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?

Romans 4:23-25 The Christian Faith


In several preceding studies we have been working through the Apostle Paul’s proof from the Old Testament of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. Paul has given two Old Testament examples, Abraham and King David, but his chief example has been Abraham. But Paul is not in love with the past for its own sake. Paul was writing for the present. So, as he comes to the end not only of Romans 4 but of the first major section of the letter, he returns to his first theme, reminding his readers that things that were written in the Old Testament were written for us and that proof of the doctrine of justification by faith from the case of Abraham is for our present benefit (vv. 23-25). This passage is a summation of the Christian gospel, and a study of it is an appropriate way to end this first section of the Book of Romans.

The first point in Paul’s summary of the gospel in Romans 4 of this explicitly Christian statement of faith to the case of Abraham is belief in God. Paul expresses this by saying, “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” This sentence involves both continuity with and development beyond Abraham’s example. The continuity is important, since the God whom Christians believe in is the same as the God Abraham believed in, and the nature of the faith involved in trusting that God is therefore also the same. This is why we have been able to make practical applications from Abraham’s life to our own lives. In discussing Abraham’s faith we have learned that it was: (1) Faith in God’s promise; (2) Faith based on the bare words of God and on nothing else whatever; (3) Faith despite many strong circumstances to the contrary; (4) Faith that was fully assured; and (5) Faith that acts.

This is exactly what our faith is to be and do and the reason is that it is faith in the God in whom Abraham believed. Moreover, such faith is to grow increasingly strong, because it is grounded not upon itself but upon God. In theses ways, Abraham’s faith is the same as our own. But our faith also involves development beyond Abraham’s faith, because, as Paul writes, it is faith “in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” Abraham’s faith in the promise was an anticipatory faith in Jesus since the promise ultimately was fulfilled in Him, but we have a gospel, the Good News. Abraham looked forward to what God had said He would do. We look back to what God has already accomplished.

What has God accomplished? The answer brings us to the first of its great declarations in our text, namely, that Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins.” According to the Book of Acts, Peter made the identical declaration at Pentecost (see Acts 2:23; 13:27-28). There are two important points to these classic proclamations of Christ’s death: (1) It was planned by God. It was God the Father who sent the Lord Jesus Christ to the cross. This tells us that the death of Jesus was no accident, but rather the accomplishment of God’s plan of redemption, devised even before the universe was created. It was why Jesus came. (2) It was for others. The death of Jesus, thus was planned by God, was for others, which means that it was substitutionary. Paul says that it was “for our sins.” Death is God’s punishment for sin, its consequence. But Jesus had not sinned and therefore did not deserve death. That He did die was because He was dying in our place as our sin-bearer.

The final part of the gospel in our passage is the resurrection. Paul speaks of it twice in verses 24-25. There are a number of explanations of the meaning of the phrase “raised to life for our justification,” but the one most agree on is that the resurrection is God’s proof, provided for our benefit, that a full payment for sins has been made. The resurrection proves a great many things. It proves that: (1) There is a God and that the God of the Bible is the true God; (2) Jesus was a teacher sent from God and He was inerrant in His teaching and spoke the very Words of God; (3) Jesus is the Son of God; (4) There is a day of judgment coming; (5) Every believer in Christ is justified from all sin; (6) All who are united to Christ by a living faith will live again; and (7) Christians can have victory over sin. But chiefly the resurrection proves that every believer in Christ is justified from all sin, as Romans 4:25 declares. In other words, it is God’s evidence to us that the penalty for our transgressions has been fully paid by Jesus.

We have come to the end of the fourth chapter of Romans and therefore to the end of the first major section of Paul’s letter. It has been a long journey. So the question is: Do you believe in God and trust His promises, as the patriarch Abraham did? Although he knew less about the person and work of Jesus than you do, his faith was not different in kind from yours, and for that very reason he remains your example.

God has promised salvation through the work of Jesus Christ. You must trust His word in this, even though the circumstances of life may seem to rule against it. Abraham looked at himself and considered his body as good as dead. You also are dead to spiritual things. But you must believe what God says, commit yourself to Christ, as He tells you to do, and find that the power of God that was active in quickening Abraham’s old body will quicken you. Abraham “did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God (Rom. 4:20). Neither should your faith falter. Receive the promise, and believe in the God who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.

Romans 4:23-25 Reflection Questions:

How do verses 24-25 sum up the previous four chapters of Romans?

In specific ways, how can we live as one family with all those who share the faith and hope depicted in this chapter?

Romans 4:18-22 The Nature of Abraham’s Faith


The apostle Paul is now going to discuss the immediate benefits of this God-given salvation and the nature of the resulting Christian life. In reviewing the nature of Abraham’s faith, Paul highlights five of its most striking characteristics.

The first important thing about Abraham’s faith is that it was faith in God’s promise. That is clear in verse 18, where one expression of the promise from Genesis 15 is quoted. But it’s also a dominant theme throughout the latter half of Romans 4, in which the noun promise appears four times and the verb promised once. God made a multi-faceted promise to Abraham, involving personal blessing, a land to be given to him and his posterity, blessing on his descendants, and a Redeemer to come. Therefore, the first and most important characteristic of Abraham’s faith is that it was faith in this promise.

When we first look at this, the fact that Abraham “believed” God may seem obvious and therefore unimportant. But it is neither obvious nor unimportant. It’s not “obvious,” because most of our natural thinking about faith moves in different categories entirely. What do we chiefly think of when we think about faith? We think in subjective terms, don’t we? We think of our feelings about something, which really means that we are man-centered in this area rather than God-centered. In the Bible faith is grounded in God and is something that springs from His encounter with the individual. We are not saved because we have a strong subjective faith (that would focus the matter on us), but because we believe the promises of God regarding salvation, promises made known to us in the pages of the Bible. In other words, Christian faith is a Bible faith. Or, to put it in still other words, we are saved not because of our faith but because of God’s promises. True faith is receiving these promises and believing them on the basis of God’s character.

The second characteristic of Abraham’s faith is that it was based on the Word of God and nothing else. We go back to Genesis 15 and find that God promised Abraham many offspring (as numerous as the stars in the heavens), by the time of his life described in Genesis 15, Abraham had lived most of a century without having any children. Where could Abraham find external support to assist him in believing this “wild” promise? There was no such support! So, if Abraham believed God, as he did, it was only because it was God who had made the promise. It’s the same when we trust God in the matter of salvation today. God says that He has given His Son in death for us (see John 3:16). What else in life can sustain you in believing such a promise except the bare Words of God in the Bible. Apart from God’s Word, we don’t even know anything about eternal life, let alone how to obtain it. So if we find salvation, it’s by believing God’s Word, pure and simple.

The vitality of Abraham’s faith (and therefore of all true faith) was greater even than this. For, as Paul points out in the closing verses of Romans 4, it was not a case of Abraham’s merely believing God in the absence of all external supports; he believed God when the external evidences were actually and sharply to the contrary (this is the third characteristic of Abraham’s faith). This is the meaning of the sentence “against all hope, Abraham in hope believed” (v. 18). It means from a human perspective the situation was hopeless. But since God has spoken, Abraham was willing to believe God despite the adverse physical evidence. At this point it is clear that Paul’s thought is moving beyond the situation described in Genesis 15 to the utterly “impossible” conditions of Genesis 17. As we have seen, by this time Abraham was 99 years old and there was no longer any hope that the aged couple could have their own child. When they were a bit younger, perhaps; but not at this point. That is why the text says, “Without weakening in his faith, he [Abraham] faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead” (v. 19).

The fourth characteristic of Abraham’s faith is assurance. Paul says this in a number of ways: (1) “without weakening in his faith” (v. 19); (2) “he did not waver through unbelief” (v. 20); and (3) he “was strengthened in his faith” (v. 20). But the chief statement is in verse 21: “being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.” This is an important point. True faith should always have this assurance. But how does faith achieve this in a world where flesh is weak and circumstances are usually more powerful than we are? There is only one answer: True faith has assurance because it is directed neither to ourselves nor to circumstances but to God. Faith that is grounded in the Being and character of God will go from strength to more strength, since God is faithful.

The fifth characteristic of Abraham’s faith that we dare not omit and need to remind ourselves of, is that faith acts. Faith believes God, but it also acts decisively. Did Abraham believe God? Of course he did. He believed God enough to engender the child of the promise when he was 99 years old. How about you? Will you act on your faith as Abraham acted? Will you step out in faith, believing the promise of God concerning the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ? You will get little support from the world to help you make such a commitment. On the contrary, the world will hinder you as much as it possibly can and think you are irrational, even foolish. But where is the foolishness found? Is it on the side of those who trust God? Or is it on the side of unbelievers, who trust only themselves and the world, both of which are passing away? I urge you to trust God and act on it!

Romans 4:18-22 Reflection Questions:

Is your faith man-centered or God-centered?

In what specific ways is 4:18-25 a deliberate reversal of Romans 1:18-27?

How can we as believers celebrate the God who promises impossible things and brings them to pass?