Faith: access to God’s grace and peace. Rejoice in sufferings. God demonstrates His love for us. Reconciliation with God. Saved by Christ’s life. Death spreads to all. The Gift by the Grace of God. The reigns of sin vs. grace.
Having the sin nature inherited from Adam and Eve, all of us had fallen short of God's glory, therefore we became separated from God, and hence His enemy. But God had provided a way for us to be restored to our former glory so we may be reconciled to Him. The way of salvation has been opened to us when Jesus died on the cross, became a payment to restore us to the position that we had lost. Through faith in the great price that Christ had paid we may be reconciled to God. Now we stand firm in such gracious gift. We stand firm in believing in God who is faithful, not in our limitted human strength. If there is any reason for us to rejoice, or to boast, it is because of the hope in eternal life, not in the blessings of this physical life.
Rejoice in sufferings
3Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance, character, and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
How can I interpret what Paul is trying to communicate here? Some might take this as there is some value in suffering, like some self-imposed suffering as part of their atttaining a higher level of perfection, of sanctification. Or might it be that Paul is warning us that there might be suffering ahead, being right with God doesn’t mean we might be spared the sufferings that is part of fallen humanity? The difference is only in how the hope of God’s glory will carry us through the dark days. So there appears to be two popular errors concerning suffering, or its antithesis blessing (if it is indeed an antithesis). Self-imposed suffering is discounted by Colossians 2:20-23, while blessing as a sign of being on the right side with God is a false assumption against countless Scriptures that say otherwise.
Therefore sufferings, that most Christians will have to endure, might be allowed by God for a time through which we cannot help but draw deeper into the wellspring of God’s love, a time when we might be bombarded with questions of God’s faithfulness, our righteousness in Christ, a time when our empathy for others is developed as we too endure the same sufferings as them, a time when the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ grow deep in us as they can ever be.
The love of God as it is poured out in our hearts gives us the reason, the ability, the power, to rejoice in sufferings, to keep hoping for the day of God’s glory. But I venture to bring in some other passages concerning the amazing power of God’s love that is weaved through many beautiful hymns that lift our spirit to the heavenly places. Perfect love cast out fears, relief from the fear of God’s wrath leads to relief from many fears in regard to life’s troubles (1 John 4:18). The Spirit filled our hearts with God’s love so we can overcome our fears and call Him “Abba,” or daddy (Romans 8:15). For God so loved the world … (John 3:16). And then the following verses that continue with the theme of God’s love.
God’s love for us
6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7(For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) 8But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.(Romans 5:6-8)
There is an old hymn titled I Gave My Life for Thee that goes something like this: “I gave my life for thee, My precious blood I shed. That thou might’st ransomed be, and quickened from the dead. I gave, I gave my life for thee. What hast thou done for me?” This hymn used to be sung at our church every communion Sunday, and the last part of the lyrics always gave me the creep. What has thou done for me? I was helpless then, and I’m still helpless now. Christ died for me, he gave me a priceless gift, what am I supposed to give back, from my extreme helplessness and ungodliness? The only reason I’m godly now is because Christ has imparted upon me his godliness which I never deserved. In and of myself what can I give? Whatever I try to give back to God will be like a homeless trying to give back to me his cardboard for the sleeping bag I gave him; yet this comparison falls far short of what Christ gave me. Since there is nothing I can give back to God, except for what He gave me which is already his, is this hymn trying to provoke in me a guilt that should have been gone thanks to Christ’s sacrifice? No, this hymn is a disgrace especially for communion Sunday.
These verses of Romans 5:6-8 show the great chasm between God and Man, they direct our attention away from depraved men to gracious God and his love toward undeserving sinners. It is a great relief that Scripture considers us as such, it allows us to see us as we really are, but with wide open arms like the father of the prodigal son waiting for him from afar. It allows the warmth of God’s light to shine in the dark places of our hearts not to expose us to shame, but to cast it away. It’s a relief that God accepts us as we are. Had the father of the prodigal son said this to him upon his drawing near: “What hast thou done for me?” Had God said this to you? Aren’t you glad He didn’t?
Reconciliation with God. Saved by Christ’s life
9Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God’s wrath. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? 11Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation. (Romans 5:9-11)
There is much that can be written about this topic of reconciliation, especially with God. I’m sure all of us have experienced the peace and joy that were felt when loved ones reconciled after a time of a rift in a relationship. So it must be with God and Man.
But being reconciled with God is only the beginning, we were saved by his death on the cross, now comes the part that has eluded me for a long time, we’re also saved by his life. We were saved by his death, and then how much more we will still be saved by his life. What is the implication of this? Salvation doesn’t end at the cross, it continues on until the day we meet God. Jesus didn’t just pick me up from the ocean of despair then drop in the desert of self-help, of see-if-you-can-make-it-to-the-end. No, we’re saved by his life, the life with the same power that breathed life into that lump of clay that was Adam. From this point on, I can live a life of trust, not of using external laws to guide my relationship with God, but of Him living in me (Colossians 1:27), the power of God Almighty that will carry me through to the end. That is the reason for the joy that wells up inside when the Life makes His abode in my heart.
Death spread to all
12So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned— 13for before the law was given, sin was in the world, but there is no accounting for sin when there is no law. 14Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed. (Romans 5:12-14)
According to verse 13, when there is no law, there is no accounting for sin, yet death entered the world since the time of Adam, a long time before God gave the Law to the Jews. Paul is alluding to a more universal law that reign in man’s heart since the Fall, it is this law, the knowledge of good and evil, that condemns them day and night, and makes them spiritually dead just as God had said (Genesis 2:17).
The Gift by the Grace of God
15But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many! 16And the gift is not like the one who sinned. For judgment, resulting from the one transgression, led to condemnation, but the gracious gift from the many failures led to justification. 17For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ! 18Consequently, just as condemnation for all people came through one transgression, so too through the one righteous act came righteousness leading to life for all people. 19For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:15-19)
All died through the transgression of one man, but by another all may live. Notice what stands between the first Adam and the second, namely Jesus Christ, between death and life, the precious few words that make it all possible for our redemption. Can you see? Notice these words: GIFT and GRACE. What part do we play to get from death to life? Nothing. Nothing except it’s God’s grace and his precious gift of his Son. How do we receive this gift? God gives us the only way, very straight and very narrow: to believe in the One God has sent (John 6:28-29). Jesus’ obedience is to go to the cross, and our obedience is to believe in him and receive this gift of life.
The reigns of sin vs. grace
20Now the law came in so that the transgression may increase, but where sin increased, grace multiplied all the more, 21so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21)
Transgression increased as the law came in to keep accounting of it, and because it removes ambiguity about what is sin and what is not (Romans 7:7). It helps the self-righteous see their depravity to the point they realize they need God’s grace and mercies; therefore grace multiplied all the more. All those that are out of Christ, are under sin and spiritually dead; in this realm, sin rules. But those that are under grace, sin has no dominion over them. In this realm of the spiritually alive, grace reigns. Need I say anymore about the role of the law here?
- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen
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