Romans on Righteousness (Part Three)
Earlier in Romans we saw that righteousness, rightness before God, comes to men and women, to both Jew and Gentile, by faith, belief, pertaining to Jesus Christ without the deeds of the law. We read that this includes being ones to whom God will not reckon sin. If we but believe on Him who raised up Jesus Christ from the dead, accepting Jesus as lord and believing that God has raised him from the dead, we are saved, and God grants righteousness unto us.
As a result of being justified (made righteous), we have peace with God.
Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as lord and believed God raised him from the dead, you are righteous and you have peace with God. This is a big deal. So many believers do not understand their relationship with their heavenly Father. They think they are likely on the “outs” with Him due to some whatever and need to do SOMETHING (though they are usually not sure exactly what) to make peace with God. There is nothing any of us can do to make peace with God. For one thing, we already are at peace with Him. For another, none of our works could ever be good enough anyway. It isn’t what we do to be at peace with God; it is what Jesus Christ did that brings peace.
By the way, Jesus Christ did not bring world peace, nor did he ever in his earthy ministry intend to do so. That is not what the angels were referring to when they announced his birth to the shepherds and also declared, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). What Jesus brought (not yet by means of his birth, that was just the beginning of the process, but by his death and resurrection) was the means by which people could have peace with God. Had it been Jesus’ intent during his earthly ministry to foster world peace, I don’t think he would have made the following statement:
Matthew 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
A similar statement occurs in Luke:
Luke 12:51 Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
52 For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
Back to Romans 5. Our condition before being justified is described in no uncertain terms a little later in this chapter. God’s Word states that we were yet without strength, that we were sinners and ungodly, and even describes us as enemies.
Romans 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement [or reconciliation].
We have gone from being God’s enemies to being at peace with Him. What a difference! The next section addresses how we got into this disgusting condition to begin with and how we got out of it. In each case it was due to the actions of one man. Being righteous without our works contributing to it in any way is just too much grace for many people to accept. Surely they’ve got to do something to help bring about their justification before God. Not.
The Apostle Paul lays out a logical argument for righteousness coming by the accomplishment of one man. After all, your fallen state was brought about by the rebellion of one man, Adam. We all inherited the consequences of what Adam did. Had it not been for his sin, mankind would still be living in paradise, freely conversing with God as Adam did in the Garden of Eden. It is also by one man, Jesus Christ, that the gift of righteousness has come.
Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)
The line, “but not as the offence, so also is the free gift,” is showing that the comparison is not equal. The magnitude of the consequences of Adam’s sin is on a scale that can hardly be fully described; but the grace of God and the gift (gift of righteousness, verse 17) by grace, which came by Jesus Christ, is on a much greater scale.
By Adam’s offense, death reigned. Much more so, they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life by Jesus Christ. The “reign in life” of verse 17 must be understood in its context. It isn’t talking about a believer being highly successful in his business or any other such thing the term could possibly be applied to outside of its context here. It is speaking of reigning in that you have life, eternal life, as opposed to death reigning over you.
In consideration of the comparison given here, one must stand in utter awe at the magnitude of the abundance of God’s grace and the gift of righteousness. Yes, we were sinners. We were without strength, that is, weak, infirm, in no position to do anything about our plight on our own. We were ungodly and even described as enemies, but all that is over by the work of one man, Jesus Christ. We are no longer sinners or any of these other things. We are righteous.
Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
When we consider the astounding grace of God revealed in these first few chapters of Romans, what comes next in the narrative is a very logical question to ask.
Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
We have righteousness before God without the deeds of the law or any other works of our own. It came to us as a gift by the work of Jesus Christ. We even read of the blessedness of those to whom God will not count sin. Sounds like we’re home free; do anything you want and let God’s grace abound. Paul, by revelation, begins in the next verse to address this question starting with the strong negation, “God forbid.”
Romans 6:2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Oh for heaven’s sake! What were you thinking? We who are dead to sin should not live like we are not dead to it. Paul goes on with the response along these lines, but I am going to close out this article after a few comments on being dead to sin. In the “God forbid” response to the idea of continuing in sin that grace may abound, the record none-the-less affirms that we are dead to sin.
What does it mean to be dead to something or for it to be dead to you? The idiom is explained in the first few verses of Romans chapter 7. The focus here is to explain what it means that we are dead to the law.
Romans 7:1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
Being dead to the law is like a woman whose husband has died. She is loosed from the law of her husband, no longer bound by it. Indeed, the relationship has ceased. We are dead to the Old Testament law, no longer under it’s authority. We are dead to sin. We have been made free from it (Romans 6:18 ,22). It is an idiom, of course. We are not literally dead.
The response to, “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound,” in Romans 6 expands more on the concept of being dead, stating among other things that we were crucified with Christ. The idiom of being dead to something as well as what it means that our “old man” was crucified with Christ and other such things in Romans 6 and elsewhere in God’s Word are dealt with in our posting, “Who is the Old Man and What is He Doing?“