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Romans 5

Here is the sermon I gave on Sunday. We are going through a series on the book of Romans.

Romans 5

This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.

– Martin Luther

Review of chapters 1-4

First, let’s quickly review the first four chapters of Romans:

  1. Men deserve God’s wrath for sin. They have no excuse for turning from God because they can see Him in creation.
  2. Gentiles deserve God’s wrath since they are without excuse – their passing judgment on others and their conscience prove they have a law, which they violate. Also, the Jews deserve God’s wrath since neither the law nor circumcision makes them righteous.
  3. Both Jews and Gentiles are under sin. And both Jews and Gentiles may receive God’s righteous through faith in Christ, as a gift, apart from works.
  4. Paul proves his case with the examples of Abraham and David. Both of them were saved by faith and not works, or even circumcision. God’s promise to Abraham’s descendants applies to all who are of the faith of Abraham, not his physical offspring.

Introduce chapter 5

Remember that the theme of Romans is the righteousness of God. In the first four chapters, Paul has demonstrated that the only way to attain the righteousness of God is by faith in Christ. It has always been by faith. That is the only way for man to be justified.

But Paul hasn’t finished solving the problem he introduced at the beginning of the letter. He said in 1:18:

the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men

That is a present consequence of sin: God gave men over to their sin.

And he said in 2:9:

There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek.

That is a future consequence of sin: God will judge the sinner.

Our problem was not just that we were unrighteous, but we also had all the consequences of that unrighteousness. What are the consequences of justification?

That is what Paul is going to explain in chapter 5: the consequences of justification. Where once we were under God’s wrath in this present life and could only look forward to punishment in eternity, we now have access to grace – both in this present life and for all eternity.

Before chapter 5, when Paul talked about grace, it was only in that it was the means by which we were justified. Now in chapter 5, grace goes beyond justification. Chapter 5 is the first time in Romans that peace is mentioned. Except for Abraham’s hope of children, it’s the first time hope is discussed. It’s the first time the Holy Spirit is mentioned. These are all part of the bounty of salvation.

In 1:16 Paul said that the gospel is the power of God for salvation. But he doesn’t mention the word “salvation” or “saved” again until chapter 5. In chapters 1 through 4, we are justified, but in chapter 5 we’re saved, with all the benefits that encompasses.

So that’s Romans 5 in a nutshell. If anyone is in a rush, you could probably leave now – that’s pretty much all there is to it.

1-2: Peace, Grace and Hope

Let’s start looking at the chapter.

1Therefore…

Paul starts with “therefore”, but we don’t have to look back and review because He immediately tells us to what he is referring.

1Therefore, having been justified by faith

There we have chapters 1-4 summarized in 3 words: “justified by faith”. Having established that foundation, Paul is going to tell us more about what God has done for us.

having been justified by faith, we have peace with God

What is “peace with God”? For starters, peace is the absence of war. Paul has shown that the wrath mentioned in chapter 1 no longer applies because we have been justified. Thus being free from God’s wrath and enmity, we have peace.

But there’s more to it than that. This same word for peace is used in John 14:27 where Jesus says:

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.”

And Philippians 4:7:

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

We don’t just have a positive diplomatic relationship with God, but as Paul explains later in Romans, we’ve been reconciled into God’s very family. His love has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. This is the kind of peace we have through God’s gospel.

we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand

So, Christ has given us not only peace with God, but also introduced us (or gave us access) to grace.

Paul mentioned grace several times back in chapters 3 and 4 referring to its one-time application in justifying us. Now he’s saying that that wasn’t the full extent of our interaction with God’s grace. No, that was just the introduction. When Christ justified us, He gave us access to grace. “This grace in which we stand”. Now we stand in the position of favor with God.

Paul has shown that we’re not just relieved of God’s wrath, but we have true peace with God to comfort us. He has just said that God’s favor was not just a one-time credit, but is a state which we perpetually enjoy. Furthermore it reads:

and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

“Exult” can also be translated rejoice or boast. The same word is used in chapter 2 when describing the Jew who boasts in the Law but doesn’t keep it. It seems like a hard word to translate. Rejoicing doesn’t usually include boasting and boasting doesn’t usually include rejoicing. How can you capture both together? I think the modern day translation would be: woo-hoo! We won the play-offs! Or… I got the job, woo-hoo! Here, the object of our exultation is hope of the glory of God.

What is this “glory of God” for which we hope? For something to be the object of hope in the Bible, it must be something we want, something we don’t yet have, and something we know we will get. The glory of God that meets those criteria is the eternal glory we’ll enjoy when we’re in His glory and are ourselves glorified with Him. Consider 1 Peter 5:10:

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

So, in these first two verses we immediately see some of the benefits of salvation: peace, grace and hope.

3-5: Hope from Tribulation and Love

Then verse 3:

3And not only this…

Ooh ooh, Paul just finished say that we can exult in the hope of a glorious future with God, and now he’s saying “that’s not all”…

3And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations

Wow! Tribulations! That’s grea… Huh? Uh, tribulations? Oh, that’s probably a typo: it’s supposed to say “jubilations”. Is that what you have in your Bible? No?

Tribulations don’t make me feel like exulting, how about you?

This section is about the great benefits of salvation. Knowing that we’re going to be glorified is wonderful. But actually having a God who works in the worst parts of this present life – that’s something to exult in.

OK, so how does God work in the worst times?

We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope

I’ve always gotten snagged on the last step of this series. I can see how tribulation would bring about perseverance. Someone who went through a lot of difficulty would learn to deal with it. It would toughen them up and they’d learn to persevere. And that perseverance would yield a proven character. I’m thinking John Wayne here. He’s been through a lot and he can handle it. Now, how do I get from there to hope? He might hope in himself, but I don’t think that’s what Paul is talking about.

Back up. We went down the wrong path. Let’s try this again. This section is about the benefits of salvation and God’s work in our lives. We start with tribulation. How do we get through that? God’s grace enables us. At each trial, He gives us the strength to persevere. I like to think of perseverance or patience as not just surviving under tribulation, but abiding under His wing.

When God develops perseverance in a believer, it leads to a different kind of proven character: a knowledge that God loves you and cares for you. Someone who has had that practical experience has evidence on which to base one’s hope. “And proven character, hope.” It’s the same hope of future glory, but it has a deeper desire because it has suffered in this world and it has deeper confidence because it knows the God who made the promise.

5And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Consider the Enron employees whose hope of retirement lay in their company stock. That was hope that disappointed. Our hope in God does not disappoint. How do we know? We have the seal of the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit we’ve received God’s love in many ways including the times He’s led us through tribulation. That’s like having your investment in Treasury bonds. Since their inception 75 years ago, the U.S. Government has faithfully paid up on its securities. You can know from experience that you’ll get your money. Only the Holy Spirit is even more faithful than the Treasury department.

So the benefits of salvation include a very practical hope that knows the love of God.

6-8: Demonstration of Love

6For…

Verse 6 starts with “for” because it explains verse 5. Verse 5 claimed that God has poured out his love for us. Now, Paul is going to explain the gospel as an expression of God’s love for us:

6For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.

We were morally helpless; we had no ability to make ourselves righteous. (And apart from Christ, we still don’t.) So, there was a need. And at the time of need is just the right time. Now, that in itself is a great expression of love. But Paul also points out that we were ungodly. We had nothing about us to make Christ want to die for us. Paul explains this further in verse 7:

7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.

This verse has always confused me. Have you ever filled out a survey? Was the quality of service poor, fair, good, or excellent? I imagined that if you had to rate a man, the categories would be something like “evil, fair, good, or righteous”. So if no one would die for a righteous man, why would anyone die for a good man?

Well, perhaps I’ve understood these terms incorrectly. What is a righteous man? We know that none is righteous, no not one. So, why would Paul use that term? I think Paul is using that word the same way Jesus did in Matthew 9:13 when he said,

I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

The righteous man is the one who tithes mint and dill and cummin. He performs the ceremonial washings and always keeps himself pure. We might prefer to call him self-righteous. He’d say “what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine”. He would not go out of his way to help you but he would follow the law.

Would you die for this man? He’s worked so hard to get himself into heaven, I wouldn’t want to get in the way.

Now what about the good man? I think Paul is using the term “good man” the same way Jesus did in Matthew 12:35 when he said,

The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good

The good man is the one who gives you bread when you have none. He comforts you when you grieve. He opens his home and his heart to do good. The good man says, “what’s mine is yours”.

Would you die for this man? Someone might. There is reason to, even if most people would not be selfless enough to actually do it.

How about the ungodly man? – the sinner? The man who scorns God and lives only for himself?

Verse 8:

8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Paul has shown that when God secured our salvation, He demonstrated His great love for us. The benefits of salvation.

9-11: Reconciled and Saved

Verse 9:

9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

To justify the ungodly required great love. Even this, God did. So, if God took us from that state of ungodliness and made us justified, certainly then (or “much more then”) He will complete the work and give us eternal salvation – saving us from everlasting wrath.

Now, verses 9 and 10 have always seemed a bit anticlimactic to me. I was expecting Paul to tell us something new God was going to do for us. But isn’t being justified the same thing as being saved? So, why would he say that if he justified us, he’ll also save us?

When we speak of God’s work of salvation, we generally lump together His cleansing us from our sin with His promise of life eternal. Paul’s explanation of salvation to this point has only covered our justification. Paul is showing how natural it is to expect that the God who would justify us would also glorify us.

And in case we didn’t get it, Paul says it again more explicitly in verse 10:

10For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

If God can reconcile an enemy, certainly he can save a friend.

Paul says we’re reconciled by Christ’s death and saved by His life. I’m not sure whether Paul is actually making a distinction between the results of Christ’s death and of His resurrection, or whether he is just being poetic. If it is in particular Christ’s renewed and glorified life which gives us eternal salvation, that would be in line with Hebrews 7:25 which says:

He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

And verse 11 says:

11And not only this, but we also exult…

Oh wait… there’s the word “woo-hoo” again. [Read with crescendo…]

11And not only this, but we also woo-hoo in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

God has not only justified us; he has saved us eternally. And we exult in him for that.

I see a progression similar to how I exalt in my wife: When we marry, I exult in her promise to care for me. Then, tribulations come and prove that she will be faithful to that promise and I exult in that. But finally, as our love grows, I care less about what she does and I exult in my wife herself rather than what she does.

Verse 2 – we exult in hope of glory.

Verse 3 – we exult in our practical life because God’s love is poured out to give us hope.

And now verse 11 – we exult in God himself: the One who has loved us so much and given us these great benefits of salvation.

12-14: Sin and Death through Adam

For the rest of the chapter, Paul turns our attention to how Christ’s gift affects the entire human race from Adam on down. Verse 12:

12Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned–

Now Paul was about to say, “even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men”. He’s setting up the parallel between Adam and Christ, so that he can explain how thoroughly Christ has solved the problem of sin for mankind.

Depending on your take on the inspiration of Scripture, you may find this be heretical, but I imagine that as Paul got to the end of verse 12, he suddenly realized that he needs to explain that statement “death spread to all men, because all sinned”.

“Wait, wait, Tertius! Did you already write that? Oh, oh well. No, don’t discard it. I’ll come back to that first thought. First I need to explain how death spread to all men.”

Paul is trying to say that through Adam’s sin, death came to all men. Let’s look at verse 12 again:

through one man sin entered into the world

Yep, we follow you so far. First there was no sin, then Adam and Eve sinned. But Paul is only mentioning Adam. Perhaps that’s because Adam held more responsibility. Or perhaps because while Eve was deceived, Adam chose to sin. In either case, the Bible accounts sin as coming through Adam. Got it.

and death through sin

The punishment for sin was death. There are various theories as to why Adam didn’t die that very day. In any case, Adam did eventually die and death was introduced through his sin.

and so death spread to all men

All of Adam’s descendants were also subject to death. But why? [the next phrase]

because all sinned.

Paul seems to anticipate an objection to this: What about those who died before the Law? How did they sin?

So, he digresses into verse 13:

13for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

So, Paul’s holding on to that claim that there was sin before the Law although he admits that there is no way to accuse a person where there is no law. So how does he resolve this? Verse 14:

14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam

The “likeness of the offense of Adam” would be to break a command. Those who lived between Adam and Moses did not have a command to break, nevertheless they suffered the penalty of sin.

Notice that Paul didn’t actually explain why death reigned. He simply stated that it did “nevertheless”. This has given theologians plenty of opportunity for speculation.

I think the most common theory is that Adam, as the federal head of the human race, made the decision of sin for all of us and we all have to suffer the consequence, just as our nation is now paying for the war chosen by our federal head. A common example is that a man at age 40 may be paying for his crime of age 20. Likewise the whole human race must pay for its sin in infancy.

Another theory is that before the law, men were held accountable to the law written on their heart – the law of conscience. Thus, although the Mosaic law was not yet given, there was sin and there was death because men still did what they knew to be wrong, even though it wasn’t sin “in the likeness of the offense of Adam”.

No matter which theory you take, Paul’s point remains. Death spread to all men, because all sinned.

Paul also adds an important point at the end of verse 14, referring to Adam:

who is a type of Him who was to come.

In sinning and bringing death to the human race, Adam foreshadowed Christ.

15-17: A Contrasted Gift through Christ

Of course, Christ’s deed was considerably different from Adam’s:

15But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.

Remember that this chapter is about the benefits of God’s salvation. While death was the result of Adam’s sin, Christ’s gift is not only opposite, but it’s to a greater degree. “Much more did the grace of God… abound”.

Verse 16 is similar:

16And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.

With Adam, one transgression brought condemnation. But Christ’s gift was so much greater. For it didn’t just take care of that one transgression, but it covered the many transgressions, bringing justification to all who would receive it.

Verse 17 has one more example of how Christ’s gift is different but better:

17For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

Under Adam, death reigned over us. But even better (it says “much more”), under Christ we will reign in life. Notice that the contrast is not “death reigns over us” versus “life reigns overs us”. One who “reigns” has freedom and power. The one who is reigned over does not. Not only do we go from death to life, but we also go from being reigned over to reigning. And I believe this refers to both the present age and the one to come.

So, God’s grace is greater, it’s scope is wider, and its result is deeper than the work of Adam. Benefits of salvation.

18-19: A Compared Gift through Christ

Having expanded on his comment about death spreading to all men, and having clarified the typology of Adam with some contrasts, Paul can finally conclude the thought he started in verse 12. Verse 18:

18So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

The correlation between Adam and Christ is that Adam’s sin condemned all while Christ’s death justified all.

That’s the rough idea. If we left it at that people might think that men are condemned because Adam sinned. And they might think that all men are justified. They’d have to ignore the rest of the letter to think that, but it wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened. So, we are grateful that Paul further clarifies with verse 19:

19For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

So, Adam’s sin made all men sinners. And thus verse 18 is able to say that it resulted in condemnation to all men (because all sinned). Likewise, Christ’s obedience will make many righteous: those who receive Him. Thus verse 18 is able to say that Christ’s death brought life to all, for it offered righteousness to all.

One of the repeated points in the book of Romans is that salvation is available to the Gentile as well as to the Jew. In chapters 2 and 3, Paul argued that Jews and Gentiles are subject to similar standards, the Gentile having the law of conscience and the Jew the written law, and both groups are found guilty. In chapter 4, Paul goes back to Abraham to show that men were justified by God before there was the law, or even circumcision. Thus Gentiles have the same requirement for salvation that Abraham had. And now in chapter 5, Paul has gone all the way back to Adam to show that the problem of sin introduced to all mankind has been dealt with for all mankind.

20-21: Post-Law Analysis

Paul has spent a great deal of effort to explain the situation of man from Adam to Moses. Now the Jew exults in the law. “Certainly the law took care of this problem of sin, didn’t it?” Paul addresses this:

20And the law came in that the transgression might increase;

“Oh,” says the Jew. “That’s not what I expected the law to do.”

In 3:20 Paul wrote, “through the law comes the knowledge of sin” and in 4:15, “the Law brings about wrath”. And now, he tells us that it’s actually worse than that: the law increases transgression. If you think it can’t get any worse than that, just wait until chapter 7. Needless to say, the law is not solving our problem – now there’s more sin. Keep reading:

but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

That phrase “abounded all the more” is actually one word in the Greek. It’s /hoop-er-per-is-syoo’-o/. It’s only used a couple times in the New Testament.

/hoop-er’/ is like the prefix “super”. /per-is-syoo’-o/ means abounds or surpasses and is used by itself several dozen times in the Bible. The first is in Matthew 5:20.

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses [/per-is-syoo’-o/ – abounds past] that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Paul took that same word for abounds, added the prefix “super-”, and wrote

but where sin increased, grace super-abounded, 21that as sin reigned in death , even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Woo-hoo!

The benefits of salvation are peace, hope, love, and incredible, super-abounding grace to eternal life. We exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

October 24, 2005 No Comments.

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