The Grace Series: "Romans 5:1 - The Grace of Salvation" Part I

The grace of God. You can't see it. You can't taste it. You can't feel it. It is invisible, yet it is substantial and weighty. Its profound character sometimes escapes us because it is so familiar to us. We throw the word around like we know what it means, and yet we need to return again and again to be blessed by the great reality what the grace of God represents for the believer.

The grace of God is what we exult. We praise God for His grace. The grace of God is that characteristic of God's activity whereby he relates to us freely and benevolently. He relates to us fallen undeserving human beings. No greater example of His grace is there than salvation. The grace of God in salvation. "For by grace have you been saved through faith and that not of yourselves." It is a gift of God lest any man should boast.

I think we also see a very clear pristine picture of the grace of God in the person of Christ as we gaze upon His glory as He walked this planet many centuries ago. John 1, "The word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory. Glory is the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth." Look upon Jesus and you will see grace personified and exemplified with pristine character and clarity. The writer of Luke records that crowds were amazed as they beheld and heard the gracious words which were falling from His lips. When you heard Christ you heard grace in verbal form. All that He said emanated the matchless grace of God. John 1:16, "Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ."

For all of these reasons we see God's grace in all the ways He relates to fallen undeserving human beings in salvation, sanctification, struggles as He dispenses grace to us in time of need. One of the greatest pictures of Grace is in the book of Romans. This monumental treatise describes the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the righteousness of God on display, the extention of hope to fallen humanity, purely because of His grace and received by faith.

Paul identifies at the very beginning of the book of Romans that he had received grace and Apostleship to bring about the faith among the Gentiles. He had been dispatched by God to communicate something of the grace of God in salvation; to explain it, to hold it up for all to see. He says he is "not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. To the Jew first and also to the Greek." In it, Paul says, "The righteousness of God is displayed from faith to faith." Later he writes, "The just shall live by faith." He then proceeds in the middle of chapter 1 through 3:20, to establish the universal depravity of the human race; the absolute fallenness of all mankind. It's something of a lawyer's brief. Non one escapes the indictment of sin; of depravity. He establishes, in clear terms, the need of God's righteousness. Then he proceeds in 3:31 through all of chapter 4 to communicate the provision of God's righteousness in the Gospel. Paul describes it in terms of our justification, that we have been declared righteous. Romans 5:1 Paul goes on the describe the blessings of our justification and of our salvation.

Today, I want to focus on the first verse in Romans 5. "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God." Now this word justification is not the first time we see in the book of Romans. We see it a variety of times certainly in chapter 3, "By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight. Being justified is a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." Romans 3:28, "We maintain that man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law." But when we examine this term, justification, we find that it means literally "to declare innocent or free from any or all guilt." It is the language of the lawcourt. It's like a lawyer is talking. In salvation terms, it's God declaring, "You're righteous, holy, free, and forgiven." Now this term does not mean to make righteous because that is what God does in sanctification as His grace is dispensed in our lives. Sanctification is the growing in Christ's likeness. But his term (justification) means to declare righteous and holy. It's not a pardon, but rather and acquittal. "Not guilty! Free from punishment from penalty." Justification is that gracious act of God whereby he declares a sinner righteous and free from any guilt or punishment upon there putting faith or trust in Jesus Christ. That is what justification means. Christ has paid for our sins; we are free at last!

Paul later in some of his writings, in Philippians especially, it talks about how he had focused His entire life on communicating the Gospel. He rested in the sufficiency of what God had purchased for Him in salvation. Paul writes, "Everything else I will give up that I might gain Christ." Then he goes on Philippians 3, "And may be found in Him not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law (something that he earned and could boast in theoretically), but that which is through faith in Christ. The righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith." God sees the sinner as he professes faith in Christ and what He has done on our behalf, He sees the sinner in terms of His relation to the Son, Jesus Christ. And we know what God said of His son. The voice out of Heaven said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Justification establishes a new relationship between a fallen human being and a righteous and holy and exalted God. God now sees us through the blood sacrifice of Christ that He declares not guilty, no punishment, no guilt, free.

To fully understand justification we have to understand something of the condition prior to justification. The condition of the fallenness of humanity. In chapter 3, Paul goes to great lengths to establish the absolute and utter depravity of all human beings. He says, "All are guilty. There is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands. There is none who seeks for God. All have turned aside. Together they have become useless. There is none who does good. There is not even one! There throat is an open grave. With their tongues they keep deceiving. The poison of snakes is under their lips. Their feet are quick to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their paths. The path of peace they have not known. Their is no fear of God before their eyes." Then as if to summarize this almost redundant string of declarations of the fallenness of all humanity Paul says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." This places all of us in desperate need of the righteousness that only God can provide in Christ. And that only comes through grace.

Upon justification our sin is laid upon Christ and He bares away the sins of the world. Remember what John the Baptist said of Christ as he saw Him up on the horizon? He said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." It's just like the day of atonement only a once and for all day of atonement. Remember Leviticus 16, the highpriest taking two rams and he kills one of them that their might be the shedding of blood. Then he confesses the sins of the people over the second ram and then he leads that ram to the edge of the camp that it might bare away the sins of the people into the wilderness. Jesus Christ was both rams. He was, is, the day of atonement there. Our sin is laid upon Christ, He bares it away. He then gives us in return the righteousness that we cannot obtain by ourselves. Grace, pure grace. Undeserving human beings who embrace Christ by faith (trust) now are declared righteous,holy, undeserving and free from any threat of judgment or punishment. All of this received by faith in Christ.

The Apostle Paul says in Romans 4, "Now to the one who works his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due him. But to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly his faith is reckoned as righteousness." There's nothing that we could earn, nothing that we could merit or conjure up or sacrifice enough for. Christ had to sacrifice himself on our behalf that He might provide us with that salvation. The Apostle continues in Romans 5:1, "Having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Many have observed that here in Romans, Paul using a greek term "eirEnE" (peace) is certainly borrowing the understanding of peace in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word "Shalom", which was more than simply the absence or cessation of hostility. It brought with it well-being, blessing. That is what Paul's idea of peace is here. We are justified by faith. We have peace with God. God is simply no longer angry, but He is positively purposed to bless us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. That is ours. We did not earn it, but what He bestows upon His undeserving children purely by grace.

Notice it says in Romans 5:1, we have "peace with God." There is a "peace of God" that is a subjective peace; an inner feeling and joy of what God has given and granted to us. But this here is talking about an objective peace that is established by God's gracious actions in Jesus Christ. We are not at peace. We have peace with God. The justification of God brings us the peace that forever protects the believer against any threat of coming judgment or punishment and certainly removes all sense of guilt. Paul says in another place, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." As God bestows His grace we are graciously taken to Himself and we have peace. We have His peace that He has brought us. We can understand greater the beauty of justification when we realize that former enemies have been reconciled (That is you and I). We are described as enemies of God enslaved to sin, inhabiting the dominion of darkness. We're children of the devil walking according to the courts of this world; according to the prince of the power of this earth. All of that yet now we are at peace. We are all monsters of iniquity, whether we realize it or not, in the face of a holy God. We are in desperate need of His righteousness; something we can't come up with by our own.

John Owen in his great classic on how to deal with sin "The Mortification of Sin", he says, "The heart is a standing sink of abominations. It's a putrifying mess of desires and actions and inactions. A colossal mess that is an offense against a Holy God." Do you believe that? To fully appreciate the gracious activity of God and salvation; His justifying an undeserving sinner we must understand from whence we came. He graciously bestowed His salvation on people who were formally enemies, violently opposed to God. Now, bless the Lord, we believers are at peace. We have His peace that only He can provide. We are at rest. In James' words, we are "friends" of God. We are accepted by Christ (Romans 15). We are beloved by God (1 Thess. 1:4). This relationship can only come about through the gracious activity of God for no good reasons in ourselves. Bless the Lord for His grace! Praise God for His grace! And with our sin, God didn't just wave His hand it poof! it was gone, or chose to say "I forget about it (or ignore or pass over)." But God did something to deal. That is the blessedness of our justification or our salvation.

Charles Hodge, a Book of Romans commentators, writes this about the peace of God upon our justification, "Peace is not the result of mere gracious forgiveness, but of justification. Having been declared righteous and holy. Of a reconciliation founded upon an atonement there was a death. There was blood that was shed. An atonement was made making it possible to save us. The enlightened conscience is never satisfied until it sees that God can be just and justifying the ungodly."

Our inner subjective enjoyment of what God has provided is based upon the objective activity of God. All of these things reconciled in His character and nature. He did something for us. He went to great lengths to save us to Himself. God solved the problem of sin. He paid the ransom that we owed. The righteousness we could not muster up, He granted to us because His Son, Jesus Christ, lived it out. Christ became the scapegoat on our behalf. Blessed grace of God in salvation!

I'm convinced that this world is filled with disfunction and depression in large part because they are seeking through elicit illegitimate means to mask the absence of peace and joy. "Let me stimulate myself. Let me medicate myself through drugs and alcohol." All of these things are elicit attempts to mask the absence of meaning, the absence of peace. That which only God can provide through His pure unadulterated pristine grace. Praise God! Another way to describe this is gross materialism. Gross materialism leads to boredom. You can't find enough money or things to make you truly deeply lastingly happy and content. Blessed God of grace that He has granted to us this salvation and has given us this peace with God, which leads to the peace of God.

Malcolm Muggeridge said this, "I can say that I never knew joy was like until I gave up pursuing happiness. Or cared to live until I chose to die. For these two discoveries I am beholding to Jesus."


In the next installment of The Grace Series I will be covering Romans 5:2 and discussing that since we are at peace with God, we are now standing secure in a state of grace.


Cross-blogged at Apologia Christi


RMSutherland said…
I disagree that justification amounts to an acquittal. An acquittal means insufficient evidence to establish the case to the requisite standard of proof. Paul uses the language of "incorporation" more so than "substitution". A person dies "in" Christ and "with" Christ. As God, they are in Him. In effect, they have been sentenced to and served eternal punishment. Justification amounts to autrefois convict. Autrefois convict means already convicted and punished. It is an expression of the rule against double jeopardy. I think you may be confusing incorporation into the death of Christ with the imputed righteousness that follows.

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