Peace with God: Most Christians are familiar with Philippians 4:6-7 which tells us about the peace of God. Those two verses envision upsetting situations that come into our lives (like lost of job, illness, death of family member). But this is not the peace that Romans 5:1 is talking about. Romans 5 is not referring to the “peace of God,” but to “peace with God.” The idea here is not that we are upset and therefore need to become trusting and more tranquil, but rather that we have been at war with God and He with us, because of our sin, and that peace has nevertheless been provided for us by God – if we have been justified through faith in Jesus Christ.
What Paul has been saying in the previous section is that God is not at peace with us but is at war with us because of our ungodly and wicked behavior. The word Paul has been using is “wrath” (Rom. 1:18). Having shown what this means and having answered the objections to those who feel that it is an appropriate description of the condition of other people, but not themselves, Paul then reveals what God has done to satisfy His wrath against men in Jesus Christ. The Son bore the Father’s wrath in our place. He died for us, and we receive the benefits of His atonement by believing on Him and in what He has done. This is the point at which the fourth chapter of Romans ended.
Standing in Grace: In Romans 5:2, we come to a second benefit. There are a number of very important words in this verse: access, faith, grace, and stand. But these can be used in different ways, and it’s not easy to see how they all go together in this sentence. So we will attempt to define each one: (1) Grace. Grace is usually defined as “God’s unmerited favor,” and that is sometimes rightly strengthened to read “God’s favor to those who actually deserve the opposite. But this is not the meaning of the word here. Here Paul prefaces it with “this.” “This grace!” “This” indicates that he has a specific grace in mind. It specifically means that, while we were previously “under the law and wrath,” we are now “under grace” because we stand before God as justified men and women – if we have been justified through the faith in Jesus Christ. (2) Faith. Faith also has a variety of meanings. But since here the word is linked to “grace” in this sentence and since this grace is the grace of justification, the faith referred to here is the faith in Jesus Christ by which we are justified. (3) Access. What Paul is saying here is that we “have had our access into the grace of justification.” Paul uses this past tense to show that justification in which we stand is something that has been accomplished for us and into which we have already entered. We have been justified; therefore we remain justified. We have had our access, and it is because of this that we still have it. (4) Stand. The final key word here in verse 2 is the verb “stand.” By the mercy of God we have been brought into the grace of justification, and that is the grace in which we now have the privilege to stand. Before, we were standing without, as children of wrath. Now we are standing within, not as enemies or even as pardoned criminals, but as sons and daughters of Almighty God.
Hope of Glory: Paul wrote the fifth chapter of Romans to teach those who have been justified by God through faith in Jesus Christ that they are secure in their salvation. We have already seen two initial ways he has done this. He has spoken of the “peace” that has been made between God and ourselves by the work of Christ, and he has spoken of the “access” to God that we have been given as a result of that peace. In the final sentence of verse 2 we come to a third evidence of our security, namely that “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”
“Glory” is one of the richest concepts in the Bible. The meaning of “glory” in early Greek means; “to believe,” ‘to think,” or “to seem,” “to appear,” or “to have appearance of,” in those early stages the word naturally referred to how a thing seems or appears to someone. But as time went on, the word came to be used almost exclusively of a good opinion – it meant “renown,” “reputation,” or “honor” – and finally it meant only the very best opinion of only the very best individuals. When we express high opinions of God what do we do? We “glorify” Him, don’t we? So, in this sense, to “glorify” God, “worship” God, and “praise” God are the same thing. To worship God means to assign Him His true worth.
The meaning of “glory” in Hebrew is a bit different, and to complicate matters a bit more, there are two very distinct ideas. The common Hebrew word for “glory” is kabod. It’s the closest to the Greek word and is therefore usually so translated. Kabod can mean “reputation” or “renown.” The other distinctly Hebrew idea is the Shekinah. This was a visible manifestation of God’s glory, generally understood as light so brilliant as to be unapproachable. This was the glory transferred to the face of Moses as a result of his spent time with God on Mount Sinai (Exod. 34:29-35).
In these verses, seeing the glory of God and seeing the face of God is treated as identical. This means, in the final analysis, that “hope of the glory of God,” the phrase Paul uses in Romans 5:2, is nothing less than the vision of God – the goal of our faith, the climax. So what Paul is telling us is that the boon for which Moses prayed, and for which the saints of the ages have longed for fervently, is to be ours, and it is to be ours because of our gracious justification by the Father. Those who have been justified will see God. Therefore, as Paul wrote elsewhere, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1Cor. 13:12).
There are two more points to unfold fully what Paul is getting at in these verses of Romans. The first is that this glorious culmination of our salvation by God is certain because of Paul’s use of the noun “hope” in our text: “hope of the glory of God.” Today’s use of the word “hope” is rather weak. One dictionary defines it pretty well when it says: “desire with expectation of obtaining what is desired,” listing “trust” and “reliance” as synonyms. But in common speech we usually mean much less than this. We speak of “hoping against hope” or “hoping for the best,” which implies that we are not very hopeful. But this is not what “hope” means in the Bible, and even the dictionary definition falls short of it. In the Bible, “hope” means certainty, and the only reason it is called hope rather than certainty is that we do not possess what is hoped for yet, although we will.
The second point, in 1 John 3:1-3, the apostle is speaking of the return of Jesus Christ and of the fact that when He appears we shall be like Him. He calls this our “hope,” which is an appropriate use of the word, as we have seen. But this is not only something having to do with the future, says John. Hope has a present significance, too (vv. 2-3). It is our hope, or confidence, that we will be like Jesus one day that motivate us to be like Him now. It leads us to live as morally pure a life as possible.
Romans 5:1-2 Reflection Questions:
What are some New Testament Scripture examples of how “hope” is used?
What does it mean to you to “be like Jesus”?
A key phrase in chapter 5 of Romans is “peace with God.” What does peace with God look like as described in verses 1-2?