NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson VI)
Scottish Bible scholar Robert Haldane shares his insights on why hope should never be the cause of ridicule: “This may mean either that hope will not be disappointed, or that hope will not allow us to be ashamed of its object. Various passages speak of the believer as not being put to shame on the day of final judgment. The expression here is generally interpreted to signify that hope will not be disappointed, but will receive the object of its anticipation. This is an important truth; yet the Apostle may rather be understood as speaking of the usual effect of hope as exemplified in the life of a Christian; and that it is not the future effect of hope in believers, but its present effect, as it is the present effect. Besides, the primary signification of the word in the original is, not to disappoint, but to shame, put to shame, or make ashamed. Paul here evidently speaks of hope as a general principle, which, in every instance, and on all subjects, has this effect ascribed to it. It is its nature, with regard to everything which is its object, to destroy shame, and excite to an open affirmation, and even glorying in it, though it may be a thing of which others may be ashamed, and which is ridiculed by the world.”1
But then Haldane goes on to say this about love being imputed to our hearts: “It is the Holy Ghost who pours out into the heart of the believer a sense of the love of God for him, fully convincing him of it, and witnessing this love to his spirit.2 Here we see that everything in us that is good is the effect of the Spirit of God. Man possesses by nature no holy disposition. The lowest degree of true humility, and godly sorrow for sin, and a sense of the love of God, and consequently our love to God, are not to be found in any of the children of Adam till they are enlightened by the Spirit through the knowledge of the Gospel, nor can they be maintained for one moment in the soul without His sacred influence. Though sinners should hear ten thousand times of the love of God in the gift of His Son, they are never properly affected by it, till the Holy Spirit enters into their hearts, and until love to Him is produced by the truth through the Spirit. Here also we may see the distinct work of the Holy Spirit in the economy of redemption. Each of the persons of the Godhead sustains a peculiar office in the salvation of sinners, and it is the office of the Spirit to convert and sanctify those for whom Christ died.”3
Albert Barnes offers his thoughts on why hope will never make someone feel ashamed: “This hope [we have in God through Christ] will not disappoint, or deceive. When we hope for an object which we do not obtain, we are conscious of disappointment; perhaps sometimes of a feeling of shame. But the Apostle says that the Christian hope is such that it will be fulfilled; it will not disappoint; what we hope for we shall certainly obtain.4 The expression used here is probably taken from Psalm 22:4-5; ‘Our fathers trusted in You, and You saved them. They cried to You and were set free. They trusted in You and were not shamed.’”5
Jewish scholar David Stern comments on the hope that comes with faith in God’s plan of salvation: “This hope does not let us down, literally, ‘… make us ashamed,’6 as we would be if we had a false hope; because God’s love for us (v. 8) has already been poured out in our hearts through the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit), who is fully God,7 and has been given to us in fulfillment of a different promise,8 and thus guarantees that God will also keep this present promise to resurrect us. For additional assurance that God will keep his promises and not let our hope be disappointed.9”10
One thing that many Christians seem to overlook is the fact that when God’s love was diffused into our hearts and minds, it was not solely meant to be used to love Him, but that it was made available for us to love each other. So often we depend on human love to keep fellowship and harmony between us and other believers. That’s why it fails so often. God’s unconditional love was given to us to use as a source of power not only to hold on to Him but to hold fast to each other. Charles Spurgeon explains it this way: “If you have the Holy Ghost given to you, then the love of God fills your nature like a sweet perfume. As when the woman broke the alabaster box, and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment, so, when the Spirit of God comes and brings the broken alabaster of the Savior’s sacrifice, and we feel the love of God poured out among us, what a delightful perfume that is!”11
In one of his sermons, Octavius Winslow was speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit making the soul come alive before conversion so that it could accept the call of God. In consideration of the real nature of the spiritual change, Winslow says it involves passing from death to life,12 becoming a new creature,13 with a divine nature,14 through the new birth,15 that turns us from darkness to light,16 and changes enmity to love.”17 This is only possible, says Winslow, because the love of God is imputed to our hearts18.19
Verse 6: Christ died for us when we were unable to save ourselves. We were sinning against God, but at exactly the right time Christ died for us.
The question here is: Why did Jesus have to die in order to save us? I remember reading about a 24-year-old US Marine named Kyle Carpenter who while serving in Afghanistan in 2010 pounced on a grenade that landed on the rooftop where he and his comrades were positioned in order to save them from being killed. He lost his right eye, suffered a shattered jaw and broke his arm. As a result, he received the Medal of Honor. In the same way, Jesus went to the cross to suffer and die in order to shield sinners from the coming punishment for sin. By willingly giving His life, He made it possible for all those who believe in Him to escape the sentence of death they were living under while at war with God. Sinners can not save themselves. Jesus is the only Savior. In a way, God the Father gave Him heaven’s Medal of Honor by raising Him from death to live forever in heaven by His side. Therefore, all who accept His death for their salvation, receive all the benefits of Christ’s resurrection, they too will go and live with Him and the Father forever. What a champion we have in Jesus.
Such lovingkindness on God’s part and His love for Jerusalem had already been expressed back in Ezekiel’s day. Here is the touching story: “Jerusalem, on the day you were born, there was no one to cut your umbilical cord. No one put salt on you and washed you to make you clean. No one wrapped you in a blanket. No one felt sorry for you or took care of you. On the day you were born, your parents threw you out into the field because no one wanted you. Then I passed by. I saw you lying there, kicking in the blood. You were covered with blood, but I said, ‘Please live!’ Yes, you were covered with blood, but I said, ‘Please live!’ I helped you grow like a plant in the field. You grew and grew.”20
In a similar fashion, that’s how God saw us as we lay wallowing in sin’s quagmire, unable to free ourselves. He wanted us to live. So He sent His Son to rescue us by paying the ransom price demanded by the law. This was Paul’s message to the believers in Ephesus: “In the past, you were spiritually dead because of your sins and the things you did against God. Yes, in the past your lives were full of those sins. You lived the way the world lives, following the ruler of the evil powers that are above the earth… But God is rich in mercy, and He loved us very much. We were spiritually dead because of all we had done against Him. But He gave us new life together with Christ… Yes, it is because we are a part of Christ Jesus that God raised us from death and seated us together with Him in the heavenly places. God did this so that His kindness to us who belong to Christ Jesus would clearly show for all time to come the amazing richness of His grace.”21
This was not an accident, it was a divine plan already designed before the world was created. God is a God of action, not reaction. Paul made this clear to the believers in Galatia: “When the right time came, God sent His Son, who was born from a woman and lived under the law. God did this so that He could buy the freedom of those who were under the law. God’s purpose was to make us His children.”22 And to show that Christ’s sacrifice, death, and resurrection was a well-thought out plan, the writer of Hebrews explains: “If Christ had to offer Himself many times, He would have needed to suffer many times since the time the world was made. But He came to offer Himself only once. And that once is enough for all time.”23
It was also God’s choice, not something He was forced into just to protect His work of creation. Paul told the Thessalonians: “God chooses not to make us suffer His anger. God chose to have us experience salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus died for us so that we can live together with Him.”24 But in order for Him to carry this out, He had His Son die for us while we were still living in sin. That’s what makes God’s plan of salvation so irreplaceable and unmatchable by anything mankind can devise or imagine.
Jewish scholars had long ago tried to demonstrate a similar replacement of the first sinner Adam with the first priest Aaron. We read in their writings: “The appointment of Aaron was a long delayed part of the rehabilitation of the first human being, Adam and his son Kayin (Cain), who had sinned and been expelled from the Garden of Eden on that account. Their sin would have been reason enough for the whole universe that G-d had created to be destroyed, something that would have happened had G-d in His mercy not foreseen that Aaron and his sons during seven consecutive days reminiscent of the seven days of creation would endeavor to complete the rehabilitation process begun after Adam had repented his colossal error.”25 But when writing to the leaders of the church in Rome, Paul put that idea to rest by showing that what Christ did to redeem God’s creation was above and beyond anything Aaron and his sons were able to do. Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews tells us that Christ also became our high priest in the heavenly tabernacle,26 a place Aaron was never allowed to enter to minister.
1 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 189
2 Romans 8:16
3 Robert Haldane: ibid., p. 191
4 See Philemon 1:20
5 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
6 Cf. Psalms 22:6( 5), 25:21( 20))
7 2 Corinthians 3:17–18)
8 Ezekiel 36:27; John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7, 13; Acts of the Apostles 1:8; 2:4
9 See 8: 31–39; 9:1–11:36.
10 David H. Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
11 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
12 John 5:24
13 2 Corinthians5:17
14 2 Peter 1:4
15 John 3:3
16 1 Peter 2:9
17 Colossians 1:21
18 Romans 5:5
19 Octavius Winslow: The Holy Spirit, “An Experimental and Practical View, Sermon View,” under the topic, “The Soul Before Conversion.”
20 Ezekiel 16:4-7
21 Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-7; Cf. Colossians 2:13-15; Titus 3:3-5
22 Galatians 4:4
23 Hebrews 9:26
24 1 Thessalonians 5:9
25 Tzror Hamor: by Rabbi Abraham Saba, Commentary on Leviticus 8:2, pp. 1295-96
26 See Hebrews 4:14-15; 5:1ff