Romans 5: Peace, Something to Rejoice About

It is not surprising that Paul longed to visit Rome and connect with the saints there. There were many versions and visions of the Way that led to salvation and at-one-ment with God. Paul was eager that the believers in Rome heard from his very own lips the good news that he had experienced personally; the redemptive power of salvation visited upon humanity through Jesus the Christ, the provision of grace for all people. Paul was determined that the congregation in Rome was thoroughly grounded in the knowledge of God’s compassion and fully established in the peace and joy of God’s love.

Paul was not naïve: he had grown up in a very sophisticated, urban environment amongst the privileged. He was well aware of how things worked in political and social life, and the things that people did either in ignorance or open defiance of God’s natural and revealed law. Everywhere he looked in the world, he saw corruption and unworthiness. In response, although surrounded by pagan Gentiles and Hellenized Jews, and given an elite education in rhetoric and philosophy, he attached himself to a fastidious arm of the Jewish faith and studied with the most prominent of rabbis. He had pursued his faith zealously, and stood blameless, as people reckon such things, devoted to keeping the Law perfectly as his acceptable offering to God.

Paul had considered himself to be one of God’s champions until an encounter on the Damascus road showed him that he was involved in waging war against the Holy Name he thought he was serving. So Paul also knew about the perils of trusting in even one’s best intentions and most scrupulous actions. But he also learned something else in that life-changing encounter: God’s love towards humans is constant, even when they have set themselves against his purposes.

The first verse of Romans 5 draws on Paul’s personal experience and the deep and amazing truth he learned in the weeks following while cared for by the Christian community. The only thing we have to offer God is our faith in Him, the belief that His love is sufficient to us for all things, even salvation, and that faith brings us peace, joy and hope. To quote Paul, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This was Paul’s amazing news in a nutshell: this was the gospel he wanted to recite to the Romans. We have peace with God. All that is needed is to trust Jesus’ revelation of God’s heart, the Great Heart of the universe in which there is neither a shadow nor turning. God, from the very beginning, loved and blessed humanity, and that love has remained constant no matter what the failing on humanity’s part. We do not need to be afraid, nor feel estranged and alienated, because of our sins, our unworthiness. Yes, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” but God is faithful and can be trusted in his love to heal and restore us. In fact, it was “while we were yet sinners” that Christ “died for us.”

Paul had good news indeed. News worth broadcasting everywhere: Jesus revealed the heart and character of God when he died for us, and we can now stand in a position of grace, rejoicing in hope of what God’s compassion and faithfulness may yet work in us. This peace, this hope, has such power that it can see us through the many and varied tribulations and heartaches of this life. In every situation, we stand to learn more about God’s faithfulness and power to bring us into wholeness and home to Him.

If all this seems too good to be true, that the faithful revelation of Jesus can undo the millennia of human fear and alienation from God, Paul asks us to consider how this state of affairs began. He points us back to the book of Genesis, the story of one person’s (Adam’s) fiasco in the Garden of Eden. His logic is simple: if one man’s doubt and misstep introduced suffering, death, and alienation from God into human experience, why cannot the righteous life and clear revelation of God’s character of another individual (Jesus, God himself in the flesh), work to restore our relationship with God? Jesus answered the questions of who God is (Love) and what he desires for us (abundant life), opening up for us the opportunity to come to God, just as we are, in faith that He will welcome us and give us a future and a hope.

There are those who fixate on the question of the “two men:” Adam and Jesus. They variously wonder if Jesus’ were the second Adam, as Paul pictured him, in what way(s) he was or was not like the first Adam, and what that has to do with our own lives and if that does not mean we should hope/strive for the sinless nature he manifested? For Paul, Jesus was a second Adam in that like the first earthling, he stood at a crossroads and made a decision of whether to trust God or lean into human understanding, and that multitudes would follow and be affected by his choice. Clearly, as disastrous as Adam’s decision was for humanity, in Paul’s eyes, Jesus’ decision was by far the more important: Jesus’ choice to be faithful opened the door of salvation for all people.

In all fairness, it must be noted that Jesus and Adam did not stand on a level playing field when making their decisions. Adam, though also a son of God and made in God’s image, did not know God the way Jesus did. Jesus, unlike Adam, had been part of God from the beginning. Adam was created with the capacity to give and receive love, but he had only practiced loving under ideal conditions. He had never been tested. Nor had he experienced God in any situation other than when he had been in harmony with His will. He did not know whom God was when confronted by disobedience and sin. Thus, we have the story of his attempts to hide from God after the unfortunate incident with the fruit. Despite his daily interaction with God, he could not possibly know God fully.

And Adam certainly did not know the actual meaning of the consequences of sin. He had no idea what he was unleashing into and upon the world when he partook of the forbidden fruit. He was still so naïve that he did not know the difference between knowledge and wisdom, embracing, along with Eve, Satan’s lie that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would make one wise, and they would be like God. He did not trust God, or the course in which God had instructed him, because he did not know God or the universe from an eternal perspective.

Jesus, on the other hand, had been with God through it all: the creation of the universe, the ensnarement of humanity, the pain, the suffering, and the loss. He had been there at the heart of the Universe, first rejoicing and then grieving with God the Father. He knew the nature of the great commandment, and the lesser commandments, and the truth about what sustains and what destroys individuals, communities, and planets. He knew the truth about God and the truth about the universe. And he knew the name and nature of the Destroyer. He was not so easily deceived. While in human form, he bore all the infirmities of humanity, grew, and ached just as any other person, yet he knew the God of love in a way that neither Adam nor any of us since have known Him. He knew whom he served, and why he was making his abode among us, and his clarity provided him with a shield from Satan that Adam did not have. Jesus was able to make peace between humanity and the God from whom they were estranged because he knew God, and could speak with authority for God.

Paul had a great burden for the Roman faithful, a burden that he would carry for us if he were still here today. Now is the time to recognize that all human beings are flawed and sinful, but loved passionately by God. The death sentence that we deserve has been commuted by a God who declared that, “Love is stronger than death.” We have every right to put aside our fear of and alienation from God, who revealed Himself to us through the life and death of Jesus Christ. We have every right to rejoice in God’s glory, His steadfast compassion, and the mercy He has extended towards us. We have every reason to be at peace, no matter what befalls us, for we are always at rest in the heart of God.

Written by Ginger Hanks Harwood, Ph.D.

Image Credit: Photo by NASA on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8380

Justification addresses the ROM 8:7 mindset of humans.
Justification= pardon & reconciliation.

Reconciled parties are not enemies or at war.

Yet humans spend some of the 7000 waking minutes each week wondering, doubting like Adam & Eve did.
“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.” Is 26:3

It also helps to have a conscience void of offense…
Acts 24:16

Ginger…I would suggest that it would help readers/listeners if you would explain and/or reduce/minimize obscure religious lingo. Refer to 1 Cor 14 about lack of edification by those who don’t understand teaching/words.

Since SDA are continuing the justification topic…
Are we saved only by the blood of Jesus as some say/teach?
Why do we need Christ’s righteousness credited to our account then?
Then the cross is not enough?

What else do we need to be saved? Paul mentions grace, hope , belief, confess, Holy Spirit. James mentions implanted word. Peter mentions baptism, Jude mentions fear…

SDA are so focused on Sabbath, state of the dead, IJ, eschatology, WO, Ted Wilson that they don’t even know how one is saved…THE BASICS!

There is so much eisegesis going on instead of exegesis that who can blame any Laodocean SDA member who begs…“What is truth?”

Absolutely, The advantage was Adam’s. A Manger was no Garden of Eden. Adam had immediate access to God. Jesus to a carpenter.

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I believe that the section of Paul’s letter to the Romans centring on chapter 5 may be the most important passage in the entire Bible. Yet, it is also one of the most misunderstood. Theologians and translators down through the years have struggled trying to understand what Paul is saying (particularly 5:12 and its implications).

Paul mentions such essential topics as: the effect of Adam’s sin on humanity, the reasons Christ is called the Last Adam, what was accomplished for humanity on the cross, how we can be at peace with God, and the difference between conciliation and reconciliation.

If you are open to a different view then I urge you to please take the time to study the following chapter from a book written about Romans. It helped change my understanding of the depth of God’s love and the abundance of His grace toward us:

https://www.gods-kingdom-ministries.net/teachings/books/pauls-epistle-to-the-saints-in-rome-book-1/chapter-7-the-love-of-god/

I find the argument that Jesus and Adam did not stand on a level playing field, that Jesus had an advantage over Adam in the battle with Satan, in short, false.

In plain and simple language Spirit of Prophecy, if we heed her words, explains in the opening few pages of Patriarchs and Prophets (pp52, 53 especially) that Our first parents were not left without a warning of the danger that threatened them. Heavenly messengers opened to them the history of Satan’s fall and his plots for their destruction, unfolding more fully the nature of the divine government, which the prince of evil was trying to overthrow. …

In Desire of Ages (p19) EGW explains, Jesus might have remained at the Father’s side. He might have retained the glory of heaven, and the homage of the angels. But He chose to give back the scepter into the Father’s hands, and to step down from the throne of the universe …

That in itself, must have been a temptations for Christ to leave mankind to his/her fate. But then we read further from pages 36, 37, the condition of the world into which Jesus came (was born) The deception of sin had reached its height. All the agencies for depraving the souls of men had been put in operation. …Satanic agencies were incorporated with men. The bodies of human beings, made for the dwelling place of God, had become the habitation of demons. The senses, the nerves, the passions, the organs of men, were worked by supernatural agencies in the indulgence of the vilest lust. The very stamp of demons was impressed upon the countenances of men. … Sin had become a science, and vice was consecrated as a part of religion.

To me Scripture seems quite simple. Jesus succeeded where Adam failed. Nothing but one equal with Adam would quell (silence or extinguish) the accusations of Satan. Hence we can be sure of Paul’s assurance to the Hebrews, we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Praise God for the assurance of salvation available because of God’s grace and His solution to the sin problem, Jesus Christ. But there’s more: It’s freely available to all who will accept it by faith.

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The entire speculative line of thought about Jesus’ human nature and situation in comparison to Adam’s has nothing to do with the actual text of Romans 5. Neither does it have any relevance, I believe, to Paul’s intention in writing to the Roman churches, nor to the situation in those churches to which he wrote.

Paul is making the case throughout the letter that Jews and Gentiles are in solidarity before God, first in their enslavement to the power of sin, and secondly in their being counted as equal members of the covenant people of God, through faith in Christ alone. This is why he continually makes the point that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, no distinction between the circumcised and the uncircumcised, and that God is the one God of both Jews and Gentiles, equally. To reduce Romans to a treatise on how individuals get saved is to miss the whole point of the letter.

Chapters 4 and 5 need to be read in this light. In Chapter 4, Paul shows that both Jews and Gentiles find the prototype of their belonging to God in the faith of Abraham. He was counted by God as his friend, right with him, by his faith…while he was uncircumcised. He thus became the father of both the uncircumcised and circumcised, IOW, of Jews as Jews, and Gentiles as Gentiles, who also put their faith in Jesus alone. This was totally separate from the Law, the Law having no bearing on the covenant status and belonging of those who joined up with the Messiah Jesus and his people.

Chapter 5 then reaches further back into the OT, showing that human solidarity in sin can be traced back to Adam. The power of sin and death entered the world, enslaving all through Adam and his sin. The law, introduced through Moses, did nothing to solve the situation, simply turning sin into counted transgression. But the dilemma that Adam unleashed upon all people, again implying Jew and Gentile, was solved through Christ’s death and resurrection. This gift and reign of grace totally reversed the reign of sin and death, condemnation, and alienation from God brought in by Adam’s act, instead bringing righteousness, reconciliation, and life, through the act of the one man, the Messiah Jesus. The point again is that this is counted equally to everyone who has faith, joining up with Jesus alone, regardless of whether they were circumcised or uncircumcised, living under The Torah or apart from the Torah, Jew or Gentile.

All of the above is in keeping with the entire thread of the letter. Paul was writing to a community of believers in Rome who were mixed, Jewish and Gentile. A community that seemed divided on issues of lifestyle, on the role of the Law in the life of the church and in determining covenant belonging, and that seemed to be claiming priority status over one another before God that was inevitably affecting their fellowship in Christ.

Paul’s aim throughout the letter, was to point them to their common origins in the legacy of Adam’s sin, Abraham’s faith, and finally in Christ’s redemption, to drive home the point that there is no difference between them in God’s eyes. He builds this theme all the way to Chapter 15, where he admonishes them finally to “…accept/welcome one another as God in Christ accepts you.”

IOW, the gospel of righteousness by faith alone is meant to not only heal our alienation from God, but to heal our alienation from one another. God’s aim was a new creation of a united and diverse people, inaugurated by the new Adam, Christ Jesus. This was, and is, to be the visible reversal in this present age of the legacy of the first Adam, and the broken and divided humanity to which he gave birth. To speculate over Christ’s human nature as opposed to Adam’s, or to reduce the message of Romans to a focus on individual sin and personal salvation, is to miss the power and the beauty of what Paul saw, expressed, and envisioned for the people of God.

Thanks…

Frank

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Frank,

Thanks for bringing us back to the grand focus of Paul’s letter, and his central concerns for the early believers in Rome. Your brief summary of its contents seems to capture the aim and flow of the letter accurately and comprehensively. The only thing I might add, which you may have assumed or implied, is that Jesus’ life of faith was also part of His reversal of sin’s effects, along with His death and resurrection.

Two thumbs up!

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