— by Pastor Joseph Ola
This chapter could be titled “The Hyper-Sufficiency of Grace.” In Chapter 3, Paul explained how we obtain the righteousness of God by faith. In Chapter 4, he gave the Old Testament proof that grace has always been God’s plan — Salvation was never intended to be by works or Jewish identity; it was intended for the whole world through Abraham’s Seed (Christ Jesus). Now in Chapter 5, Paul seems to be answering three hypothetical questions — three possible objections to his explanation of God’s plan so far:
a. How do I know for sure that I am truly justified… especially since I’m still experiencing hardship and trials in this life? If truly I’m now justified and in peace with God, how do I explain the hardships I still face? Are those hardships not a shred of evidence that God is still dissatisfied with me? (He answers this in verses 1-5.)
b. How can I be sure that simply by placing my faith in Christ’s finished works, I have access to this grace? Doesn’t it sound too simple and too good to be true? (He answers this in verses 6-11.)
c. Thirdly, how reasonable is it that the ransom paid by JUST ONE MAN (Jesus) is sufficient to solve the sin problem for billions of people ONCE AND FOR ALL? (He answers this in verses 12-21.)
So we will address those three hypothetical questions as three separate parts. Except otherwise stated, scriptural quotations are from The Passion Translation. It’s my current favourite translation for New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and Isaiah. Bear with me.
PART 1: I’M STILL EXPERIENCING HARDSHIP; AM I TRULY JUSTIFIED?
The question is understandable. If, as a believer, according to Paul’s explanation and the beautiful exegesis on Chapters 1 to 4 anchored by our dear brother, I am truly (already) justified by faith and accepted by God in His Beloved (Jesus), then what do I make of the fact that I still face hardships in life?
People who are still under the Law have a theological explanation for that and it goes like this: Bad things happen to people with whom God is not pleased because they have not pleased God enough.
But Paul’s explanation is different. He is saying that God doesn’t deal with those IN CHRIST on the basis of their ability to please Him but on the basis of CHRIST’S ability to please Him. And since Christ ALWAYS pleases the Father [remember, “This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well-pleased…”], how do I explain the difficulties, hardships, or — to put it generically — ‘BAD THINGS’ that happen in my life?
To answer this Paul pointed his readers in a direction: UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF “PEACE WITH GOD.”
Verse 1 says “Our faith in Jesus transfers God’s righteousness to us and he now declares us flawless in his eyes. THIS MEANS WE CAN NOW ENJOY TRUE AND LASTING PEACE WITH GOD, all because of what our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, has done for us.” (TPT)
Ephesians 2:14-16 makes this concept of PEACE very clear. It says TPT “OUR RECONCILING “PEACE” IS JESUS! He has made Jew and non-Jew one in Christ. By dying as our sacrifice, he has broken down every wall of prejudice that separated us and has now made us equal through our union with Christ. 15 TLB By his death he ended the angry resentment between us, caused by the Jewish laws that favored the Jews and excluded the Gentiles, for HE DIED TO ANNUL THAT WHOLE SYSTEM OF JEWISH LAWS. Then he took the two groups that had been opposed to each other and made them parts of himself; thus he fused us together to become one new person, and at last there was peace. 16 TPT TWO HAVE NOW BECOME ONE, and we live restored to God and reconciled in the body of Christ. Through his crucifixion, hatred died.”
In other words, Paul says that the reason we lacked peace with God before (which kind of made God and us ‘enemies’) was because of the commandments of the Law. But when Jesus died, He took the penalty of the Law for us so that once the penalty was paid, there was no longer cause for enmity—God no longer had a justifiable reason to be our enemy. The Bible’s idea of peace with God, therefore, means freedom from condemnation under Law.
So in Romans 5:2, Paul says “Our faith guarantees us PERMANENT ACCESS into this marvelous kindness [or GRACE] that has given us A PERFECT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. What INCREDIBLE JOY bursts forth within us as we keep on celebrating OUR HOPE of experiencing God’s glory!”
Everyone in Christ now has peace with God which means they have a PERMANENT ACCESS to the unlimited reserves of God’s grace — and salvation is only one dimension of this grace; it cuts across every sphere of life. (In another epistle, Paul says “and God will make ALL GRACE abound towards you…” — emphasis on ‘ALL grace’. Grace for financial abundance; grace for generosity; grace for healthy living; grace for academic excellence; grace for leadership; grace for marital bliss… and the list is endless!)
What should this translate to? INCREDIBLE JOY! If you are a believer and you don’t get to experience this joy every now and again — and that is VERY POSSIBLE — what you need is this fresh revelation of your PEACE-WITH-GOD STATUS. There is no way you will understand that God no longer deals with you on the basis of how well you are able to meet some demands that you can’t possibly meet (because Someone else met them on your behalf and thus gave you the key to God’s limitless treasure house) and not feel joyful!
The incredible joy, however, is not just in the possible material benefits you now have access to as a result of this JUSTIFICATION; the joy is actually in the understanding of the ultimate implication of this new arrangement, viz: I AM GOING TO ENJOY BEING IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD FOREVER! The ultimate implication of having peace with God is the fact that you will reign with Christ in ETERNITY. It is the assurance that you get to be in the Holy Presence of this Holy God for all eternity! Wonder of all wonders!
So the more I believe this, the more I’m able to have a right perspective about my current reality. Yes, in this world I can — in fact, I WILL — go through hardships. Jesus assured His disciples of this:
“And everything I’ve taught you is SO THAT THE PEACE WHICH IS IN ME WILL BE IN YOU and will give you GREAT CONFIDENCE as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!”” (John 16:33 TPT)
Do you see that? The peace with God which we receive in Jesus is supposed to translate into great confidence!
Heaven knows we will go through hardships. Being a child of God — a new creation — doesn’t exempt you and me from the challenges of this fallen world. Even the entire creation — the climate, the plants, the animals, the land, the waters, everything — is groaning, awaiting the full dawn of God’s new creation [new heaven and new earth — a restoration of this current reality to its glorious ‘factory setting’ state] (More of this in Chapter 8). Until all of creation becomes new, we, the current tokens of new creation, will also go through the waters and the fires and the decays of this present world as it is. The only difference is that OUR DISPOSITION in going through them is different.
We go through them as people who have PEACE with God.
We go through them with the unwavering assurance that our hardships are not because God is not pleased with us.
We go through them knowing that Christ, Our Peace, has overcome the world.
We go through them knowing that its either they work in us to better our character or (at ‘worst’), they merely hasten our transition to glory.
So as we endure suffering for His name’s sake, in whatever form, we persevere because of THIS BLESSED HOPE. And as we persevere, our perseverance grows our spiritual character, and strengthens our resolve.
Hence, Paul writes: “Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. AND THIS HOPE IS NOT A DISAPPOINTING FANTASY, because we can now experience THE ENDLESS LOVE OF GOD cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!” (Romans 5:3-5 TPT)
So if you heard of a Christian that died in a way that, in your understanding, doesn’t add up with your expectations of a ‘good God’ (like via an accident, a sickness, an unjust sentence, act of terrorism, outright persecution, etc) while there are different explanations that can be given, this one is certain: THE MANNER IN WHICH A BELIEVER DIES DOES NOT DIMINISH HIS/HER BLESSED HOPE. Their blessed hope and ours is that they will be fully alive eternally in the presence of the Father!
So if you heard of a Christian couple who (probably married as chaste virgins but) are yet to have a child of their own, before you think that they are a prayer case that needs to be prayed into divine intervention, understand the bigger picture: THEIR BLESSED HOPE IS INTACT, WHETHER OR NOT THEY HAVE CHILDREN. When you’ve got this image set, then go into prayer on their behalf. You will pray better from that posture. Besides, you are clueless as to what the delay is doing to their faith — building unwavering perseverance in them that makes them better intercessors for people going through other kinds of delays…
This is why the Christian faith is different in all ramifications to other faiths — and revolutionarily so! Our disposition to life is different from that of those in the world. Death is no longer fearsome. Delays are no longer unbearable. We live under the blissful sovereignty of a LOVING GOD Who makes our lives masterpieces of His glorious wonder. And He guarantees us an eternal enjoyment of His endless presence — and not by any effort of our own! What more can we ask for?!
PART 2: “BY SIMPLY PLACING MY FAITH IN CHRIST’S FINISHED WORKS, I HAVE UNLIMITED ACCESS TO THIS GRACE.” REALLY?
You’ve probably heard someone talk of how this whole arrangement sounds too good to be true. How can it be that by simply placing my belief in what one man did, I become irreversibly heaven-bound?
Well, in verses 6-11, Paul points out that the news is not only too-good-to-be-true; it’s even better than how most of us are conceiving it! So he explains using an analogy about timing and ultimate sacrifice (dying for someone else).
First, he stresses the fact that the payment which made peace with God possible was made by Christ BEFORE anyone got introduced to that act of grace by our faith in that payment. The payment was made first; believing in the payment came second. This order is a very important key to understanding the argument Paul is about to make, viz:
God has been setting this plan in motion long before any of us got personally involved. Even more, His work on our behalf started when we were helpless and ungodly. Paul says that while we were still helpless, Christ already died for THE UNGODLY. That is instructive. Dying for someone else, even in our contemporary world, is a heroic act. Soldiers go to war on behalf of their nation and some of them do die so that the citizenry can continue to live in peace. Such soldiers are said to have paid the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ — but they do so because of their belief that their nation — the people of their nation — are worth dying for.
But what would you say if someone suggested you die for an evil person? Would you die to free a murderer from death row? Even the very thought seems ridiculous! And that’s exactly what Jesus did — He, the ultimate good person, gave His life for you and me, the ultimate evil people. And He did it while we were not even aware of it!
What does this mean? It means that THE SECURITY OF THE BELIEVER IS ETERNAL. If you doubt whether your faith is sufficient to ensure your justification — or whether you can lose your salvation if you waver in your walk with God by faith — you’ve got it all twisted. To think like that is to forget that God had been busy at work since ages past putting the plans in place long before you ever saw a need and got introduced to His faith by your faith. You’re suggesting that God would put His own Son to death for you, introduce you to His grace by faith, give you His Spirit… but still, watch the whole plan fail in the end? It just doesn’t make sense. God is a great businessman; He doesn’t trade to lose; He trades to win! He’s after profits, not losses.
Paul says in verse 9 that if God did so much for you while you were still ungodly and unable to seek salvation, then how much more should we expect the plan to work after we have come to know Him and desire to have His grace? He goes on in verse 10 to ask, if while we were doing everything wrong, God reconciled us to Himself by Christ’s death, then how much more shall we be saved by His life?
I like this analogy which an expositor gave:
Imagine two soldiers are at war on opposing sides when suddenly one of them acts at great personal risk to save the life of the other — his enemy. After the war is over, the two men decide to meet in a local cafe. When they meet, they strike up a friendship made possible by that noble act. But then, imagine that as they leave the table, the soldier who had been saved turns to his rescuer and says “I’m sorry but we can’t meet again.” When his new friend asks “why?” the soldier says “I just can’t trust you. I’m afraid that you will pull a gun and shoot me when I least expect it.”*The other soldier is shocked and asks, “If I was willing to rescue you when you were my enemy, why would I kill you now that you’re my friend?”
Good illustration, init? That’s like us wondering if our justification by faith in Christ is a certainty. If God was willing to reconcile us when we were farthest from Him and clueless about Him, then we have nothing to fear now that we are in a relationship with Him.
This leads us to the third question of the chapter:
PART 3: HOW CAN ONE MAN’S DEATH ACCOMPLISH SO MUCH FOR SO MANY? EXACTLY HOW DOES THIS WORK?
To explain how God is working through Christ to free us from condemnation, Paul takes us back to where our condemnation started: in ‘Adam’. The point is for us to understand how the solution draws from the problem — how Adam brought us down is exactly how Christ lifts us up — both of these events run on the same framework.
In other words, we can see the effect of how Adam (one man) changed all humanity for the worse, and as such, we can also understand how another Man can change humanity for the better.
The major thing to understand in this comparison is that both Adam and Christ are acting as what you could call “federal representatives” of a group of people. A federal representative means someone who rules or makes decisions ON BEHALF OF a group of people whom they represent. We see this in democracies around the world, even in Nigeria.
So… first: ADAM.
— through Adam, sin entered the world.
— because of his sin, spiritual death was activated.
— the earth and all that came from the ground became cursed. (Since Adam’s body was made from the earth/dirt [‘Adam’ means ‘earth’ in Hebrew], then God was cursing Adam’s body to die one day.)
— So Adam’s choice brought sin into existence, which brought spiritual death to all humanity . . . and it led indirectly to physical death for all humanity.
— So as Adam reproduced, he passed this fallen (sinful) nature down to his children
— And since death happens at all ages, even at childbirth, it means all are sinful immediately right from birth—whether or not they’ve done anything right or wrong (Remember Rom 3:23).
— So sin is received through a birth process and not dependent on each person’s choices or actions. Our choices and actions as sinners (prior to our being saved) were the results of that inherited nature.
— So summarily, all humans are programmed to offend God and that programming came from Adam and they are incapable of changing the programming on their own
So one man’s decision created a chain reaction through the reproduction process that led to all men sharing his nature.
But here is the good news:
If this process can work to lead mankind into condemnation then it can be harnessed to provide a solution through another Man Who can reverse the process and provide a solution to a new group of descendants!
So… second: CHRIST.
— By Adam’s life and death, many died with him; but by the life and death of Christ, by God’s grace, many will have eternal life.
— Adam produced judgment from a single transgression resulting in condemnation for all, but the free gift of salvation covered man’s transgressions resulting in our justification!
— In v.17, Paul says if we can accept that one man could bring the world into bondage and under the penalty of eternal death, then we should accept that one Man could deliver eternal life to many.
— The mechanism that makes both possible is the same: INHERITANCE. In Adam, we all inherit a sinful nature and a dying body; in Christ, we are born again and inherit Christ’s nature in place of Adam’s.
— So if one man’s nature could be spread to all his descendants by physical birth, then Christ’s perfect nature can be spread to all His descendants by spiritual rebirth. (The Holy Spirit birthed Christ in Mary’s womb; likewise, the Holy Spirit births us again spiritually when we believe.)
I like how Warren Wiersbe ties it up in his commentary on Romans:
“Adam came from the earth, but Jesus is the Lord from heaven (1 Cor. 15:47). Adam was tested in a Garden, surrounded by beauty and love; Jesus was tempted in a wilderness, and He died on a cruel cross surrounded by hatred and ugliness. Adam was a thief, and was cast out of Paradise; but Jesus Christ turned to a thief and said, ‘Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise’ (Luke 23:43). The Old Testament is ‘the book of the generations of Adam’ (Gen. 5:1) and it ends with ‘a curse’ (Mal. 4:6). The New Testament is ‘The book of the generation of Jesus Christ’ (Matt. 1:1) and it ends with ‘no more curse’ (Rev. 22:3).”
Need I say more?
Just this: always endeavour to return to this chapter of the scripture every now and again to remind yourself of the value of this grace we’ve received. The more you feast on it, the more mind-blowing it becomes.
May God bless His Words in our heart.
POSTSCRIPT (Answer to a question on whether babies will go to heaven)
This is a very good question and a very sensitive one. I’ll drop a few thoughts and hope others might be able to further enlighten us on the matter. On this occasion, I’ll put my thoughts in numbers.
1. I deeply acknowledge how sensitive this is. Only those believers who have lost a child understand the full import of the sensitivity of the question. So whoever will add some thoughts should bear this in mind. The answer can be comforting or unintentionally grief-deepening.
2. Drawing from the exposition of Romans 5 which birthed the question, the Bible is clear about the fact that ALL HUMANS are born with the sin nature. The fact that babies die further affirms the fact that the same malady from Adam extends to them as well… for the wages of sin (Adam’s sin, specifically, not the baby’s) is death (Romans 6:23). So are babies innocent? NO.
3. However, the Bible is also clear that what places people under Condemnation is A REJECTION OF THE REDEMPTIVE WORK OF CHRIST. (ie. unbelief).
John 3:18 in The Amplified Bible says: “Whoever believes and has DECIDED to TRUST in Him [as personal Savior and Lord] is not judged [for this one, there is no judgment, no rejection, no condemnation]; but the one who does not believe [and has DECIDED to REJECT Him as personal Savior and Lord] is judged already [that one has been convicted and sentenced], because he has not believed and trusted in the name of the [One and] only begotten Son of God [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, the One who alone can save him].”
Babies are simply INCAPABLE of DECIDING to believe or reject. They are yet to possess the capacity to accept or reject the offer of God’s saving grace. (And not only babies, there are also people who are born mentally retarded and unable to make any informed decision salvation-wise. I’ll add them to this group as well).
4. We also know from Scripture that the BLOOD of Jesus purchased forgiveness of sins, not only for believers but for EVERYONE. This is clear from 1 John 1-2 quoted below from AMPC.
“My little children, I write you these things so that you may not violate God’s law and sin. But if anyone should sin, we have an Advocate (One Who will intercede for us) with the Father — [it is] Jesus Christ [the all] righteous [upright, just, Who conforms to the Father’s will in every purpose, thought, and action]. And He [that same Jesus Himself] is the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins, and not for ours alone but also for [the sins of] the whole world.”
5. If you bring points 3 and 4 together, my understanding is that Christ’s atoning sacrifice covers the sin of any child UNTIL the person decides to REJECT the offer of God’s saving grace having grown to possess the capacity to make such a rejection.
6. There are many other points one can use to corroborate this, though subjective. One is the fact that God actually DESIRES for all men to be saved. You think God wants to send anyone to hell? Think again. As I mentioned yesterday, He’s a good ‘businessman’. Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:4 (CEV) “God wants everyone to be saved and to know the whole truth…” He didn’t send His Son to die so that babies can go to hell. That wouldn’t be consistent with His character of Love, Kindness and Justice. (There’s nothing JUST about being sent to hell without getting the option to opt in or out).
Another passage people reference (again, subjectively) is where David decided to stop grieving and mourning when he heard that his child (the one born from his adulterous koinonia with Bathsheba) died. In explaining his reason for comforting himself and choosing to ‘move on’ he made a statement, which paraphrased, means “there is no point mourning. No amount of tears or prayers will bring him back; it is me that will go to meet him when I die, not vice versa…” (see 2 Samuel 12:23).
In conclusion, I am persuaded, personally, that babies go to heaven — not because they are innocent of Adam’s sin repercussions, but because Jesus’ blood covers for them since they are yet incapable of making an informed choice to accept or reject Christ’s atoning sacrifice on their behalf.
I hope this helps.