III.1. Romans 5-8. The Accepted Life or the Moral Consequences of Justification.
§ 1. CHAPTER V. 1-11.
The holy confidence of the justified.
Peace is a fundamental spiritual need of the human soul. But the peace that is God's gift comes only through the breaking up of the peace of soul which comes from ignoring God. The Pharisee on the temple steps was at peace when he thanked God that he was not as other men are — at peace in his misplaced pride. The mass of men in heathen Corinth, where St. Paul was writing, were at peace in their sins. And St. Paul has set himself with all his might, as in his preaching generally, so in this particular letter, to break up this false peace of conscience. Like the prophet of old he spurns those who would 'heal the hurt of the daughter of God's people lightly, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace.' Thus he has been arousing the conscience of Gentiles and Jews equally, and forcing upon them the conviction that their present life is a condemned life, under the doom of a righteous God. But when the conviction is driven home, when the wound is fairly recognized and probed, comes in due course the healing remedy. It lies in the recognition of what God really is — of the sort of character which He is manifesting now in His Son Jesus Christ. For behold! wholly apart from any question of what we are or have been, God is found waiting for us with the offer of His love, which is also the power to accomplish what He offers. It is pardon and new life He offers to us. It is for us simply to take Him at His word, and without any delay or reckoning up of accounts, to be acquitted and accepted for righteous simply because we have believed His word.
The secure ground of peace in the soul, therefore, lies in the frank and severe recognition of our own sinfulness, but also, and even more, in looking away from ourselves and simply fixing our whole consideration on the character of God, who in certain acts has shown His good-will toward us, and His power to make His goodwill effectual. All hope for us starts simply from God and His mind of love toward us. 'Not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son.'
Thus we find St. Paul, in the passage we are now to consider, beginning a fresh appeal to believers in Christ on this basis, which he has already made so secure. Seeing, he says, that we have now been accepted simply because we believed, let us enter into that heritage of peace which our Lord Jesus Christ by His redemption has won for us. For what is our present condition? Through His redeeming sacrifice we have received an introduction, at no other cost than that of believing, into a new standing-ground before God, a new state in which the whole atmosphere is one of grace or divine favour. We can therefore enjoy a solid peace in the present based on the sure consideration of the divine goodwill, and we can make it our boast that we have a well-grounded hope of future restoration to that highest fruition of which our nature is capable — fellowship in the divine glory. And while we enjoy these present privileges of ours, let us show that we really value them by making the outward hardships which accompany them a matter of boasting also. For we know that only such hardships, bravely encountered, can give to our characters the quality of steadfastness; and steadfastness through the experience of life makes of us men of approved moral metal; and this process of probation, in which we are tried and not found wanting, again generates hope in us — the same hope in God's love which accompanied the beginning of our justification, only now confirmed in us by our own experience. And this divine hope has nothing treacherous about it. It is grounded on what God has already done. He has already given us His Holy Spirit, and by that gift poured forth His love into our hearts: He would not have done this in order to cheat us at the last.
We can indeed test and measure the mind of God toward us by human comparisons. In our experience of men we might perhaps find some one brave enough even to die for another, if that other was, I do not say merely an upright man, but a good and loveable one. But what is the fact in God's dealings with us? It was when we were sinful and helpless in our sinfulness — no rather, when we were living in flat antagonism to God — that He proved His own pure love toward us by taking advantage of the divine opportunity to give His Son to die for us. And He, thus dying on our behalf, won for us by the shedding of His blood a reconciliation with God, which lay altogether outside anything which our state naturally suggested. Well then, God would not, so to speak, have gone out of His way to make this beginning, unless He had intended to carry the work through, so as finally to save us out from under the divine wrath, or, in other words, into the divine fellowship. Certainly, accepted as we have been in virtue of Christ's blood-shedding, and thus reconciled to God when our natural state was hostility to Him, we can trust Him, now that He has made us His friends, to accomplish our deliverance, not by any further blood-shedding, but by admitting us into the life of Christ risen from death. But, to end where we began, it is not only the hope of a future deliverance that makes us glad. We also make our boast of our present relation and friendship with God through His Son.
Being therefore justified by faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand; and let us rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but let us also rejoice in our tribulations: knowing that tribulation works patience; and patience, probation; and probation, hope: and hope puts not to shame; because the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost which was given to us. For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: for by chance for the good man some one would even dare to die. But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life; and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
1. We feel in this passage, and in those which follow, that a great transition is being accomplished, or has been accomplished, in the argument, we hardly know how: the transition from the thought of our preliminary justification or acceptance with God for Christ's sake, to that of our sanctification, or the life consecrated in Christ: the transition from the thought of Christ's work for us to that of Christ's work in us: from the gift of acquittal to the gift of the Spirit (ver. 5), and the life of the baptized (vi. 3). St. Paul is not conscious of the transition, as modern theologians or Christians acquainted with theological controversy cannot but be, because the two stages are to his mind absolutely inseparable. Those to whom he wrote had like himself come, with whatever of struggle, to believe in Christ; believing, they had been baptized into Christ, and had received by the laying on of hands the gift of the Holy Ghost. This fellowship in Christ's life, this possession of the Spirit, constituted Christianity. To enjoy these things was to be a Christian. The idea of a Christianity which stopped short of incorporation into Christ, or which claimed this incorporation outside His body which is the Church, and apart from the visible sacramental means of union, did not occur to St. Paul. A Christianity which did not own allegiance to the Church was not in question. But his entire present aim is to convince the heart and reason of Christians that the whole privilege of their new 'state of grace' belongs to them simply in virtue of faith. As he asks the Galatians: 'Received you the Spirit,' i.e. did you become Christians, 'by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?' That is his point. They were not made Christians because they had done anything to deserve it. They were simply helpless sinners, and it was the gratuitous mercy of God which looked upon them and provided a means of forgiveness for them, and justified them or set them upon a new basis of acceptance, without any consideration of what they were or had done, purely and simply because He loved them and meant that the mere spectacle of His unmerited love and bounty should inspire their gratitude and win their hearts. Therefore he lays such emphasis on their initial need of forgiveness: on their helplessness to get rid of their own sins: on their dependence for forgiveness on a sacrifice to which they could contribute nothing: on their being justified by simply receiving in trust the offer of God. But the offer when it is listened to is found to consist in forgiveness indeed — but forgiveness as a step toward new life in the body of Christ. Thus what Christ won for man, what becomes available for each man in virtue of believing the message, is here described as 'our introduction' (rather than 'access') 'into this grace wherein we stand' — an introduction into a spiritual region where God's favour is the prevailing atmosphere, or, to use a later phrase, into 'a state of grace'; a district of security out of which, however, men may fall again by deliberate unfaithfulness, as St. Paul warns the Galatians: 'You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you are fallen away from grace.'
And St. Paul's language does not let us suppose that the whole of what he means by our 'salvation' is included in our preliminary acceptance. That is simply our first introduction into a permanent state. Our 'salvation' is here, as elsewhere, spoken of as equivalent to deliverance from wrath in the day of judgement, which means that our whole moral being has become such as can bear the scrutiny of the divine righteousness and the fellowship of the divine glory.
2. Where the Revised Version above reads 'rejoice,' it is important to remember that the word is that used for the illegitimate 'glorying' or 'boasting' of iii. 27 and iv. 2. Christians have something to boast of, but it is not their own; it is God's gift. Therefore they are especially delighted when God's strength is shown in their weakness, and they will more particularly 'boast of their weaknesses' (cf. 2 Cor. xi. 30).
3. St. Paul's argument that the Christian hope is fundamentally trustworthy is based, we may notice, on a twofold appeal. First (ver. 5), he appeals to the gift of the Spirit which at a definite time each Christian received, doubtless by the laying on of hands. This gift is in itself an outpouring of the divine love and an 'earnest' of future glory (2 Cor. i. 22, v. 5). No doubt almost all the Christians had more or less intensely felt the reality of the divine love in the indwelling Spirit. But St. Paul lays stress rather on the fact than on the feeling. Secondly (vers. 6 ff.), he appeals to the great redemptive act of God. God had gone out of His way to make a great sacrifice in order to reconcile us when we were enemies, and therefore may be trusted to carry out the preliminary reconciliation into full spiritual deliverance or salvation by Christ's life. The greater effort carries with it the less.
 Isa. xxviii. 16: 'He that believes shall not be put to shame' (Greek version).
 Gal. v. 4.
 Cf. also p. 310.
 verses 2, 3, 11.
 The tense is an aorist, 'the Holy Ghost which was given' at a definite past moment; not as in the unrevised Bible 'is given.'
From St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Vol. I A Practical Exposition by Charles Gore D.D. Reprinted in 1900. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
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To the Romans, vol I - C. Gore
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