NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson II)
American theologian Barnes goes on to say that the effect of this plan when the sinner embraces it, it is to produce peace in his own mind. He experiences peace; peace which the world cannot give, and which the world cannot take away.1 Usually, in the work of conversion to God, this peace is the first evidence that is felt through a change of heart. Before, the sinner was agitated and troubled. But suddenly, peace and calmness are felt, which was before unknown. The alarm subsides; the heart is calm; the fears die away, like the waves of the ocean after a storm. A sweet tranquility visits the heart – a pure shining light, like the sunbeams that break through the opening clouds after a tempest. The views, the feelings, the desires are changed; and the bosom that was just before filled with agitation and alarm, that regarded God as its enemy, is now at peace with Him.2
Henry Alford states: “The whole passage is declaring the consequences that flow from justification by faith, and does not exhort, but asserts. Nor, would it seem, does the place for exhortation arrive until these consequences have been in the fullest and freest manner realized, – indeed so fully and freely. Being, therefore, justified (‘having been justified:’—it is a past act to the Christian, not like sanctification, an abiding and increasing work) by (as the ground of) faith, let us (believers in Christ) have peace (‘reconciliation;’ the opposite of anger, see Romans 5:9) with (‘in regard to,’) God through (by means of) our Lord Jesus Christ. With regard to the nature of this peace, it is equal to a state of reconciliation, ‘no more condemnation,’ per Romans 8:1.”3
And Charles Hodge shares his understanding: “Paul says this peace is the result of justification by faith. He who relies on his works for justification can have no peace. He can neither remove the displeasure of God nor quiet the apprehension of punishment. Peace is not the result of mere gratuitous forgiveness, but of justification, of a reconciliation founded upon atonement. The enlightened conscience is never satisfied until it sees that God can be just in justifying the ungodly; that sin has been punished, the justice of God satisfied, His law honored and vindicated. It is when he thus sees justice and mercy embracing each other, that the believer has that peace which passes all understanding;4 that sweet quiet of the soul in which deep humility, in view of personal unworthiness, is mingled with the warmest gratitude to that Savior by whose blood God’s justice has been satisfied, and conscience appeased. Hence Paul says we have this peace through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not through ourselves in any way, neither by our own merit nor our own efforts. It is all of grace. It is all through Jesus Christ.”5
Preacher Charles Spurgeon said: “It is a matter of present possession and present enjoyment. Whatever tribulation there may be in the world, ‘we have peace with God.’ Blessed be God for that glorious fact! We may not have peace with all men, though we would seek to have that; but “we have peace with God.”6 Then Frederic Godet adds: “The meaning of Rom 5:1 is as follows: Since, then, we have obtained by means of faith our sentence of justification from God, we find ourselves transferred relatively to Him into a state of peace, which henceforth displaces in our minds the fear of wrath.”7
Then Charles Ellicott puts it this way: “This opening has a wonderful beauty which centers on the Christian idea of peace. After all the gloomy retrospect which fills the preceding chapters, the clouds break, and light steals gently over the scene. Nor is it merely the subsidence of storm, but an ardent and eager hope that now awakens, and looks forward to a glorious future.”8 Ellicott goes on to say that peace is the state of reconciliation with God, with all that blissful sense of composure and harmony which flows from such a condition. ‘Peace’ is the extraordinary legacy bequeathed by Jesus to His disciples;9 it is also the word used, with profound significance, after miracles of healing, accompanied with forgiveness.10
Jewish commentator David Stern offers this on peace with God: “Let us continue to have shalom (peace, integrity, wholeness, health) with God. The textual evidence favors this reading, but some manuscripts read, ‘We have [or: “We continue to have”] shalom with God.’ This descriptive statement is true, but the exhortation fits the context better; for v. 2 exhorts us to boast about the hope of experiencing God’s glory (instead of coming short of it, 3:23) when we are resurrected, and v. 3 exhorts us to boast in our present troubles (see 8:18), because by a roundabout route (verses 3– 4) they lead to the same hope as in v. 2. Boasting about oneself (1:22, 2:17–21) is excluded (3:27, 4:2); the proper content of boasting is God’s work through Yeshua the Messiah.11”12
Verses 2-3a: Through our faith, Christ has brought us into that blessing of God’s grace that we now enjoy. And we are very happy because of the hope we have of sharing God’s exultation. And we are also happy with the troubles we have.
Paul extends the motif where faith now opens the door for us to receive God’s grace. This means that something no person deserves nor can they provide on their own is given to them out of the generosity of God’s heart. Does this mean that God feels sorry for the sinner and bends the rules to accommodate their shortcomings? No! It means that His Son paid a great price to redeem those who were enslaved in sin. So, when they come to Him for salvation His plea to God on their behalf is answered with a “Yes.” All because of God’s love for His Son and what His Son was willing to do for sinners.
Paul shared this truth with the Ephesians: “Yes, through Christ we all have the right to come to the Father by one Spirit.”13 He goes on to tell them: “In Christ, we come before God with freedom and without fear. We can do this because of our faith in Christ.”14 And the writer of Hebrews paints us a beautiful picture to appreciate: “And so, brothers and sisters, we are completely free to enter the Most Holy Place. We can do this without fear because of the blood sacrifice of Jesus. We enter through a new way that Jesus opened for us. It is a living way that leads through the curtain – Christ’s body.”15 So it is clear, there is no other Spirit that can guide us and no other way to receive God’s forgiveness through grace than by way of Jesus Christ.
This grace and peace that comes from God through Jesus Christ to our hearts and minds are not given in passing to be used and then disposed of. Paul points this out to the Galatians: “We have freedom now because Christ made us free. So stand strong in that freedom. Don’t go back into slavery again.”16 Then he tells the Corinthians: “Now, brothers and sisters, I want you to remember the Good News I told you. You received that Good News message, and you continue to base your life on it.”17 And to the Ephesians, he says: “You need to get God’s full armor. Then on the day of evil, you will be able to stand strong. And when you have finished the whole fight, you will still be standing.”18
Then Paul says that all of this will bring us joy. In my book: Transforming Love, I define “joy” as “Love that is Excited.”19 We see this in the patriarch Job’s expression of hope and faith while he is going through the trial of his life. He exclaimed: “I know that there is someone to defend me and that He lives! And in the end, He will stand here on earth and defend me.”20 And David sang about this: “So my heart and soul will be very happy. Even my body will live in safety because you will not leave me in the place of death.”21 And he expressed his gratitude for that blessed assurance in his prayer: “I have done only what is right so I will see your face. And seeing you, I will be fully satisfied.”22
That future hope of joy in God’s glory should produce joy in the present. The possibility for us to experience joy while going through trials and tribulations does not result merely from going through these difficulties for Christ’s sake. Rather, we do so with the assurance that we go through such hardships knowing that one day we will stand and rejoice in God’s glory because He will alleviate any future suffering for all eternity. That may be hard for some to accept because it does not give instant relief to present pain and grief. So look at it this way: any woman who has gone through rigorous exercise and dieting knows the joy that comes when she goes from dress size 12 to 6. Any man who has gone through the same thing knows the proud moment when he buys a size 32 belt to replace the size 44 he’s been using for years. In fact, they both can now see what shoes they’re wearing! Was it worth it? Just ask them. The same goes for when we all get to heaven. Find someone up there who suffered greatly because of their faith in Christ and ask them if they think it was worth it.
Then Paul takes a cue from the Psalmist Asaph who in his song of praise says: “You lead me and give me good advice, and later you will lead me to glory.”23 And the Apostle Paul lays this out for the believers in Corinth: “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And our faces are not covered. We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like Him. This change in us brings more and more glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”24 So rather than living for Christ being seen through the eyes of the law as a burden that we cannot carry, it should be viewed as a celebration of freedom because Christ bore that burden and that leads to rejoicing in the Lord day after day after day.
1 Philemon 4:7; 1 Peter 1:8; John 16:22
2 Barnes: ibid
3 Henry Alford: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 38
4 Philippians 4:7
5 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc, cit.
6 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
7 Frederic Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
8 Charles Ellicott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
9 John 14:27; 16:33
10 Mark 5:34; Luke 7:50
11 1 Corinthians 1:31
12 David H. Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
13 Ephesians 2:18
14 Ibid. 3:12
15 Hebrews 10:19-20
16 Galatians 5:1
17 1 Corinthians 15:1
18 Ephesians 6:13
19 Transforming Love, op. cit., p. 92
20 Job 19:25
21 Psalm 16:9-10
22 Ibid. 17:15
23 Psalm 73:24
24 2 Corinthians 3:17-18