NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson III)
Early church scholar Origen has this commentary on our access to grace: “How we have access to grace through our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior Himself tells us ‘I am the door,’1 and ‘No one comes to the Father except by me.’2 … This door is the truth, and hypocrites cannot enter in by the door of truth. Again, this door is righteousness, and the unrighteous cannot enter in by it. The Door Himself says: ‘Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart.’3 So neither the ill-natured nor the proud can enter in by the door of humility and gentleness. Therefore, anyone who wants to have access to the grace of God which according to the word of the Apostle comes through our Lord Jesus Christ and in which Paul and those like him claim to stand.”
Origen goes on to say: “Why does Paul talk about the hope of glory and not just about the glory itself? After all, Moses saw the glory of God, and so did the people of Israel when God’s house was built. But this glory, which was visible, the Apostle Paul dared to claim would pass away… whereas the hope here is of a glory which will never pass away. It is the glory mentioned in Hebrews in connection with Christ: ‘He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature.’4”5
I like what Basil the Great had to say about dealing with our troubles: “For those who are well prepared, tribulations are like certain foods and exercises for athletes which lead the contestant on to the inheritance of glory. When we are reviled, we bless; maligned, we entreat; ill-treated, we give thanks; afflicted, we glory in our afflictions.”6 And Pelagius adds his encouragement: “We glory not only in the hope of glory but also in sufferings which are most beneficial, being mindful of the greatness of the reward.7 We should desire to suffer something for the Lord’s name so that when sufferings come to an end we may obtain an eternal reward for them. For when we consider the reward, we cannot possibly begrudge the effort needed to be worthy of the reward.”8
John Calvin observes: “Rightly then does Paul set before our eyes in Christ a sure pledge of God’s favor, that he might more easily draw us away from every confidence in works. And as he teaches us by the word ‘access’, that salvation begins with Christ, he excludes those preparations by which foolish men imagine that they can anticipate God’s mercy.”9 Calvin then goes on to say: “The reason that the hope of a future life exists and dares to exult, is this, — because we rest on God’s favor as on a sure foundation.”10 And it is this sure foundation that allows the believer to meet tribulations with a smile. In Calvin’s mind, this does not mean that believers go out in search of persecution. Rather, “They regard that whatever they bear is dispensed to them for good by the hand of a most indulgent Father, they are justly said to glory: for whenever salvation is promoted, there is every reason for glorying.”11
John Bengel says here that Paul is contrasting the past with the present. Justification is access to grace; peace is the state of continuance in grace, which removes the hostility between man and God. That’s why Paul in his salutations usually joins grace and peace in his greeting. That’s because believers now have a standing with God and so they can rejoice in the hope that they will share in God’s glory.12
Adam Clarke sees this: “We are not only indebted to our Lord Jesus Christ for the free and full pardon which we have received, but our continuance in a justified state depends upon His gracious influence in our hearts, and His intercession before the throne of God… It was only through Christ that we could at first approach God; and it is only through Him that the privilege is continued to us. And this access to God, or introduction to the Divine presence, is to be considered as a lasting privilege… But we glory in tribulations also – All the sufferings we endure for the testimony of our Lord are so sanctified to us by His grace, that they become powerful instruments of increasing our happiness.”13
Robert Haldane explains how believers have access to grace as well as peace: “The one is distinguished from the other. In what, then, do they differ? Peace denotes a particular blessing. Grace implies general blessings, among which peace and all other privileges are included. And as they are justified by means of faith, and have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, so likewise it is through Him that they enter into this state of grace; for it is through Him they have access by one Spirit to the Father, by that new and living way which He has consecrated for them through the veil;14 that is to say, His flesh. They have access to a mercyseat, to which they are invited to come freely; and boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Jesus — boldness to come to the throne of grace, and enter into the holiest by His blood. And as it is by Him they enter into this state of grace, so by Him they stand in it, accepted before God;15 secured, according to His everlasting covenant, that they shall not be cast down; but that they are fixed in this state of perfect acceptance, conferred by sovereign grace, brought into it by unchangeable love, and kept in it by the power of a faithful God. ‘They shall be My people, and I will be their God.’ ‘I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me.’16”17
Albert Barnes talks about the hope and glory of God we have access to by faith in His grace that causes us to rejoice. He writes: “Hope is a complex emotion made up of a desire for an object; and an expectation of obtaining it. Where either of these is lacking, there is no hope. Where they are mingled in improper proportions, there is no peace. But where the desire of obtaining an object is accompanied with an expectation of obtaining it, in proportion to that desire, there exists that peaceful, happy state of mind which we call hope And the Apostle here implies that the Christian has an earnest desire for that glory; and that he has a confident expectation of obtaining it… The word “glory” usually means splendor, magnificence, honor; and the Apostle here refers to that honor and dignity which will be conferred on the redeemed when they are raised up to the full honors of redemption; when they shall triumph in the completion of the work: and be freed from sin, and pain, and tears, and permitted to participate in the full splendors that shall encompass the throne of God in the heavens.”18
Charles Hodge gives his exegesis on this access we have to God. He writes: “This verse has been given different interpretations. According to one view, it introduces a new and higher benefit than peace with God, as the consequence of our justification: ‘We not only have peace, but access (to God), and joyful confidence of salvation.’ Besides other objections to this interpretation, it overlooks the difference between ‘we have’ and ‘we have had,’ rendering both, ‘we have’: ‘We have peace,’ and ‘we have had’ access. This clause, therefore, instead of indicating an additional and higher blessing than the peace spoken of in verse 1, expresses the basis for that peace: ‘We have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom also we have had access into this grace.’”19 He continues to say that considering distress and persecution for Christ’s sake is not irrational or fanatical. He writes: “Christians do not glory in suffering, as such, or for its own sake, but as the Bible teaches: 1. Because they consider it an honor to suffer for Christ. 2. Because they rejoice in being the occasion of manifesting his power in their support and deliverance; and, 3. Because suffering is made the means of their own sanctification and preparation for usefulness here, and for heaven hereafter.”20
Charles Spurgeon wonders if this first verse does not say it all. He answers: “Oh, no! there is more to follow. When you get a hold of one golden link of the blessed chain of grace, it pulls up another, and then another, and then another: ‘By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.’ We are not only at peace with God, but we are permitted to draw near to Him, we have access to Him, we have access to His favor, to His grace. We may come to God when we will; for He is reconciled to us, and we are reconciled to Him, so we may now think of Him with joy and gladness.”21
Spurgeon goes on to say: “This is a golden staircase, justification brings peace, and peace brings access into this grace wherein we are established; and then comes the joy of hope, and that hope fixes its eye on nothing less than the glory of God. Grace is the stepping-stone to glory; and they who are justified by faith shall in due time be glorified by love. So we ascend this golden ladder, from faith to peace, from peace to access with God, and from this to joy by the way of hope. Happy people, who know this blessed way of climbing out of the sorrows of the present into the glory that shall be revealed!”22
Jewish writer David Stern makes this point: “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,23 when we are resurrected. Boasting about oneself24 is excluded;25 the proper content of boasting is God’s work through Yeshua the Messiah.26”27 In other words, seeing all that God went through and all that Christ endured to bring us this peace through grace, let us focus our praise on them instead of bragging about ourselves.
1 John 10:9
2 Ibid. 14:6
3 Matthew 11:29
4 Hebrews 1:3
5 Origen: On Romans, loc. cit.
6 Basil: Homily 16
7 See James 1:2
8 Pelagius: On Romans, loc. cit.
9 John Calvin: On Romans, loc cit.
12 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 255
13 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
14 Meaning through the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies in the Temple, through which the High Priest entered once a year to apply the blood of a sacrifice on the Mercyseat as the atonement for sin.
15 I Peter 5:12
16 Jeremiah 32:38, 40
17 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 186-187
18 Cf. Revelation 21:22-24; 22:5; Isaiah 60:19-20.
19 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
21 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, loc. cit.
23 See 3:23
24 See 1:22; 2:17-21
25 See 3:27; 4:2
26 1 Corinthians 1:31
27 David Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.