The Gospel For the Believer (Exposition of Romans 5-8), Chapter 1


(originally published by Overcomer Literature Trust)

CHAPTER 1: ON ROMANS chapter 5 From Death to Life

The whole Epistle of Paul to the Romans is briefly announced in chapter 1, as ” the Gospel of God “, and its structure is simple enough, for there are three sections –the first including chapter 1to 8; the second embracing chapters 9 to 11; and the third, the remaining chapters, on the practical out-working of the truth. Strictly speaking, the Gospel of God as the theme of the Epistle is limited to the first main section, chapter 1to 8, that is, limited as far as systematic presentation of the Gospel goes. This is divisible into two parts, each containing four chapters. At the end of chapter 4 we reach a period, and chapter 5 begins a superstructure built upon the first four chapters. The distinction between these two parts is this–in chapter 1 to 4 we have the Gospel for the sinner; in chapters 5 to 8 the Gospel for the justified. The former begins with the question of sin, and ends with the sinner’s justification; the latter begins where the former ends, with the sinner’s justification, and ends with his full redemption. In 1-4 you have the criminal brought into court, and his full acquittal secured by faith, on the ground of the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus. In 5 to 8 the justified sinner is seen as he leaves the court fully acquitted, and then, dealing with him, at last leaves him in full conformity to the image of God’s Son.

It is the second part which suits such gatherings as these, for chapters 5 to 8 contain the Gospel for believers, the Gospel which is peculiar to the New Testament. What do we mean by that? In chapter 1 to 4 we have justification by faith, but there is nothing peculiar to the New Testament in that, for it is found in the Old Testament. The saints of those days were acquainted with most of that which Paul teaches in these chapters. In chapters 5 to 8 we have a revelation of truth which is utterly new, especially in the fulness of its application. Enemies made Sons

A suitable title for these four chapters would be “Enemies made Sons” – not children, but sons; enemies, not sinners, changed into sons. The name sinners is here, but it is not the name that gives its colour to this section. The emphasis is not upon our sinnership so much as upon our enmity, our rebellion. In chapter 1 to 4 it is justification, but in chapter 5 it is reconciliation. The justified ones were sinners, but those reconciled and made sons were enemies. In each of these four chapters we have a sub-section of the main section we are considering in these gatherings. In chapter 5 the ruling word is “death”. In chapter 6 it is “sin”. In chapter 7 it is “law”. In chapter 8 it is “Spirit” – the Holy Spirit. There are four monarchs – death, sin, law, and the flesh, and all of them are dethroned. Death yields its throne to life. Sin yields its throne to righteousness. Law yields its throne to grace. The flesh yields its throne to the Spirit.

Once more, thinking of comparisons between the chapters, we might say that chapver 5 is emancipation from sin’s penalty – death. Chapter 6 is emancipation from sin’s tyranny – bondage. Chapter 7, emancipation from sin’s strength – the law. Chapter 8 is emancipation from sin’s presence – the redemption of the body. In chapter 5 we have enemies reconciled; chapter 6, slaves released; chapter 7, prisoners of law set free; chapter 8, the children of God instated as sons. There is no part of scripture of greater importance to the believer in Christ. It is pre-eminently the gospel for believers.

Let us look, then at chapter 5. In a general way it falls into two halves. The first verses 1 to 11, the second verses 12 ro 21. The first is a “we” passage, while the other is purely impersonal. Both begin with a “therefore”, and start from the same point, which is justification by faith, and the two “therefores” link both sections to the end of chapter 4, where justification is explained. The first section begins with justification as experience, the second with it as abstract truth. That is why the latter part is impersonal, and the former is a “we” passage, since it deals with the experience of all who are in Christ. Verses 1-11 show how a heart renewed by grace intuitively reasons out the ultimate of that redemption whose initial experience is justification by faith. Standing in grace they “rejoice in hope of the glory of God”. That is the heart reasoning, not the mind, from the start to the ultimate of experience. Verses 12 to 21 is not the logic of the heart but of the mind. There you have an unveiling of the truth given in chapter 4, revealing by logic, by argument, the law by which the justification of the many arises from the obedience of One, even the Lord Jesus Christ. “Saved by hope”

Look particularly at the first eleven verses. The subject of them is “hope”. There is a similarity between the theme and treatment of this section and those at the end of chapter 8. There, too, it is hope, based upon a consciousness of the love of God in Christ. The fact that the opening and the close of this section are alike proves that this is one complete section of the Epistle. Hope, then, is the subject of this section. First there is the occasion of hope, which is justification, by grace already experienced. That experience is incomplete and preliminary, for the writer deals with a hope of something yet to come. “We are saved by hope”. God takes trouble with us, not merely to give the initial blessing, but to give all the blessings His redemption provides. Hence “we are saved by hope”. Then there is the nourishment of hope – “tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope”. Beginning with hope, you carry it right through tribulation, for this even helps it to grow! Then follows the ground of hope – “because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us”. The argument of hope begins with the premises of the argument – “Christ died”, died “in due time”, died “for the ungodly”. Such love is never found in the case of a mere man, for it is love for sinners, for the ungodly, for enemies. The conclusions of hope lie in this – that if justified while yet sinners, then we shall be saved from wrath. The further conclusion is this, if reconciled, being enemies, we shall be completely saved now that we are reconciled and not enemies. If justified by His Blood, if reconciled by His death, then full redemption is assured; seeing He not only died to save, but lives to complete it, for we shall be “saved by His life”. That is the general view of this first section of chapter 5. Justification

Now consider the general view of the second section, beginning with verse 12. Its construction is peculiar. Many a time it has been my despair. It contains digressions, in Paul’s usual style. Its main treatment is found in three verses 12, 18, 19. It appears that verse 18-19 should be connected with verse 12. That which lies between is a two-fold digression. What follows verses 19, 20, 21, connects with a part of the digression of verses 13-14, concerning the law, so that you can read verses 13, 14, 20, 21, consecutively.

The theme is justification, with two things in it: (1) The law of the wide-spread application of justification, (2) The ultimate purpose of it as life. Justification is something done on our behalf by another, as established in verses 1 to 4. But how can the virtue of something so done by another be transmitted to all? The answer is, that the virtue of the act can be transmitted to all in exactly the same was as the sin of one spread to all. The explanation is found in the organic unity of the race. Without such a thing as the solidarity of the race, the substitutionary act of one on behalf of all would be impossible; but because of that solidarity, one act of disobedience constituted the many sinners, and brought condemnation. So also, the one act of Another brings justification; instead of death, life; instead of sinners, righteousness – it constitutes them righteous. Not merely justifies them, but makes them righteous. There is righteousness imputed, but there is also righteousness imparted. God never imputes righteousness to anyone without also imparting it – never! Rejoicing in Hope

That is the general outline, now let us trace some of the teaching more minutely. “Being justified by faith we have peace with God … and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Peace and hope are the immediate fruits, not justification only, but reconciliation, peace with God, brought into His presence, accounted just and righteous, a work within. We have no conscience of guilt, for we have peace. Instead of wrath it is life, and “access into this grace wherein we stand”. There is a new position, a new relation to God, a new standing before Him, a new heart, a new prospect, a new hope, a new future. Three times we have the word rejoice — we rejoice in hope of the glory of God, we rejoice in tribulations, and we rejoice in God. In Rom. 3: 23 we are told that all have sinned and come short of the “glory of God”. What is this “glory of God”? It can be nothing but the definite ideal God had for the life and character of the human being. The glory of God represents all that which belongs to man in God’s purpose in creating him. We have come short of it by sin; but now, standing in grace, we rejoice in hope of that glory. Where creation failed, redemption succeeds. God’s creative purpose shall be accomplished. Christ has covenanted with God that it shall be accomplished. Man can never be truly man unless he is a vessel for the Divine. God never meant him to live his life apart from Himself. God must be his life — God in Christ. The glory of man is really the glory of God, for it is the life, the wisdom, the power of God, that is to be his life, his wisdom, and his power. Grace plus glory

Justification is only a beginning. The end is glory. The path is grace, but is grace plus glory. He gives grace that He may give glory. That is the hope — is it realizable? No doubt about it. There are difficulties, tribulations, yet we rejoice in hope in spite of them! No, no! not inspite of them but because of them. They nourish our hope, God must permit them because of our need of discipline. Character cannot come without discipline, and glory never comes without character. These are the steps — tribulations, discipline, character, glory — and hope rejoices in the midst of them all.

The vindication of that hope is certain. “Hope makes not ashamed.” Why? Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. God loves us, we have the heart experience of it, it suffuses our being, and we are persuaded that no created thing can separate us from that love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Though we were enemies, yet God loved us. When it was a question of sinners, it was the Messiah Who died for sinners, but when He died for His enemies, it was as the Son. Why the contrast? That we might feel more and more the love of God. Thus and so are we brought into His family, where our Lord’s Father becomes our Father. By the death He died He saves us to the uttermost; by the life He now lives, He saves us to the uttermost; and so sure are we of the hope that we rejoice as though it were already realized, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. Our present is grace, peace and hope; our future is glory. We rejoice “in God”, through Whom we have now received the reconcilation.

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