Paul teaches us of the blessings that come to people when they have invited God into their lives. By thrusting God He makes us righteous because of our faith. Paul uses the word “we” meaning that he and those who have faith are included in these blessings.
In verses 1-2 there are three words that characterize our relationship to God that faith in Jesus Christ makes possible. These three word are peace, access, and hope.
Faith in Jesus Christ makes possible our relationship with God by establishing peace. Paul declares that we are now friends with God. We used to be God’s enemies, (James 4:4) we may have been much like the pagans described in Romans 1:32. We may have been that we were caught up in ritualistic religious practices, as the Jews in Romans 2:1 to 3:20. Both are forms of rebellion against God and deserving of His wrath. Now through our faith in Jesus Christ we have become God’s friends. (Ephesians 2:13-19) The word “peace” here anticipates the introduction of the metaphor of reconciliation in Romans 5:10-11.
Faith in Jesus Christ give access to the grace in which we stand. This grace in which we stand means that nothing can separate us from the love of God. The kings of the world may at time be kind towards their subjects but then they may also stop their kindness when they are no longer pleased by their subjects. God’s love is not short sighted but is eternal and unchanging.
In the Greek the word “introduction” is prosagoge. It was the word that was used to introduce someone to a king. By our faith Jesus prepares the way for our approach to God and to receive His grace. This same idea is used by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. (Ephesians 2:18 Ephesians 3:30)
There is an advantage here between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament of all the people in Israel only the High Priest could enter into the holy of holies and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement. The difference in the New Testament is that Jesus as our High Priest and is our access to the sphere of God’s grace.
Faith in Jesus Christ inspires rejoicing in our hope of sharing in the glory of God. We have the promise that we will have a part in God’s glory, as this is the Christians great hope. The usual use of the word hope is when someone wants something and they hope for it. But they are not sure that they will receive it. There is a difference with the Christian’s hope. God’s word is true and God will do everything He has promised. Mankind was created to have a part in God’s glory. (Isaiah 43:7) Mankind’s glory has been spoiled by sin but the Christian can be sure that one day we will see God’s glory. It is then on that day that we will be changed and have a part in God’s glory. (1 John 3:2)
When we are made to suffer for the sake of Christ we are to be joyful. Our sufferings are because of people’s opposition to our faith in Jesus Christ. We may be mocked, insulted, and attacked. But we should be joyful through these unpleasant times. It is not that we want to suffer but it is for a different reason we are joyful. As we suffer for the sake of Jesus we are sharing what Jesus suffered. By our suffering we prove our sincere faith in Him. The suffering Christ endured resulted in His glory. When we suffer for His sake the result will be our glory also. (Romans 8:17)
Suffering produces good qualities in our character. By suffering we learn courage to continue on in the Christian life. The word used in Greek of character is “dokime” and means that our troubles are like fire. Fire removes the dirt from metal and our troubles become a test for our faith. Through the suffering we may encounter we become stronger and better Christians, as well as our hope for the future.
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;” (Verses 3-4) Observe this sequence that Paul indicated.
- “Tribulation brings about perseverance.” The concept of the translation here is not that of passive endurance but the attitude of enduring to the point of overcoming. One who bears the activity of overcoming the afflictions that threaten to grind him into the dust. These times of tribulations is an opportunity to develop one’s staying power.
- Perseverance builds character. The translation of the word character describes the quality of being approved. This is the same word used of metals whose impurities were purged by fire. Perseverance through our trials burns the dross out of our lives and makes us of approved or tested character.
- Character produces hope. Hope is the final level in our spiritual maturity. The light of our hope burns most brightly in the character that has been developed by the overcoming of many trials. Hope is not a tuition payment but the diploma awarded to those who by the grace of God do well through the test.
There is not much, if anything, in this world which will not bring disappointment. Most of our disappointments come from people either intently or otherwise. We have the assurance that God will never disappoint us. There are two ways in which we can know God’s love.
- We can know the love of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. God is love, (1 John 4:8) and if we abide in Him then He abides in us through His love. (1 John 4:16) If we do not have love, then we are not abiding in God. (1 John 14:7) God’s love will never give up on His children. As Paul wrote, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16)
- The proof of God’s love is the death of His Son Jesus on the cross. God gave Himself through the sacrifice of His Son. While we were unworthy Jesus died for us because of His love for us. (Romans 5:8) We cannot be saved by keeping the law, neither can we be saved by our works or our merger wealth. We can only be saved by accepting the free gift of salvation through the sacrifice made by Christ on the cross. Rarely does a man chose to die for a good man but Christ laid down His life for all men. Our salvation is entirely the result of God’s love.
If now we have been justified by the work of Jesus on the cross we can also be assured that we are also saved from the wrath of God through Him. God’s wrath which has been revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness has now been placed on Jesus as a substitute for the believer upon His name. This should not be difficult to understand as God has made it clear to us. While we were yet enemies of God we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. Much more then God’s great love and goodness is given to us that we can much more then have confidence in Him.
We must be saved from the world, as it is passing away and will be consumed by God’s judgment. (1 John 2:17) We must also be saved from the sinful lust of the flesh as all flesh will perish. And most certainly we must be saved from the wiles of the adversary. Most of all we must be rescued from the righteous wrath of God. “It is a greater work of God to bring men to grace, than, being the state of grace, to bring them to glory; because sin is far more distant from grace than grace is from glory.”(John Trapp)
If God showed such great love towards us when we were enemies, then imagine the blessings He will show towards us now that we have been reconciled. “Not only has the reconciled man confidence that he shall escape God’s wrath, but triumphant confidence – joyful hope in God.” (Alford)
The Christian’s reconciliation to God is not something far off in the future and only a benefit when we die it is a benefit to the Christian in the here and now. No longer does the Christian need fear the wrath of God, as our sins are as far from the east and is the west. (Psalm 103:12) There may be chastisement from a loving Father but never a punishment for our sin. The Father chastises His children to provide correction and guidance.
The point is emphasized that what really matters is what we have received through Jesus. There is nothing that we can do, not works but what has been done for us through Jesus.
Genesis chapter 3, as well as the whole Bible, is regarded as truth. God’s Word is truth. (John 18:37) According to Paul, and Jesus, as He says in Matthew 19:4-6, Adam and Eve were real people and walked upon this earth. What they did has an everlasting effect on the history of the world to this present day. Paul is saying that it is important for us to understand the account of Adam and Eve as it is recorded in Genesis. The truth is not optional and cannot be rejected or allegorized away. The theme here of Paul in chapter 5 is you can’t take away Genesis 3 without taking away the principles of our salvation. “To Paul, Adam was more than a historical individual, the first man; he was also what his name means in Hebrew – ‘humanity.’ The whole of humanity is viewed as having existed at first in Adam.” (Bruce)
Through the fall of Adam and Eve sin entered into the world. Contrary to how some people read the story Adam is the responsible person for the fall, not Eve. Eve was deceived by the serpent but Adam sinned with full knowledge of what he was doing. (1 Timothy 2:14) Through the fall as a result of Adam’s sin death entered the world and spread to all mankind. God had warned Adam that this would be the effect if he ate of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Death has been a present fear for man from that day until the present.
Death then is connected to sin and by this we know that all men are sinners because all men have an appointed time to die. A man without sin is not subjected to death but as everyman is subject to death, even the smallest baby, it is proof that all mankind sinned through Adam.
Some may feel it unjust that man is born into the cause and effect of Adam’s fall to sin so many years ago. Before the fall man’s natural nature was to worship God his creator and to desire fellowship with Him. Adam fell to the temptation of being as God and able to rule himself. Adam who had no knowledge of evil lost the purity of his thoughts by the influx of the knowledge of evil. Adams desire was not only to serve God only but now to serve self. Man became a selfish being rather than a worshipful being and desired to serve himself for worldly gain. The blood which was once pure was now tainted by his lust of the flesh, the lust of his eye, and the pride of life. This rebellion brought the consequences that God had warned, death. Sense that day all man is born with an appointed time to die. Is this fair that we should be born under the curse of sin? Has any of us on our own accord lived a life without sin? No. King David understood this truth as he wrote in Psalm, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)
It is not the law that has brought the wages of sin upon us because sin was in the world long before the law. As a result of sin death has been in the world long before any law as well. The cause of death is not the law but sin. The law came too late to prevent sin from entering into the world, not that it would have, as the law is too weak to have saved man from sin and death. God had given the law to Moses but before Moses sin and death reigned showing that sin is the root long before the law. The wages of sin is death not disobedience to the law. (Romans 6:23) Sin is not just eating forbidden fruit but rebelling against God’s Word. Not all sinned as Adam did but all have rebelled against God’s Word and will for their lives.
Paul also shows Adam as a representation of Jesus. Adam and Jesus were both men without sin from the beginning. Adam and Jesus both accomplished things that would have long term consequences for all of mankind.
Because of Adam’s offence the entire human race suffered the consequence and death reigned in all. Likewise the free gift of Jesus has a consequence for the entire human race as well but in a different way. The free gift of Jesus through the grace of God abounded to the many. Where the work of Adam brought death the work of Jesus brings God’s grace.
Here Paul describes the result of Adam’s rebellion that all man would face judgment and condemnation and death would reign over man. The result of the free gift of Jesus, grace abounded to the many and because their offences were laid upon Him and they could be justified by receiving His righteousness.
We could also view Adam and Jesus as kings with each institution a reign. With Adam death reigned and with Jesus life reigns through Him.
When we are born we identified with Adam in that we are born into sin. Through Jesus we can experience a re-birth in Spirit resulting in justification and the gift of eternal life. This is sometimes referred to as Federal Theology. Under a federal system of government the representative which is chosen speaks for who he represents. Adam speaks for those who he represents and Jesus speaks for those whom He represents. One may object saying that they never chose Adam to represent them but that would not be true. Upon their first sin they chose to be represented by Adam. They were not only born into sin with Adam but chose him by the first individual sin they committed.
The outcome of this election, choosing Adam or Jesus, means everything. If we chose to sin and therefore chose Adam we receive judgment but if we chose Jesus we receive God’s free gift of grace and justification. Man has free will and therefore must make a choice. One cannot say they did not chose Adam by making no choice at all. By refusing to choose Jesus they have chosen Adam, as all men are born into sin. Without making a personal choice a person receives the curse of Adam’s offence. Without choosing Jesus a person cannot receive the benefit of Jesus’ obedience. To receive a free gift one must accept it. It is the nature of God’s free gift of salvation that it must be received on faith and sadly not all will accept it in faith.
Paul again makes the point that by Adam’s disobedience all mankind were made sinners. We choose to be of Adam’s representation when we choose to sin. Paul’s overlying point is that the disobedience of one man made us all sinners that also the work of another man can make many righteous. Each of the two representatives communicates the effect of their work to their followers.
Thus far in this chapter we have learned that the law does not justify us and the law in itself does not make us sinners. Adam fell into sin in the Garden of Eden and since that time on all of mankind are sinners. The question becomes to what purpose does the law serve and to what good is the law? There is a clear purpose to the law and part of that is so “the offence might abound.” The purpose of the law is to make the offences of man clearer in the contrasting view of God’s perfect holy standard. The flaws of a precious stone abound when contrasted with that of a perfect stone. God’s perfect law exposes our imperfections and makes our sin abound. The heart of a man is sinful and the law draws a line that the heart wants to cross over. In this way the law makes sin abound in that it draws many lines between right and wrong that the sinful heart wants to break. The law then makes a man sin more but not because there is something wrong with the law but because there is something deeply wrong with the heart of man.
If sin abounds under the law, then God’s grace abounds all the more through Jesus. It might be expected that if sin abounds all the more then God’s wrath and judgment would also abound all the more. God, a God of love, a God of amazing love, where we might have expected His wrath causes His grace to abound even more. The point to remember is that if God’s grace abound all the more then it is impossible for man to out sin His grace. We cannot out sin God’s grace or sin more than His ability to forgive. Unfortunately all too many reject this truth and reject His grace and forgiveness.
“Sin reigned in death” but God’s grace reigns also. God’s reigning grace is marked by righteousness and eternal life through Jesus Christ. Where sin reigns through death grace reigns through righteousness. Some think that where grace reigns there can be a disregard for righteousness and disregard for the seriousness of sin. This is an incorrect understanding of reigning grace and Paul addresses that thought in Titus. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” (Titus 2:11-12) Grace reigns then through righteousness and grace teaches righteousness.
“Grace reigns to eternal life.” God’s grace not only gives us something but it also takes us somewhere. The concept of eternal life is more than a life that will never end it also holds the idea of a quality of life, a perfect quality of life that God gives to us now not just after we die.
“Grace reigns through Jesus.” In the Kingdom of Heaven we have a King who has all authority and He is King Jesus. (Matthew 28:18) This life of grace is all about Jesus and others and not about self. A life of grace does not look at self as it is given to us by the undeserved favor of God and not given by anything we could do. All of the reasons come through Jesus and none of the reasons come through ourselves. Grace reigns through Jesus not through self.
“Even so grace might reign through righteousness.” Grace is no friend to sin; it is its sworn enemy. “As heat is opposed to cold, and light to darkness, so grace is opposed to sin. Fire and water may as well agree in the same vessel as grace and sin in the same heart.” (Thomas Benton Brooks)