the glory of God, but we are also to boast in our suffering! Now, for some of you, this is no new thing. You’ll gladly tell anyone who will hear about the trials and tribulations you’ve been through, even if those trials have been self-imposed. The suffering to which Paul is referring is not just any ordinary suffering. It is the suffering that is brought about by living as faithful followers of Jesus.
If you remember back to our study of 1 Peter, we said that suffering is just a part of the Christian life because if we’re doing it right, if we are genuinely living Christlike lives, we’re likely going to receive some pushback. This suffering isn’t brought about by God, but God works in mysterious ways to take the suffering that we might experience as a result of following him, and he turns it into something useful.
Paul proclaims that suffering produces endurance. And endurance produces character, which in turn, produces hope. And hope, well, it doesn’t disappoint. It doesn’t let us face real humiliation or shame (at least not as how the world understands those things). We all know that we learn a lot from our failures, from adversity. When we do so as a result of our faithfulness to God, God uses it to build us up even more. It is through these things that God is pouring his love into our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is this love that helps us, empowers us, and encourages us.
Romans 5:6-11 – Weakness, Proven Love, Justified, Reconciled
Verse six is a recognition of our sinful weakness flowing from the fact that God is helping us grow. It is this deficiency that helps illustrate the point Paul is going to make next.
Weakness and Proof….
The version of verse six we heard read at the beginning of the service goes like this, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Paul is pointing to the fact that even though we are weak and sinful, Christ still died for us. He’ll go on to make a specific distinction; people almost never give up their lives to save an unrighteous or evil person. But Paul says that God proves his love for us mainly because he died for us in our sinful state.
What makes this statement even more striking is the actual grammar of the original text. What’s translated as “we were” in the past tense is a present tense participle. In the original language, it’s a present continuous participle; that is, it continues into the future. If we take that into account, verse six could sound like this, “For even though we are and continue to be weak and ill, at the right time Christ died for us.”
This is an admission that even though we have been justified by faith through Jesus Christ, also though we have been invited to take up residence in the presence of God, we are still not as strong or healthy as we should be.
To put it differently, God knew that even though Jesus would die for our sins, there is a part of all of us that will, from time to time, not live up to God’s law of love. To be sure, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are being transformed, we are being remade, and we are being formed into the likeness of Christ. Yet, we aren’t perfected just yet. In our best intentions, we still will continue to turn our backs on God. But Christ died for us anyway!
Why? Because God’s relationship with us is much more than that of a judge and a defendant. God has not just pardoned us; he has adopted us. We are his children, and parents, good parents, anyway (maybe even the bad ones), always love their children, seeking to see them grow and flourish. God proves his love for us through his death for our sake, even though he knows that there’s a better-than-average chance that we wouldn’t correctly follow or love him. Let that sink in for just a moment.
How Much More…
If Paul is correct that Jesus is willing to die for those who were and will, on some level anyway, continue to be sinful, then it is safe to say that Jesus will continue to work on our behalf so that we might be fully and totally reconciled to God. If God saves us while we are rotten, how much more will he save us as we are seeking to be faithful followers of Christ?
There is peace in this affirmation. We need not fear about our salvation so long as we are participating with God in our growth and maturation. We have been and are continuing to be reconciled to God, and this is a gift. A gift that is always initiated by God and always directed toward us, his wayward but beloved Children. And it is in this that we can offer a boast. We can and should verbally show off this great gift that God has given to us through Jesus Christ, a gift that is not just for us, not for us to hoard, but for us to share with the whole world.
The movement of this passage is beautiful. Not only do we discover that we have been justified, made right, with God, but that our status changes from the enemy of God to beloved Child who has and will continue to have access to the God of the universe.
And this is even so as we continue to find ourselves unfaithful on different levels. And what should our response be to this? Boasting. We are to verbally show off this great gift of access and reconciliation to the world who remain, as Paul would say, weak, ill, unrighteous sinners. We boast not to draw attention to ourselves but to the giver of the gift. If anything, this boast makes us look bad because, in the face of such great grace, we continue to sin. But that’s what makes it so unique, that in our sinfulness, God continues to give us grace.
Discussion Questions Read the text aloud. Then, read the text to yourself quietly. Read it slowly, as if you were very unfamiliar with the story.
Give your best definition for the word “justification.”
What does it mean to have “peace with God?”
Think about the places and people to whom you have been granted access. How is being granted access to those places or people different than the access that God has given us through Jesus?
Usually, boasting is frowned upon. Why would Paul encourage us to “boast in our sufferings?”
Verse 6 could be translated this way, “For while we were and continue to be weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” This translation gives the sense that Christ’s death doesn’t just provide us relief from our past weaknesses but that God continues to be faithfully committed to us in our current weaknesses. How does that make you feel? How could that shape your posture toward others with whom you are in a relationship?
What does “But God proves his love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us?”
What does it mean to “boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ…?”
What is the appropriate way to verbally show off this great gift of access and reconciliation we have received even though we continue to be weak, ill, and, at times, unrighteous sinners?