Sunday, 21 April 2013
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1
Paul begins chapter 5 with “Therefore.” What he has explained throughout chapter 4 is summed up in today’s verse. This includes the following three concepts which are contrary to justification by faith alone. He explains they have no bearing on our declaration of righteousness –
4:1-4:8 – Works where wages are due
4:9-4:12 Circumcision in the flesh
4:13-4:25 Obedience to the law apart from faith
Based on these three topics, Paul proclaimed at the end of the chapter, “It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”
Now, as a result of this, he gives his “therefore.” Having been justified by faith (what has been explained) “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He is writing to saved believers (those having been justified). Because of this, translators and commentators find themselves in a difficult situation. The word translated as “we have” is the Greek word echomen and is explained this way in Vincent’s Word Studies –
“The true reading is ἔχωμεν – let us have; but it is difficult if not impossible to explain it. Godet says: ‘No exegete has been able satisfactorily to account for this imperative suddenly occurring in the midst of a didactic development.’ Some explain as a concessive subjunctive, we may have; but the use of this in independent sentences is doubtful.”
Actually, the difficulty isn’t as great as claimed here. The very premise of what Paul is writing is that our justification before God is one of faith. Paul is of course writing to believers, but he is also writing to skeptics, and unbelievers (his epistles were used as doctrine for anyone to hear). Further, the very premise of his previous words (instruction on what will and won’t lead to justification) implies that there are those addressees who are confused enough to need the instruction in the first place.
Some of them are relying on works; some of them are relying on circumcision; and some of them are relying on obedience to the law apart from faith. Paul has been writing to correct them and therefore “let us have peace with God” is instructing them that this corrective action is required. Faith is a volitional act of the free will. When one comes to the table with the presupposition that man doesn’t have free will to choose Jesus, then of course “let us” would be a confusing thought in the midst of such instruction. But when we realize that God has granted us this right, it follows naturally that we must exercise the very act that has been explained to us.
Therefore – As a result of what has been said.
Having been justified by faith – You came to Christ by faith and were justified by that same faith.
Let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ – 1) (To saved but confused souls) Continue in that faith and don’t fall back on works, telling others that they need to be circumcised, or telling others that obedience to the law is necessary. Instruct them as you have been instructed. 2) (To the unsaved) You now know what will bring reconciliation with God, so have faith in this and don’t attempt to be justified by works in order to obtain this state.
This is fully substantiated by the thoughts laid out in the book of Acts and Galatians. In Acts 15:5 it says –
“But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.'”
And again we read this short account from Paul in Galatians 2:11-16 which involves the apostle Peter, a saved believer who was falling back on the law –
“Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”
Paul’s use of “let us” here in Romans 5:1 is directed toward exactly such people. They were already saved believers, but they weren’t standing on the truth of what saved them in the first place – faith in what Jesus did for them, apart from deeds of the law.
Life application: The Bible is a large book with many difficult issues, but the more we read it and the more we remember what we’ve read, the surer our knowledge of what it proclaims becomes. It is a book without contradiction or confusion. So if we are confused, the problem lies in our understanding of the word, not in the word itself.
My wonderful Lord! I look to You in awe. You created all things by Your wisdom and all things are sustained by Your great power. In You is no shadow or change and from You comes truth, light, and life. Make me a pleasing vessel for Your use and then fill me with Your wisdom and instruction – even until I overflow for the sake of others. Amen.