While the Word of God is always current, after all the upheaval of 2020, Romans 5:1 is a particularly appropriate verse for our day as we present the gospel. The verse breaks nicely into three distinct phrases that help us outline the truth of the gospel.
“Therefore, being justified by faith”
This phrase links us into the argument that Paul has built from chapter 1: that the most basic problem of humanity is our unrighteousness before God. We are sinners. We have rebelled against the holiness of God, and in our sin we are under His wrath (Rom 1:18), deserving the just judgment of God (3:19). We must emphasize the need for salvation as we preach the gospel.
However, in chapter 3, God’s wonderful provision is introduced – justification. On the basis of the finished work of the Lord Jesus, God declares sinful men and women as righteous before Him when they turn in repentance and faith to Christ. Faith is the response God is seeking to His provision.
Then as chapter 5 opens, we begin to be introduced to the possessions of the Christian. The phrase “being justified” is perhaps better expressed as “since we have been justified” (ESV), for it is to people whom God has justified that the following beautiful words apply. As we present the gospel, we must ensure that the line of being inside and outside of Christ is made clear. Although the righteousness of God by faith is “unto all,” available to everyone without exception, it is only “upon all them that believe” (Rom 3:22). Only those who trust Christ for salvation are forgiven of their sins and declared right with God – for those who do not believe, the “wrath of God abides” (Joh 3:36 NASB) on them.
“We have peace with God”
Many people have been experiencing incredibly tumultuous days because of the COVID-19 pandemic or have been caught up in civil and political unrest; but with gentleness we must remind them of a greater need for peace. There is no peace for the wicked (Isa 48:22); the sinner has no claim to real eternal peace.
For the justified, peace with God is not a promise, stored up for a future day – it is a possession. The words “we have” are very precious – the Christian has peace with God now! Although the term “reconciliation” is not used here, the doctrine certainly is present. Reconciliation is that wonderful movement from conflict to peace. God, in His grace, reconciles sinners to Himself. This is far greater than peace from war, far greater than peace from a pandemic.
“Through our Lord Jesus Christ”
All of this is through the Lord Jesus Christ, for in Him sin has been dealt with once and for all. He went to the cross, bore the wrath of God against sin, entered into death and then rose again. It is because of this finished work that sinners can be saved. It is “through” His person and work that God justifies and reconciles sinners to Himself. How much is conveyed in these five words!
Here we do well to come back to the words “by faith.” It is only Christ who can save, but He only saves those who repent of their sins and trust Him to save them.