Guests: Bruce Johanson and Zdravko Stefanovic
What difference does justification by faith really make in a person’s life?
Although Paul has explained the details of what it means to be justified by faith and has illustrated that experience in the life of Abraham, so far Romans has offered a largely dismal picture for the human race. This is not to say that God has acted to turn the tide of sin, he has. Paul has simply not yet explained what practical benefit that makes to the human race—and more importantly how passionately God loves every descendant of Adam. All that changes, however, in Romans 5. In Romans 5 Paul outlines the practical difference that justification by faith makes in the life of a believer, how great is God’s love for us, and how we have far more in Christ than we ever lost in Adam.
This week’s study guide will be divided into the three sections that make up the chapter.
The Fruits of Justification by Faith: (5:1-11)
1. List the key terms Paul uses in Romans 5:1-5 that describe the “benefits” that follow being justified by faith? What kind of picture comes to your mind when you consider these terms?
2. What does it mean to experience God’s peace and his grace, according to Rom. 5:1-2?
While the word “peace” can refer to the absence of hostilities between individuals or nations (e.g., Deut. 20:12; 1 Sam. 7:14, 1 Kgs. 2:5), the Hebrew word for peace (Heb. šālôm) also conveys the idea of wholeness, prosperity, and completeness (e.g., Ps. 72:3, 7; Zech. 8:12). This is significant. It indicates that justification by faith involves far more than simply a truce with God. It brings peace in all its fullness—a fully restored and harmonious relationship with God.
Paul also says that the peace we have with God also provides “access” and “grace” (favor) with God. The word “access” refers to the privilege given to someone to enter in the presence of a royal dignitary. Entering into the presence of a king was not a trivial matter; in some cases it might even result in an unfavorable reception. Paul states, however, that believers not only have access into God’s presence (cf. Eph. 2:18), but that they “stand” in his favor. “Standing” indicates that access to God’s favor is a constant reality, not simply an occasional experience (Rom. 11:20; 1 Cor. 7:37; 15:1; Eph. 6:14).
3. In what ways have we or do we act like God’s enemies (5:1, 10)?
4. Why can we rejoice in our sufferings? Can you provide an example of this?
5. Does suffering always produce endurance? If not, why not? What role does faith play in our attitude toward suffering?
6. In what tangible way has “God’s love has been poured into our hearts”? What does it look like? And how can we make sure we are receiving that love?
In Romans 5:10, Paul introduces a new term to describe our relationship with God. That term is “reconciliation.” The word occurs four times in Romans, three of which occur in verses 10-11. It is interesting to note that reconciliation is an accomplished reality on God’s part. God does not need to be reconciled to us. We are the ones who need to be willing to be reconciled to God.
7. Why is reconciliation an important metaphor to describe the gift of salvation? Would justification be as meaningful without it?
Our Situation “In Christ”: (5:12-21)
The mention of “reconciliation” in Romans 5:12 leads into the next section of Paul’s argument in Romans 5. How is reconciliation possible? How can Christ atone for Adam’s failure as well as the sins of all humanity? Paul answers this question by comparing and contrasting Adam with Jesus Christ. As the representative or head of the human race, Adam’s actions had significant implications for all humanity. His decision to disregard God’s specific instructions to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil involved much more than a bad example (Gen. 2:16-17). In the same way that the actions of the President of the United States can affect every citizen in the country, so Adam’s decision affected the entire human race. Adam’s disobedience brought sin, death and condemnation upon the entire human race (5:18).
The good news is that Christ came to undo the consequences of Adam’s disobedience. He did this by becoming the representative of a new humanity (5:14). So while Adam’s action brought sin and death to all, Christ’s obedience and substitutionary death opened up the way to justification and life for all who will receive it as a gift.
8. Read Romans 5:15-21 carefully. In two columns, list the contrasting impact that Adam and Christ have on the human race?
9. Paul repeatedly refers to the salvation we find in Christ as a “free gift” (5:15, 16, 17). By definition, gifts are free. Why does Paul then refer to salvation as a “free” gift?
10. Notice the repeated use of the word “reign” in Romans 5:17, 21. What is it that reigns in the life of the person who is “in Adam” versus the person who chooses to be “in Christ”?
11. How does grace increase when sin increases? See Rom. 5:20.