Notes from a small group study
Sources: MacArthur Study Bible, NIV, and Romans Verse-by-Verse, by William R. Newell
Romans 5:1-2—Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
The Greek construction in v. 1 indicates one act with permanent or everlasting results: our justification. Literally, the verse begins “…having been justified by faith…” or, alternatively, “…having been declared righteous…” we have peace with God: that is, God has fully judged our sin with Christ as our substitute, for all eternity.
God has fully judged our sin. He is so fully satisfied with Christ’s sacrifice that He will remain satisfied forever, never taking up judgment of our sins again. God is therefore at rest about us forever, however poor our understanding of truth, however weak our walk. God is looking at the blood of Christ and not at our sins. All claims against us were met in Christ’s death, so “we have peace with God.” (From Romans Verse-by-Verse, by William R. Newell.)
In Romans, we come across several terms which bear more explanation: regeneration, justification, and sanctification. (The following discussion of these terms is from MacArthur Study Bible, NIV, pp. 2054-2055.)
Regeneration is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit by which the divine nature is given (John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5). It is instantaneous and is accomplished solely by the power of the Holy Spirit through the word of God (John 5:24), when the repentant sinner, as enabled by the Holy Spirit, responds in faith to God’s provision of salvation. Genuine regeneration is manifested by fruits, as demonstrated in righteous attitudes and conduct. Good works will be the evidence and fruit of regeneration (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 5:17-21; Philippians 2:12; Colossians 3:12-17; 2 Peter 1:4-11). This obedience causes the believers to be increasingly conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Such conformity is climaxed in the believer’s glorification at Christ’s coming (Romans 8:16-17; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 3:2-3).
Justification before God is the act of God (Romans 8:30-33) by which He declares righteous those who, through faith in Christ, repent of their sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Isaiah 55:6-7) and confess Him as sovereign Lord (Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Philippians 2:11). This righteousness is apart from any virtue or work of man (Romans 3:20; 4:6) and involves the placing of our sins on Christ (Colossians 2:4; 1 Peter 2:24) and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us (1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 6:11; 2 Corinthians 5:21). By this means, God is able to “be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
Every believer is sanctified (set apart) unto God by justification and is therefore declared to be holy (sanctified). This sanctification is positional and instantaneous and has to do with the believer’s standing, not his or her present walk or condition (Acts 20:32; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 2:11; 3:1; 10:10, 14; 13:12; 1 Peter 1:2).
There is also by the work of the Holy Spirit a “progressive sanctification” by which the state of the believer is brought closer to the likeness of Christ through obedience to the word of God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. The believer is able to live a life of increasing holiness in conformity to the will of God, becoming more and more like our Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:17, 19; Romans 6:1-22; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4; 5:23).
In this respect, every saved person is involved in a daily conflict—the new creation in Christ doing battle against the flesh—but adequate provision is made for victory through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The struggle nevertheless stays with the believer all through this earthly life and is never completely ended. All claims to attaining perfect sinlessness in this life are unscriptural. The eradication of sin is not possible, but the Holy Spirit does provide for victory over sin (Galatians 5:16-25; Philippians 3:12; Colossians 3:9-10; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 1 John 3:5-9).
Vv. 3-5— Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Some terms in these verses are worth further discussion:
Suffering—this means testing or proving. The term is borrowed from the practice of refining metals by melting them and removing the impurities.
Perseverance—patience or endurance
Character—another term borrowed from metallurgy. Once purified, the metal is said to have character. Literal translation: “approvedness.”
Hope—in the first century, the Greek term “hope” meant the assurance of something that has been promised. When Paul talks about “hope,” he is communicating something that is sure to happen because God has promised it.
We can compare vv. 3-5 to James 1:2-3, a similar passage— Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. The terms “trials” and “testing” are translations of the same Greek term and again allude to the removal of impurities in metallurgy.
No matter how much the world troubles us, no matter the testing and trials we endure, our hope is secure—we have the inward consciousness of God’s love through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Vv. 6-8—You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Verse 8 (But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us) is a radical statement, both in the first century and today. Jesus died for us not because we accept Him and not because we are good or righteous people, but while we were yet sinners—at the time when we were rejecting Him in our sinful condition before we were saved. God’s love for us is unwavering because it is based on His character: He loved us when we were in our most undesirable state with a supreme act of love.
“How much more”
Vv. 9, 10, 15, and 17 feature the same type of comparative—“…how much more…”
V. 9— Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
God has done what we might call the harder thing: He had Christ to die for us while we were still sinners and His enemies…how much more will He see that we shall be saved from the coming wrath through Christ, because we are now believers and counted as righteous in His sight.
V. 10—For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Again, having had Christ to die, how much more shall He see that we share Christ’s risen life forever.
V. 15—But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
Whereas death came through Adam’s sin, how much more has eternal life come to so many through the grace of Jesus Christ. One man brought death; another brought eternal life.
V. 17—For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
V. 17 is a restatement of the “one man-one man” theme. Death reigns in the world through one man, but how much more will those who have been saved through God’s grace live eternally through one man, Jesus Christ.
Vv. 18-19—Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
Vv. 18-19 both repeat points Paul has made before and wants to stress even more strongly. Christ’s death enabled all people to be justified by trusting in Him; one man’s disobedience brought death, while one man’s obedience allows many to be declared righteous (justified).
Vv. 20-21—The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The law made man more aware of his sinful nature and his inability to keep God’s perfect standards, which were defined in the law.
God’s objective is as follows: as death has reigned, so grace now reigns through the declared righteousness (justification) of those who believe and have been justified through Christ.