Romans 5:1-5 - The Hope of Glory
Romans 5:1) Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2) through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3) And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4) and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5) and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
About Romans: Paul’s letters are the oldest Christian documents we have. The earliest, probably 1 and 2 Thessalonians, were written within 25 years of Jesus’ death. Romans was the last letter/book that Paul wrote, as far as we know. It may have been written before any of the Gospels. Romans was written to pave the way for Paul to visit the church in Rome, a church he had never visited, but whose help he needed to complete the work he longed to do in the western Mediterranean. Most scholars believe that Paul was put in prison and died outside of Rome. Romans is the most fully developed and densely theological of all of Paul’s work. In it we see the Jewish roots of Christianity and the unspeakable grace of God that washes over all of human life and, alone, leads to salvation.
Background to Today’s Lesson: Romans 5 begins with an affirmation of the hope that characterizes the lives of those who have been brought into right relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. In Chapter 4, Paul wrote about Abraham as the father and model for our faith. For Paul, the faith that unites us with Abraham is our faith in Jesus Christ. It is that same simple trust that puts us in right standing with God. In chapter 5, Paul describes the results of the right relationship we have with God in Jesus Christ. Basically he tells us that they are “peace with God” and access to grace that holds us up.
What does Paul means by “Peace”? Paul begins most of his letters with the greeting “Grace and Peace to you.” Peace has two fundamental meanings for Paul. First, it means that we are delivered from God’s wrath. When Paul says “Peace to you”, he is reminding his readers that God is not mad with them, no matter what they might have done to provoke that wrath. It means more than that, however. Peace is the English translation (through Greek) of the Hebrew word “shalom”. That word means wellness or wholeness. Paul wants us to remember that in Christ we enter into a relationship of wholeness with God. Not only are we made whole, we love God wholly and our lives find their fulfillment in that relationship.
What does Paul mean by “Grace”? In general, grace is the biblical term that describes God’s amazing love for human beings. It is more than just a feeling, however. Grace is an action. It is what God does for us. It is love at work, making things right. It is also a kind of place, or state of being, in which we live and move in the environment of God’s love. To be in grace or to stand in grace is to be surrounded by God’s love to such an extent that it is like the very air we breathe and our own actions become actions of God’s grace. Grace is powerful and works powerfully on, within and through us.
What does Paul mean by “the glory of God?” This does not simply mean God’s splendor and radiance as it does in some other parts of the Bible. For Paul, God is the one who moves with righteousness upon the earth, and that is God’s glory, the doing of justice, the living according to the created plan of goodness, plenty and balance. For human beings to hope in glory is not simply to hope to share God’s power and splendor, it to share God’s character. For Paul this glory for human beings will finally be complete in the nearer presence of God in heaven.
What does Paul mean by “hope?” Hope is not a vague wish that something we want might come to us. It is not a “blow out the candles shut your eyes tight and hope a Lexus is delivered into you driveway by a long lost uncle you never knew you had” kind of thing. NO! Hope, for Christians, is the absolute confidence that God will bring about God’s perfect will for us both now and in eternity. Hope is not based on anything human beings do. Our hope, our confidence, our absolute assurance of “glory” (of living in the fullness of all we were created to be) is a fact because of the work that Jesus did on our behalf. We have been made as Christ in the eyes of God and through the work of the Spirit we are being made more and more holy each passing day.
What does Paul mean by “sufferings?” He is not speaking of ordinary grief, illness, sorrow or hardship. While the way we handle those things can be a witness, there is nothing glorious in that kind of suffering. The word we translate as “sufferings” literally means “pressure”. It refers to the negative reaction that comes to Christians who choose to live the faith publicly. Pressure that causes us to suffer is the natural response of the unbelieving world to a practicing Christian who is moving each day from glory to glory. In Paul’s moment, refusal to participate in immoral or idolatrous practices was viewed as being disloyal to the nation. Many Christians were discriminated against in employment, housing and education. They were often falsely accused of crimes and were community scapegoats. All of these things caused great pain. Paul understood the withstanding of this painful “pressure” to abandon faith and go along with an ungodly culture to be a mark of true Christianity.
Vs. 2 – access – a word used to describe ushering someone into the presence of royalty.
Vs. 3 – boast – rejoice, exult. Christians do not just endure the pressure of society, but rather rejoice in the growth that standing against this pressure produces.
Endurance – perseverance, fortitude. This word describes the active overcoming of misfortune, not just passive acceptance.
Vs. 4 – character – A word used of metal that has been so heated by fire that all the impurities are refined out.
Vs. 5 – Holy Spirit – here the Spirit is the guarantor that our hope is secure.
Questions for Personal Reflection
1. What does it mean to you to be at peace with God? Do you live as if that fact is true?
2. How do you experience God’s grace? What makes it difficult for you to “live in grace?”
3. How have your life experiences forged your character? Are there impurities that still need to be worked out of you? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you.