What a wonderful way to begin a new chapter in Romans: therefore. Paul has worked out all the logical reasons why Jews and Gentiles alike must place their faith for forgiveness in the Christ whom God had sent. It is through faith in Jesus Christ that we have peace with God. This may well be the most controversial of all of Paul’s teachings. Why must a person believe in Jesus Christ? Why not Buddha or Muhammad? Why can’t a person rely on his own good works to have peace with God? What is it that makes Jesus of Nazareth different from all the other teachers and philosophers that walked through the pages of history? Why should a Jew or Gentile become a Christian—a follower of Jesus Christ? He should—and must—because faith in Christ alone is the way to peace with God.
The legalese is simple:
Whereas we know
Abraham was declared righteous.
Abraham’s righteousness was not based on his own perfection, for all have sinned.
Abraham’s righteousness was not based on his circumcision because he was declared righteous fourteen years prior to his circumcision.
Abraham’s righteousness was based on his faith.
Whereas we know
Faith establishes grace.
Faith makes salvation certain because it is based on Christ’s righteousness and not our own.
Faith opens the door to salvation to all—Jews and Gentiles alike—because it is for all who believe.
We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
How beautifully Paul has explained that peace with God comes through a faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
Heaven is guaranteed to all who believe that Jesus died for their sins and was raised for their justification (Romans 4:25). Through the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness to those who have faith, the believer is declared holy before God.
Peace with God
The peace we have with God is more than just a cease-fire or a lack of His hostility toward us. Believers have been declared by God to be in a joyful relationship with Him. This is, first of all, an objective state of peace. God no longer holds our sin against us. He has cast our iniquities into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:18–19). His wrath, which was once rightly upon us because of our sin, no longer burns against us. The penalty has been removed, having been placed on God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Instead, God, through Christ, is favorably disposed toward us. This objective truth does not depend on our emotions but on the work of Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access to the grace of God.
In addition, because of the glorious fact that God has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, we also can have a subjective, inward peace. The person who seeks to be justified by his own merit can never find peace. He must continually strive to do better and will always wonder if what he has done is enough. Martin Luther, for example, slept on the damp floor of the monastery and would climb the stairs on his knees until they bled. Yet, he lived in fear that at the final judgment God would say, “Sorry, Martin, you missed it by three steps.” For Martin Luther, the great revelation that sparked the Reformation was the fact that it did not matter how many steps he climbed, if any. True peace with God came through faith in Jesus Christ. Our assurance comes not from ourselves, that we have chosen correctly, but it comes from God who chose us to be His children. Since it is God who chose us, not even all the power of Satan can snatch us away. Through this inward result of the outward truth both Satan and our consciences are stilled.
A true Christian may not always feel this peace as an inward tranquility of the soul. Certainly there will be times when he stumbles in to sin and feels the guilt and grief that accompanies it. How often the temptations of Satan, the lure of the world, and our own fleshly desires cast us into dismay! Strive as we might to serve the Lord, we find ourselves in the midst of sin. We are called, however, to look away from ourselves and to focus on Jesus Christ. How beautifully the form for the Lord’s Supper puts it: “we seek our lives apart from ourselves in Jesus Christ” (Psalter Hymnal, p. 144).
In addition, the Christian may go through some difficult times in his life. There are trials: a lost job, financial setbacks, illness, or the death of a loved one. These may lead the believer to feel discouraged and lose his peace. Understand, however, that all who believe they are justified through Jesus Christ have peace with God. These verses are not referring to the peace of God. It is not as if—once a person acknowledges Christ as Savior—suddenly life becomes easy. It may, at times, become more difficult. This world is no friend to grace. The older a person gets, the more he understands that this life is nothing but a constant death; this world is nothing but a veil of tears.
Peace with God does not assure a tranquil life. It means that we were once at enmity with God—at war with God. In our totally depraved state of mind we would rather choose to deny Christ and forgo any relationship with God. Because we increased our guilt every day, the wrath of God was deservedly upon us; we were destined to spend eternity in hell. But God in His love provided the means of salvation for us. In His grace He chose us before the foundations of the world, so that we should be among those who are declared righteous through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. We have moved from Romans 1:18 (“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men”) to Romans 5:1 (“Therefore . . . we have peace with God.”)
Recently three university students visited our church and interviewed the pastors after the worship service. They were visiting different churches for a class on religious studies at a secular university. Some of the discussion centered on the impact of science on religion in areas such as evolution vs. creation, view of life, and proofs of God’s existence. One student went so far as to say that he believed that over time science would completely replace religion. Slowly but surely religion would fade away as people would no longer have a need for it. One of the pastors suggested that instead of visiting different churches, his class would be better served by visiting a hospice center where people were dying. Contrast the way the believer and the non-believer approach death. Or perhaps they could visit a cancer center where people are told for the first time they have terminal cancer. To these comments the student had to agree that religion provides something that science cannot: hope, or peace, in the time of trials. Paul wrote: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6–7).
Grace from God
As a result of being justified, the believer is granted security in Christ. Not only does he have peace with God, he is also introduced to the marvelous grace of God. Grace can be defined as God’s favor shown to those who actually deserve the opposite. Grace is what lies behind God’s entire plan of redemption. Those who rebelled against God have been brought back into good standing with Him by sheer grace alone. Nothing is merited by the sinner. It is all of God. Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–10).
This grace, in which we stand by faith alone, offers tremendous comfort to the believer. Through God’s grace, we are placed in an entirely new position before God. Whereas we were once under the law and—as breakers of that law—under God’s wrath, we are now under grace. Clothed in the perfect righteousness of God’s Son, we stand before God as justified creatures—as if we had never sinned. How important this becomes to the believer to properly understand. All too often, once we settle into our comfortable Christian lifestyle, we act as if we deserve salvation. After all, we live as prim and proper as is expected of us. We can quickly condemn others and become almost pharisaical in our thinking.
Too often we come to the Lord’s Table as if we deserve to come. In many churches, no one is barred from the table. Everyone is welcome. Yet, if we would truly examine ourselves as we are called to do prior to partaking of the elements, we would know that we are sinful, undeserving of anything but the wrath of God. We do not deserve to come to the Lord’s Table.
Others, riddled with guilt, will not attend church when the Lord’s Supper is served because they feel the weight of their sin on themselves. Some churches guard the table so carefully and so exclusively that hardly any dare come. Impressed on the members (even confessing members) is the fact that if they dare come to the table, they may well be eating and drinking judgment upon themselves.
In both cases the focus is on the individual. What is forgotten is that we stand before God in a constant state of grace. The measuring rod is not how good or bad the individual has been. The measuring rod is the grace of God by which He has declared righteous all those to whom He gives faith. It is by His grace alone, through the sacrifice of Christ alone, that we may hear that we have the complete forgiveness of all our sins granted to us.
Points to Ponder and Discuss
1. Trace the logical sequence that Paul has established by which the believer is justified.
2. How does faith in Christ change our relationship with God?
3. What is the nature of the peace we have with God?
4. What is the difference between the peace of God and peace with God?
5. How does the peace of a believer differ from the “peace” of the unbeliever?
6. In what five ways does Paul describe the believer in Jesus Christ?
7. How do you prepare to come to the Lord’s Table?
8. Why should you become a Christian?