Today we continue in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Yesterday, we saw Paul speak of the universal need for justification. Today we will see him address the universal results of justification. We see Paul transition to this next part discussing the results of justification with the “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith…” (5:1). The first result is peace with God, Second (“also”), it is through faith that we are granted grace (grace alone through faith alone!) and have the hope1 of glory (v. 2). Third, since we have this hope because of our justification by grace through faith, we can endure our sufferings in this world with joy (vv. 4-5). This is because of God’s love and His giving us the Holy Spirit.
Paul then reminds us that this is all of grace. This is the grace we need, whether Jew or Gentile, because we are all ungodly (v. 6). We are not righteous (v. 7), we are sinners. Yet Christ died for us (v. 8). We have received the justification everyone needs, and are now saved from the judgment we deserve (v. 9). When we were enemies of God, Christ’s death was effective for our salvation (justification), but now that we are justified, his resurrection life is effective to continue our salvation (v. 10). Because the death He died was the death we deserved because we are sinners (v. 12). It’s not because we sin, but we are, by nature, sinners. And this was so before the Law was given, yet we were not aware of our sin apart from the Law (v. 13). So death reigned even before the Law (v. 14), because everyone deserved death and has since the moment sin entered the world.
But the “free gift” is something completely different. We earned death (see 4:4), but life has been granted through grace as a gift (v. 15 – see 4:5). Christ’s death overcame the death those of faith earned. Adam’s one sin created death, but Christ’s death overcame all sins (v. 16). So the life we have in Christ is not just the absence of death. It is something far greater (v. 17). They are not proportionate. In other words, what we are saved to is far more important than what we are saved from. Christ is the second Adam, but what He did lifts us beyond what Adam was before he sinned (vv. 17-19). We have not returned to the state of innocence in which Adam was created, because there was always the possibility of sin and condemnation. We have been given something far better, where sin and condemnation are removed completely! This is why the sin that the Law revealed to us is not the same as the justification we have in Christ (vv. 20-21). We have passed by conditional life (like Adam had and the Law delineated) and have received unconditional eternal life.
Paul then tells us why this is so: the result of our justification is that we died with Christ, and we now live with Him. Paul tells us that the grace of God and his justification are so much better than sin (chapter 5), so he heads off the logical question: doesn’t more sin then mean so much more disproportionate grace (6:1)? Of course not! Because those who have received that grace have died to sin (v. 2), because Christ’s death is graciously applied to us (v. 3). We are not just saved from the punishment of sin through Christ’s death, we are saved from the very power of sin (v. 4). We are alive with Christ Who conquered sin (v. 5). The old nature – the sinner by nature who deserved death – died. So our nature is no longer what it was. We used to sin because we were sinners. But the sinner died. We aren’t sinners any more. So in the life we share with Christ, we should no longer sin (v. 6). In fact, we no longer have to (v. 7). And since Christ died for sin never to die again, and now He lives unto God (v. 10), so we who are justified died to sin and live unto God (v. 11). Paul then plainly states what that means: we who are justified should no longer sin (v. 12). We have been brought from death to life (v. 13). And the sin that the Law revealed in us is dead by the grace which justifies us (v. 14). So we are finally free from the power of both death and sin!
However, just because we are not under the Law does not mean that we cannot sin (or that we will not). We should not sin, because we are not under sin’s control anymore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still freely choose to sin (vv. 15-16). But we – only now that we are free from sin and the Law – we can now not sin (vv. 17-18). So we must choose in our freedom to not sin (v. 19). When we were enslaved by sin, we were free from righteousness (v. 20). In other words, before we died with Christ, we couldn’t not sin. But now we are called to righteousness since we can not sin (v. 22). We earned death through our sin, but God graciously gave us life (v. 23). This means that we live unto Him now!
Paul then speaks of the Law. It is only binding on those who have not died, obviously (7:1), just as a woman is bound to her spouse only when he is alive (v. 2) and is free to bind herself to another when her first husband died (v. 3). We who have died with Christ have died to the Law and are not bound by it (v. 4). And the Law only revealed our sin to us (v. 5 – see 5:13). But having died with Christ, we are not bound to the Law and the resulting sin (v. 6).
But Paul does not equate the Law with sin, even though it is the Law that reveals his sin (v. 7). Sin was already there even before the Law (again, see 5:13). The Law only reveals to us that the covetousness (or any sin) that is within us is actually sinful (v. 8). Without God’s Law, we don’t know that our sin is sin (v. 9). By God commanding adherence to the Law, man can know that he is condemned to death (v. 10). Otherwise, our sin deceives us (v. 11). We don’t know that we deserve death without the Law, so the Law is good (v. 12).
But the good Law is not what causes death (v. 13). Sin causes death. So that the Law reveals the sin that causes death is good. It shows us God’s spiritual requirements, though we are by nature sinners (v. 14). Paul is drawing a contrast between the spiritual and the physical. Those justified by faith still need to contend with the sin nature. We are, in fact, free from the power of sin (see 6:4-7). But we are, in practice, still tempted to choose sin (see 6:13). We now can not sin, and yet we still do sin (v. 15). Just knowing it is sin – which is revealed by the Law – makes the Law good (v. 16). In other words, we know can not sin, but it is only now that we can even want to not sin! So it is not the new us that sins, but it is the indwelling sin that remains in us (v. 17) that makes us fight against the sin that we now don’t want (vv. 18-20).
Paul then tells us that just because we are not under the power of sin does not mean that sin does not exist in us on this side of heaven (v. 21). Our spirit wants to please God (v. 22). Our minds want to please God (v. 23). But yet we still fall prey to sin. Our spirit and our flesh are at war with each other (v. 25). This is why Paul wrote chapter 6! The life we have in Christ is enough for us to overcome our sinful tendencies. We are dead to sin and alive unto Christ (8:1-2). We need to live like we’re alive! God sent His Son so we could live as alive in Christ (v. 3). His death made it possible for us to walk according to the Spirit – to please God (v. 4 – see 7:22-25). Are our minds focused on doing that (v. 5)? Why would we live as something other than what we are? Why would we live as those dead in sin, enslaved to sin, unable to obey God (vv. 6-8)? Why would we live like those that cannot not sin, when we now can not sin (v. 7)?
And this is why God gave us His Holy Spirit (v. 9) through Whom Christ dwells in us, making us alive with Him (v. 10). This is talking about how we live in the here and now. The Spirit that raised Christ (see 1:4) dwells in our mortal bodies (v. 11). In our bodies that will yet experience physical death, and which still carries with it sinful tendencies (see 7:18, 24). He gives us life – the resurrection life of Jesus – in the here and now! So we should not live according to the tendencies of our mortal bodies (v. 12), but should through the Spirit kill the flesh (v. 13). We are no longer slaves to the Law, to sin, or to death that we need to fear them (v. 15). Rather, we have received the Spirit that makes us children of God along with Christ (vv. 16-17). We no longer have to fear sin, because it has no power over those whom the Spirit – and Christ – dwell in!
Verse 18 is one that is often taken out of context. From the start of chapter 5 until this point, the context is how we live as those justified. We are to live as we have been made alive. We are to live obeying God (who we are alive unto) rather than sin (which we have died to). So this suffering Paul talks about is not suffering in general. It is talking about the suffering we face on this side of heaven because we live obedient to God and not to sin. This is how Christ suffered: not because of His own sin, but because of His righteousness (see v. 17)! So much of our suffering in this life is brought upon ourselves by sin. That suffering is not in view here. When our salvation is brought to its consummation in glory, what we are will be revealed, that is, we will finally be free from the presence of sin and will live as what we really are – free from sin.
Verse 19 refers back to what Paul said in verses 14-17. The whole of creation is moving towards the consummation of all things. It longs eagerly for our revealing as the sons of God; those who are children of God who live according to the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the body. Again, this is what we should be now. There are such great promises in this chapter. But this chapter also calls us to take responsibility to live like who we truly are. The whole of creation will benefit if we do that (vv. 20-21), just as the whole creation was affected by sin.
Paul then speak of what theologians would call “the already/not yet.” God’s plan of salvation has already begun to be realized through Christ’s work and in us, and it will be completed at our resurrection (vv. 22-23). That is why the hope of glory is what has already saved us (v. 24) even as we wait for its realization (v. 25). And until that time, the Spirit helps us in our fleshly weakness. He is our Comforter and Intercessor in our sufferings, and knows what we are – and will be – even though we don’t fully know it yet (vv. 26-27).
Verse 28 is also often taken out of context. The “all things” that work for good is talking about the suffering (for the right reasons) until the consummation of our salvation. This is why we wait for our final salvation (our guaranteed hope) with patience (see v. 23-25). Because our hope is guaranteed, and even our present sufferings of the “already” work towards the “not yet” (see v. 18). And note that this promise is for “those” who love God and “those” who are called according to His purpose. This is speaking of the full number of the elect. This is in no way a promise that anything will work out for good in this life for any and every believer. This is talking about our collective, final salvation. And that salvation (our hope) is sure, because those foreknown/predestined/justified/glorified are those called (vv. 28-30). All of these apply to all believers. That means, if we are called and part of that “not yet” that will work out ultimately for our good, then we are justified, and we will be conformed to the image of Christ now. We will suffer for our righteousness (v. 18) like He did (v. 17).
Paul then asks: “what then shall we say to this?” The “this” is everything he has said from the beginning of chapter 5. The “this” is his exposition of the results of our justification. And he has not described an easy road! We are to live as we are: free from sin. We are to suffer because of our righteousness. We are to wage war with our sinful tendencies and obey God, because now we can. So what do we say to that? We say “I can’t do it!” But we also say, “but I know God can” (vv. 31-32)! God has justified us (v. 33). And we see the results of that in these chapters. Christ has died and been resurrected (v. 34). And we have died with Him and been raised with Him. Can any earthly circumstances change who we are in Christ? Can it change our ultimate salvation? Can even the powers of darkness stop what Christ has begun in us? Not a chance (vv. 35-39)! We are more than conquerors in our fight against sin and the flesh; more than conquerors against death; more than conquerors even in our sufferings! Because we are those justified by grace through faith (see 5:1-5).
1 Hope in this sense means assurance, as in verse 5.