Romans 5 begins with “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (5:1). Paul goes on to reason that since we have peace here, it will yield hope in the midst of suffering and all other types of good character traits in us since we have the Holy Spirit living within us. He goes on to say that Christ died for us when we were ungodly; how much more, then, shall we live now that we are at peace with Him? He ties this line of thought in with the sin and death wrought through one man, Adam, and compares it with the infinite life we gain through one man, the New Adam, Jesus Christ.
The next chapter argues that those who are saved are under grace instead of the Law, and says that though we experience grace even as sinners, we are not to continue living in sin. We have been “united with Him in a death like His, [and] we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Paul continues to argue that we who were once slaves to sin must consider ourselves dead to sin and slaves to righteousness. As we once presented ourselves to be shackled to sin and death, we must now present ourselves to righteousness and be thoroughly captive there.
Over the years I’ve come across a few studied (though there are many more) of the book of Romans that feature one episode per verse of the book. These episodes are around 45 minutes long and are packed with all the implications of the handful of words written there, and even then, there’s so much more to be said. So how do we interpret these two pivotal and incredible chapters of Romans? Let’s focus on the big picture.
We need to begin Romans 5 by looking at the last verses of Romans 4 which say That is why [Abraham’s] faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification,” (4:22-25). It is these few verses that draw together chapter 4 and lead us to 5:1 which tells us the wonderful news that we have peace with God through faith in Jesus! That is the entire thesis of this chapter and Paul dives right in with all the implications this statement carries. He explains that we now stand in grace, free to rejoice and live in hope of the glory of God! “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance …” What an amazing thing to read! What an amazing truth in which to live. We are not to let this Good News, this Gospel, to sit unattended on the pages of our Bibles but to extract them carefully and tenderly, then carry them around in our hearts each day.
The absolutely awe-some love of God is on full display, “for while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly … but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” If verses such as these do not stir us to adoration of our Saviour, I might suggest that we might not see our own sin and brokenness in its true and honest light. Remember and rejoice that it was the love of God and God alone that brought you to Him, nothing you did or didn’t do – nothing you were or said or accomplished. There is a God, holy and divine, perfect and powerful, and thanks to Him you now are united with Him, reconciled to Him and living in His joy! What matters more than that? What could possibly match the love of God stirring in your heart?
Application and Question:
So now what? How do we respond to this? Well the title of my ESV Bible titles chapter 6 as Dead to Sin, Alive to God – and therein lies our answer. Jesus did not reconcile us for no reason or for us to be cleaned up only to dive back into rebellion, no way! He suffered on your behalf that you might die to your own sin, your own evil nature and take up life on His terms. This is so that you might grow into the person you were meant to be according to His good will; you might put to death the sin that pollutes and corrupts, pushing out joy and grieving the Holy Spirit; you might regard sin in the same hateful way that God sees it and actually live accordingly: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but grace,” (6:12-14).
Righteousness, death to life, grace; what do these things mean to you? So often our nature is to cover up the bad about ourselves, to downplay and sanitize our wickedness. Our shame can threaten to crush us otherwise and our pride feels threatened. Let me suggest that to realize the weight of our own sin and to be boldly opposed to our pride is the best way to sense the wonder and life of the Gospel. Whether or not we realize it, our sin is a burden that will carry us down to the depths, and the only relief from it is Jesus Christ. If we find that our sin is weighing on us and we hear the accuser pointing the finger at us and screaming our guilt or pointing out our flaws, do not be afraid to acknowledge that yes, we are all guilty. You are and so am I. But don’t you dare forget that even while you were at your most wicked, Christ died for you. Don’t you forget that because of Jesus you have peace through Him with God and are nestled safely in Him; that you walk about with the Holy Spirit inside you, God’s precious child.
So yes, we must not become so proud as to forget our sinfulness, but if you find it bearing down on you lately as I so often do, let it be a time to come to Jesus knowing that He began a work in you and will bring it to completion. The sin confessed from the heart and repented of is forgiven, so let us present ourselves to God for righteousness and live in the joy of having peace with God through faith.
Father God, we cannot overstate our gratitude at your wonderful work of salvation! Please soften the hearts of us that have grown hard and warm the spirits of those who have gone cold. Remind us, in our selfish and foolish pride, of our utter need of you and the sanctifying work of your Holy Spirit. Keep us from sin and make your Son the first priority and pleasure in our hearts so that we might be a vibrant example of a people living as slaves to Christ and not to sin. Amen.
Song: Because He Lives - David Crowder Band
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