Forum Class #6 October 12, 2003. Romans Chapter 5.
Results of our having been justified: 5:1. Therefore, having been justified [put into a right relationship with God] by faith, we have peace with God [peace with God, not the peace of God, see Philippians 4:6-7] through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2. through whom also we have access [right of entrance] by faith into this grace in which we stand [our standing or position before God], and (we) rejoice in hope of the glory of God [our glorification with Christ, John 17:24]. 3. And not only that, but we also glory [boast] in tribulations [thlipsin, afflictions, pressures], knowing that tribulation produces perseverance [hupomene, patient endurance, "remaining under"]; 4. and perseverance, character [dokimene, tested and proven]; and character, (produces) hope. 5. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. [First mention of "love" in Romans].
Suffering and Hope: Christians all suffer from time to time, in one way or another--sometimes severely. But this is not because we are experiencing God's wrath. God is now our Friend, He is for us not against us. We live in an evil world which is hostile to Christ, so we can expect the same treatment Jesus received. There are no accidents. If we are suffering, there is a reason. It may be corrective discipline from our father, Hebrews 12, so we are made more like Christ. It may be to expose hidden flaws and make us more fruitful and more whole, as with Job. Suffering gives us empathy and compassion for others. Suffering is part of the testing process which products godly character. Any suffering in this life is only "for a short time" compared to eternity. Knowing that God will always be with us we need not despair if we are called to suffer. Hope in the New Testament is a strong word. It means something that is certain to be ours in the future but which we do not presently have in our possession.
God loved us and found us while we were His enemies: 5:6. For when we were still without strength [helpless], in due time [at the right time] Christ died for the ungodly. 7. For scarcely [very rarely] for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8. But God demonstrates [commends] His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
God's Love for Sinners: "I begin with Paul's description of the people God loves and has saved, and I ask you to notice the four powerful words used to portray them, three in the passage we are studying and one additional word in (Romans 5) verse 10. They are "powerless," "ungodly," "sinners," and "enemies." It is important to know that we are all rightly described by each of these words.
Powerless. (asthenes) This word is translated in a variety of ways in our Bible versions: "weak," "helpless," "without strength," "feeble," "sluggish in doing right," and so on. Only the strongest terms will do in this context, since the idea is that, left to ourselves, none of us is able to do even one small thing to please God or achieve salvation. One commentator distinguishes between "conditional impossibilities" and "unconditional impossibilities" in order to show that this kind of inability is truly unconditional.' A conditional impossibility is one in which we are unable to do something unless something else happens. For example, I might find it impossible to repay a loan unless I should suddenly earn a large sum of money. Or I might be unable to accept an invitation to some social event unless a prior commitment is canceled. An unconditional impossibility is one which no possible change in circumstances can alter, and it is this that describes us in our pre-converted state. What specifically were we unable to do? We were unable to understand spiritual things (I Cor. 2:14). We were unable to see the kingdom of God or enter it (John 3:3, 5). We were unable to seek God (Rom, 3:11). Paul elsewhere describes this inability vividly when he says that before God saved us we were "dead in [our] transgressions and sins" (Eph. 2:1). That is, we were no more able to respond to or seek God than a corpse is able to respond to stimuli of any kind.
Ungodly. (asbes) This word conveys the same idea Paul expressed at the beginning of his description of the race in its rebellion against God: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness" (Rom. I: 18). In these verses, "ungodly" and "godlessness" mean not so much that human beings are unlike God (though that is also true), but that in addition they are in a state of fierce opposition to him. God is sovereign, but they oppose him in his sovereignty. They do not want him to rule over them; they want to be free to do as they please. God is holy, and they oppose him in his holiness. This means that they do not accept his righteous and proper moral standards; they do not want their sinful acts and desires to be called into question. God is omniscient, and they oppose him for his omniscience. They are angry that he knows them perfectly, that nothing they think or do is hidden from his sight. They also oppose him for his immutability, since immutability means that God does not change in these or any of his other attributes.
Sinners. (hamartolos) "Sinners" describes those who have fallen short of God's standards, as Romans 3:23 says: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." It means that we have broken God's law and in this sense is probably parallel to the word wickedness in Romans 1:18, which was cited above. "Godlessness" is being opposed to God; that is, to have broken the first table of the law, which tells us that we are to worship and serve God only (cf. Matt- 22:37-38). "Wickedness" means to have broken the second table of the law; we have failed to treat others properly, to have respected them, and to have loved them as we love ourselves (cf. Matt. 22:39).
Enemies. (echthros from echtho, to hate) The final word Paul uses to describe human beings apart from the supernatural work of God in their lives is "enemies," though the word does not appear until verse 10. This summarizes what has been said by the first three terms, but it also goes beyond that. It affirms that not only are we unable to save ourselves, are unlike and opposed to God, and are violators of his law, but we are also opposed to God in the sense that we would attack him and destroy him if we could. Being like Satan in his desires, we would drag God from his throne, cast him to hell and crush him into nothingness-if that were possible-which is what many people actually tried to do when God came among them in the person of Jesus Christ. What a terrible picture of humanity! No wonder the possibility thinkers choose other, more uplifting themes to speak about! Yet it is only against this background that we see the brightness of God's love. "You see," writes Paul, "at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man 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" (vv. 6-8). (Boice, Romans, vol. 2)
Love at the Cross: Any contrast has two sides, of course, and thus far we have looked only at one side. We have looked at the dark side: ourselves. We have seen that God loved us, not when we were lovely people who were seeking him out and trying to obey him, but when we were actually fighting him and were willing to destroy him if we could. That alone makes the measure of God's love very great. However, we may also see the greatness of the love of God by looking at the bright side: God's side. And here we note that God did not merely reach out to give us a helping hand, bestowing what theologians call common grace--sending rain on the just and unjust alike (cf. Matt. 5:45), for instance--but that he actually sent his beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for us. There is a further contrast, too, as Paul brings these great ideas together and compares what God has done in dying for sinners with what human beings might themselves do in certain circumstances. Paul points out that, while a human being might be willing to give his life for a righteous or, better yet, a morally superior woman or man under certain circumstances, Jesus died for us while we were still sinners, which is the precise opposite of being good, or righteous. In his excellent study of this text Donald Grey Barnhouse gives two illustrations of exceptionally great human love. In one story two men were trapped in a mine cave-in, and poisonous gas was escaping. One man had a wife and three children. He also had a gas mask, but his mask had been torn in the underground explosion and he would have perished apart from the act of the man who was trapped with him. This second man took off his own mask and forced it on the man who survived, saying, "You have Mary and the children; they need you. I am alone and can go." When we hear of an act like this, we sense we are on hallowed ground. The other story concerns a tough youngster from the streets of one of our large cities. His sister had been crippled and needed an operation. The operation was provided for her. But after the operation the girl needed a blood transfusion, and the boy, her brother, was asked to volunteer. He was taken to her bedside and watched tight-lipped as a needle was inserted into his vein and blood was fed into his sister's body. When the transfusion was over, the doctor put his arm on the boy's shoulder and told him that he had been very brave. The youngster knew nothing about the nature of a blood transfusion. But the doctor knew even less about the actual bravery of the boy-until the boy looked up at him and asked steadily, "Doc, how long before I croak?" He had gotten the idea that he would have to die to save his sister, and he had thought that he was dying drop by drop as his blood flowed into her veins. But he did it anyway! These stories sober us, because in them we recognize something of the highest human love. Yet, when we read of the love of God in Romans 5, we learn that it was not for those who were close to him or who loved him that Jesus died--but for those who were opposed to God and were his enemies. It is on this basis that God commends his love to us. (Boice)
Our Union with Christ. The Saving works of God are done "in Christ": 5:12. Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned--13. (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, [the whole time period before the Law was given] even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him [Jesus, the Last Adam is the antitype] who was to come. 15. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. [Here we have the picture that all of us were originally in union with Adam but now we have been taken out of the family of the first Adam and made members of the family of the second Adam. We are now in union with Christ. All that God does for us is "in Christ." Adam is the Federal Head of an old race, Jesus is the Federal Head of a new race.] 16. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17. For if by the one man's [Adam's] offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18. Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act [the perfect obedience of Jesus] the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. 20. Moreover the law entered [lit: the law came in alongside of sin] that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, [note: grace is not withheld nor reduced because of sin.] 21. so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Grace, remember, is God's favor towards the undeserving, favor towards people who deserve the exact opposite.]
Apart from the story of his fall, it is remarkable how little is written in the Bible concerning Adam. He was created by God; he was commanded to take dominion over creation; he fell; for him the first blood sacrifice was made. He had several children, the first of whom was a murderer; the second, a type of those who believe and follow Christ; and the third, the progenitor of the race and fulfillment of the promises of God. There is also recorded Adam's age at death-an extremely meager biography. But two stupendous facts make Adam one of the most famous names in history. He was the first man, and he was the first sinner. He dissipated his children's heritage, and we have all been in spiritual poverty ever since. But as we peer at him through the shadows of time we do not judge him too harshly, for we know that he did exactly what we would have done in his place. And, indeed, we can look rather kindly upon Adam, because through him we learn the principle of the one standing for the many. At the cross of Jesus Christ we see that other one also standing for the many. As Adam stood for many and brought death upon all, so our Lord Jesus stood for many and brings life to all who believe. Without question everyone of us is in Adam. Can you look away to Calvary and know that you are in Christ? Having been defiled by the stream that flows from Adam, you can find cleansing only by plunging into the stream that flows from the Lord Jesus Christ dying for us, as head of the new race. (Donald Grey Barnhouse)
From Genesis 4: "all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died. all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years; and he died. all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years; and he died. all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years; and he died.all the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred and ninety-five years; and he died. all the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years; and he died. all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years(Enoch) all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and he died. all the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years; and he died"
From 1 Corinthians 15: "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man [Adam] came death, by Man [Christ] also came the resurrection of the dead. For [just] as [all who are] in Adam all die, even so [all who are] in Christ all shall be made alive.: (15:20-22)
Justification: "Is Etymology Helpful Here? "Justification" is what this great section of Romans (Chapter 5) is all about, and we need to see the passage's force. But before getting into the text, let me mention another reason why some people might be confused about justification and thus misunderstand it-the problem lies with the word's etymology, its linguistic history.
Anyone who knows Latin can tell at a glance that "justification" is constructed out of two Latin words: iustus and facio, facere. The first word is an adjective meaning "just," "equitable," "fair," or "proper." In legal terminology it means "having a right status in reference to a law." We have preserved the Latin term in English words like "just," "justice." and "justify." The second word is a verb; it means "to make" or "to do." We have it in such words as "factory: which is a place where things are made, or "manufacture," which literally means "to make a thing by hand." Putting these two Latin words together, we have a meaning for "justification" that would go something like this: "to make just, right, or equitable." Used of people, this would suggest that they are literally to be made righteous.
But here the etymology of the word justification is misleading to most English speakers. The reason is that "justification" actually refers not to a righteousness attained by or produced in an individual, but to the act of God by which the righteousness of Christ is credited to that person.
The context of Romans 5 is of great help in coming to understand and appreciate this term. You will remember from the list of contrasts I presented earlier that justification is contrasted with condemnation in verse 18: "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men." If this is the contrast, we need to ask what happens when people are "condemned." Does the act of condemnation make them lawbreakers? To use biblical terminology: Does it make them sinners? Or does it merely mean that they are declared to be such? The answer is: It means that they are declared to be sinners. They are lawbreakers already. The act of condemnation merely declares this to be so and subjects them to whatever penalty the law in the case prescribes.
The same idea applies to justification. Even though the etymology would suggest that justification means "to make just or righteous," the term actually means "to declare one to be in a right standing before God's law." In human courts, this might be on the basis of the individual's own personal righteousness. But this can never be the basis in God's court, since no one is truly righteous, as Paul has shown in the preceding chapters. How can God declare us to be righteous, then? Only on the grounds of Jesus' own perfect righteousness imputed to us. That is, we are justified by God by grace alone.
There is another explanation derived from the wording of verse 19. Paul says that on the basis of Adam's one act of disobedience many "were made sinners. " We have already seen how that is to be taken. It does not mean that all were affected by sin and thus became sinning individuals, though that did happen and is true. Rather, here it means that the entire race was declared to be sinful because of Adam's sin. That is why death passed upon all, even upon those (like infants) who died before they had any opportunity to sin. If "the many were made sinners" in that sense, it must be in a corresponding sense that "the many will be made righteous," namely, through the one act of obedience by Jesus Christ." (Boice, Romans, Vol. 2)
Sin and Death: We all sin by nature and by choice. The proof of this is that we all die. Arthur Custance suggests that the genetic defect for original sin is passed down from Adam through the male sperm rather than the female ovum. This is linked of course to the virgin birth of a Savior free from original sin. See his book The Seed of the Women on his web site, http://custance.org/old/seed/.
Class Notes on Romans are on Lambert's Web Site: http://ldolphin.org/romans/
Cassette tapes may be ordered from the bookstore, $3.00 each.
Audio tapes in MP3 format: http://ldolphin.org/audio.html
Ray Stedman's Commentary on Romans: http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/romans2/ (also in audio and video versions)
William Barclay on Romans, http://ldolphin.org/barclay/romans.html
Christianese Lexicon web site, http://lexicon.rail.com/phpLexicon/
Lambert Dolphin | http://ldolphin.org/asstbib.shtml | firstname.lastname@example.org
Romans Class Notes: Index
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| 5 | 6
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| 9 | 10
| 11 | 12
| 13 | 14
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| 17 | 18