by Mike Ratliff
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1 (NASB)
In this post we will look at Romans 4:13-5:1 which is the application of the theology that Paul presents in Romans 3:20-31, which could be summarized with the statement, “By works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight since through the law come knowledge of sin, but the righteousness of God is manifest through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” I must interject something my brethren. It is imperative that all truely in Christ know the truth, that is, God’s truth, and why it is vital that we believe it. Also, we must know it so well that we can defend it against all attempts by our enemy and his people to corrupt it and distract us from obeying it. How do we know what the truth is? We know it because it is bound to the Word of God.
It is imperative that we also understand that Romans 4:13-5:1 is an extended discussion of the supremacy of the promise (our justification) to the law and how if one makes observance of the law (works) the means of securing righteousness, then the promise is void, grace is undone, and the gospel loses its power.
Here is the entire passage:
13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.
16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. 18 In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “SO shall your descendants be.” 19 Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. 22 Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. 23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 4:13 – 5:1 (NASB)
In vv13-15, Paul presents Abraham as the model of faith for us all. He also demonstrates the superiority of the promise (ἐπαγγελία) to the “law.” A study of the Old Testament makes it clear that this ἐπαγγελία precedes the law in time. I can remember as a young Christian with little to no theological “training” actually believing that the Jews actually were justified through the keeping the “law,” but that is not according to Pauline thought. To him, God has always justified his people by faith alone as per Abraham. In v13 Paul insists that the ἐπαγγελία to Abraham did not come through the “law” but through the righteousness “that comes by faith.” Why is it that the “law” cannot, not ever could, function as a means of justification? The law brings wrath because, “where there is not a law, neither is there transgression.”
Paul logically concludes in v14 that since the law “works wrath” justification is, therefore, from faith according to grace. We must get this straight. Because law works wrath, justification is by faith. It is by faith so that it may be in accordance with grace. Think of Ephesians 2:8,9. I know there are so many who try to say that saving faith is not part of the gift in Ephesians 2:8,9, but when we compare with this passage doesn’t this clearly show us that Paul’s understanding of the faith that genuinely believes God and causes God to justify believers, in accordance with His grace?
In vv17-20 Paul gives us the experience of faith in Abraham’s life after the giving of the promise. The circumstances in his life seem to contradict the promise, but he did not waiver. He grew strong in faith. This gave glory to God.
What was the object of Abraham’s saving faith? It was the God who is able to fulfill the promises He has made. Abraham believed in the God who justifies the ungodly. Here we have the connection between the promise of God and the very act of justification itself. It was Abraham’s faith based upon the character of God as the one saving and not upon the facts as he saw them. This is imputed to Abraham as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).
Now, all outside of Christ are dead in trespasses and sins and are likened in this death to Abraham’s death at being old and childless because of that. Saving faith is never focused upon man or what man does but always upon God who accomplishes his will in all things.
In v25 we have Christ becoming our propitiation in his passive obedience (his crucifixion). Then we have his resurrection “raised for our justification.” This is a demonstration that he accepted Christ’s suffering and death as full payment for sin and that his wrath was no longer against those who had been propitiated nor against that sin that had been paid for.
Now we come to Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” This is ringing affirmation of the objective legal standing all Christians have in Christ before God. They have been declared righteous by God. They have been imputed Christ’s righteousness. There is absolutely no longer any reason for a Christian to be under fear of judgment and the wrath of God but has peace with him, which is not merely subjective touchy-feely, but objective reality.
Soli Deo Gloria!