The Believer’s Peace with God
Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (5:1)
The first link in the unbreakable chain that eternally binds believers to Christ is their peace with God.
The term therefore connects Paul’s present argument with what he has already said, especially in chapters 3 and 4. In those chapters the apostle established that, as believers, we have been justified by faith. Because of our justification by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The verb translated we have is in the present tense, indicating something that is already possessed. Many of a believer’s blessings must await his resurrection and glorification, but peace with God is established the moment he places his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The peace that Paul is speaking about here is not subjective but objective. It is not a feeling but a fact. Apart from salvation through Jesus Christ, every human being is at enmity with God, spiritually at war with Him (see v. 10; cf. 8:7), regardless of what his feelings about God may be. In the same way, the person who is justified by faith in Christ is at peace with God, regardless of how he may feel about it at any given moment. Through his trust in Jesus Christ, a sinner’s war with God is ended for all eternity.
Most unsaved people do not think of themselves as enemies of God. Because they have no conscious feelings of hatred for Him and do not actively oppose His work or contradict His Word, they consider themselves, at worst, to be “neutral” about God. But no such neutrality is possible. The mind of every unsaved person is at peace only with the things of the flesh, and therefore by definition is “hostile toward God” and cannot be otherwise (Rom. 8:7).
After the famous missionary David Livingstone had spent several years among the Zulus of South Africa, he went with his wife and young child into the interior to minister. When he returned, he discovered that an enemy tribe had attacked the Zulus, killed many of the people, and taken the chief’s son captive. The Zulu chief did not want to make war with the other tribe, but he poignantly asked Dr. Livingstone, “How can I be at peace with them while they hold my son prisoner?”
Commenting on that story, Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote, “If this attitude is true in the heart of a savage chief, how much more is it true of God the Father toward those who trample under foot His Son, who count the blood of the covenant wherewith they were set apart as an unholy thing, and who continue to despise the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29)?” (God’s River: Romans 5:1–11 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959], p. 26).
Not only are all unbelievers enemies of God but God is also the enemy of all unbelievers, to the degree that He is angry with them every day (cf. Ps. 7:11) and condemns them to eternal hell. God is the enemy of the sinner, and that enmity cannot end unless and until the sinner places his trust in Jesus Christ. Every person who is not a child of God is a child of Satan (see John 8:44), and every person who is not a citizen of God’s kingdom is a citizen of Satan’s. As Paul declared near the opening of this letter, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).
Apart from personal trust in God, even members of His chosen race Israel were not exempt from divine enmity and wrath. “My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword,” God warned ancient Israel soon after He delivered her from Egypt (Ex. 22:24). During the subsequent wilderness wanderings, the Lord declared of unbelieving, unfaithful Israelites: “They have made Me jealous with what is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation, for a fire is kindled in My anger, and burns to the lowest part of Sheol, and consumes the earth with its yield, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains” (Deut. 32:21–22). Shortly after Israel entered the Promised Land, God warned: “When you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, and go and serve other gods, and bow down to them, then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land which He has given you” (Josh. 23:16; cf. 2 Kings 22:13; Isa. 5:25; 13:9; Nah. 1:2).
To those who foolishly think God is too loving to send anyone to hell, Paul declared, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things [the sins listed in v. 5] the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6).
I once heard a professional football coach say during a pregame devotional service I held for his team: “I don’t know if there is a God, but I like having these chapels, because if there is one I want to be sure He’s on my side.” Sentiments such as that are frequently expressed by unbelievers who think that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe can be cajoled into doing one’s bidding by giving Him superficial lip service. God is never on the side of unbelievers. He is their enemy, and His wrath against them can only be placated by their trust in the atoning work of His Son, Jesus Christ.
But on the cross, Christ took upon Himself all the fury of God’s wrath that sinful mankind deserves. And those who trust in Christ are no longer God’s enemies and no longer under His wrath, but are at peace with Him.
Paul assured the Colossian believers: “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him [Christ], and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Col. 1:19–22).
The most immediate consequence of justification is reconciliation, which is the theme of Romans 5. Reconciliation with God brings peace with God. That peace is permanent and irrevocable, because Jesus Christ, through whom believers receive their reconciliation, “always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). “For I will be merciful to their iniquities,” the Lord says of those who belong to Him, “and I will remember their sins no more” (Heb. 8:12; cf. 10:17). If anyone is ever to be punished in the future for the sins of believers, it would have to be the One who took them on Himself—Jesus Christ. And that is impossible, because He has already paid the penalty in full.
When a person embraces Jesus Christ in repentant faith, the sinless Son of God who made perfect satisfaction for all our sins makes that person eternally at peace with God the Father. In fact, Christ not only brings peace to the believer but “He Himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). This all points out how crucial it is to understand the nature and extent of the atoning work of Jesus the Lord as the basis for assurance.
Although the peace of which Paul is speaking in this passage is the objective peace of being reconciled to God, awareness of that objective truth gives the believer a deep and wonderful subjective peace as well. To know that one is a child of God, a brother of Jesus Christ, cannot but give Christians what Charles Hodge called the “sweet quiet of the soul” (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974 reprint], p. 132).
But awareness of our peace with God through Jesus Christ is meant to give us far more than feelings of gratitude and warmth, wonderful as those are. When a Christian is convinced he is eternally secure in Christ, he is freed from focusing on his own goodness and merit and is able to serve the Lord with the unqualified confidence that nothing can separate him from his heavenly Father. He can say with Paul, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).
The peace that a believer has in the knowledge that he is secure forever in Christ not only strengthens his faith but strengthens his service. The knowledge that we are eternally at peace with God prepares us to wage effective spiritual warfare in Christ’s behalf and in His power. When engaged in battle, a Roman soldier wore boots with spikes in the bottom to give him a firm footing while fighting. Because Christians have their feet shod with “the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15), they have the confidence to stand firmly for Christ without the spiritual slipping and emotional sliding that uncertainty about salvation inevitably brings, knowing God is on their side!
Peace with God
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
A number of years ago, Look magazine ran a personality feature entitled “Peace of Mind.” Sixteen prominent Americans had been asked how they were able to find peace in our stressful world, and the article consisted of their answers.
James Michener, the author of many best-selling books, said that he finds peace by taking his two dogs for a walk “along old streams and into fields that have not been plowed for half a century.” Barry Goldwater, the former Senator from Arizona and Republican presidential candidate, said that he finds peace in his hobbies—photography, boating, flying, and camping—but above all by “walking in the Grand Canyon.” (It was obvious that Goldwater had been elected to the Senate from “the Grand Canyon state.”) Former CBS news anchorman Walter Cronkite finds peace in solitude, usually by “going to the sea by small boat.” Margaret Mead, the well-known anthropologist and author of Coming of Age in Samoa, sought “a change of pace and scene.” Sammy Davis, Jr., said he found peace by looking for “good in people.” Bill Moyers, television personality and former press secretary to Lyndon Johnson, tried to find peace in a family “reunion, usually in some remote and quiet retreat.”
As I read these answers I was impressed with how subjective and dependent upon favorable circumstances most of the approaches were. But I noted something else, too. Although each of these prominent Americans differed in his or her methods, all were nevertheless seeking peace of mind and recognized that pursuing it was important. No one considered a search for peace to be irrelevant.
What is it that people are most seeking in life, once their basic physical needs are satisfied? Some say they are seeking “freedom.” Movements for national liberation are usually based on this intense human desire. But Americans are free. We have been free of foreign domination for over two hundred years, and our constitution and legal system affirm our individual liberties. Yet most of us are as restless and discontented (perhaps even more so) as those living under strongly oppressive regimes. Is it wealth we are seeking? One of the richest men in the world once said, “I thought money could buy happiness. I have been miserably disillusioned.” Others seek fulfillment through education, fame, sex, or power, but most are discontented even when they attain such goals. What is the reason? The explanation is that what people are really seeking is peace, and the ultimate and only genuine peace is found in a right relationship with God.
The great North African Christian, Saint Augustine, expressed it best more than a millennium and a half ago, when he wrote in his Confessions, “You made us for yourself, and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.”
Peace Through Jesus Christ
If you are restless and seeking peace, the verse that begins the fifth chapter of Paul’s magnificent letter to the Romans is addressed to you. For here Paul speaks of peace and tells how it may be found: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I want to put this verse in its context, however. And to do that I need to have you think ahead to what we are going to find in this next major section of Paul’s letter (chs. 5–8).
It is traditional among commentators to suggest that at this point in his letter, having explained the doctrine of justification by grace through faith, Paul lists what most writers call “the fruits of justification” and then moves on to discuss sanctification. Peace is one such “fruit,” but there are others: access to God through prayer, hope, joy, perseverance, and a sense of being loved by God. According to this view, Paul interrupts his listing of these fruits of justification at verse 11 to deal with the parallel between Adam and Christ (Rom. 5:12–21) and sanctification (Rom. 6:1–8:17), before returning to the assurance that nothing can separate the believer from God’s love, which is another fruit of justification (Rom. 8:18–39). Commentators taking this approach conclude that the chief concern of the apostle in this section of Romans is sanctification.
If the traditional approach is correct, Romans falls into four major sections: (1) a portion dealing with justification (chs. 1–4); (2) a discussion of sanctification (chs. 5–8); (3) the problem of God’s dealing with the Jews (chs. 9–11); and (4) practical matters (chs. 12–16).
However, at this point I think that F. Godet and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (who follows him) are right when they suggest that what Paul is actually presenting in Romans 5:1–11 is not “the fruits of justification,” though he mentions some of them, but the beginning of a well-developed statement of the security in Christ that comes to a believer as a result of his or her justification.
There are a number of reasons for this interpretation, and there are reasons why it is important, which I will explain later.
I suggested one reason for approaching verses 1–11 in this way when I said that according to the traditional view, Paul interrupts his treatment of the “fruits” of justification to deal with the parallel between Adam and Christ and sanctification. Yet interruptions are not what we have been led to expect in this letter. One German commentator sees this to be a real problem, and he does not hesitate to say that at this point “the systematic order of our epistle leaves something to be desired.” But is that really so? Any suggestion that Paul is not being systematic should make us pause in our interpretation of his teaching, at least in this letter, which up to now has been a model of consistent and systematic argumentation.
The best arguments against the traditional view are from verses 1–11 themselves. Look at the first sentence. In the New International Version there is a period in the middle of verse 2, separating the sentence “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” from the previous one. But in the Greek text this is actually a continuation and climax. In Greek the passage says what the King James Version allows it to say, namely: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Since “hope of the glory of God” refers to what theologians call glorification, the opening sentence of Romans 5 actually directs our minds to the final glorified state of those who have been justified. And that is exactly where we come out at the end of Romans 8, where Paul argues that nothing is “able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39). This suggests that Paul has chapter 8 in mind as he begins chapter 5 and that he moves consistently toward his conclusion in the intervening material.
There is another argument as well. In Romans 5:1–2, Paul moves from justification to glorification without mentioning sanctification, the matter that traditionalists suppose to be his main concern. In Romans 8:30, he does the same thing, writing: “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Justification, then glorification! In both of these texts, one at the beginning of Romans 5–8 and one at the end, the one idea (justification) leads directly to the other (glorification).
It is true that a great deal of sanctification takes place between justification and glorification and that much of what is found in Romans 5–8 bears upon it. But we could well ask why Paul does not mention sanctification either at the start of this section (Rom. 5:1–11) or at the end of it (Rom. 8:18–39), if this is the primary subject he is writing about. Is it not the case that the reason he does not mention sanctification is that he is not chiefly concerned about it and that these chapters are actually focused on another matter entirely?
What is that matter? It is the believer’s security in Christ or, as we also often say, the “assurance of salvation.”
D. Martyn-Lloyd Jones, who sees Romans 5–8 in this light, says that “the apostle is concerned primarily, from this point onwards, to show us the absolute character, the fullness and the finality of the salvation which comes to us in the way he has already described, namely, as the result of justification by faith.”
In my opinion, this is the proper and most profitable approach to Romans 5–8.
“Peace with God” And “Peace of God”
When I began my analysis of Romans 5–8, I said that it was important to have this approach to these chapters and that I would come back to its importance later. I want to do that now. But to do so I want to make another distinction. It is the distinction between having “peace with God,” which is what this section treats, and having the “peace of God,” which is another matter.
Most Christians are acquainted with Philippians 4:6–7, which tells us about the peace of God: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Those two verses envision upsetting situations that come into our lives. Perhaps we have lost a job and are worried about earning enough money to provide for our families. Perhaps we are sick, or a friend is sick. Perhaps a person who has been very close to us has died, and suddenly everything seems in turmoil. One writer argues that the death of a close family member or friend is like having an eggbeater thrust into the mixing bowl of our emotional lives. Elisabeth Elliot, who had one husband murdered by Auca Indians in Ecuador and another slowly consumed by cancer, said that this is a time when the earth seems to be giving way, the waters are roaring, and the mountains are being cast into the sea (cf. Ps. 46:2–3). In such times of stress we need personal peace in our lives, and it is this about which Philippians 4:6–7 is speaking: We can have personal peace by asking God for it.
And it works! I regularly cite these verses when I am writing to people who have lost a close family member, encouraging them to believe that God, who loves them and cares for them, will give them a peace that “transcends all human understanding.” Many tell me that this is exactly what God has done for them. He has given them peace in the midst of their emotional turmoil.
But this is not the peace that Romans 5:1 is talking about. Romans 5 is not referring to the “peace of God,” but to “peace with God.” The idea here is not that we are upset and therefore need to become trusting and more tranquil, but rather that we have been at war with God and he with us, because of our sin, and that peace has nevertheless been provided for us by God—if we have been justified through faith in Jesus Christ.
When we see this, we realize that nothing is more appropriate and logical at this point in Romans than such a reference. For what Paul has been saying in the previous section is that God is not at peace with us but is at war with us because of our ungodly and wicked behavior. The word he has been using is “wrath.” “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Rom. 1:18). Having shown what this means and having answered the objections of those who feel that it is an appropriate description of the condition of other people, but not of themselves, Paul then reveals what God has done to satisfy his wrath against men in Jesus Christ. The Son bore the Father’s wrath in our place. He died for us, and we receive the benefits of his atonement by believing on him and in what he has done. This is the point at which the fourth chapter of Romans ended.
But where does this lead? Obviously to peace with God! Since we have been justified by faith, the cause of the warfare between ourselves and God has been removed, and peace is the result. We therefore have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peace has been provided from God’s side, for he has removed the cause of the enmity through Jesus’ death.
Peace has been received on our side, for we have “believed God” and have found the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ to be credited to us by God as our righteousness.
One commentator summarizes the point of Romans 5:1 by saying: “Every soul has been at war with God, and therefore every soul must have peace with God through cessation of the hostilities which exist between the individual and the Creator. How is the warfare to be brought to an end?… God has made peace, and no other peace can be made except that which he has already made.… If you come in unconditional surrender, you will find him all peace toward you.”
First Peace, Then Blessing
There are some practical applications that we need to make at this point, and they are important enough to be remembered as we make our way through these chapters.
- The starting point for all spiritual blessings, in this life and in the life to come, is the peace that God has made with us through the death of Jesus Christ.
It is no accident that Paul begins Romans 5 with this theme. Many people would like the peace of God (or some other kind of peace) in difficult circumstances. They would like to be calm under fire, self-assured in highly pressured situations—to be always under control. Many more would like other blessings. But if God is the ultimate source of all good things, as he clearly is, we can only have them when we have first entered into a right and proper relationship with him. How is that done? The only way is by faith in Christ, as Paul has been arguing. But suppose you will not come that way. In that case, what can you possibly expect but a continuation of the wrath of God—a wrath greatly intensified, in your case, by your rejection of Jesus?
- Having been justified by God through faith in Jesus Christ, believers can know that their salvation is secured forever and that now nothing can separate them from God’s love.
This is the point I have been making in this study, and the reason is that it is the chief point of the passage. We have already seen how the first two verses of Romans 5 pass directly from justification to glorification, just as Romans 8:30 also does. These chapters also move inexorably to the great conclusion: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).
If this were not enough, we should be led to the same conclusion by the fact that the text itself speaks, not of seeking peace with God, but of having peace. “Having been justified, we have peace with God” is what it says.
It is hard to emphasize this too much, since all Christians need to be sure of their salvation. True, there is a false security about which we need to be warned. Mere intellectual assent to doctrine is not saving faith, and boasting of one’s security while continuing to sin is presumption. But such qualifications aside, it is important to know that we have been saved by God, that peace has been made between God and ourselves, and that the peace made by God will last forever. Only those who are sure of this salvation can be a help to others.
- It is possible to be at peace with God and know that we are at peace with God while, at the same time, fail to experience peace in a given situation.
It is important to point this out because, if we do not know this in advance and cling to it, we can be thrown into paralyzing doubt whenever tragic circumstances or upsetting situations arise. Death will come into our experience, and we will be agitated. “Bad breaks” will come, and we will be confused by them. Disappointments will shake us. In such situations we will need to come to God for the help we desperately need. That is why Paul tells the Philippians not to be anxious, “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” and, as a result, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7). One great secret of the Christian life is to bring all troubling matters to God in prayer so as to find peace even in the midst of them. But the fact that these situations sometimes cause us to lose our sense of the peace of God does not mean that peace with God has been destroyed. In fact, knowing that God has made peace with us and that nothing will destroy the peace he has made will enable us to come to him quickly and boldly when we need help.
It will be an evidence of the fact that we have peace with God that we do so. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says that faith in this matter is like the needle of a compass that always points to the magnetic north. It is possible to deflect it—by a hard blow, for example, or by bringing another magnet close alongside. But these deflections are temporary, and the needle will always return to the proper position. That is what faith is like. It can be jarred or deflected, but it will always return to God—because God has made peace with us. Faith knows this, and God is faith’s true home.
- These blessings are nevertheless only through the Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul says.
Paul has been writing about Jesus at the end of Romans 4; he has spoken of his death and resurrection. In this chapter we might have expected him merely to assume the earlier references as a given and say simply, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God,” stopping there. But Paul does not do that. Although he has already mentioned Jesus Christ, he now mentions him again, because he does not want us to imagine that we can get anywhere without him. He understands that any feeling of acceptance by God that is not based upon the work of Jesus Christ is an illusion!
At the start of this study I mentioned the feature in Look magazine in which sixteen prominent Americans told of the techniques they had developed for finding “peace of mind.” There was one person I omitted, and that was Norman Vincent Peale. I did not mention him then because I was holding his reply until now. Peale is known for his philosophy of “positive thinking,” which, in the judgment of many people, is not strongly Christian. But Peale nevertheless is a Christian, and in this feature he responded in a truly Christian way. Peale said, “I find peace of mind through a committed relationship with Jesus Christ and through faith in God.… Jesus alone can give you peace. That I’ve found to be a fact.”
So have countless others, and the reason is clear. Jesus gives us peace of mind because he has first made peace between our rebellious souls and God. I commend that peace to you and urge you to put your faith in him.
1 The first statement of ch. 5 presupposes the whole argument from 3:21 as the background for what is now set forth (cf. “therefore”). Paul assumes the reality of justification for himself and his readers (“since we have been justified”). This could have been inferred from 4:24–25, but Paul is careful to emphasize that justification is an assured fact before going on to show what it involves. So he includes the part that faith plays also, though this too has been affirmed in 4:24.
The first of the blessings conveyed by justification is “peace.” We have encountered the word in the salutation (1:7) and in an eschatological setting (2:10). Here, however, the background is the estrangement between God and humanity because of sin, and hence the divine wrath set forth in the first section of the epistle. Justification means that we are no longer subject to that wrath. Observe also in the present chapter the occurrence of “wrath” (v. 9) and “enemies” (v. 10). Peace in this setting means the objective reality of harmony with God rather than a subjective state in the consciousness of a person, though it may be expected to give rise to a feeling of security.
That the objective meaning is to be adopted in the present passage is put beyond all doubt by the fact that the kind of peace in view is “peace with God.” Since this particular reality is placed first among the benefits of justification, it should be evident how central is the wrath of God to Paul’s exposition of the plight of fallen humanity. That plight could be dealt with only through the mediation of “our Lord Jesus Christ.” Related passages tell the same story. Christ made peace through the blood of his cross (Col 1:20). “He himself is our peace,” writes Paul in Ephesians 2:14, and then he goes on to show how this peace works in two directions, removing the enmity between Jew and Gentile to make them one in the body of Christ and reconciling both in one body to God through the cross. The term “peace” is nearly synonymous with the messianic salvation (cf. Ac 10:36). Indeed, underlying the Greek word eirēnē (GK 1645) is the Hebrew concept of šalôm (GK 8934), namely, ultimate well-being in every regard.
1 The opening phrase of Rom. 5 is transitional. “Therefore, having been justified by faith” not only sums up the central teaching of Rom. 1–4, but, dependent as it is on the first person plural verb following, presents it as a blessing experienced by the readers of the letter. By believing in Jesus Christ, the divine agent in God’s climactic act of deliverance, Paul and the Roman Christians—and Christians of all ages and places—have been declared innocent of all charges justly brought against those who “sin and fall short of God’s glory” (3:23). Paul presents this declaration of justification as a past act, a perspective that is maintained throughout chaps. 5–8. While justification brings to the believer a new and permanent status, justification itself is a once-for-all act by which God acquits the sinner. But what is the exact nature of this new status? What are its implications for our present lives and for the future? It is these questions that Paul takes up in this section, and in chaps. 5–8 as a whole.
The first implication of our justification is that “we have peace with God.” “Peace” is a word that, like so many in Paul and in the NT, must be understood according to its use in the LXX, where it translates the wide-ranging Hebrew word shalōm. As a result, the word “peace” moves beyond the largely negative signification of the word in secular Greek—“peace” as the cessation or absence of hostilities—to a more positive nuance—the well-being, prosperity, or salvation of the godly person. These are often expressly treated as the gifts of God, as in the well-known benediction, “The Lord lift up his countenance on you and give you peace” (Num. 6:26). But especially important for Paul’s usage is the OT prophets’ use of the term peace to characterize the salvation that God would bring to his people in the “last days.” This background defines for us what Paul means by “peace with God”: not an inner sense of well-being, or “feeling at peace” (what we might call the “peace of God” [cf. Phil. 4:7]), but the outward situation of being in a relationship of peace with God.30 While the word is not used again in this paragraph, the language of “reconciliation” in vv. 10–11 picks up this concept. “Peace,” or “reconciliation” with God, then, “frames” this paragraph. And, despite our emphasis on the “positive” dimensions of “peace” in the OT, we must recognize that Paul conceives this “peace with God” or “reconciliation” as created out of a situation of hostility; it was while we were “enemies” of God that he reconciled us (v. 10). We were weak, ungodly, sinners (vv. 6–8) when God in his love brought us into a new relationship of peace with him.
“Peace with God” comes through, and only through, “our Lord Jesus Christ.” As the ultimate locus of God’s atoning, wrath-averting work, Christ is the one through whom the believing sinner receives justification (Rom. 3:25–26). Since peace with God, or reconciliation, is one way of viewing the new relationship into which we have been put by God’s justifying act in Christ, it can no more be achieved apart from Christ than can justification itself. That all God has for us is to be found “in” or “through” Jesus Christ our Lord is a persistent motif in Rom. 5–8: peace with God comes “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1); our boasting in God is “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:11); grace reigns through righteousness, resulting in eternal life “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (5:21); the gift of God bringing eternal life is “in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23); thanks for deliverance are due to God “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (7:25); the love of God, from which nothing can ever separate the believer is “in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:39). When we consider that these phrases occur in only one other verse in Romans (15:30), and that every chapter in this part of the letter concludes on this note, a very definite focus on this matter is evident here. It is well known that Romans lacks any extended christological discussion per se, but Paul’s repeated insistence in these chapters that all the believer experiences of God’s blessings comes only through Christ develops a very significant christological focus in its own right. Christology, we might say, is not the topic of any part of Rom. 5–8, but it is the basis for everything in these chapters.
5:1 / Therefore, since we have been justified through faith. Everything Paul has said in the last four chapters has paved the way for this exclamation. The aorist passive tense of “justified” (Gk. dikaiōthentes) means an accomplished condition, something which is finished as opposed to something pending or in progress. Verse 1 resounds with this decisive note and new train of thought: the problem of sin has been resolved by the death of Christ, and sinners, like Abraham, stand in a new relationship with God. They have been justified through faith, and, as Paul says in verse 2, they “have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Justification is access to grace, as a consequence of which the believer is no longer under wrath but has peace with God. A variant tradition in verse 1 (noted in the niv) reads, “let us have peace with God,” thus exhorting the reader to fulfill or enter into the condition established by Christ. Although this reading claims the stronger support among the ancient manuscripts, it remains the weaker reading. Internal evidence suggests that Paul’s original wording was not an exhortation but an indicative, we have peace with God. In general when Paul speaks of peace between humanity and God it is God who effects it. This is exactly his point in verse 10 where “God’s enemies … were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.” Peace, like justification, comes exclusively from God. Both conditions depend on God’s action; neither is something humanity can bring on itself.
There are important practical implications of this truth. Nearly all Christians confess that Christ’s death effects salvation, but not infrequently they try (perhaps unconsciously) to live the Christian life on their own. Both righteousness as the act of saving and peace as the condition of being saved, however, come through our Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian life is from Alpha to Omega a life of faith, and the progress of the new life is as much a part of God’s grace as was Christ’s death for the sinner in the first place.
When Paul speaks of peace with God he means virtually the same thing as being a “new creation” (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). The English word “peace” has a variety of meanings, not all of which are compatible with Paul’s understanding of the term. The expressions “peaceful coexistence,” or “peace and quiet,” for instance, connote absence of conflict, whereas “peace of mind” implies contentment. In the Bible, however, peace is neither the absence of adversity nor a sensation of euphoria. The Hebrew šālôm, normally rendered in the Greek ot by eirēnē, means a condition in which life can best be lived. A review of this common ot word reveals that it seldom refers to a purely inner peace, whether psychological or emotional. Especially in the prophetic literature peace is a condition established by God which characterizes the age to come. The triumphant assertion in 5:1 claims that the long-awaited peace of the future has dawned in Jesus Christ. There is a certainty in Paul’s expression uncharacteristic of rabbinic authors. As the sinner in 1:18ff. stood in a condition of hostility to God, and thereby under wrath, so now, having been justified by faith, the believer stands in a condition free from obstacles in his or her relationship with God. In neither case does Paul say how the individual may have felt in those conditions, which means that wrath and salvation are not subjective human experiences but decrees of God. Verses 9–10 describe the condition as one of reconciliation instead of hostility. When one is at peace with God, for the first time one fulfills one’s purpose with God, others, and the world.
Peace with God, therefore, is neither anesthetic bliss nor the repose of a graveyard. The removal of sin, like the removal of an obstruction from one’s windpipe, restores one’s vital signs. The life of peace is not a life free from adversity; neither do adverse circumstances necessarily threaten the believer’s peace with God. In verses 3–5 and 10 Paul speaks of struggle and suffering in the Christian life. The life of faith may indeed create adversity, but adversity is not necessarily a sign of divine judgment or abandonment. In faith, adversity may be a sign of life, just as exercise brings sore muscles in a person who has been bedridden. In chapter 3 we spoke of the forensic or legal connotations of righteousness, whereby a judge, who may not know a defendant or ever see that person again, declares the sinner righteous. Paul now moves beyond that official metaphor. If justification produces release for the prisoner, peace is the life of freedom. If justification results from the crack of a gavel, peace results from the outstretched hand of a Father, drawing the estranged child into a new experience of freedom and hope.
1. Being then justified, &c. The Apostle begins to illustrate by the effects, what he has hitherto said of the righteousness of faith: and hence the whole of this chapter is taken up with amplifications, which are no less calculated to explain than to confirm. He had said before, that faith is abolished, if righteousness is sought by works; and in this case perpetual inquietude would disturb miserable souls, as they can find nothing substantial in themselves: but he teaches us now, that they are rendered quiet and tranquil, when we have obtained righteousness by faith, We have peace with God; and this is the peculiar fruit of the righteousness of faith. When any one strives to seek tranquillity of conscience by works, (which is the case with profane and ignorant men,) he labours for it in vain; for either his heart is asleep through his disregard or forgetfulness of God’s judgment, or else it is full of trembling and dread, until it reposes on Christ, who is alone our peace.
Then peace means tranquillity of conscience, which arises from this,—that it feels itself to be reconciled to God. This the Pharisee has not, who swells with false confidence in his own works; nor the stupid sinner, who is not disquieted, because he is inebriated with the sweetness of vices: for though neither of these seems to have a manifest disquietude, as he is who is smitten with a consciousness of sin; yet as they do not really approach the tribunal of God, they have no reconciliation with him; for insensibility of conscience is, as it were, a sort of retreating from God. Peace with God is opposed to the dead security of the flesh, and for this reason,—because the first thing is, that every one should become awakened as to the account he must render of his life; and no one can stand boldly before God, but he who relies on a gratuitous reconciliation; for as long as he is God, all must otherwise tremble and be confounded. And this is the strongest of proofs, that our opponents do nothing but prate to no purpose, when they ascribe righteousness to works; for this conclusion of Paul is derived from this fact,—that miserable souls always tremble, except they repose on the grace of Christ.
5:1 δικαιωθέντες οὖν ἐκ πίστεως, “therefore, having been justified from faith.” Somewhat surprisingly, this is the first time Paul uses δικαιόω in the aorist in Romans—apart from 3:4 (God) and 4:2 (Abraham). In more general references and references to his fellow believers the present indicative (3:24, 26, 28; 4:5) and future (2:13; 3:20, 30) have predominated. The tense here certainly indicates an act of God in the past, but that should not be allowed to dominate the doctrine of justification drawn from Paul to the extent that it has, or to overwhelm the force of the other tenses. Read together with these texts and in the light of the arguments so far, δικαιωθέντες is best taken to denote God’s acceptance into that relationship and status (which Abraham enjoyed as “the friend of God,” “this grace in which we stand”—v 2), and which God will acknowledge and vindicate in the final judgment (denoted in the forward-looking “hope of glory”—v 2). See further on 2:13.
The ἐκ πίστεως is certainly to be construed along the same lines as the same phrase in 3:26, 30 and 4:16 (also 9:30, 32 and 10:6). With the δικαιωθέντες it is not to be separated from the continued act of believing (note again the characteristic use of πιστεύειν in the present tense—see on 1:16), or from the idea of life as lived ἐκ πίστεως (see on 3:26). But here it denotes the particular act in which that faith was first exercised, the initial act of commitment. Paul is able to assume that all (or most) of his readers will have gone through such a conversion, and that this is a fundamental part of their common bond; and although baptism will have been part of this process (6:4), there is nothing to suggest that at this point Paul intended to refer his readers to their baptism as such (against Schlier). At the same time, although the primary reference is to faith such as Abraham exercised (cf. 4:16), the phrase could have the richer connotations of the key text in 1:17—God’s faithfulness as well as man’s faith—this being precisely the point of 4:18–21: Abraham’s faith is faith in God’s faithfulness to his promise.
εἰρήνην ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, “we have peace in relation to God.” The more “negative” idea of εἰρήνη as absence of war, typical of Greek thought (LSJ; in OT see e.g., Deut 20:12; Judg 4:17; 1 Sam 7:14; 1 Kings 2:5; Isa 36:16), is certainly present here (cf. v 10). But otherwise we should assume that the more positive Hebraic concept of peace is dominant (see on 1:7). In particular, although the “spiritual” dimension of peace is to the fore here (“peace toward God”), the concept should not be spiritualized or divorced from the wider Jewish concept (see again on 1:7). For the same reason it should not be reduced to a subjective feeling—von Rad indeed claims that in the OT “there is no specific text in which שָׁלוֹם denotes the specifically spiritual attitude of inward peace” (TDNT 2:406); so here we can say that Paul has in view an actual relationship (“reconciliation”—vv 10–11) whose outworking in life should be visible (cf. particularly 14:19; 1 Cor 14:33). Again it is worth noting that he can state it as a simple fact (“we have peace with God”; see Notes), confident that the assertion would ring true to the experience of his readers (cf. Gal 5:22). See also Luther’s comments on the significance of the talk of peace following that of justification (cited also by Harrisville).
In view of the immediately preceding context it is important to remember the extent to which, in Jewish thought, God-given peace was bound up with the covenant (e.g., Num 6:22–27; Ps 55:18–19; Isa 48:17–22; Jer 14:19–21; Sir 47:13; 2 Macc 1:2–4) (see also Wright, Messiah, 136). For the “zealots for the law” it would be particularly important that the “covenant of peace” was associated especially with the priesthood and with Phinehas (Num 25:12; Mal 2:4–5; Sir 45:24; see also on 4:3). Equally significant is the degree to which within this framework of thought “peace” and “righteousness” were overlapping or complementary concepts (Pss 35:27; 72:3; 85:10; Isa 9:7; 32:17; 48:18; 60:17)—“צְדָקָה as the norm for the fulfilled state of שָׁלוֹם;” (TDNT 2:177). Since in prophetic hope the full flowering of God’s covenanted peace belonged to the future new age (Isa 9:6–7; 54:10; Ezek 34:25–31; 37:26; Mic 5:4; Hag 2:9; Zech 8:12; 1 Enoch 5.7, 9; 10.17; 11.2), Paul’s assertion amounts to a claim that Israel’s eschatological hope is now already in process of fulfillment. The claim sets up the tension between “already” and “not yet” which characterizes this passage (cf. also 2:10 and 14:17). Wolter, 95–104, justly criticizes Brandenburger’s talk of “peace with God” emerging from a conception of cosmic reconciliation, and suggests that behind the statements of 5:1, 10–11 stands an early Jewish interpretation of Isa 57:19 (104).
διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The phrase διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ plays an important role in chap. 5 (vv 1, 11, 21), each verse picking out different aspects of the unique mediatorial role ascribed to the exalted Christ, both the “upward” movement of praise (5:11; see also on 1:8) and the “downward” movement of grace (5:21; see also on 2:16). The same double, two-way-interchange in this mediatorial role is indicated here (the mediator of peace) and in the immediately following phrase (the mediator of access—v 2). That this is a personal role for Jesus in his resurrected existence is taken for granted—hence διά with the genitive and not διά with the accusative (“on account of, for the sake of” some past action of Jesus). For κυριος in reference to Jesus see on 1:4 and 10:9. “Our Lord”—the same easy confidence that he is talking a common language to readers who share a common commitment and experience pervades the whole verse.
1. Therefore being—“having been.”
justified by faith, we have peace with God, &c.—If we are to be guided by manuscript authority, the true reading here, beyond doubt, is, “Let us have peace”; a reading, however, which most reject, because they think it unnatural to exhort men to have what it belongs to God to give, because the apostle is not here giving exhortations, but stating matters of fact. But as it seems hazardous to set aside the decisive testimony of manuscripts, as to what the apostle did write, in favor of what we merely think he ought to have written, let us pause and ask—If it be the privilege of the justified to “have peace with God,” why might not the apostle begin his enumeration of the fruits of justification by calling on believers to “realize” this peace as belonged to them, or cherish the joyful consciousness of it as their own? And if this is what he has done, it would not be necessary to continue in the same style, and the other fruits of justification might be set down, simply as matters of fact. This “peace” is first a change in God’s relation to us; and next, as the consequence of this, a change on our part towards Him. God, on the one hand, has “reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ” (2 Co 5:18); and we, on the other hand, setting our seal to this, “are reconciled to God” (2 Co 5:20). The “propitiation” is the meeting-place; there the controversy on both sides terminates in an honorable and eternal “peace.”
Ver. 1—Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of the ἔχομεν of the Textus Receptus, an overwhelming preponderance of authority, including uncials, versions, and Fathers, supports ἔχωμεν (“let us have”). If this be the true reading, the expression must be intended as hortatory, meaning, apparently, “Let us appreciate and realize our peace with God which we have in being justified by faith.” But hortation here does not appear in keeping with what follows, in which the results of our being justified by faith are described in terms clearly corresponding with the idea of our having peace with God. The passage as a whole is not hortatory, but descriptive, and “we have peace” comes in naturally as an initiatory statement of what is afterwards carried out. This being the case, it is a question whether an exception may not be allowed in this case to the usually sound rule of bowing to decided preponderance of authority with respect to readings. That ἔχωμεν was an early and widely accepted reading there can be no doubt; but still it may not have been the original one, the other appearing more probable. Scrivener is of opinion that “the itacism of ω for ο, so familiar to all collators of Greek manuscripts, crept into some very early copy, from which it was propagated among our most venerable codices, even those from which the earliest versions were made.”
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 subjunctive (echōmen, ‘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 echōmen 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.’4
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (Vol. 1, pp. 272–275). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: The Reign of Grace (Vol. 2, pp. 503–510). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
 Harrison, E. F., & Hagner, D. A. (2008). Romans. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 88). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (pp. 298–300). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Edwards, J. R. (2011). Romans (pp. 133–135). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (pp. 187–188). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Dunn, J. D. G. (1988). Romans 1–8 (Vol. 38A, pp. 246–247). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 230). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). The Pulpit Commentary: Romans (p. 122). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
 Stott, J. R. W. (2001). The message of Romans: God’s good news for the world (p. 139). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.