Peace With God (5:1)
Paul begins chapter 5 with a word about the effect that all of chapter 4 implies to us now that we have become children of God. It is important to see the connections that Paul is making from chapter to chapter.
What Paul is describing here is not that we have peace because of God’s presence in our lives. Paul is actually describing the relationship that existed between us, the sinner, and God, the righteous. We were enemies of God. Paul is not mincing words or playing games. What has happening is that the way that God looks at us has changed. John Gill summarizes for us what Paul has down up to this point in the letter:
The apostle having set the doctrine of justification in a clear light, and fully proved that it is not by the works of men, but by the righteousness of God; and having mentioned the several causes of it, proceeds to consider its effects, among which, peace with God stands in the first place… [John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Romans 5:1]
Peace with God is not an incidental reality for the sinner who is now a believer. Peace with God is the wonderful truth and new reality that all have moved from the category of enemy with God to that of sons and daughters of God. We are not longer in danger of hell. Paul is bringing the first four chapters into its finest relief with verse 1.
Adam Clarke in his Commentary on the Bible says this about verse 1 regarding our peace with God:
Before, while sinners, we were in a state of enmity with God, which was sufficiently proved by our rebellion against his authority, and our transgression of his laws; but now, being reconciled, we have peace with God. Before, while under a sense of the guilt of sin, we had nothing but terror and dismay in our own consciences; now, having our sin forgiven, we have peace in our hearts, feeling that all our guilt is taken away. Peace is generally the first-fruits of our justification. [Adam Clark Commentary, Romans 5:1]
The burden of our offense against a holy God has been lifted. This is the very definition of peace with God. To no longer have to fear the judgement of God’s righteous wrath, but rather feel the full measure and expression of His compassionate love, is to have peace with God.
God’s Grace and Love are Ours (5:2-5)
Paul then moves on to say we not only have peace with God because of our relationship with Jesus, but we have much more also. Because we have peace, we have access to grace. We can’t have either peace or grace without Jesus. But there is still more. Having peace with God simply unlocks the door to all that God desires to give to us. One of the benefits of peace with God is that our outlook on what is happening around us changes too. Paul says that we have peace and we have grace so that when tribulations come we see them as opportunities to grow closer to God. These times of trial are God’s means of maturing us into Christ who is our head [Ephesians 4:13-15].
It is not normal to glory, or to be happy in or to boast about difficult times. But when the greatest trouble, the trouble of a lost soul, has been removed all other things appear minor and almost trivial to us. The hymn by Helen H. Lemmel has helped me to make sense of this interesting and difficult passage.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, / Look full in His wonderful face, / And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, / In the light of His glory and grace. [Words & Music: Helen H. Lemmel, 1922]
In 1 Corinthians 4:17-18 Paul says it this way underscoring this new perspective:
17For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. [ESV, emphasis added]
17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. [NIV, emphasis added]
17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. [NLT, emphasis added]
This peace reminds us that we don’t have to lose our joy in tribulation. In difficult times when we know that there is a spiritual and divine purpose for what is happening. We many not always be able to make sense of it, but the reality of our peace with God helps us to trust God through whatever comes our way. Look at how the God’s Word version of Romans 5:3-5 puts it:
But that’s not all. We also brag when we are suffering. We know that suffering creates endurance, endurance creates character, and character creates confidence. We’re not ashamed to have this confidence, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. [Romans 5:3-5, God’s Word]
Will there continue to be difficult times in the Christian’s life? The answer is a resounding, “Yes.” What the Christian has that the non-believer does not have is that we can see that there is more than meets the eye in our troubles. We can see, as mentioned above [2 Corinthians 4:17-18], that what is before is not all that there is. And we have the Holy Spirit continually reminding us of God’s love in and through or circumstances. We boast not in ourselves, because we know that does no good. We boast in God who is able accomplish what doesn’t seems impossible and which doesn’t make sense in the midst of our difficulties and confusion.
Perspective is helpful, particularly in our faith journey. Are you a half-full or half-empty kind of a person? Consider this story:
The Right Perspective:
When Goliath came against the Israelites, the soldiers all thought, “He’s so big we can never kill him.” David looked at the same giant and though, “He’s so big I can’t miss.” [From SermonIllustrations.com, “Perspective“]
The perspective we have determines the course of action we take. If our perspective is not defined by the Word of God as the Holy Spirit instructs we will find ourselves ill-equipped to handle the obstacles that may come. We must learn to have God’s perspective of things. A “God’s-eye” view. We don’t always have to understand what we see. As long as we continue to trust in God to see us through we will be alright.