A Commentary by John Stott
God’s people united in Christ.
What is immediately noteworthy at the end of Romans 4 and the beginning of Romans 5 is Paul’s change of pronoun to the first person plural, ‘we’. The characteristic pronoun in the first half of Romans 1 as “I” (‘I am not ashamed of the gospel’) and in the second half ‘they’, as Paul portrays the demoralized pagan world. With chapter two the pronoun changes to ‘you’ as he addresses first the moralizer (‘You have no excuse’) and then the Jew (‘Now you, if you call yourself a Jew’). In Romans 3 Paul reverts to ‘they’. describing first the whole world held accountable to God’ and then ‘all who believe’, who in the first half of chapter 4 are called the offspring of Abraham. But suddenly, in the last phrase of Romans 4:16, Paul introduces the first person plural by designating Abraham ‘the father of us all’ and (in verse 17) ‘our father’.
The first person plural is maintained for the rest of chapter 4, and then Paul begins chapter 5 with a sequence of ‘we’ affirmations: ‘we have peace with God’, ‘we have gained access…into grace’, ‘we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God’, ‘we also rejoice in our sufferings’, ‘we shall be saved’, and ‘we also rejoice in God’. By these magnificent statements of faith the apostle identifies himself with all who have been justified by faith, whether Jewish or Gentile, and expresses the solidarity of the people of God, the new community of Messiah Jesus. Hence the title I have given this chapter. Emphasis on the unity of the people of God continues in the second half of chapter 5, as Paul contrasts Adam and Christ, and their respective communities, and in chapter 6 where ‘we’ are characterized first as having died and risen with Christ and then as slaves of God through Christ.
1). The results of justification (5:1-11)
Having expounded the need for justification (1:18-3:20) and the way of justification (3:21-4:25) the apostle now describes its fruits or ‘blissful consequences’. It is as if he is enlarging on what he has called ‘the blessedness’ of those whom God justifies (4:6).
The whole paragraph (verses 1-11) depends on the opening words: *Therefore, since we have been justified through faith…*. Paul utters six bold assertions in the name of all whom God has justified.
a). We have peace with God (1).
The pursuit of peace is a universal human obsession, whether it is international, industrial, domestic, or personal peace. Yet more fundamental than all these is *peace with God*, the reconciled relationship with him which is the first blessing of justification. Thus ‘justification’ and ‘reconciliation’ belong together, for ‘God does not confer the status of righteousness upon us without at the same time giving himself to us in friendship and establishing peace between himself and us’. And this peace becomes ours *through our Lord Jesus Christ* (1), who was both delivered to death and raised from death (4:25), in order to make it possible. This is the heart of the peace which the prophets foretold as the supreme blessing of the messianic age, the shalom of the kingdom of God, inaugurated by Jesus Christ, the prince of peace.
Moreover, *we have peace with God* now, Paul writes, as a present possession. But is this the correct reading? In the great majority of manuscripts the verb is in the subjective (*echomen*, ‘let us have’, RV and RSV mg.), not in the indicative (*echomen*, ‘we have’, NIV and REB). In the Greek text the difference is only a single letter, and the pronunciation of the two words will have been almost identical. If *echomen* is right, then ‘let us have peace’ would have to be understood as an exhortation to ‘enjoy it to the full’. Yet, in spite of its strong manuscript support, most commentators reject this reading. It seems to be one of those rare cases in which the context must be allowed to take precedence over the text, the internal evidence over the external, theology over grammar. For the paragraph consists of a series of affirmations, and contains not even one exhortation. ‘Only the indicative is consonant with the apostle’s argument.’
Tomorrow: Romans 5:2a b). We are standing in grace.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Romans: Christ the Controversialist. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.