ROMANS 5 STUDY NOTES. "In the whole Bible there is hardly another chapter which can equal this triumphant text." Martin Luther
4:25 (Delivered, but Raised)
Paul sums up his statements on righteousness by faith by saying that Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins. This is the idea of propitiation. He was a substitute sacrifice, bearing death and the penalty of our sin. He was also raised to life for our justification. Jesus’ resurrection was a statement that God accepted his sacrifice for us. In 1 Corinthians 15:17, Paul said if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
5:1-2 (What We Have As Justified Believers)
Now that we are justified, or declared righteous, how does this change our relationship to God?
First, we have peace with God through Christ. Before salvation, we were enemies of God. Colossians 1:21-22 says “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…” While we are living in sin, we are separated from God and at enmity with him. Isaiah 59:2 your iniquities have separated you from your god; your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.
But, once we believe and are justified, that hostility and enmity is removed. God’s justice toward us is satisfied. We are no longer living in opposition to God and he is no longer hostile toward us, so we have peace with God. Isaiah prophesied this is 32:17: The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
So, you do not have to live like God is mad at you. In fact, you are at peace with God and may enjoy his favor forever. This is what the angels said to the shepherds: glory to God on the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. This is not a matter of how you feel, but is an objective statement of your status before God.
Paul cannot resist restating here that we gained access into this grace of God by faith. We now stand permanently in God’s grace. Morris on access: "The idea is that of introduction to the presence-chamber of a monarch. The rendering access is inadequate, as it leaves out of sight the fact that we do not come in our own strength, but need an 'introducer' - Christ."
A corollary of this is that we also have access into God’s presence because Christ removed the barrier between us. Ephesians 3:12 says “in him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Second, we not only have peace with God, we have joy in the hope of the glory of God. We know that, having been saved, we are destined for life in the presence and glory of God. We have that to look forward to. Hope here is that encouragement we have from a certain future. It is not as the current definition of wishful thinking, unless you believe that you can lose your salvation. That is why Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
This hope causes us to rejoice. Our future is secure. We need not worry about our destination and we can rejoice in our future. Paul said in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice!”
5:3-5 (Rejoice In Sufferings)
Now we take an interesting turn. It is one thing to say we rejoice in the thought of heaven and the glory of God. But Paul now says we also rejoice in our sufferings [NKJV=tribulations]. Jesus said in Matthew 5:11: Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
These early Christians did suffer. They were thrown out of the synagogue. They were run out of Jerusalem. They we often persecuted by the Romans. The lost families and possessions. They went to jail. They were killed. James was beheaded early in the process. Paul suffered in every way imaginable: he was beaten, arrested, stoned, slandered, imprisoned, and, finally, executed. Yet he rejoiced in suffering.
He rejoiced because of the effect suffering has on character. What does it produce? First, it produces perseverance. Perseverance is a steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose, or steadfastness. (Here it is not used in the theological sense of the doctrine that those who have been chosen by God will continue in a state of grace to the end and will finally be saved.)
That seems a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it? You would think suffering would cause people to quit, not persevere. Instead, suffering provides a vehicle for God’s grace and strength to flow into the believer.
Polycarp of Smyna was arrested for being being a Christian. In an angry mob, the Roman proconsul took pity on him since he was an old man. He told Polycarp if would just say "Caesar is Lord" and offer a small pinch of incense to Caesar's statue he would escape torture and death. Polycarp responded, "Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" He was burned alive at the stake.
Paul tells then that perseverance produces character. As we persevere through life’s experiences, God builds into us more and more Christ like character.
Finally, character produces hope.
We are not disappointed because the Father has poured his love out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We have the Holy Spirit with us at all times, indwelling us, to continually express the Father’s love to us. We see all 3 persons of the Trinity working here for our benefit.
James 1:2 conveys this same message. He says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
It is in difficult times that God molds our character and we learn to trust him and draw strength from him. When we do so fully, God is glorified in our tribulations. Philippians 1:20 says “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death.” He had no wish that he would have it easy, but that Christ would be exalted.
1 Peter 1:5-7 says “…for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
1 Peter 2:20-21 says “…if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you…”
1 Peter 4:1-2 says “…he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of this earthy life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”
This process we call “sanctification”. After justification, God proceeds with sanctification, making us like Christ.
5:6-8 (Time of Death)
Christ died “at just the right time” (NIV) or “in due time” (NKJV). Christ died at a time appointed by God. We do not know what made it the right time, but it was according to God’s timing. God set the time for Christ’s sacrifice, as he has set the time of his return. Peter in Acts 2:23 said “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge…” Jesus, knowing his arrest was imminent, said “Father, the time has come” in John 17:1.
Paul also describes our condition at this time. First, he says we were still powerless. We had no ability to bring ourselves to salvation. We were lost. We needed God to intervene in our lives. Second, he says we were still sinners. We did not become righteous through works and cause God to notice us and decide to save us. Rather, he reached out to us in grace and love to bring us to salvation.
The Reformers called this teaching of Paul “total depravity of man”. That term is often misunderstood today because of changes in our perception of the meaning of the words. The Reformers meant that the effect of the fall upon man is that sin has extended to every part of our personality, our thinking, our emotions, and our will. (It does not necessarily mean that we are intensely sinful, but that sin has extended to our entire being.
The unsaved person is powerless to save himself, according to verse 6. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel. See Mark 4:11 and John 6:44.
My pastor in Lubbock used to call this "Total Inability." His favorite saying was that we have a total inability to do anything for ourselves in the spiritual realm. The man without a relationship with God will never come into this relationship without God's making him alive through Christ. Read Ephesians 2:1-5.
This is a demonstration of God’s love. He loved us when we were not lovely. We should also follow his example. Anyone can love the attractive, lovely people. Christians need to love the other kind of people.
5:9-11 (Saved From Wrath)
Paul argues from lesser to greater here. If God has justified us through the blood of Christ, he will save us from God’s wrath. Punishment for sin is not an option for the one who believes. He truly is “saved” from hell and punishment for sin. The believer will here the Kings say “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (See Matthew 25:34.)
5:12-14 (Adam’s Legacy)
Notice that this argument of Paul presupposes the truth of Genesis 2 and 3. Adam and Eve were real people and the events of Genesis were real to Paul. In Genesis 2:17, God told Adam and Eve if they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would die. In Genesis 3:19, God told them their bodies would return to the dust, or ground, meaning their physical bodies would die. In Genesis 3:22-24, God drove Man from the Garden, separating him from fellowship with God and from the source of eternal life.
God interacted with Adam as an individual and as a representative of all humanity. Sin came into the world because Adam sinned. Death came into the world because Adam sinned. Paul said death came to all men because all sinned, meaning all sinned in Adam, or Adam’s sin was imputed to all mankind. In Ezekiel 18:4, God reiterated the principle that the one who sins will die.
You might say, but I thought sin came from breaking the law, but Paul answers that by saying sin was in the world before the law was given, as evidenced by the fact that death existed from Adam to Moses.
This is the concept of “original sin”. After Adam, no man or woman was born innocent. All were born with a sin nature, all were born sinners. David acknowledged this concept in Psalm 51:5. He said “Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” The actual term “original sin” is not in the Bible. It was used by Augustine. Augustine had a great debate with a man named Pelagius, who believed men and women were born neutral, neither good or bad, but with the capacity to do either. Augustine’s position won the day, but the debate resurfaced many times and rages today. Augustine affected both Luther and Calvin greatly.
We sin because we are sinners, because we have a sin nature. Solomon acknowledged this in his prayer to dedicate the Temple in 1 Kings 8:46. He said “…for there is no one who does not sin…” 1 John 1:8-10 says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”
The concept of original sin, of total depravity, also affects the idea of free will.
But sin was not taken into account before the law came, according to verse 13.
Adam is a type of Christ. That is what is meant in verse 14 by “Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come”. He was a type, or pattern, in that he represented the rest of mankind, and his actions had consequences for all of mankind.
5:15-19 (Contrasting Adam And Christ)
Verse 14 made a comparison between Adam and Christ, but these verses observe the contrast. Paul speaks of the contrast between the trespass (Adam) and the gift (Christ). The trespass brought death to mankind. Verse 16 says the trespass brought judgment and condemnation.
In contrast, God’s grace and the gift of salvation brought justification. Verse 17 says that those who receive God’s grace and gift of righteousness will reign in life through Christ. John 1:12-13 tells us that those who receive Him, who believe on his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Another contrast is that death came through the disobedience of Adam, but life came from the obedience of Christ.
5:20-21 (Law & Grace)
Now that Paul has explained that justification comes through faith and not observing the law, he answers the question: why was the law given? Paul said the law was “added”. (The NKJV reads “entered”, Calvin reads “intervened”, and Luther reads “entered”). What was it added to? It was added to God’s dealings with man, such as his covenant with Abraham, that through him God would bless all nations through him, and Abraham’s belief, that was credited to him as righteousness.
Years later, God added the law. He did this through Moses, after he redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt. He added the law so that the trespass might increase. That is, God set forth his standards of righteousness so men and women could understand what they are and they cannot attain them.
It also means that the law was added to exacerbate our plight as sinners, because, once we know the law, we want to disobey it. Paul will demonstrate this in himself in chapter 7. But we all have experienced that desire to do something we have been told not to do.
I personally hate signs that tell me what I cannot do. I saw a cartoon once. It showed a man standing on the sidewalk talking to his wife. There was a sign next to him that said “Do not run with scissors”. He told his wife “suddenly I have the strangest urge to run down the street with scissors”. There was also a song that said “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign; blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the signs?” (The Five Man Electrical Band, 1971, written by Les Emmerson). This is the rebellious nature that resides in mankind.
Notice it does not say God added the law so that we could be saved by observing it.
Paul then points out that, although sin increases with the law, grace increases along with it and even surpasses it in the sacrifice of Christ. Sin did not reach a level where God would not let Christ propitiate it.
This point resonated in Paul’s personal life. He saw himself as a great sinner because of his persecution of the church before his conversion. He describes this in 1 Timothy 1:12-17. God’s grace was so great that Paul was not only given salvation, but allowed to become a minister of the gospel. His experience of grace led him to the praise of verse 17.
Finally, we know that, just as sin brought death to mankind, grace brought us eternal life.