Paul’s letter to the Romans is a theological masterpiece. It declares the good news that people who are separated from God by sin may be considered righteous in God’s sight and reconciled to him in peace.
A key word in the book of Romans is “justified.” It means to be legally cleared and declared “not guilty,” because of God’s grace. This grace is completely undeserved. It is based, not on anything we might do, but entirely upon what Christ Jesus has done on our behalf.
In the opening chapters of the book, Paul demonstrated that all people everywhere are guilty of sin and subject to sin’s penalty, death. In chapter five, Paul delves deeper into his theme and proves that the death penalty was because of the sin of the first man, Adam. Death was in the world ever after the sin of Adam and its presence is proof that it originated with him. As the head of the human race he transmitted the tendency to sin to all of his descendants. Death is the result.
“Therefore, just as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). If you read Romans 5:12-21 you will see that all people are either “in” Adam, who disobeyed God and brought death into the world, or they are “in” Christ, who obeyed God and brought eternal life. Those who are in Adam are constituted as sinners. Those who are in Christ are declared righteous and given legal standing before God.
Zane Hodges explained it this way: (Jesus) is “the supreme model of obedience to God in a world where the disobedience of the first man wrought the calamitous tragedies of sin and death.” The fact is, because God judged all of the human race because of one man’s (Adam’s) disobedience, he is able to save the human race because of the righteous obedience of one Man (Jesus Christ).
Romans 5:12-21 compare and contrast Jesus and Adam. They represent two humanities, two communities. Those who by natural birth, are in Adam, are justly declared to be sinners by nature. Those who are in Christ by faith are graciously declared to be right with God and accepted. Human solidarity with Adam leads to death. Human solidarity with Christ leads to life, according to Paul.
But read on. To be in Christ is to be justified before God. The first half of Romans five gives us seven extravagant benefits of justification. The first is peace with God. “Therefore since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.1). Peace is the absence of conflict, friendship, acceptance.
The second blessing in Paul’s list is access, or a place to stand before God’s throne of grace. “We have access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (v.2). The third is hope. This is the confident expectation that God’s glory will be revealed to us and in us (v.2). The ability to rejoice in spite of hardship is another fruit of justification. This is the development of Christian character through a mature response to trials (vv. 3-4).
The fifth benefit of justification is the love of God poured into our hearts by his Holy Spirit. The present inward ministry of the Spirit is one proof of God’s love (v. 5) Another is the death of Christ for our sins (vv.6-8). “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v.8).
A sixth benefit of justification is salvation from the future judgment of God. The book of Revelation describes how the wrath of God will come upon the world because of its rebellion against God and rejection of his Son. No true believer will have to suffer the ultimate judgment of God. Our sins were judged and paid for on the cross! “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath though him” (v. 9).
The seventh blessing of justification is reconciliation with God. We who once were far from God, separated from him by our sin, are now able to be brought into close fellowship with him through Christ. “For if, when 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! Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now received reconciliation” (vv. 10-11).
Are you in Christ or in Adam? To be in Christ is to be justified by faith in him. The benefits of justification enumerated here are offered as a free gift. Open your heart in faith to believe the good news that you too may be “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).
Pastor Randy Faulkner