NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson I)
Verse 1: Having been made right with God because of our faith, we now have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul leaves no doubt that reconciliation with God can only be achieved through faith. No matter how good a person may claim to be, they can never do more with their good works, than what Christ Jesus did on the cross. Paul knew that the Scriptures said: “Look at the proud: inwardly he is not living right, but those who do live right will attain life through trusting faithfulness.”1 Jesus also made it clear that faith must be activated: “Yes, indeed! I tell you that whoever hears what I am saying and trusts the One who sent me has eternal life.”2 So it is no surprise that Paul went out on his missionary journey with this message: “Brothers, understand what we are telling you. You can have forgiveness of your sins through this Jesus. The Law of Moses can not free you from your sins. But you can be made right with God if you believe in Jesus.”3
This opening verse provides a connection between what the Apostle Paul said in the first four chapters and what he will present in these next three chapters. The knowledge of having such a secure faith in a faithful Savior becomes the basis for peace in one’s heart that all is well with their soul. But peace is more than a feeling, it is the opposite of enmity. When peace is negotiated between warring nations of this world, it is merely an agreement to cease hostilities and curtail the fighting. It separates enemies by way of mutual consent in order to harness their aggression. It establishes a “no man’s land” to keep them apart. In some communities, contentious residents attempt to establish peace with a neighbor by building a fence, or simply ignoring them, leaving them alone and not speaking to them. But the peace that God gives encompasses us, but most of all fills us. His love also draws us to Him in harmony; not separating us to maintain order. In my book on Transforming Love, I describe peace as, “Love that is Secure.”4
We don’t have to fight for God’s peace; it is ours through Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace. In other words, the peace that Christ came to give all who believe, does not keep individuals boxed up and stacked neatly side by side to make things look orderly. Rather, He came to free us from those boxes designed to keep our anger, hate, and enmity in check. We are made a new creation where our spiritual nature is now ruled by the One who sits on the throne of our heart. Paul described it to the believers in Philippi this way: “Then God’s shalom, passing all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with the Messiah Yeshua.”5 Therefore, peace is the result of faith. It is more than just agreeing to certain rules that hold’s off God’s judgment, it is trusting those rules God’s issued by living in obedience to what He says we should do.6
Several early church scholars give their views on what Paul is teaching here. Ambrosiaster shares his thoughts: “Faith gives us peace with God, not the law. For it reconciles us to God by taking away those sins which had made us God’s enemies. And because the Lord Jesus is the minister of this grace, it is through Him that we have peace with God. Faith is greater than the law because the law is our doing, whereas faith belongs to God. Furthermore, the law is concerned with our present life, whereas faith is concerned with eternal life. But whoever does not think this way about Christ, as he ought to, will not be able to obtain the rewards of faith, because he does not hold the truth in faith.”7
Then, early church pulpiteer Chrysostom preaches: “What does it mean to have peace? Some say that it means we should not fall out with one another because of disagreements over the law. But it seems to me that he is speaking much more about our current behavior.… Paul means here that we should stop sinning and not go back to the way we used to live, for that is to make war with God. How is this possible? Paul says that not only is it possible, it is also reasonable. For if God reconciled us to Himself when we were in open warfare with Him, it is surely reasonable that we should be able to remain in a state of reconciliation.”8
Early church scholar Pelagius states: “Paul has discussed the point that nobody is justified by works, but all are justified by faith, and he has proven this by the example of Abraham, of whom the Jews claim to be the only children. He has also explained why neither race nor circumcision makes people children of Abraham but only faith because Abraham was initially justified by faith alone. Now, having concluded this argument, Paul urges both Jews and Gentiles to live at peace, because no one is saved by his own merit, but everyone is saved in the same way, by God’s grace.”9
Bishop Theodoret of Cyr follows with this: “Faith has given you forgiveness of sins and made you spotless and righteous by the washing of regeneration. Therefore, you ought to keep the peace by which you have been united with God. For when you were still enemies, the only begotten Son of God reconciled you by taking on human flesh and putting sin to death in it.”10 However, Origen sees this from a different perspective: “If you ask me how a righteous man can have peace when he is attacked by the devil, who conquers his wars of temptation, I would say that such a man has greater peace than anyone else.… For the Apostle says that we have peace with God knowing full well that war against the devil is a guarantee of peace with God. We shall have even greater peace with God if we continue our active hostility toward the devil and fight against the vices of the flesh. For the Apostle James says: ‘Resist the devil and he will flee from you; draw near to God and he will draw near to you.’11 You see that James too felt that he was getting closer to God by resisting the devil.”12
Reformer John Calvin comments on the peace a believer finds in God through reconciliation. He writes: “Peace means tranquility of conscience, which arises from this, — that it feels itself to be reconciled to God… Peace with God is opposed to the dead security of the flesh, and for this reason, — because the first thing is, that everyone should become awakened as to the account he must render of his life; and no one can stand boldly before God, but he who relies reconciliation by grace; for as long as He is God, all must otherwise tremble in awe [of Him]. And this is the strongest of proofs, that our opponents do nothing with their meaningless idle-talk when they ascribe righteousness to works; for this conclusion of Paul is derived from this fact, — that miserable souls always tremble, except they repose on the grace of Christ.”13
John Bengel says that the term “being justified by faith,” sums up what precedes in Chapter 4. He points to justification as mentioned in 4:25. Therefore, Paul can go on to say we now have peace and rejoice because we are no longer fear His wrath, 5:9, because we are no longer enemies of God, 5:10. Bengel says this is the principal topic of chapters 5-8. Bengel also points out that Paul frequently joins peace with grace, because God by grace embraces us in peace.14
Revivalist Adam Clarke has a similar view: “Before, while sinners, we were in a state of enmity with God, which was sufficiently proved by our rebellion against his authority, and our transgression of his laws; but now, being reconciled, we have peace with God. Before, while under a sense of the guilt of sin, we had nothing but terror and dismay in our own consciences; now, having our sin forgiven, we have peace in our hearts, feeling that all our guilt is taken away. Peace is generally the first-fruits of our justification.”15
Robert Haldane speaks to the phrase, “justified by faith.” He states: “This expression is concise; faith must be understood as inclusive of its object. This is very usual in all cases where the thing difficultly expressed is frequently spoken of, and therefore sufficiently explained by the precise expression. It is not by faith, abstractly considered, that we are justified, nor even by faith in everything that God reveals. It is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even this phrase itself, namely, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is still cryptic and supposes the knowledge of what is to be believed with respect to Christ. It is not believing in His existence, but believing on Him as revealed in the Scriptures, in His person and work. In the same manner, as we have the phrase, ‘justified by faith,’ we have the phrase, justified by the blood of Christ. As, in the former case, faith implies its object, so, in the latter, it is implied that we are justified by faith in the blood of Christ. The blood of Christ justifies by being the object of belief and of trust.”16 In other words, faith must have an object, and that object must have the solution for that which is believed in or hoped for.
Albert Barnes notes that the sinner regards God as his enemy. He trembles when he thinks of His Law; fears His judgments; is alarmed when he thinks of hell. His bosom is a stranger to peace. This has been felt in all lands, alike under the thunders of the Law of Sinai among the Jews; in the pagan world; and in lands where the gospel is preached. It is the effect of an alarmed and troubled conscience. However, the plan of salvation by Christ reveals God as willing to be reconciled. He is ready to pardon and to be at peace. If the sinner repents and believes, God can now consistently forgive him, and admit him to favor. It is, therefore, a plan by which the mind of God and of the sinner can become reconciled, or united in feeling and in purpose. The obstacles on the part of God to reconciliation, arising from His justice and Law, have been removed, and He is now willing to make peace. The obstacles on the part of the sinner, arising from his sin, his rebellion, and his conscious guilt, may be taken away, and he can now regard God as his friend.17
1 Habakkuk 2:4 – Complete Jewish Bible
2 John 5:24 – Complete Jewish Bible
3 Acts of the Apostles 13:38-39; Cf. Galatians 2:16
4 Transforming Love: An In-Depth Study of the Fruit of the Spirit, by Robert Seyda, Vantage Press, 1984, p. 95
5 Philippians 4:7
6 See Deuteronomy 30:16a
7 Ambrosiaster: On Paul’s Epistles, op. cit., loc. cit.
8 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 9
9 Pelagius: On Romans, lop. cit., loc. cit.
10 Theodoret of Cyr: Letter to the Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
11 James 4:7-8
12 Origen: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
13 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
14 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit, p. 254
15 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
16 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit, p. 185
17 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.