Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
In Romans 5:1-5, Paul is leading us to one place: God’s love. Justification by faith grants us access to God in a new way. Thus, there are four big advantages that the Christian now has.
First, we have peace with God (v. 1).
Paul has put forth a convincing argument that we are sinners worthy of the wrath of God. We, who were made by God for his glory, have rebelled against God and declared open war on him. He loved us into existence and, at the first opportunity, we raged back at him in sin. But that doesn’t stop God’s love from coming to us. He justifies us through Jesus Christ, granting peace with God. When God waged war against our sin, he didn’t unleash the full storehouse of his wrath upon us. He sent a baby to Bethlehem. He sent a boy out of Egypt. He sent a man to a cross. He did this to save us completely—so completely that it extends to our present reality and our future hope. We have genuine peace with God because Jesus bore the wrath we deserved.
Second, we stand in the grace of God (v. 2).
Through Christ, we have obtained access by faith into grace. Notice the present-tense-ness of it. The Christian life actually exists in three tenses. In the past, God saved from the guilt of our sin. In the present, God saves from the power of sin. In the future, God will save from the presence of sin. We tend to understand the past salvation fairly well. We also tend to comprehend the future salvation well, though we cannot fully imagine it. The real battle is our present salvation from the power of sin. In the life of a Christian, there is always a struggle. Martin Luther said Christians are simul justus et peccator, meaning we are simultaneously justified and sinful. As sinners, we need to behold our justification as we wage war against sin. It there that we experience the grace of God.
We need more than a vague awareness of the love of God for us in the past or the future. We need a present reality with God, moment by moment. We need to see the wonder of Christ’s blood forgiving us and transforming us right now. Every moment of the Christian’s life is a time of present standing in grace. The same power that saved us is the power by which we can live. We have the grace of Christ. Francis Schaeffer says that to understand this is to have the key to the Christian life.
Third, we can rejoice (v. 2-3).
We may want to say that the benefit is that we can now rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. But that is not the full advantage. We can also rejoice in our sufferings. We can rejoice no matter what is happening in our lives. We have a great hope of glory—we will be glorified in heaven one day—and we have a great hope of endurance, no matter what suffering comes our way we can endure it. How?
Justification allows us to rejoice in the hope of glory because we have lost our condemnation. But it also helps us rejoice in sufferings because we know nothing can snatch us out of God’s hand. We realize that nothing can ruin the relationship we have with God now. Our sin wasn’t powerful enough to separate us, so how can suffering severe the bond? We can know that God isn’t punishing us because our justification says that we’ve been put right with him. He can’t punish us for sins that have already been paid for and forgiven. That would mean our justification wasn’t real, it was just theoretical, and God doesn’t deal in theories. He deals in realities. We have peace with God (v. 1). So, the worst that can now happen in our suffering is that we grow more in the hope of glory. During the pain, God is drawing us nearer to himself.
In suffering, we can experience reality with God. The theoretical ideas die and what remains is the raw reality of our relationship with God. Personal relationship replaces the mechanical Christian life. Our sufferings produce endurance. Endurance produces character. Character produces hope. As you suffer with Christ, you grow in Christ. He who has experienced all the pain this world has to offer, he who suffered the full wrath of God against sin will stand with you and for you as you endure the hardships of life. He will prove, moment by moment, the worthiness of his sacrifice and the unfading crown of glory awaiting you in heaven. The result of suffering for the Christian is a greater hope than ever before. Apart from Christ, we can only wallow in sadness. This world is the best we will ever get. But with Christ, we can rejoice in hope. This world is the worst we will ever get.
Fourth, we have the Holy Spirit (v. 5).
This is the greatest benefit of all. We have God living within us now. It was always the plan of God to dwell with his people, and through the Spirit, by way of the justifying work of Jesus, he makes residence inside us. The Father justifies us, the Son reconciles us, and the Spirit testifies to us. The triune God thoroughly saves us and keeps us.
These four benefits point us to one overarching reality: the love of God. That’s the goal toward which Paul is racing. This supports his statement in 1:16 about not being ashamed of the gospel. We are unashamed of the gospel when we see that everything from God leads us to God. When we see the glory of the gospel, we become willing to endure anything. The Christian has merely believed his way to the point of eternal life. We are the patient on the deathbed. Jesus is the doctor healing our soul.