Today’s Epistle passage is from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 5.1-8. This is a very dense piece of theology. Some readers feel Paul’s theology is too complex, but what he writes has been carefully thought out and expressed with appreciation for the memorable phrase and imagery. Paul’s theology is original, formed in a clever mind working together with the Holy Spirit.
Our passage begins with the great statement that ‘Having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’. This statement enunciates Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith. To be justified means to be brought into a right relationship with God. This is something which God does for those who approach Him in faith. Our English word ‘faith’ covers ideas of trust and belief, confidence, and commitment, and is associated with love and hope. Justification by faith produces peace with God.
Peace with God implies a relationship with God. Our Christian faith is a dynamic relationship with the living God. We have moved past the rules of the Old Testament Law in all their complexity, to the freedom of the Gospel. ‘While we were still sinners Christ died for us’. The initiative is God’s who freely forgives the penitent sinner. This is the grace in which we stand. We should treasure the Gospel and our peace with God, both of which are totally undeserved.
Forgiveness does not remove the consequences of sin. ‘We boast in our afflictions knowing that affliction produces endurance’. Our endurance refers to our continuing struggle against our sin – we have to persevere. The idea of endurance is very common in the NT and here refers to the need to maintain our personal struggle for holiness of life.
One last point, ‘The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us’. The imagery here depicts an inundation. There are no limits to the gift of the Holy Spirit. Just as the disciples were given a universal gift of tongues, so water takes over the believer as a lavish gift from God. So the lavish, free gift of God which He gives us is the undeserved gift of forgiveness. So today we give God thanks for His infinite goodness, and most especially for our justification by faith.
The Reverend Dr Calum Gilmour