Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 3: Sunday
Today’s Bible reading is Romans 5–6. The Therefore of Romans 5:1 is not simply earth shattering—the Therefore of Romans 5:1 shatters the cosmos. The Therefore marks the change from rebellious sinners under the just wrath of God to forgiven, righteous-before-Him children of God.
In Romans 5, the joy of the Gospel breaks forth. We read of peace with God: grace, hope, reconciliation, and life. The chapter rings with the love of God, not for those who are good, but for us defiant sinners—not when we had our act together, but when we were in rebellion against Him.
I’ll tell you, when I read Romans 5:1, and come to this grace in which we stand, my heart leaps for joy. I want to stand up and shout, like the girl in the photo waving her hands in the air. The photo is called, “The Colours of Happiness.” Isn’t that great? It’s my Romans 5 photo, because it’s exactly what Romans 5 means.
I want to look back to Romans 1–4 and talk about why Paul’s Therefore of Romans 5:1 is so earthshaking. The Therefore is a hinge that looks back to the first four chapters. He builds upon those truths as he explains in the next four how the righteousness of God is realized in our new life in Christ.1
Romans 1:16–17 are the verses that give us the theme and the map of Paul’s letter:
“At the very outset then, it is necessary to understand that salvation is a matter of righteousness.”2 From Romans 1:18–Romans 3:20, Paul drives homes the truth that, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE,” (3:10b). We think the licentious and wicked are obviously not righteous, but Paul says not the moral man, nor even observant Jews who have God’s Law are righteous. Not one person is righteous. Every mouth is shut, all the world is accountable to God (3:19). Paul characterizes and describes each and every one of us in Romans 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
John Murray writes (my emphasis),
If we are to appreciate that which is central in the gospel, if the jubilee trumpet is to find its echo again in our hearts, our thinking must be revolutionized by the realism of the wrath of God, of the reality and gravity of our guilt, and of the divine condemnation. It is then and only then that our thinking and feeling will be rehabilitated to an understanding of God’s grace in the justification of the ungodly. The question is really not so much: how can man be just before God; but how can sinful man become just with God? The question in this form points up the necessity of a complete reversal in our relation to God. Justification is the answer and justification is the act of God’s free grace. “It is God who justifies: who is he that condemns?” (Rom. 8:33).3
In Romans 3:21, there is a momentous, But now:
Kent Hughes writes Donald Grey Barnhouse thought so highly of Romans 3:21–31, he,
superscribed a heart over these verses in his Bible because, “I am convinced today, after many years of Bible study, that these verses are the most important in the Bible.”4
In Romans 1-3, Paul cuts the ground out from under any who think their works will justify themselves to God. Then, having established that none of us are righteous and we are all are accountable to God, he offers words of hope in 3:21, “But now…” and we hear the righteousness of God is revealed through faith in the Lord Jesus for all those who believe in Him. Look at 3:26:
…so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Paul is at pains in Romans 4, as he talks about Abraham to further explain justification by faith and the relationships between the Law, faith, and righteousness.
Murray states (my emphasis),
The truth that God justifies needs to be underlined. We do not justify ourselves…
Justification does not mean to make righteous, or good, or holy, or upright…The meaning of the word justify…is to declare to be righteous. Its meaning is entirely removed from the thought of making upright or holy or good or righteous.
This is what we mean when we insist that justification is forensic [relating to, used in, or appropriate for courts of law]. It has to do with a judgment given, declared, pronounced: it is judicial or juridical or forensic. The main point of such terms is to distinguish between the kind of action which justification involves and the kind of action involved in regeneration. Regeneration is an act of God in us; justification is a judgment of God with respect to us. The distinction is like that between the act of a surgeon and the act of a judge. The surgeon, when he removes an inward cancer, does something in us. That is not what a judge does—he gives a verdict regarding our judicial status…
The purity of the gospel is bound up with the recognition of this distinction. If justification is confused with regeneration or sanctification, then the door is opened for the perversion of the gospel at its centre.5
It is crucial to understand the difference. In the next four chapters of Romans, Paul will talk about the Christian life. If we don’t understand this distinction, when we try to live a life of obedience to Christ that honors God, we can fall under the burden of legalism or into the arrogance of self-righteousness. We become foolish Galatians (Galatians 2:15–21, 3:1–14), falling prey to a different gospel that is no gospel at all. We must understand that in Christ, we are declared righteous by God.
Murray writes (his emphasis),
Regeneration is wrought by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3, 5, 6, 8) and by this act the people of God become indwelt by the Holy Spirit; they become in New Testament terms “Spiritual.” Sanctification is specifically the work of this indwelling and directing Holy Spirit…[Sanctification] has as its aim the elimination of all sin and complete conformation to the image of God’s own Son, to be holy as the Lord is holy. If we take the concept of sanctification seriously we are shut up to the conclusion that it will not be realized until the body of our humiliation will be transformed into the likeness of the body of Christ’s glory, when the corruptible will put on incorruption and the mortal will put on immortality (Phil. 3:21; I Cor. 15:54).6
Justification is not by the righteousness of performance on our part; it is not of works (Rom. 3:20; 4:2; 10:3, 4; Gal. 2:16; 3:11; 5:4; Phil. 3:9). The Scripture is so insistent upon this that it is only by spiritual blindness and distortion of the most aggravated type that justification by works could ever be entertained or proposed in any form or to any degree…7
The righteousness of justification is the righteousness and obedience of Christ. (Rom. 5:17, 18, 19)…And this is why the righteousness of justification is the righteousness of God…it is the righteousness of the God-man, a righteousness which measures up to the requirements of our sinful and sin-cursed situation, a righteousness which meets all the demands of a complete and irrevocable justification, and a righteousness fulfilling all these demands because it is a righteousness of divine property and character, a righteousness undefiled and inviolable. Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 5:21).8
In Romans 5, Paul exults in what Stott calls, “the fruits of our justification.”9 We read of peace with God, grace, hope, God’s love for us, reconciliation, and eternal life.
John Stott writes,
‘But God shows his love for us (and “his” is emphatic in the Greek: He shows His own, His unique love) in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.’ [Rom. 5:8] Nor for the coldly upright, nor even for the warmly attractive and good, but for sinners, unattractive, unworthy, undeserving.10
In chapter 6, Paul answers the charge, Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? He vehemently cries, May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? and explains that Christians have been united with Christ in His death and resurrection, and what that means to us in terms of living in obedience to God. The last part of chapter 6 leads into chapter 7, but that’s for next week.
I read Romans 5 the night I became a Christian. My Witness in the header tells my story, and explains more about turning from your sin and believing in Jesus. On July 16, 2020, fifty years later, I wrote “I Hold, I Am Held.” He holds on to me, and by His grace that jubilee trumpet still echoes in my heart.
What about you? Does the jubilee trumpet echo in your heart? Will you believe in Jesus?
…this grace in which we stand.
Words of wonder. Words of joy.
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.
Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Colours of Happiness: Camdiluv ♥, ( CC BY-SA 2.0).
Slide Trumpet: Public domain.
1My pastor, Mike Braun, when preaching through Romans, titled Romans 1–4 “God’s Righteousness Revealed,” and Romans 5–8, “God’s Righteousness Realized.”
2John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue, gen. eds., “The Application of Redemption,” Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Biblical Truth (Crossway, Wheaton IL: 2017) 610.
3,5,7,8John Murray, “Justification,” Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: 1955) 118; 118, 121; 126; 127-128
6John Murray, “Sanctification,” Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids MI: 1955) 141, 143-144.
4R. Kent Hughes, Romans: Righteousness From Heaven (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 1991) 82.
9,10John Stott, Men Made New (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1966) 12, 18.
Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter