The Grace Series: "Romans 5:2 - The State of Grace" Part II

[This is the second part of The Grace Series in Romans 5. The first part of this series can be found here.]

Paul continues in the book of Romans. Because we have been justified and are now at peace with God we are now standing secure in a state of grace. Grace has brought us to this point and grace will sustain us at this point. Romans 5:1 opens by saying, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." On to Romans 5:2 Paul continues, "...through whom also we have obtained our introduction (or way of access) by faith into this grace in which we stand." Faith in Christ is the only path to eternal life, to right standing with God, to acceptance, to peace, and to rest. Faith in Christ is the only means to placing us in a state of gracious security. Jesus said in Matthew, "Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." He said in John 14, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, but by me." There is only one path to God and it is through Christ.

Yet, this Christian life that God has called us to, upon our justification in which we now live, notice what he calls it. We have gained our introduction by faith into "this grace in which we stand." What an interesting way to describe our lives and the way they should be like. I think that the truth here is this period of our lives upon our salvation should be so characterized by the gracious influences of God as to call it, grace. Grace, that's you...that's me. There is no security in my own works and ability to earn my favor with God. I cannot be righteous, holy, and disciplined enough to find acceptance with God. I must rest in the sufficiency of Christ- his gracious provision of salvation.

I would say also that God has so orchestrated our salvation so as to cut off any alternate means of approach. You think you can try hard enough? Work hard enough? Labor hard enough to earn your favor with God? God says in Isaiah 64:6, "all our righteousness are as filthy rags." Our righteousness offends Him. You think you can be religious and disciplined enough in your religion? God despises empty religious rituals. Isaiah says further, "bring me sacrifices no more." They are an offense to God. Salvation according to the Old Testament prophets, confirmed by the New Testament apostles, is "of the Lord." It is of His doing and of His work. It is graciously bestowed and provided only by His hand, His path, and His means alone.

An interesting passage comes in Romans 5:21, "so that, as sin reigned in death (meaning that sin brought universal death), even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." In our lives grace is the king, the ruler, and the sovereign before whom we submit and we worship. Grace is our sovereign. Blessed grace of God in our justification declaring us to be righteous and holy before God. Blessed grace of God in our sanctification as we walk with Him and He bestows His grace as we are secure in that gracious standing; nothing to be added to, nothing could ever be taken away from it.

But now also in our glorification. The second part of Romans 5:2b says, "we exult in hope of the glory of God. " We rejoice in the coming completion of our salvation which God has already begun. We boast, praise and rejoice in hope of the glory of God as we look forward to the consummation of what God has begun. Remember Romans 8, "whom He predestined, these He also called. And to whom He called He also justified. To whom He justified He glorified." All whom He predestined before the foundation of the world will be justified and will eventually be glorified. What He has begun, He will complete. God promises this in His scriptures. Philippians 1:6, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Salvation secured and finished in justification, but now in process growing in Christ-likeness being conformed to the perfection of God as we see in Christ- becoming more like Him.

We rejoice in the on-going process that will one day be complete. We are now growing in grace. Peter says this in 2 Peter 3:18, "But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity, Amen." As God works in our life and as we grow in Christ's likeness, who gets the praise and glory? Jesus. Because it is of His grace that we partake. 1 Peter 4:10, "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." It's God working in us and people see Christ and God's power on display. We praise God now for this ongoing gracious work of God. We have been freed from the power of sin in our justification and we look forward to a day when we will freed from even the presence of sin. Amen! Do you long for that day?

C.S. Lewis wrote a profound allegorical book on why there must be a heaven and a hell, The Great Divorce. In that book Lewis says, "Heaven is a place where good people will never again be bothered by bad people. Hell is a place where bad people will never again be bothered by good people." There is coming a day when the sheep and the goat will be separated. Praise be to God! "We exult in the hope of the glory of God."


In the next installment of The Grace Series I will be covering Romans 5:3 and discussing the somewhat radical declaration by Paul to then expand our exultation of grace to rejoicing in our tribulations.


Cross-blogged at Apologia Christi


Jason Pratt said…
I can't find that quote in my copy of TGD. Ref?

It would be very peculiar for Lewis to have written that anywhere in TGD, btw--since, even though it might be said that those in hell (in the story of TGD) would rather not be bothered by the people in heaven (or even by the other people in hell), the whole thrust of his soteriology is that they _are_ going to be bothered by the Best Person, because God is the only Person Who can reach them.

"Then no one can ever reach them?" [Lewis asks, having been wondering why the blessed souls do not go down into hell to rescue the fallen, but wait instead for the fallen to travel up into the frontier region of heaven.]

"Only the Greatest of all [answers his Teacher, George MacDonald, semi-fictitiously] can make Himself small enough to enter Hell. For the higher a thing is, the lower it can descend... Only One has descended into hell."

"And will He ever do so again?"

"It was not once long ago that He did it. Time does not work that way when once ye have left the Earth. All moments that have been or shall be were, or are, present in the moment of His descending. There is no spirit in prison to Whom He did not preach."

"And some hear Him?"


(p 121, Macmillan 1974 edition, near the end of chp 13, and near the end of the final dialogue of the book. After this, there is a brief discussion on universalism, where Lewis tries to reconcile his belief in an ultimate finality of hell, with the teaching of MacDonald.)
Jason Pratt said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jason Pratt said…
Whoops--thought the word verification had moved along whilst editing, and that it was asking me to re-enter. {g} I deleted the double-post.
Andrew said…
Isaiah 64:6, "all our righteousness are as filthy rags."

In context, the prophet is lamenting that once Israel followed God and walked in his ways, and now they have turned away from God and their current level of righteousness is like menstrual rags by comparison. The point is not that no humans are righteous before God - in fact the passage affirms that Israel used to be.
BK said…

Just curious, I just read Isaiah 64 from start to finish, and I don't see that portion of the passage affirming that Israel used to be righteous. Of course, I could be skipping what you are referencing. Can you be more specific?
Andrew said…
Well, reading Isa 63 will give you the context, looking to the past times when God shepherded his seemingly faithful flock, and then they rebelled against him. In chapter 64, verse 5 reaffirms "You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways." (NRSV) Quite obviously the prophets point is NOT "humans, no matter how hard they try, can never please God by their own effort". Rather he affirms that humans can be righteous. He returns to condemning Israel's current level of sinfulness:
"But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry... All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;" (64:5-6)

There is no suggestion in the context that all humans who have ever lived have "righteousness like filthy rags". Rather, it is Israel in Isaiah's time that has fallen short and rebelled against God.
Jason Pratt said…
One could add much the same point about St. Paul's use of Psalm 14, too--he's targuming the verses in order to make his own point, which in the case of Rom 3, as well as the larger contexts of the first half of Romans up through what we call chp 11, has to do with trying to stop the constant blaming and infighting among Jewish and Gentile members of the Roman congregation.

Meanwhile, David (whether the Psalm is by him or about him) can hardly be making an absolute claim of saying there are none who are righteous and seeking after God--since even in the immediate context, he contrasts those people who are corrupt and have done abominable things (v 1) with the people of the Lord (v 4) and with the righteous generation whom the Lord is with (v 5); the afflicted whom the evil ones would put to shame, but who take refuge in the Lord (v 6) and who expect the Lord to restore their fortunes (v 7). (Obviously a popular Psalm during the Babylonian exile, whether composed then or earlier. {s}) It is rather more likely that those opening verses are supposed to be applied to the ones who fit that famous opening statement of the Psalm, "The foolish man thinks, 'Adonai is not [i.e. is not the Highest Lord, despite His name]'"--quite possibly with the quote of this "benighted man" _continuing through verse 3!_

(The result in that case, would be that it is the fool or benighted man who thinks that no one does good, everyone's deeds are corrupt and loathsome, no one understands God or obeys Him, all have turned bad and become altogether foul! I'm not entirely sure I would go with that interpretation myself--I mean in extending the opening statement by the benighted man through v 3--but I think it's worth being cautious about, considering the context of the rest of the Psalm where contrasts are made between those people and the loyalists whom the Psalmist expects to be rescued by God from persecution by the wicked.)

Using either the Davidic Psalm or Paul's targuming of it, as a doctrinal prooftexting source on the current topic, is therefore something I respectfully recommend more caution on.
Andrew said…
One could add much the same point about St. Paul's use of Psalm 14, too-

Yes. One could even note that of the six or so passages Paul quotes in his Romans 2 listing of sin, every single one in the original context disagrees with the doctrinal thesis that every human who ever lived is unnacceptable to God.

This in turn may lead us to question whether an interpretation of Paul's writings that sets him consistently in opposition with the passages he is quoting from is really the best interpretation of his words. Perhaps a safer interpretation of his words is to say he is citing a finite list of times in the past where certain groups at that time were labelled sinful and others labelled righteous.

The important thing then, one is tempted to suspect, is who is being labelled sinful and why. If Paul's goal is to establish no difference between Jews and Gentiles, then it is unsurprising that he should cite instances of some members of each groups being named sinful for the same reasons. His point then would be not that every single human who ever lived was sinful, but rather that whether one is a Jew or Gentile is not part of the criteria whereby one is considered sinful (or righteous).

The logic of Paul's argument in the early chapters of Romans then can be read not as a sustained systematic theology that lays out the problem of sin and its solution in Christ in order to answer the question of "how can I be saved", but instead read as an argument regarding the irrelvance of following the traditional Jewish customs in God's sight which cites during the course of the argument many different examples and topics in order to establish that one point.
Andrew said…
By the way Jason, thanks for your comments on the ambiguity of Psalm 14:1-3 - I wasn't actually aware of that!
Jason Pratt said…
You're welcome! {g}

{{Yes. One could even note that of the six or so passages Paul quotes in his Romans 2 listing of sin, every single one in the original context disagrees with the doctrinal thesis that every human who ever lived is unnacceptable to God. }}

Well, if it comes to that, there are things Paul himself says in Rom 2 that kind of imply something other than that doctrine, too! (For instance, Gentiles who know not the Law still have sufficient witness in their conscience so that they will be condemned _or defended!_ by the evidence of their thoughts in the day of Christ's judgment--something Paul swears to by his authority as an apostle.)

My favorite example of an OT verse targumed by Paul in Romans 2, btw, is in verse 6; from Psalm 62: "To you O Lord belongs _mercy_, for you render to everyone according to his works." Makes a pretty big difference to what he's talking about, when he references the quote. (hint: he just got finished throwing down on the Christians in the congregation for being judgmental concerning the unbelievers...)

A close exegetical pass of Rom 1: 14ff makes for some rather interesting conclusions about what Paul means, too. (Actually, the whole first half of the epistle is rather interesting, once contexts start being checked!)

But, it's Daniel's series, so I don't want to rock the boat too much. (Not sure what it has to do with apologetics either, per se, but... {shrug}{s!})

{{[First part of Romans, per the logic of Paul's argument, can be] read as an argument regarding the irrelvance of following the traditional Jewish customs in God's sight}}

That's in there, too, though I wouldn't consider that to be the primary thing--after all, Paul certainly doesn't think it's irrelevant to be grafted into the promises of Israel!

Broadly speaking, I agree with Daniel that it's about the importance of the grace (and mercy) of God. I think Paul is preaching somewhat _more_ mercy than is typically understood; but it isn't always easy to piece that together nowadays. (And probably wasn't easy back then, either.) Part of the difficulty is that sin _does_ still have to be judged against; that can't be blinked aside. The sin has to go. But I think Paul's a lot more hopeful about the extent of the results than people typically take him to be. {shrug}

(I should probably add that I do in fact affirm a doctrine of original sin, and of the necessity of salvation from the effects of this, as well as the necessity of being saved from our own sins. Also, I affirm that if we, by which I mean _I_{g}, do not repent of my sin, but keep enacting it--well, sooner or later God's going to make it pretty hot for me. But I also think this is a very good and hopeful thing. My _sin_ is hopeless; God is not.)

Jason Pratt

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