Romans 5:15-17 Three Great Contrasts

 

The paragraph to which we come now, Romans 5:15-17, is one in which Paul develops the differences between our being in Adam and our being in Christ. Paul’s point in verses 13 and 14 is that we were condemned by reason of our union with Adam, just as we have now been saved by virtue of our union with Jesus Christ. It is an important and great similarity. In verses 13 and 14 he has explained how we have “sinned in Adam.” In verses 15-17 he digresses further to explain how union with Christ is greater in its nature and effects than our original union with Adam. This study is called “Three Great Contrasts,” because of the way Paul sets out his contrasts in our verses we are studying here (vv. 15-17).

Of these three verses, the hardest to understand is verse 15, because it is least explicit. In what way is the gift of salvation in Christ not like the trespass? In what sense is the gift much more? Or, what particular contrast, the unique idea, that verse 15 introduces? The contrast is found in the first key word Paul uses, after having said that “the gift is not like the trespass.” It’s the word died. The sin of Adam brought death. It brought death to all. By contrast, the gift of God brought life to many. We must not be misled by the word “many.” When Paul writes of “the many” who died because of Adam’s transgression, he means just that: the many who died in Adam, that is, all persons. And when he writes of “the many” to whom the gift of life overflows, he also means many, for surely “many” are being saved. So what is the contrast? It’s between death, which has come upon all because of Adam, and life, which has been given to every believer in Christ.

Verse 16 carries the contrast between the effects of Adam’s sin and the effects of God’s work in Christ further, pointing out that “the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. It was hard for us to see the contrast in verse 15; however this is not true of verse 16. Here the contrast is found between the “one sin” that brought condemnation, that is, the sin of Adam in eating the forbidden tree, and the “many trespasses,” which Adam and all who followed him have committed but which are atoned for by the blood of Jesus Christ. Since Christ died for such a vast accumulation of sins, is it any wonder that Paul marvels in Romans 5 how “judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.”

The third and final great contrast is in verse 17. The key to understanding this verse is to emphasize the word abundant in the phrase “God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness,” and the thought that those who have been thus abundantly blessed are enabled to reign in life now through Jesus. To put it simply, the work of Christ in dying for us did not merely restore us to the position in which Adam stood before the fall, but rather carries us beyond that. So what does the phrase “reigning in life” refer to? It means that by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion and empowering of the Holy Spirit, we are victorious now. In this way, the gift of God in Christ far surpasses the effects of Adam’s and all other transgressions.

Now we must look at just one word: grace. “Grace” occurs five times in this passage, three times in verses 15-17, which we are particularly studying here, and twice more in verses 20 and 21. In these verses Paul says that grace is of God and that it comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s free, triumphant, and overflowing. What is grace? It’s God’s favor toward the undeserving. Grace lies behind the plan of salvation, but it is also what brings that salvation to us individually and effectively. Despite all this, there are today in most of our churches probably only a small percentage of people who really believe in grace, much less appreciate it. They pay lip service to grace; they know we are “saved by grace” apart from our own good works. But there they stop. If they were to tell the truth, most would probably say that they find the topic of “grace” boring.

If we have come to this point having understood what has been taught earlier, we know what grace is and are prepared to marvel at it, as Paul himself does in this section. I want you to see the subject of grace in its broadest context, showing how the grace of God operates. There are five main categories: (1) Electing grace. As soon as we see that grace really is apart from any possible merit in its object, we understand that God is utterly sovereign in His choices. The grace of God, like God Himself, is before all other things. It is from grace that all good comes. (2) Pursuing grace. The God of grace has been called “The Hound of Heaven,” who pursues rebellious man. We may think at times that we have sought God. But as we grow in grace and increasingly learn the nature of our own sinful hearts, we discover that we have sought Him only because He first sought us. (3) Pardoning grace. This is the very core of salvation. We are more accustomed to speak of this core as justification by faith, but that is only convenient theological shorthand. What we mean when we speak of justification by faith is justification by the grace of God through faith, according to which we are moved from the status of a condemned criminal awaiting a terrible sentence to that of an heir awaiting a fabulous inheritance. (4) Persevering grace. The Christian life is not passive on our part. We are active in it. When Christ calls us we come running. But notice: We persevere because He perseveres. We endure to the end because the grace of God preserves us. It’s absurd to suppose that we are able to keep ourselves in grace even for a single moment. If it were up to us, in the final analysis all would be lost. Grace has brought us to where we are now, and that same grace, persevering grace, will lead us to glory. (5) Saving grace. Although salvation is usually thought of in reference to our being justified or pardoned only, salvation is actually a more embracing concept. It refers to the past: God saved us from sin’s penalty in Christ. It concerns the present: God is saving us from sin’s power now. It looks to the future: God will save us from sin’s very presence when we are given resurrection bodies and are taken into His holy presence forever. How? It is by grace, grace only.

Romans 5:15-17 Reflection Questions:

Are you “in Jesus”? If Adam, who once humanly perfect fell, what chance do you have to stand, you who are corrupted by many sins and wholly disposed to unrighteousness? Your only hope is to believe on Jesus and be joined to Him.

Reflect and journal on how God pursued you.

What are some examples of God pursuing man in Scripture?

Romans 5:12-14 Union with Jesus Christ

 

The last ten verses of Romans 5 are a new section of the letter. They deal with mankind’s union with Adam on the one hand, a union which has led to death and condemnation and with the believer’s union with the Lord Jesus Christ on the other. This latter union leads to life and righteousness. This is a difficult section of the letter, possibly the most difficult in the entire Bible. But it’s also very important. This union with Jesus makes possible the sequence of deliverances from sin, death, and the law, and the resulting spiritual victories that Paul will unfold in the next three chapters of Romans.

Because the union with Christ is difficult to understand and the treatment of it in Romans 5:12-21 is particularly mind-stretching, let’s look at this doctrine a bit before we actually get into the verses. There are two important points to keep in mind. First, the union of the believer with Christ is one of three great unions in Scripture. The first is the union of the persons of the Godhead in the trinity. The second union is that of the two natures of Christ in one person. The Lord Jesus Christ is one person. He is not a “multiple personality.” Nevertheless, He is also God and man, possessing two natures. The third union is of believers with Christ. Perhaps we are never going to understand these unions fully, but it is important to try to gain understanding. The second point to keep in mind as we study this doctrine is that the union of the believer with Christ is not a concept that was invented by Paul; rather, it was first taught by Jesus and then built upon by the apostle. True, Jesus didn’t use the term “mystical union.” But He taught it in other words and through analogies, which are frequent in Scripture, particularly in the latter portions of the New Testament.

We must understand the believer’s union with Christ to understand verses 12-21. But, in a parallel way, in order to understand how we are “in Christ” and what that means, we need to see how we were “in Adam,” which is where the passage starts. Adam is the “man” mentioned in verse 12. The passage starts with Adam and builds from him, showing, on the one hand, how the union of the race in Adam and the union of the believers in Christ are similar and how, on the other hand, they are also quite different, the results of the first being evil and the results of the second being good. Paul has been teaching that the work of justification, righteousness has been imputed to us. But people are reluctant to accept that truth. Therefore, to help them understand and believe in the principle of imputed righteousness, Paul shows that we have already been treated on the basis of this same principle “in Adam.”

What would you say are the most important events of human history? Listing the great moments of human history can go on almost indefinitely, and be quite interesting. But important as these events may have been, they pale before the two stupendous events that the apostle Paul cites in Romans 5: the fall of the race in Adam, and the redemption of the race by the Lord Jesus Christ. These are pivotal points of history, and they overwhelm all other events because of two things: (1) the significance of what Adam and Jesus did, though what they did and the results of what they did were quite different; and (2) the people affected. Paul summarizes the importance of these events in Romans 5:18. Whenever we link these two events together, we normally stress the contrast: Adam brought death, Jesus brought life. But we need to see that although the contrast is important, the ways that Adam and Jesus are similar are also important, perhaps even more so. This is because our understanding of salvation depends upon this similarity, which Paul points out by the phrase: “Adam, who was the pattern of the one to come” (v. 14).

So, what does “pattern” mean? This means that we are not looking for a perfect correspondence between Adam and Jesus Christ. What we are looking for are the important similarities. So we ask: “How can Adam be said rightly to represent Jesus Christ? How can sinful Adam typify the sinless Son of God?” There are four important parallels: (1) Both Adam and Jesus Christ were appointed by God to be representatives for other men. (2) Both Adam and Jesus Christ became heads of particular bodies of people, a race or descendants. (3) Both Adam and Jesus Christ had covenants made with them by God. (4) Both Adam and Jesus Christ passed on to others the effects of their disobedience or obedience.

In our next study we will explore the other side of the comparison between Adam and Christ, namely, the differences between them. But before we do, we need to remind ourselves of what the comparison itself, including both the similarities and the differences, teaches about Adam and the events that surround him in Genesis. The first point is that Adam was an actual historical character, every bit as real as ourselves. There has been a tendency in recent times to dismiss Adam (as well as many parts of the Book of Genesis) as mythology. If the story of Adam is a myth, then we are going to have to find a new definition for the world! For there was an historical Adam; his story is to be taken literally. The real proof of the historicity of Adam is the parallel the apostle Paul draws between the person of Adam and the person of Christ, which we have been studying. Jesus came into our history to undo the effects of Adam’s literal transgression. Therefore, Adam himself (and his deeds) must have been historical. You don’t need an historical atonement to undo a mythological fall or a mythological transgression. All you need is another myth. But if Christ needed to be real to save us, then Adam was real too. It is because Adam was real that Christ also had to be real to make atonement.

That brings us to the second thing the comparison between Adam and Jesus Christ teaches: that the fall of the human race was also historical. It was a real event. That’s important because it involves guilt before God – true guilt, not merely imagined guilt or a feeling of guilt. We were once right with God in Adam. But we rebelled. Now we are actually falling away from God as rapidly as our depraved powers and the downward-spiraling flow of our culture will take us. Romans 1 described this decline. If we are to be saved, it must be by another historical act. The Lord Jesus Christ, who entered history precisely for that reason, must perform it.

Romans 5:12-14 Reflection Questions:

The logic of “how much more” continues in Paul’s discussion of Adam and Jesus in verses 12-17. How is the work of the one man, Jesus, far beyond the effect of the sin of the one man, Adam?

Paul uses “reign” three times in verses 12-17. What are the distinctions between the types of “reign?” Who is reigning and what does that look like?

Romans 5:9-11 Full Salvation

 

In the studies of Romans 5 so far we have seen that the point of these verses is to assure Christians of their salvation. They are to know that they are eternally secure in Christ so that they might be able to rejoice in God fully. In this study we find the same idea. So far we have learned: (1) We can be sure of salvation because God has made peace with us through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. (2) We can be assured of salvation because, through that same work of Christ, we have been brought into a new relationship with God in which we continue to stand. (3) We can be assured of salvation because of the sure and certain hope that we shall see God. (4) We can be assured of salvation because of the way we are able to react to sufferings in this life. We see God’s purposes in them and therefore rejoice in them, which unbelievers cannot do. (5) We can be assured of salvation because God sent Jesus Christ to die for us, not when we were saved people, as we are now, but when we were God’s sworn enemies. In this study Paul provides yet another argument or, what is probably more accurate to say, draws his previous arguments together (vv. 9-11).

To understand what is happening in these verses we have to realize that “saved” is used in at least three different ways in the Bible, in three different tenses. Sometimes it refers to something past (are you saved? Yes, I am.), at other times to something present (“I am being saved.”) Paul himself uses this second way in 1 Cor. 1:18. Third, you could think in future terms and answer the question by saying, “No, I am not saved yet, but I will be when Jesus returns.” It’s important to see that it is in the third sense, the future sense of salvation that Paul speaks here. He is not denying the other tenses, particularly not the first. But he is thinking of the judgment to come and is saying that because we have already been justified by God on the basis of the death of Christ, we can be certain of being saved from the outpouring of God’s wrath in the final day. We can put it like this: If God has already justified us on the basis of Jesus’ atoning death, if He has already pronounced His verdict; any verdict rendered at the final judgment will be only a confirming formality.

The last verse of our text, which also marks the end of the first half of Romans 5, says that now, having been reconciled to God, “we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” What exactly shall we rejoice in, if we are to “rejoice in God”? We can rejoice in any one of His attributes. Our passage suggests these: (1) God’s wisdom. Even at this point in our study we can marvel at wisdom so great as to be able to save powerless, ungodly, sinful enemies. There is also a display of God’s wisdom in the way suffering works for our good, as Paul has shown in verses 3 and 4. (2) God’s grace. We rejoice in God’s grace because, in our case, grace is favor not merely to the undeserving but to those who actually deserve the opposite. What do “enemies” deserve after all? They deserve defeat and destruction. God did not treat us that way, however. Rather, He saved us through the work of Christ. (3) God’s power. Scripture speaks of God’s power being displayed preeminently at the cross. The power of God was revealed at the cross when Satan’s power over us was broken. (4) God’s love. The only place we can learn of God’s love is at the cross. It’s when we look at the cross that we begin to understand what love is and how much God has loved us. (5) God’s immutability. We have seen immutability as something for which unregenerate men and women hate God, because He does not change in any of His attributes. But in our regenerate state we find this something to rejoice in, since it means that God will not waver in His love and favor toward us. Having loved us and having sent the Lord Jesus Christ to save us from our sin, God will not now somehow suddenly change His mind and cast us off. His love, grace, wisdom, and other attributes will always remain as they have been, because He is immutable.

The last verse of this section of Romans 5 says, “Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” But do we rejoice? Have we actually come as far as Paul assumes we have in verse 11? Honesty compels us to admit that often we don’t rejoice in God. Why is that? Here are a number of reasons for the sake of our self-examination: (1) A failure to grasp the truth of justification by faith only. (2) A failure to meditate as we ought, that is, a failure to think about what we do know. (3) A failure to draw the necessary conclusions from the Scriptures.

I don’t know if these are your failures (if you have failed to rejoice in God) or whether there is some other hindrance in your case, as there may be. But whatever the cause, anything that keeps us from rejoicing in God is inappropriate and should be overcome by us. I challenge you to overcome it. I challenge you to think about these great truths, meditate upon them, learn how great the love, power, wisdom, and grace of God toward you are. Then glory in God, as those who have known God throughout the long ages of human history have done before you. It will make a profound difference in your life, and you will be a blessing to others.

Romans 5:9-11 Reflection Questions:

Paul constantly keeps in mind how justification or being “declared to be in the right” works out in practice. Describe the past, present, and future aspects of the work of God in verses 6-11.

Paul’s argument in verses 5-11 takes the form – familiar in various systems of logic, not least Jewish ones – of a “how much more.” If someone has struggled up a sheer rock face, against all odds, to get to the top of the mountain, they are not likely to give up when, at the top of the vertical wall, they are faced with an easy stroll on a grassy path. How does this analogy explain verses 9-11?

Romans 5:6-8 God’s Love Commended

 

Romans 5:6-8 (and verse 5) speak about the love that God has for us. The greatness of this love, which is mentioned here in Romans for the very first time, is an uplifting and positive theme. Besides, it’s brought into the argument at this point to assure us that all who have been justified by faith in Christ have been saved because of God’s love for them and that nothing will ever be able to separate them from it. This is the climax to which we will also come at the end of Romans 8. Nothing could be more positive and edifying than this theme. Yet Paul’s statement of the nature, scope, and permanence of God’s love is placed against the black backdrop of human sin, and rightly so (v. 8).

Since Paul is describing the love of God against the dark background of human sin, he is saying that it is only against this background that we are able to form a true picture of how great the love of God is. In other words, if we think (as many do) that God loves us because we are somehow quite lovely or desirable, our appreciation of the love of God will be reduced by just that amount. If we think we deserve the best of everything, we will not appreciate the love we receive irrespective of our beauty, talent, or other supposedly admirable qualities. The other point is this. If we think we deserve God’s love, we cannot ever really be secure in it, because we will always be afraid that we may do something to lessen or destroy the depth of God’s love for us. It is only those who know that God has loved them in spite of their sin who can trust Him to continue to show them favor.

There are four powerful words Paul uses to describe the people God loves and has saved, three in the passage we are studying and one additional word in verse 10. They are: (1) Powerless. This word is translated a variety of ways in the Bible. Here in means an unconditional impossibility, which is one which no possible change in circumstances can alter, and it is this that describes us in our pre-converted state. (2) Ungodly. This word conveys the same idea Paul expressed at the beginning of his description of the race in its rebellion against God (Rom. 1:18). 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. (3) Sinners. “Sinners” describes those who have fallen short of God’s standards (Rom. 3:23). It means that we have broken God’s law and in this sense is probably parallel to the word wickedness in Romans 1:18. (4) Enemies. This is the final word Paul uses to describe human beings apart from the supernatural work of God in their lives. 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, which is what many people actually tried to do when God came among them in the person of Jesus Christ!

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 brighter side: God’s side. Here we note that God did not merely reach out to give us a helping hand, bestowing what theologians call common grace – sending rain to the just and unjust alike for instance – but that He actually sent His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die for us (what is sometimes called “costly grace”). Paul points out that while a human being might be willing to give his life for a righteous or morally superior man or woman under certain circumstances, Jesus died for us while we were still sinners, which is the precise opposite of being good or righteous. 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.

Isn’t it astounding that God should need to commend His love to us? We are told in the Bible, though we should know it even without being told, that all good gifts come from God’s hands (James 1:17). It is from God that we receive life and health, food and clothing, love from and fellowship with other people, and meaningful work. These blessings should prove the love of God beyond any possibility or our doubting it. Yet we doubt it. We are insensitive to God’s love, and God finds it necessary to commend His love by reminding us of the death of His Son. So it is at the cross that we see the love of God in its fullness. What a great, great love this is!

Romans 5:6-8 Reflection Questions:

Paul constantly keeps in mind how justification or being “declared to be in the right” works out in practice. Describe the past, present and future aspects of the work of God in verses 6-11.

Romans 5:3-5 God’s Purpose in Human Suffering

 

The fifth chapter of Romans lists the grounds on which a person who has been justified by God through faith in Jesus Christ can know that he is saved from sin and can be steadfast in that knowledge. Verses 1-2 have listed several ways a Christian can be sure of this. Verses 3-5 give one more reason. It is the way believers in Christ respond to the troubles, trials, and tribulations of this life. Christians do have tribulations, just like anybody else. Paul says that Christians respond to their trials by rejoicing in them, however strange, abnormal, or even irrational this may seem to unbelievers, and that this is itself another evidence of their salvation.

The problem of suffering is a big one, and it’s not easy to answer it in a single study or even a single book. Here we will study God’s purposes in human suffering, since there are a number of them. We will study a few of these as part of our general approach to this large topic.

Corrective suffering: The most obvious category of suffering for a Christian is what we can call corrective suffering, that is, suffering that is meant to get us back onto the path of righteousness when we have strayed from it. We have an example from family life in the spankings given to young children when they disobey and do wrong. It’s the same in the case of the divine Father and those who are His spiritual children. The author of Hebrews quotes Proverbs 3:11-12: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and punishes everyone He accepts as a son” – concluding that we should: “Endure hardship as discipline…For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Heb. 12:5-7). The first thing we should do when suffering comes into our lives is ask God whether or not it is intended by Him for our correction. If it is, we need to confess our wrongdoing and return to the path of righteousness.

Suffering for the glory of God: A second important reason for suffering in the lives of some Christians is God’s glory. As an example read John 9:2-3. The idea is hard for many people to accept, particularly non-Christians. But it’s not so difficult when we remember that life is short when measured by the scope of eternity and that our chief end is to glorify God – by whatever means He may choose to have us do it.

Suffering as a part of cosmic warfare: A third kind of suffering is illustrated by the story of Job from the Old Testament. The story explains a great deal (perhaps most) of the suffering some Christians endure. I can imagine that for every believer who is suffering with a particular form of cancer there is also a nonbeliever in exactly the same condition and that the Christian praises and worships God in spite of his afflictions while the unbeliever curses God and bitterly resents his fate. Here God is showing that the purpose of life lies in a right relationship to Him and not in pleasant circumstances.

Constructive suffering: The fourth purpose of God in suffering is what Paul presents in Romans 5, namely, that God uses our troubles, trials, and tribulations to form Christian character. Paul indicates that steadfast, approved character by perseverance in its turn produces hope. We see it as an assurance of what will one day be ours, though we don’t possess it yet. When we look at our sufferings, we see why we can rejoice in them. It’s because they lead to endurance, endurance to an approved character, and character to an even more steadfast hope. And all this is further evidence of our security in Christ – when we share in Christ’s sufferings and embrace them in like fashion.

According to the Bible, suffering is not harmful; on the contrary, it is a beneficial experience. It’s beneficial because it accomplishes the beneficent purposes of Almighty God. It is part of all those circumstances that work “for the good of those who love Him…” (Rom. 8:28).

Romans 5:3-5 Reflection Questions:

How does the progression that is outlined in verses 3-5 build from one point to the next?

How are verses 3-5 both difficult and hopeful for us as we live out the Christian faith in the world today?

What would the celebrating or rejoicing of verses 2-3 look like in each of the contexts talked about in these verses?

Romans 5:1-2 The Peace, Grace, and Hope of Glory

 

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?