Simplicity Series #33

The Grace in Which We Stand (Romans 5)

Our Security and Blessedness in the Love of God


Paul has carefully laid out his teaching in Rom. 3:21–4:25 on the doctrine of justification. As we have seen, this topic has a two-fold focus:

  • First, the justification, or vindication, of God. Paul defends the justice of God from any inference of having brought sin and evil into the world (Rom. 1:18–32; 3:9–20), of any suggestion of being partial or arbitrary (Rom. 1:5, 14; 2:4–5, 11), and any charge of being unfair in His provision of salvation for all (Rom. 3:21–26).
  • The second, and lesser, emphasis thus far regarding the justification of men, which of necessity depends on the first point. Only if God is seen to be just in all His dealings can we trust His faithfulness in justifying men (Rom. 3:24–26). Having illustrated that both these points are “publicly displayed” (“set forth,” verse 25) in the cross of Christ, he then used Abraham (a homeless Gentile at the time) and David (the king of Israel), to demonstrate that God is fair and just to extend His promises and provide His imputed righteousness to all who believe.

The lessons taught in Romans 4 are now applied to the Church—God’s new community of faith—in chapter five.

Our Standing in His Grace (Rom. 5:1–5)

“Therefore, having been justified [in the past] by faith, we have [present possessions] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Rom. 5:1–2

This chapter is for believers only! Paul speaks to those who have trusted in Christ to give them assurance (“hope”) of their standing in Christ (Rom. 5:1–5), their security in Christ (verses 6–11), and their sovereignty in Christ (verses 12–21).

Some Key Concepts, Rom. 5:1–5

The verbs in this paragraph are especially important. They convey the finished work of justification, the present possession of unique privilege, and the security of our position in Christ.

The words “having been justified” translate dikaioo, which speaks of past, completed action, at the point of faith in Christ. This continuation from Paul’s argument of Romans 4 is that we are justified by faith alone.

Then, “we have” is the present indicative of echo, and speaks of a condition of “peace with God.” This is a state of right-standing and acceptance with God (see Eph. 1:6). We are in a covenant relationship with God as our heavenly Father, and we are His beloved sons.

Next, “also we have access,” the aorist infinitive of echo speaks of an “introduction or entrance pass” that is the result of the first two privileges. We have unconditional, unhindered entrance into the very presence of God. This is why we are urged to “come boldly to the throne of grace …” (Heb. 4:16).

The fourth major verb is that this access is “by faith into this grace in which we stand.” The verb “stand” is from histemi, the same word Paul uses in Eph. 6:10–14 for “stand firm.” Only here, it is not speaking of our practice, but rather of our position. It is perfect active indicative, meaning that we have a permanent, unassailable standing before God in a relationship of grace. We are the recipients of the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31–34; Eze. 36:22–28), the primary provision of which is, “I will be their God, and they shall be My people … For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:33–34).

The Privileges of our Position

  1. We have peace with God.
  2. We have access to God.
  3. We have a permanent standing in grace.
  4. We have cause for exultation in expectation of His glory.
  5. We have perspective for exulting in tribulations.
  6. We have security and assurance through the love of God.
  7. We have the permanent presence of the Holy Spirit.

Our Security in His Grace (Rom. 5:6–11)

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ  died for the ungodly … But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:6, 8

It is interesting to note the parallels in this section with Paul’s examples of Abraham and David. Like them:

  1. We were “without strength,” verse 6.
  2. We were “ungodly,” verses 6b.
  3. We were “still sinners,” verse 8.
  4. We were “enemies,” verse 10.

And yet, in the face of these insurmountable odds, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that … Christ died for us,” verse 8.

The fact that “Christ died for the ungodly” establishes two critical points: First, that there is absolutely nothing a sinner can contribute toward his or her justification, for only God “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). Second, if Jesus “Christ died for the ungodly,” then His death encompasses the entire human race, meaning that “all” (quite a word study of its own in Romans) may be justified by faith.

In human terms, most would not die for the “just” man—as he does just what is required, checks off all the boxes, and not one bit more. This is how Paul is using the word here. But for a “good” man—a man of loving benevolence and compassion—some would “dare to die” (Rom 5:7). But God’s compassion and love cannot be compared to even the greatest love of mankind. The phrase “His own love toward us” is emphatic, and speaks of divine love, which is without comparison. He loves all without exception (His primary motive for sending Jesus, John 3:16) and, thus, Christ died, not only “for [all] the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6), but in a very special sense “for us” (verse 8b). Paul makes this very point in 1 Tim. 4:10:

“… we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.”

These points must be kept in mind when we approach the battlefield that Romans 9 has become.

Paul’s “much more” argument (Rom. 5:9–11 and, again, in verses 15, 17, and 20) is designed to expand our thinking, our confidence, and our boldness in facing a hostile world. It is designed to demonstrate the magnitude, scope, and eternal effects of the work of Christ. In addition to our possessions (verses 1–5), we have strong grounds for “hope” (verses 3–5, literally, “confidence” or “assurance”). Our past justification is not the end of the work of Christ on our behalf. He who has saved us in the past will continue to deliver us in the future. Paul mentions three main aspects of future deliverance:

  1. He will deliver us from wrath (verse 9).

This is not referring to eternal wrath, as that issue has already been resolved by our justification. Believers will be disciplined when we fail (Heb. 12:3–11), but God only disciplines in love—never in wrath. God’s wrath is released upon His enemies—not His children. In Christ, we are the objects of His love (Eph. 1:3–6).

  1. He will deliver us from defeat (verse 10).

Those who are reconciled to God through Christ will be “saved by His life.” This could have a two-fold meaning. First, Christ resurrected is representing us before the Father (Rom. 8:31–32). This is part of His work in His present session (Psalm 110:1–4). Second, His resurrection life has been imparted to us, providing us with power for living (see Rom. 8:11). The life He gives us through His Spirit is His own resurrection life—for victory.

  1. He will deliver us from despair (verse 11).

Even in the face of affliction and persecution (Rom. 5:3; 8:18), we have cause to rejoice at all times (Phil. 4:4) if we keep our eyes on Christ and in His Word. The victory song of Rom. 8:31–39 is an example.

“Justification” (Rom. 5:1) is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us. “Reconciliation” is the restoration of a right relation to God. We who were formerly His enemies have now become His beloved sons. It is crucial to note that the work of reconciliation was accomplished “when we were enemies” (verse 10). Just as “propitiation” (Rom. 3:25), God’s satisfaction with the death of Christ on our behalf, is secured—even for those who choose not to believe (1 John 2:2). Remember that:

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word [message] of reconciliation.” 2 Cor. 5:19

The benefits and blessings, however, of reconciliation must be received by faith (Rom. 5:11). As elsewhere in Scripture, to “receive” God’s gift is to “believe” His promise (John 1:12).

Our Sovereignty in His Grace (Rom. 5:12–21)

In verses 12–14, Paul introduces a parallelism between Adam and Christ. Insofar as his actions affected the whole human race, Adam is “a type of Him who was to come.” Then, from verses 15–21, he switches from parallel to contrasts, to demonstrate the superiority and breath-taking scope of the cross.

Twice, Paul mentions the word “reign” in relation to our living out the Christian life (Rom. 5:17–21). It is key to God’s purpose for us to which we have been called on this Earth (Rom. 8:28). It involves living out the life of Christ in the midst of a dark and fallen world (Rom. 6:4–14; 7:6; 8:4).

The point Paul makes in this section is critical for what is to come. If we are to grow to maturity and live victoriously, we must understand that our reign with Christ begins now. This is why we are seated with Him “in … heavenly places” (Eph. 2:4–7; Col. 3:1–4). Furthermore, these truths will become increasingly important as we understand that God has chosen to share the work of redemption and restoration of the universe with us (Rom. 8:12–30).

The “much more” argument (Rom. 5:9–10, 15, 17, 20) has this far greater scope in mind. The “purpose” of God (Rom. 8:28b) is far greater than just our individual salvation. It will play out in history as the “good news” is spread throughout the world and, ultimately, will “provoke” Israel to faith and restoration (Rom. 10:19; 11:11, 25). Even this is not the full scope of God’s plan, for it includes the future restoration of the entire universe (Rom. 8:18–23), and in this work we are to play a part.

Adam vs. Christ: Five Great Contrasts

  1. Sin and death vs. grace and life, Rom. 5:12–15

Three times, Paul makes the point that, before the Law, men were not held accountable for personal sins (Acts 17:30; Rom. 2:12; 5:13). Yet, the fact that men still died showed the ongoing effects of Adam’s sin on the human race. The “reign of death” was the “wages of sin” (Rom. 6:23), but the “free gift” of life in Christ “abounded to many” (Rom. 5:15), that is, those who [call] on the name of the Lord” (Rom. 10:13). Again, the “much more” argument (Rom. 5:9, 10, 15, 17, 20), is designed to show that Christ did not just restore us to Adam’s status in the Garden. Rather, we receive far above and beyond all that Adam lost.

  1. Adam bore the curse of one sin, Christ, of all sins, verse 16.

Another contrast is the one sin of Adam, which brought death to all, and the fact that our justification came at the price of Christ bearing the penalty for all sins ever committed: past, present, and even future! Adam bore the penalty for his own sin, but Jesus Christ bore the penalty of every sin throughout human history.

  1. The dictatorship of death vs. the dominion of life, verse 17

Satan’s reign of death (Heb. 2:14–15) has been brought to an end by the reign of grace and righteousness inaugurated by the cross of Christ. Note that while physical generation brought on all mankind the effects of Adam’s sin, only regeneration in “those who receive abundance of grace” through faith “will reign in life” through Jesus Christ.

The introduction of the idea of believers “reigning with Christ” is foundational to the theme of Romans 6–8, the victorious spiritual life, which Paul sums up as, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).

  1. Condemnation through Adam, justification through Christ, verse 18

It is absolutely critical to grasp the meaning of the phrase “to all men,” which is used twice in this verse. The offense of Adam brought condemnation to “all men,” without exception. Even so, the righteous act of Jesus Christ brought the free gift of justification to “all men.” This is not universalism—the idea that all men are saved by Christ’s work. Rather, it is a declaration of the unlimited atonement of Christ. This is something even Calvin had to admit in his comment on this verse.

The application of justification, however, comes only to the “many” (verses 15 and 16), because it must be “received” (verse 17) by faith. With Paul, even small words are critical!

  1. The tragedy of Adam’s disobedience, the glory of Christ’s obedience, verses 19–21

The contrast is made between the tragic effects of Adam’s disobedience and the glorious effects of Christ’s obedience to the will of God. By Adam’s sin, all men were made slaves to sin and death. By the willing obedience of Jesus, all men are offered both liberation and exaltation to the status of kings! It is worth pointing out: Adam freely chose to sin, Jesus Christ freely chose to go to the cross, and only by freely choosing to trust in Him does anyone receive the gift of His grace. A “free gift” (verses 15–18) cannot be imposed, it can only be “received” (John 1:12; Rom. 5:17).

Adam disobeyed with a full cognizance of his decision (1 Tim. 2:14). His choice was to retain the fellowship with God and lose the woman he loved, or cling to Eve at the price of losing God’s fellowship. As another illustration of Adam being “a type of Him who was to come” Rom. 5:14), Jesus Christ accepted the sundering of His fellowship with the Father on the cross in order that He might win His Bride—the Church—forever.

The giving of the Law magnified the enormity of the offensiveness of sin to God (verse 20), yet as Paul tells us in Gal. 3:23–25, the purpose of the Law was to lead men to Christ. Therefore, those who believe in Jesus Christ will “reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21). That reign begins now through a life of obedience in the power of the Spirit.

From Rom. 5:12–2, Paul repeats himself, in slightly different ways, for the sake of emphasis and to give greater weight to his “much more” argument, that what we have in Christ goes far beyond what we lost in Adam. By trusting in Jesus Christ, we are “delivered … from the power of darkness and conveyed into the kingdom of the Son of His [the Father’s] love,” Col. 1:13.

As Paul will relate in Rom. 8:18, all of the corporate afflictions of history are as nothing when compared to the glory that will be ours in ever-increasing portions throughout all eternity (Eph. 2:6–7).

How we are to permit the grace that is ours to reign in and through us is the subject of Romans 6–8. In our next post, we will see the dominion of the Spirit and the reign of grace.


How does Romans 5 fit with all that Paul has said in Romans 1–4, and how will it relate to the problems that arise in interpreting Romans 9–11?

This chapter—one of the most critical in all of the Bible—shows that from the moment of the Fall, God began a rescue mission for the entire human race. This involves mighty, spiritual battles among elect and fallen angels (Eph. 6:10–12), as well as the necessity to select a lineage for the Messiah to come into the world. The election of Israel, of necessity, required the rejection of every other nation, at least for that purpose. However, by electing Israel to bring forth the Messiah, God was also choosing the only means of bringing salvation to the nations (Rom. 1:5).

As I often say, election demands rejection, for the purpose of inclusion. Redemption is available to all men. The plan of God is awesome in its genius and scope (Rom. 11:33–36). Let me end with the summary of this section from A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans by Sanday and Headlam, p. 138.

“V[erses] 15–21. How superior the work of Christ! (1) How different in quality: the one act all sin, the other act all bounty of grace! (v. 15). (2) How different in quantity, or mode of working: one act tainting the whole race with sin, and a multitude of sins collected together in one only to be forgiven! (v. 16). (3) How different and surpassing in its whole character and consequences: a reign of Death and a reign of Life! (v. 17). Summarizing: Adam’s fall brought sin: Law increased it: but the work of Grace has availed, and more than cancelled, the effect of Law (vv. 18–21)” (emphasis mine).


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