Romans 5:1–5 (ESV)
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 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. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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.
The precious benefits and privileges which flow from justification are such as should quicken us all to give diligence to make it sure to ourselves that we are justified, and then to take the comfort it renders to us, and to do the duty it calls for from us. The fruits of this tree of life are exceedingly precious.
I. We have peace with God, v. 1.
It is sin that breeds the quarrel between us and God, creates not only a strangeness, but an enmity; the holy righteous God cannot in honour be at peace with a sinner while he continues under the guilt of sin. Justification takes away the guilt, and so makes way for peace. And such are the benignity and good-will of God to man that, immediately upon the removing of that obstacle, the peace is made. By faith we lay hold of God’s arm and of his strength, and so are at peace, Isa. 27:4, 5. There is more in this peace than barely a cessation of enmity, there is friendship and loving-kindness, for God is either the worst enemy or the best friend.
Abraham, being justified by faith, was called the friend of God (Jam. 2:23), which was his honour, but not his peculiar honour: Christ has called his disciples friends, Jn. 15:13–15. And surely a man needs no more to make him happy than to have God his friend! But this is through our Lord Jesus Christ—through him as the great peace-maker, the Mediator between God and man, that blessed Day’s-man that has laid his hand upon us both.
Adam, in innocency, had peace with God immediately; there needed no such mediator. But to guilty sinful man it is a very dreadful thing to think of God out of Christ; for he is our peace, Eph. 2:14, not only the maker, but the maker and maintainer, of our peace, Col. 1:20.
II. We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, v. 2.
This is a further privilege, not only peace, but grace, that is, this favour. Observe,
1. The saints’ happy state.
It is a state of grace, God’s loving-kindness to us and our conformity to God; he that hath God’s love and God’s likeness is in a state of grace. Now into this grace we have access prosagōgēn—an introduction, which implies that we were not born in this state; we are by nature children of wrath, and the carnal mind is enmity against God; but we are brought into it. We could not have got into it of ourselves, nor have conquered the difficulties in the way, but we have a manuduction, a leading by the hand,—are led into it as blind, or lame, or weak people are led,—are introduced as pardoned offenders,—are introduced by some favourite at court to kiss the king’s hand, as strangers, that are to have audience, are conducted. Prosagōgēn eschēkamen—We have had access.
He speaks of those that have been already brought out of a state of nature into a state of grace. Paul, in his conversion, had this access; then he was made nigh. Barnabas introduced him to the apostles (Acts 9:27), and there were others that led him by the hand to Damascus (v. 8), but it was Christ that introduced and led him by the hand into this grace.
By whom we have access by faith. By Christ as the author and principal agent, by faith as the means of this access. Not by Christ in consideration of any merit or desert of ours, but in consideration of our believing dependence upon him and resignation of ourselves to him.
2. Their happy standing in this state: wherein we stand.
Not only wherein we are, but wherein we stand, a posture that denotes our discharge from guilt; we stand in the judgment (Ps. 1:5), not cast, as convicted criminals, but our dignity and honour secured, not thrown to the ground, as abjects.
The phrase denotes also our progress; while we stand, we are going. We must not lie down, as if we had already attained, but stand as those that are pressing forward, stand as servants attending on Christ our master.
The phrase denotes, further, our perseverance: we stand firmly and safely, upheld by the power of God; stand as soldiers stand, that keep their ground, not borne down by the power of the enemy.
It denotes not only our admission to, but our confirmation in, the favour of God. It is not in the court of heaven as in earthly courts, where high places are slippery places: but we stand in a humble confidence of this very thing that he who has begun the good work will perform it, Phil. 1:6.
III. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Besides the happiness in hand, there is a happiness in hope, the glory of God, the glory which God will put upon the saints in heaven, glory which will consist in the vision and fruition of God.
1. Those, and those only, that have access by faith into the grace of God now may hope for the glory of God hereafter.
There is no good hope of glory but what is founded in grace; grace is glory begun, the earnest and assurance of glory. He will give grace and glory, Ps. 84:11. 2. Those who hope for the glory of God hereafter have enough to rejoice in now. It is the duty of those that hope for heaven to rejoice in that hope.
IV. We glory in tribulations also;
Not only notwithstanding our tribulations (these do not hinder our rejoicing in hope of the glory of God), but even in our tribulations, as they are working for us the weight of glory, 2 Co. 4:17.
Observe, What a growing increasing happiness the happiness of the saints is: Not only so. One would think such peace, such grace, such glory, and such a joy in hope of it, were more than such poor undeserving creatures as we are could pretend to; and yet it is not only so: there are more instances of our happiness—we glory in tribulations also, especially tribulations for righteousness’ sake, which seemed the greatest objection against the saints’ happiness, whereas really their happiness did not only consist with, but take rise from, those tribulations.They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer, Acts 5:41.
This being the hardest point, he sets himself to show the grounds and reasons of it. How come we to glory in tribulations? Why, because tribulations, by a chain of causes, greatly befriend hope, which he shows in the method of its influence.
1. Tribulation worketh patience, not in and of itself, but the powerful grace of God working in and with the tribulation.
It proves, and by proving improves, patience, as parts and gifts increase by exercise. It is not the efficient cause, but yields the occasion, as steel is hardened by the fire. See how God brings meat out of the eater, and sweetness out of the strong. That which worketh patience is matter of joy; for patience does us more good than tribulations can do us hurt. Tribulation in itself worketh impatience; but, as it is sanctified to the saints, it worketh patience.
2. Patience experience, v. 4.
It works an experience of God, and the songs he gives in the night; the patient sufferers have the greatest experience of the divine consolations, which abound as afflictions abound. It works an experience of ourselves. It is by tribulation that we make an experiment of our own sincerity, and therefore such tribulations are called trials.
It works, dokimēn—an approbation, as he is approved that has passed the test. Thus Job’s tribulation wrought patience, and that patience produced an approbation, that still he holds fast his integrity, Job 2:3.
3. Experience hope.
He who, being thus tried, comes forth as gold, will thereby be encouraged to hope. This experiment, or approbation, is not so much the ground, as the evidence, of our hope, and a special friend to it. Experience of God is a prop to our hope; he that hath delivered doth and will. Experience of ourselves helps to evidence our sincerity.
4. This hope maketh not ashamed; that is, it is a hope that will not deceive us.
Nothing confounds more than disappointment. Everlasting shame and confusion will be caused by the perishing of the expectation of the wicked, but the hope of the righteous shall be gladness, Prov. 10:28. See Ps. 22:5; 71:1.
Or, It maketh not ashamed of our sufferings. Though we are counted as the offscouring of all things, and trodden under foot as the mire in the streets, yet, having hopes of glory, we are not ashamed of these sufferings.
It is in a good cause, for a good Master, and in good hope; and therefore we are not ashamed. We will never think ourselves disparaged by sufferings that are likely to end so well. Because the love of God is shed abroad. This hope will not disappoint us, because it is sealed with the Holy Spirit as a Spirit of love. It is the gracious work of the blessed Spirit to shed abroad the love of God in the hearts of all the saints. The love of God, that is, the sense of God’s love to us, drawing out love in us to him again. Or, The great effects of his love:
(1.) Special grace; and,
(2.) The pleasant gust or sense of it.
It is shed abroad, as sweet ointment, perfuming the soul, as rain watering it and making it fruitful. The ground of all our comfort and holiness, and perseverance in both, is laid in the shedding abroad of the love of God in our hearts; it is this which constrains us, 2 Co. 5:14. Thus are we drawn and held by the bonds of love. Sense of God’s love to us will make us not ashamed, either of our hope in him or our sufferings for him.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible