Peace with God
Notice how chapter five begins, with a “therefore”, meaning, because of what just came before, now this. Now what? Peace with God. What does peace look like? Is it peace to have a day of bliss and not know if the next day will not be the same? Of course not. Anyone can tell you that today might be a peaceful day, but they don’t know what tomorrow will bring. However, Paul says we now have peace with God. He doesn’t say we have peace for a time, peace, insofar as we do these things, or anything like this. He simply says we now have peace with God.
The question you want to ask yourself as you come to these words by Paul is, does my gospel allow me to say this with Paul? I remember talking across a table with a pair of Mormon missionaries, and we were comparing what we believed about the gospel, and my partner I was with asked them directly, “Do you have peace with God as Paul says here in Romans 5:1?” and I’ll never forget the answer. Both the missionaries paused, and looked at each other for a moment and one finally said with a smile, “I hope so”. If that’s what you have to say by the time you get to 5:1, that you hope you can say this with Paul, you didn’t follow Paul’s argument.
You need to come to 5:1 and be able to say with Paul that you, right now, have peace with God, and once more, not for a day, not for a season, but ultimately. Paul does not put any qualifier on these words; if there is any, it’s in the “therefore” which indicates that because of what he had just said at the end of chapter 3 and all of chapter 4, we have peace with God. To preach the same gospel as Paul, you need to know that you can say this.
The Blessings of Suffering
It’s important to note as we proceed into chapter five, and I ought to have said this about the whole book of Romans, that we must follow the pronouns (the ‘us’ and the ‘we’ words). Who are the pronouns? Very often, it is easy for us to read Paul here as if he is speaking to anyone. The reality is he is writing this letter to a church (Romans 1:7-8) and the saints of that church, and by extension all the saints in the world. The blessings are not things that pagans possess, only the believers have them. That being said, Paul moves into chapter five to explain the sufferings and trials that believers endure, and their suffering is never in vain.
Paul compares the suffering of the elect to the sufferings of Christ. In a certain sense, he uses the suffering of Christ here in this transitionary period of the letter to show believers that in his suffering, the great victory of the gospel was accomplished. He suffered the agony of death, swallowed up, as it were, but yet never abandoned, as in that moment, he attained the victory. By extension, then, his victory becomes our victory, we who suffer with him, and that is the ultimate prize for us. We must look beyond all that we endure in this life to Christ who holds our prize in himself, and because we have been given the Spirit, and because we have been justified, we shall not face the wrath of God. Paul is transitioning into the important subject of how this is possible, how we can go from being children of wrath, to children of God.
We begin this section with a technical term that is important, and not too difficult to understand. It’s what we call in theology Federal Headship. To understand this, think of two trees standing side by side. Both trees grow branches, and seed and leaves and life. But let’s say one tree gets corrupted, and that corruption brings forth corrupt fruit. The body and root of that tree is corrupt, and hence everything that comes from that root is corrupt. That’s what federal headship is. Adam is the corrupt tree, and he is the root of mankind in creation. When Adam sins, he corrupts his root, and as the federal head of mankind, all mankind is corrupted.
This is one of the crucial points of the gospel, because if we fail to understand this point, we are subject to legalism. Jesus speaks so often, and rebukes the Pharisees who were rigorous doers of the law, calling them white-washed tombs, cleaning the outside of the cup, but the inside, the part that really matters, is filth. Recall Jesus saying that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but it’s what comes out that does. What was Jesus saying? He is saying that it is not enough to clean up your act. You’re just dressing up a corpse. You need to be changed from the inside out, because the moment you are born, you are born under a curse, into a corrupt headship, which makes you corrupt.
This is why, when Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, he said you must be born again. It’s going to take more than moral improvement for this to work; you must be born entirely new, of an entirely new head and that only happens when you die to the headship of Adam and are raised into the headship of Christ. This is what baptism represents. It represents spiritual cleansing, as well as being buried, and raised again to new life. This allows us to mention something we are going to discuss a little later called Regeneration, a forgotten doctrine crucial to biblical Christianity. For now, realize that what Paul is speaking of, is how Christ undoes the curse of the fall for all his people. We are saved, not by works, but by a rebirth from the headship of Adam, to the headship of Christ. But if this is true, how do we know when this has really happened? Paul will answer this question next, as we move on to chapter six.