We’re in Romans 4 this week, and we’re going to read the text before doing anything else.
[Public Chapter Summary goes here]
It is always useful to recall from where we have come for present context, so a short review is always in order. In chapter 1, after Paul introduces himself, his credentials, and his audience, he begins to speak about the subject that we have now termed in our understanding, RADICAL DEPRAVITY, detailing it in 1:18-32, giving both reasons and examples regarding the terrible and approaching wrath of God.
Chapter 2 becomes a little more specific, addressing a specific target audience – the Jew in their midst – that perhaps had come because of some kind of agreement that Jesus was a man to follow, but still relying on their own Jewish ritual, rite, sign, or even membership of the specific group for their salvation. Paul went on to explain that there is no ritual, rite, sign, place, set of words or actions, or membership of any specific earthly group that has salvific effect. That salvation [soteria] only comes from one source for everyone – from Christ alone, by grace alone through faith alone, as the theologians of the Reformation put it. Romans 3 talks about the straight up gospel, and tells us not only why we need to be saved from that coming wrath, but the hows and the whens and all of that.
Then in Chapter 4. we saw Abraham, the Old Testament example of justification by faith. The chapter discussed in detail that Abraham was not justified by following the Law, which came 430 years after Abraham, or by circumcision, because this covenant was a unilateral covenant that God performed all by Himself before circumcision was ever given as a symbol of the Abrahamic Covenant – and certainly WELL before the Mosaic Covenant.
That brings us to Chapter 5.
I divided the chapter up like this:
KV1: The work of Christ on our behalf
1-5: Peace with God through Jesus Christ
6-11: Justified by His Blood and saved from God’s wrath
12-19: Damning transgression vs. the Free Gift of God
20-21: Sin reigns through death, but grace reigns through Righteousness
I’m just going to jump right in.
KV1: The work of Christ on our behalf
We see in the text that Paul is setting up a comparison of sorts that traces through most of the chapter, and the comparison can best be described as that same dichotomy we encountered in our study of Hebrews. It can be described as Old/New, but also Before/Now, or Already/Not yet because of what theologian George Ladd called inaugurated eschatology. To remind us of what that is, when Jesus was here the first time, He introduced the lifestyle of His coming kingdom, and called His followers to live like it was already here, even though it will finally be established the next time He comes to earth.
To inaugurate that kingdom, he first had to redeem its people, and so He lived a life in perfect obedience to the Law of God, doing what the Father told Him, and then voluntarily gave up that life as a substitutionary sacrifice to pay the price for our own sins on the cross. As a result, He has redeemed us to Himself and we now live according to the rules of His kingdom by His grace, through His faith, for His glory.
1-5: Peace with God through Jesus Christ
As we have already read and heard countless times through our studies previously, before we believe God, we are under condemnation and wrath, a prisoner of our own will that is incapable of choosing what is good or right. It was impossible that we could live a righteous life under the Law of Moses, and even without that covenantal law we were only interested in ourselves, and did not (because we could not) seek after God. What we needed is exactly what Christ has provided.
1: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
- We begin with everyone’s favourite word, “therefore.” In this case what it is “there for” is to join this coming thought with the one immediately previous to this as a conclusion of sorts. Remember in chapter 4 we found that God had not just accounted belief in Him as righteousness to Abraham only, but to all of us who would follow in Abraham’s steps and believe God? In doing so, we have been saved from His wrath, and are now, as verse 1 says, “justified,” or made right by our “faith,” or firm persuasion or opinion that God would provide a Messiah, an anointed one, a Christ for us.
- Because our faith in God justifies us, we now have peace with God, having been saved from His coming wrath through the Lord Jesus Christ. If you like, you can read the word Christ as Messiah, or Anointed one.
2: through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
- Justifying us is not all the Lord Jesus did for us, apparently. I’m not actually sure that we will know everything that the Lord accomplished for us by His selfless sacrifice on the cross until He returns at least, and even then, I really don’t know. He has not only justified us, He has “given us access” (obtained our introduction) into this grace in which we stand. Remember John 10:7? Jesus said, “I am the door!” The door is where one gains access. Anyone trying to get in another way is a thief and a robber.
- Paul here says a mouthful as well – “let us exult” can be said “let us boast.” What is the boast actually in? The hope, or “expectation” of the glory of God. Remember, we use the word hope differently today. To Paul, it was a certain expectation. To us, it most often means an expressed wish, like “I hope the Winnipeg Jets win the Staley Cup.” I pick that one because it doesn’t have great chances this year – I wish it were true, but it really won’t be short of stopping the skid about three months ago.
3: And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
- Now – let’s see what else we can boast about. What? Tribulations? That also means afflictions, anguish, distress, persecution and the like – Yep, we can boast in that. Is it me, or does that seem just a little counterintuitive? Most of the time, these things bring – well, affliction and distress and all the other stuff I mentioned – and that stuff is no pleasure for sure. The good news is that it is endurable because of a very important principle – future expectation – yes, “hope,” as the Apostle used it.
- In the second half of this verse, Paul begins to string together a process that for lack of a better word, I call sanctification. It starts with that trouble that God allows in your life, and as that goes on for you over time, you begin to remain under or patiently endure the trouble. This is the very start of something good.
4: and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
- You see, perseverance is the first step in the process. You must learn to patient and endure the problem rather than trying to run in the opposite direction. And once that particular trouble is finished, it brings about what Paul calls PROVEN character, or worth that is no longer just stated or presumed, but is demonstrated to everyone around you – they see your worth in your trial.
- The next step after that is that proven character leads to hope, the Greek word elpis. Do you recall when we went through 1 Timothy and Titus, when we studied the qualifications for church leadership? What was the most important thing Paul told Timothy about? Anyone remember? I’ll help – it was the character of the leader. At that time, I said that these things were not just things that were reserved for the leaders, but were for every believer to aspire to, but were REQUIRED for leaders. Why? Beloved, it’s because good character gives you a future expectation, that hope the way Paul used the word.
5: and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
- Now – that future expectation will not provide disappointment according to Paul. He even gives the primary reason for it – the love [agape] of God has been “gushed” [literal] into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. This is one of the main characteristics of the people of God, that agape love. It is often manifested as self-giving or self-sacrificing, and is NOT an emotion, but instead is more of a commitment despite emotion. THAT love, the giving, the passion and emotion that can accompany it are to drive us to serve Christ. Sometimes, that involves serving others (actually most often I find that is the case). And John tells us in his first epistle that if you don’t have that love, you are NOT one of the Lord’s people. 1 John 4:7-13 reads, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” Enough said.
- What does it mean that the Holy Spirit is Given to us? Do you remember when Jesus said in John 15 that He would send us the Comforter? It reads in John 15:26, ““When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me…” If we took the time, John 14:26 actually says that the Comforter IS the Holy Spirit, and that it was His job as God to teach us all things.
Having all of these things is a result of the peace [eirene] or “state of well-being” with God that was first earned by the guiltless One taking the place of the guilty (us) on the cross 2000 years ago, give or take a decade or so. After that, He ascended to heaven physically, and then 10 days later sent that Comforter, the Holy Spirit, the day the church was born, that is Pentecost, a poorly understood Jewish celebration known also as the Feast of First Fruits. So what has Paul revealed here? He has spoken of our justification before God in the very first verse, and then described the process of our sanctification in a couple of verses, that is the process by which God makes us holy. Then he says that Jesus also sent us the Holy Spirit that has come to live inside us and teach us all things, and more importantly to fill us with HIS love. What does that mean? You know how I say that I’m not in this for the money? I’m really not. I’m in this because I love men (people in general) and because the Lord has had mercy on me, and has told me to share that mercy with anyone who will listen to me about it. And I really don’t think it matters what that costs me.
6-11: Justified by His Blood and saved from God’s wrath
Now the Lord did all this with perfect timing, as one might expect. If He really is sovereign, and every subatomic particle in the universe is at His command, and His word really is perfect as He states in Psalm 19:7-11 which reads, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward.” Can you see the richness of the poetry of David in describing the Law of God here? It’s truly a blessed study all on its own. Let’s get into it.
6: For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
- This verse reflects a number of things, but to me it reflects best the doctrine of Grace known as Definite Atonement. Without defining it in detail at this point (we will come to it, and I want to be in a better spot to define it), what I will say is that Christ did definitely make atonement for us, who at the time of His atonement, were His stated enemies. And for each one of us (because this whole gospel can be brought onto a personal level), it happened at exactly the right time for each of us.
- It also touches on Radical Depravity a bit. While we were still helpless! We were unable to do anything about it, we were so tainted by sin, and therefore were helpless to save ourselves. Moving on.
7: For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.
- Paul here is making the point that no one will die for someone else. MAYBE an exception might be made for a person of good character that had shown kindness toward someone – maybe someone would die for that person – but nobody would just volunteer for it because they could.
8: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
- However, that is JUST what Christ did. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, demonstrated, or “established” literally His love for us – not while we were devoted friends or followers, but while we were sinners – full-on hated enemies. Well, to be fair, WE did the hating.
9: Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
- And because He shed His own blood on our behalf, Scripture informs us that we have been justified by His blood. Ever wonder about that word “justified?” What it really means? I mean we use it a lot. It is a legal term. It means acquitted. Our sin-debt that we were born with and that we accumulated before God – the thing that stood between us and God, that earned to us His wrath – has been paid for. To use Old Testament terminology, our kinsman-redeemer has paid the price of redemption. Remember the Book of Ruth? It’s a four-chapter leaf between Judges and 1 Samuel. It is the place in Scripture that best explains the Kinsman-Redeemer. Naomi and her husband and two sons fled to the land of Moab because of a severe famine in Israel. While there, her sons grew up and married, and then her husband died, and worse, so did her two sons. She returned home to Israel with Ruth, her daughter-in-law who had become a believer in Yahweh. It turns out Naomi was related to a man named Boaz, and he as a near relative had the ability to “buy back” her family estate from any debts it had occurred. There was a closer relative that had the right, but chose to pass on it, and instead Boaz bought it back for Naomi, and even married Ruth as a Levarite bride (I think that’s the term).
- That redemption bought us back to our owner for lack of a better term, that being Yahweh, our creator. And because of that “particular redemption,” we are saved from the Wrath of God through Him. And yes, that was a very high-level pun. Wink, wink.
10: For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
- The death of Christ while we were enemies paid for our sins before God. That reconciliation of our account, so to speak, is the reason that His resurrection – His life – will save us from the wrath of God. This is not a mysterious phenomenon that cannot be explained. This is a specific act that saved us all. We do not need to be initiates of some strange cult to understand this, it is simple and straight-forward. Jesus died for our sins. God raised Him to life to show us that we could be saved by accepting His sacrifice on our behalf. There is no “secret knowledge” or other ritual that can gain this – God gave it to everyone who believes as a gift! The only thing that will keep you from it is your pride.
11: And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
- Along with this salvation from wrath, says Paul, comes exultation in God – which you will remember is another way of saying that we can boast in God that He has done it, and not we ourselves, as it says in Psalm 100:3.
You see, while we were enemies, Jesus willingly and knowingly died to pay the price of redemption for our sorry selves. We were not friends of his, or at the time even His followers, but He died in our place to pay the price for our sinning. He removed the debt and set us free, and in the process bought us for Himself, so that we may now escape that terrifying and coming wrath of God upon all those who will not believe in Him. And more, it is for this reason that we may boast about how mighty and how intelligent is our God.
12-19: Damning transgression vs. the Free Gift of God
Here is where we start to see a comparison of sorts between what damns an individual and what redeems a person before God. It is a genuine case of what it was like before, what happened, and what it is like now for us. I know that sounds like it’s from Alcoholics Anonymous, but let’s face it, they got it somewhere. Let’s have a look.
12: Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
- As with every other story or explanation, we have to begin where things start, and that is here. Through one man, sin entered the world. What? How? Right? Genesis 3:6 – “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” We are all doubtless familiar with the story of Adam and Eve, and this is the very moment of their disobedience. One thing I saw here was that Adam was there the whole time. He knew what was going on, he knew what the truth was, and he could have and should have stopped this well before it got to where it got. See the phrase, “she gave also to her husband with her?” He was there all along. The woman was tricked by the devil in the form of the serpent, but Adam knew. The sin was his, and for that reason, sin entered the world. When sin came, death came as well. And then after expulsion from the garden, they passed all of that on to all of their children. It is like genes – although this is more than just genetics at work – there is a spiritual aspect and quality to this.
13: for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
- Sin was in the world before the Law was ever given. It was visible right away in Cain in his desire to rebel against God and do things on his own as opposed to offering a living sacrifice – that’s right, Cain tried to offer God roughage and fruit and vegetables.
- You see, even without the law, death operated with impunity, giving humanity its wages – what we have earned for ourselves – death and wrath, without the compounding of the seriousness of sin under the Law, the standard that shows sin for what it is.
14: Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
- There are a number of things here. First, death came because of sin, and everyone from Adam to Moses (except Enoch) died, and no one sinned like Adam did.
- Second, Adam is a type of Him who was to come – who is that? Hint, the H in Him is capitalized. It refers to God the Son, Jesus.
- Finally, clearly the transgression brought death to humans, and to every one of us since time began for us as sinners.
15: But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
- Did you get that? The free gift is not like the transgression. That could mean a few things, but it does mean that it may not impact all people. Adam’s sin does. Not sure about what that means unless this is referencing sovereign election. Oh, wait, Paul clarifies! (yes, I am a smart-aleck – hahaha)
- You see, by the transgression – “the many” died. It literally means many, it does NOT mean “all people.” but the greater news here is that by the grace of God and the gift (of faith by grace) by the grace of the one Man Jesus Christ abound to “the many.” Same group. We will see this more clearly in Romans 8, but I think this is an actual nod at Sovereign Election and Definite Atonement, right here in the text.
16: The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.
- Do you see? The latter reverses the former. From the first, we incurred judgement – death, the sentence of the original disobedience – but from the second, that free gift, His dying in our place for us while we were sinners, or a synonym, transgressors, resulted in justification, that is being set right before God.
17: For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
- Wait – read that again. [read again, I’m serious] Look, it’s clear in scripture that by the sin of one that death reigned. We know, we just looked at it. If that is true, and we know it is, then much more, those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness (the unmerited favour and His death on our behalf) will “reign in life” through Jesus Christ!
- What – reign in life? What does that mean? That word for reign is basileou, and literally means to be the ruler, the king, the shah, the president, the head honcho! The word life is zoe, and it means life in the sense that God has life, life in the absolute sense. It is the life that the Father has in Himself, that He gave to the Son to have in Himself (which by the way he had while He was in the world). We became alienated to that life because of the fall, that first transgression. BUT! Through Christ’s sacrifice for us, we become partakers through faith In Jesus Christ! The life that we were separated from by the fall, we regain if we will by grace through faith in Christ believe that God has redeemed us! All in Jesus Christ, who is our Lord and our God, the One who has restored us again to His life as a free gift if all we will do is accept that fact in humility! O Amazing Love! How can it be, that Thou, my God hast died for me? And how can we do anything other than break into glorious doxology when presented with this?
18: So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
- “So then” indicates conclusion of sorts, or a summation in this case – one sin killed us all and condemned us to wrath, but one act of righteousness resulted in justification that gives life to, literally, all kinds of men. To say “all men” would make us universalists, and we already know that not all men will be saved, because not all men HAVE been saved. Or are you going to tell me that men like Hitler, Stalin, and Chairman Mao are in Heaven with Christ? No, beloved, men like that are how we know things like hell actually exist.
19: For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
- I know it sounds like this is repetition, but it is not. There is a shade of meaning here. The last verse talks about the consequence, but this verse talks about the deed that caused the consequence. The transgression that caused the condemnation was the disobedience of one man, specifically Adam if you’ve been keeping score. The other side of the dichotomy? You guessed it, the obedience of the One, that is Jesus, The obedience we have been talking about all along – the death of Christ on the cross.
That is the comparison in summary. Adam, a type of the One to come, disobeyed and death began to reign because of sin entering the world. Jesus, elsewhere called the second Adam, obeyed though He died, and restored that life to men if they will believe.
20-21: Sin reigns through death, but grace reigns through Righteousness
This brings us to the last couple of verses, which I made a final but short and summative paragraph or thought unit. Why? All of the above was happening without the Mosaic Law, that great standard meant to tell us what is right and what is not. The Law added another variable to the equation as it were, in that it was a multiplier. Let me explain.
20: The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
- The actual purpose of the Law being given was so that the transgression, that is the specific acts of disobedience in total, would increase, perhaps so that wrath would also increase, or so that God could display His other attributes, but key here by presentation is this – where the sin increased in both number and intensity, His grace abounded all the more. And that word for abounded is one of Paul’s “hyper-abounded” references that he is so known for. Sin and death were growing exponentially with the introduction of the Law to man – but grace literally “super-over-abounded.” Why?
21: so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- You see? John was right. Speaking of Jesus, he said in John 1:4-5, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” The word for life in that passage from John is the same as from this chapter, zoe. That life was the light of men, and it shined in the darkness that surrounds us all, and the darkness did not katalambano it, that is, did not lay ahold of it, could not grasp it, did not understand it, could not comprehend it, did not overpower it because it did not know how. And that life, that Jesus willingly and knowingly gave up was returned to Him when the Father raised Him from the dead – and He has shared it with all those who will believe! So that even as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So there is what Chapter 5 says to me. The story is as old as the human race, and is still being written today with each new person that believes the gospel, the good news of death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When sin entered the world, death came with it, and reigned from Adam to Moses without the Law, and then grew exponentially with its introduction. God obviously foresaw all of this, and built into His eternal plan that His Son would die for those He selected for His own reasons from the offending race to secure their eternal salvation by justifying them, by sanctifying them, and ultimately by glorifying them like He already has done for His Son and those already with Him in the heavens.
My practical application starts with this thought – we have NO idea who those chosen individuals are, and so it is our sacred charge to present this good news to everyone without exception at every opportunity because God has told us to do so. If you need a text for that, how about Matthew 28:18-20? Or Mark 16:15? This should be our overriding concern, regardless of what people will say in response to us, regardless of what it may cost us personally, or what people will say about us. It may cost us everything we have, but we don’t do this for the money, we do it because we love men, and we want to see them saved the same way we have been. Friends, that’s what it means.
That’s what we should be doing about this. And that’s chapter 5.