Well, you just heard it. After our break for Advent and after a small New Year series on the Church, we’re back in Romans, Paul’s magnum opus, the Mt. Everest of the New Testament. And as we come back into it, remember what we’ve learned in it.
Paul begins this great letter by introducing himself and his main theme, the gospel he’s not ashamed of “…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” After this introduction Paul then descends, leading us down into the dark, cavernous nature that is the sinfulness of man. And we saw, that though we we’re made in God’s very image, though we see evidence of God’s invisible power and divine nature all throughout creation…we suppress that knowledge because, at our very core, we dislike that God is God and we desire to be god in His place. We not only sin occasionally or even repeatedly, our entire nature is fallen so our true identity is ‘sinner.’ So, the biggest problem we’ll ever face in is not something wrong outside of us but something wrong deep within us. This is as true for the immoral pagan blatantly rebelling against God, as it is for the religiously zealous moral person ignoring God.
Having descended into this darkness of sin, Paul then lifts his eyes upward to the heights of glory as he makes his case for what is called justification by faith alone. The wondrous “act of God’s free grace, where He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only because of the righteousness of Christ imputed (or reckoned, or given) to us, which we receive by faith alone.” Then to clarify further, Paul makes it clear in chapter 4 that this isn’t a new teaching he’s made up for his own purposes, no, this was just as true for Abraham and David long ago as it is for us today.
Now that’s where we’ve been in Romans. The first four chapters are behind us and, Lord willing, from now until June the next four chapters are ahead of us. It’s good for us to have paused where we did because in 5:1 Paul makes a clear shift in the letter. You see, in chapters 1-4 he carefully defined what justification is, now in chapters 5-8 he joyfully describes the many blessings justification brings to us who believe. What are those blessings? There almost too numerous to count, but I think we can say the main theme of chapters 5-8 is assurance. Assurance that the God who put forth His Son Jesus Christ in the gospel to be received by faith, that same God, will unite us to Himself, will increase His grace in us by the Holy Spirit, and will keep us to the end. Perhaps we can put like this: in chapters 1-4 we saw the gospel is the power of God to save those who believe, now in chapters 5-8 we find the gospel is the power of God to sanctify those who believe.
If you’re not already there, open up to it, or look on the back of your bookmarks to Romans 5:1-2. See here the first blessing of justification, peace with God.
Peace with God (v1)
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This first phrase is a summary of all that’s come before in Romans 1-4, but I think it’s more than a summary as well. When Paul says “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith…” he’s not only is wrapping up one section and moving into a new section, do you see that he’s writing in such a way to present justification as a blessing that’s already been experienced by his readers? It’s as if he’s saying, ‘Since you’ve recognized and turned away from your sin, since you’ve embraced Christ by faith in the gospel, and since you’ve been counted righteous by God…here’s what happens to us.’ Or, ‘Since you’ve been justified by God in the past, here’s how that transforms your life with God in the present as well as in the future.’
In the English language we have various ways of communicating emphasis: word choice, punctuation, bold font, italics, all caps, etc. New Testament Greek is different, the primary emphasis is found in word order. So you’ve seen how our ESV translation puts it here, listen to how the Greek order lays it out, “Justified by faith therefore, peace…” The most important concept is right up front in the sentence. All this means is that the ‘therefore’ signals a shift or a movement, not into something totally new, but a shift and a movement into something flowing out from what’s come before. So, then what does the ‘therefore’ come from and lead to in v1? Justification defined and embraced leads to v1, “…peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
But think, what comes to mind when you hear the word ‘peace?’ Long haired hippies and tie-dye? Perhaps that used to be the case. I think for many in our current context the word peace brings to mind not, hopes of what the world could be like, but an awareness of what the world so clearly lacks. Yet, even this isn’t new. Throughout the history of the world mankind has always sought after peace, and for many, peace is a reality that remains distant creating chaos, ruin, and misery for countless people personally and countless nations globally. But notice v1, Paul is after more than just peace in general. He speaks specifically of the kind of peace that matters the most, ‘peace with God.’ What’s he up to here?
Observe the kind of peace in view. It’s ‘peace with God.’ Peace with God, not the peace of God. Phil. 4:6-7 does indeed say, “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” This ‘peace of God’ in Phil. 4 is the subjective, inner experience a Christian has when they lay bare their hearts to God in prayer. This kind of peace is a mighty blessing on its own, but it’s not what Paul is speaking of in Romans 5:1. Paul isn’t telling Christians to seek the peace of God here, and he’s not telling Christians to be at peace with God, no, he’s telling Christians that because they’ve believed in Christ they already have peace with God. This peace in v1 then, is positional in nature. We were under sin and now we’re under grace. We were at war with God and He at war with us and now we’ve been redeemed by Him. We were lost and far from God and now we’re reconciled to Him and united to Him. So Christians aren’t people looking for peace or hoping to find peace, we have it, we’ve got it, and we’re to be rejoicing in it.
How though, does this peace come to us? The rest of v1 shows us that Paul’s simply stating what has happened to those who have believed in Jesus. The very peace the world has been searching for and has never found, abounds in believers. Why? “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” One reason why Paul is so wonderful to read is because it seems he can never say the name of Jesus too much. He is determined to never forget this, and he’s bent on seeing that we never forget it either. Every time he mentions any great blessing from God Paul’s always eager to remind us these blessings come to us through our Lord Jesus Christ, that they can’t be obtained apart from Him, and that anyone who thinks they know God or is blessed by God apart from Jesus Christ is fooling themselves. So do not too quickly read past this phrase in v1 as if it’s a mere footnote or repetition. Underline it, circle it, mark it out, do whatever you have to do to ensure that you remember this too. But ask yourself, are you as fond of the name of Jesus as Paul is. Do you like repeating it? Do you come back to it again and again? Do you see Him as the source and origin, the foundation, of everything you have from God in this life and in the life to come? Is He the great blazing center of your solar system that everything revolves around? Church, there is simply nothing without Jesus Christ. He is the Alpha, He is the Omega, the beginning, the end, the all in all. May He always and ever receive glory from us.
Perhaps we can now see the whole meaning of v1. Why is it that we have and enjoy the great blessing of being at peace with God? Go all the way back and remember, this peace once reigned back in the garden of Eden. God and man enjoyed full and unhindered communion but the fall severed it and brought death and separation and hostility between God and man. All of history that follows after Genesis 3 is truly the story of mankind seeking to recover this great peace that was lost, but to no avail. But praise God! In love He sent His Son to bridge the gulf between God and man. Only in His work, His victory, His redemption, only in Him do we come back into this peace. For His blood satisfied God’s wrath and quenched God’s anger. So anyone who now comes in faith to Jesus is justified, declared to be righteous, and anyone who is justified by faith finds themselves not only forgiven but brought back into favor with God by once again being at peace with God.
Church, the greatest blessing a Christian can ever know is this peace. Do you know it? Hear it clearly: we will never know the ‘peace of God’ until we first have ‘peace with God’ through our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s what Paul’s saying here in v1.
But I think we can mine a bit deeper and ask, what does being at peace with God look like in our experience? What does it feel like? How does it change our lives? Well there are many ways this changes how we live, but before I go to all the positive ways this peace changes and assures us, sadly I must remind you there is such a thing as false peace. False peace that deludes, that blinds, that leads people astray into grievous error, fooling many into believing they’re at peace with God when they’re not. So, before we see the positive side of this peace, allow me to briefly describe what this false peace looks like.
First, false peace comes from a false message. Meaning, the person having false peace has not come to Christ for justification, to be saved, but to only find comfort, to only find help, to only fix something about themselves they don’t like.
Second, one having a false peace generally sees faith as only intellectual. All they’ve done with the gospel is agree with it. They might well believe what the Bible says and fully affirm its teachings. But while the mind might be in agreement with the truth, the heart remains distant and has no affection for the truth, no engagement with the truth, and no assurance from the truth.
Third, one having a false peace is never troubled. In a true sense a counterfeit always exaggerates, always seems too wonderful, too perfect. If you’ve ever seen fake money this is the case. It’s too crisp, no bent corners, no blemishes from being handled. This is also true for those who have a false peace. They never seem to be troubled in their Christian walk, they’re always at ease, always and ever blessed and never struggling. To me, this is suspicious. Paul certainly wasn’t like this. He was at peace with God, but even so, he always felt full of weakness and trembling. More on this in a moment.
Fourth, one having a false peace is only interested in forgiveness and not holiness. Because the main pursuit of this person is simply to not go to Hell. That’s the only goal. And once they feel they’ve gained forgiveness (by walking an aisle or praying a prayer or by doing whatever they need to do) they stop right there with Christianity and don’t go further to amending and changing their life to what Christ desires it to be.
Fifth, one having a false peace takes sin lightly. As soon as they sin there’s no grief over what they’ve done or hatred for what they’ve done or examination of why they did what they did in an effort to root it out. Rather they immediately say something like, ‘It’s alright, the blood of Jesus covers me’ and then go on as if nothing happened. After departing from the truth in sin, those who have false peace speak peace to their soul far too quickly.
This is what false peace looks like and what it leads to. Now, in contrast to what false peace looks like, let’s now look at what truly being at peace with God looks like. We could briefly say it looks like just the opposite of the false peace.
First, while false peace comes from a false message, true peace comes from the true gospel message. Only when one embraces what’s in Romans 1-4 can one come into the truths of Romans 5-8. This one comes to Christ, not for help, but for salvation from sin.
Second, while one with false peace only affirms or agrees with the truth, the one truly at peace with God not only agrees with the truth but loves the truth of God as well as the God of truth.
Third, while one with false peace seems to always be blessed and at ease, the one truly at peace with God isn’t always well. They know God, who He is in perfect holiness, they know God’s Word and the holy life they’re called to, but they also know themselves and how far short they fall from that bar. And while they’re truly at peace with God, they’re not at peace in their walk with God, but always pressing on and forward to a deeper walk with God and deeper obedience to God.
Third, while one with false peace is only interested in being forgiven and avoiding Hell, the one truly at peace with God lives a new life. It isn’t a neat and tidy life, but it is a new life. They do this because they desire to please and gladden the heart of the God they’re at peace with.
Fourth, while one with false peace is takes sin lightly, the one truly at peace with God sees sin as what it is, treasonous to the God who has so loved them. Even when they sin, they grieve because they know they’ve sinned against such a gracious Father who’s done everything for them in saving them and keeping them. So, to the one at peace with God, sin is the enemy of all the good they desire in this life and the life to come.
These positive things, are again, just the opposite of the negatives we mentioned before. They’re true and instructive, but can’t we go further? Indeed we can, so let’s keep going.
One truly at peace with God is at rest and knows God’s love. Why? Because they know what justification is! Look at v1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace…” All their hope and joy and gladness is rooted, not in who they are and what they can do, but in what God has done for them in the gospel. In a true sense they’re stuck. We usually think of getting stuck as a bad thing, but I think one of the most beautiful things about Christians is that they’re stuck! Meaning, they’ve never quite gotten over the fact that they’re saved! They’ve never gotten over the fact that God could love such a sinner as they are to come for them, redeem them, secure a redemption for them, and keep them forever. They’ve never gotten over it, and ever live in awe of it.
Jesus is for them, an ark, that’s so safe and so secure no wave can upend it. If you know God to be this for you, nothing in this world can shake you. Do you know Jesus to be this for you? Even though accusations abound, from within yourself, from the devil, from the world, do you know what’s it like to at peace with God?
John Newton knew it. Having been a lost man working in the slave trade for many years. There wasn’t a sin he hadn’t done. But God saved him and until his dying day he said he always heard the whispers of the devil saying, ‘How can you claim to be a Christian John, knowing what you’ve done?’ Newton would reply, ‘What can I tell him? I cannot tell him I am a good man…I cannot tell him about my past or even about my present. There is only one way to silence the devil.’ It’s to go to God in prayer saying, “Be Thou my shield and hiding place, that, sheltered near Thy side, I may my fierce accuser face, and tell him ‘Thou hast died!’”
Newton never got over the fact that he was saved. Have you?
Be reminded of the words of Jesus. John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Only when we’re at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, will we know and rest in the peace of God.
 Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q33.
 Douglas Moo, Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2018), 326.
 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans – vol. 4 (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth, 1985), 8.
 Ibid., 13.
 Ibid., 24–27.
 Ibid., 17–24, 27–29.