Justification and the Obedience of Christ (Romans 5)
Justification by Faith and the Obedience of Christ (Rom. 5)
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 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. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1–5
A Survey of Romans 5
Romans 5 is one of the most important chapters in Scripture. It is a magisterial account of justification and the obedience of Christ. Paul makes justification the prerequisite of peace with God (5:1). Justification provides a standing in grace to enable perseverance (5:2-4). The climatic statement of his introduction is that the Spirit love has been “poured out.” The term for love being “poured” draws an interesting connotation; ekchunno is a term used of blood shed and the pouring of wine in the Eucharist (Mt. 26:28, Mk. 14:24, Lk. 22:20). Then he moves to the mercy and grace of God toward sinners in the death of Jesus. This section includes the very memorable verse, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (5:8). But this is not the end, Paul makes a lesser-to-greater argument: "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (5:10). Then comes an impressive argument from Adamic typology: "For as through the one man’s [Adam] disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One [Christ] the many will be made righteous" (5:19). Through the obedience of Jesus we are "declared" to be "in the right" before God. How might we fully understand this doctrine?
A Summary of the Doctrine of Romans 5
The terms, "justification," "justify," "righteous," and "justice" etc. are all from the same Hebrew/Greek roots (tsadaq/dikaio). Isaiah 45:25: "In the LORD all the descendants of Israel shall be justified, and shall glory." And somehow Israel/the Servant, "shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities" (Is. 53:11). Israel is like the innocent defendant in a trial (see Ps. 43:1, 135:14; Is. 50:8; Lk. 18:7) to be "acquitted" and "vindicated" by the judgment. The New Dictionary of Theology (David F. Wright, Sinclair B. Ferguson, J.I. Packer, eds) says, justification is the “action in the lawcourt whereby a judge upholds the case of one party in dispute . . . this action has the force of ‘acquittal’ . . . As Israel’s troubles increase in the period after the exile, it becomes increasingly clear that what is needed is a final day of judgment, when God will right all wrongs, and vindicate his people, once and for all.” Enter Jesus. God has accomplished this declaration of righteousness by the True Servant, Jesus, through His death and especially His resurrection. Jesus was "was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised for our justification" (Rom. 4:25). Jews and Gentiles can now, by faith, grasp the future declaration of Israel's acquittal and apply it to themselves.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more