Romans 5:1-11 enumerates the blessings we possess as those who have been justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Here is the first of those blessings:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…
Let’s clarify what kind of peace Paul is talking about. He’s not talking about peace in the world. Political and social peace will never exist so long as this sinful present world remains. Jesus told His disciples that the world would experience “wars and rumors of wars … nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes” (Matthew 24:6-7). According to a July 6, 2003 article by Chris Hedges in the New York Times, over the last 3,400 years nations have been at war for 3,122 of them. On the day the article was printed, 30 declared wars raged across the globe. In the twentieth century alone, 108 million people were killed in war.
Christians fail to grasp the aim of the gospel when they attempt to use the gospel to cure society things of like economic unfairness, systemic racial prejudice, violent crime, and pollution. That kind of worldwide peace and harmony won’t happen until the resurrection—not because the gospel can’t provide it, but because the majority will refuse it. Thus, we call people to live as strangers and exiles (Hebrews 11:13), to be saved from this perverse generation (Acts 2:40), to be rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13-14).
In fact, while Christians enjoy peace with God, they will often experience increased animosity with the world. Jesus said, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division” (Luke 12:51).
But when someone is justified by faith, he or she obtains peace with God. Before that, “we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8) which means “we were enemies” (Romans 5:10) of the holy God and objects of His righteous wrath. So long as we bear the guilt of our sins, we are in opposition to God, as different as light and dark, as unmixable as oil and water. If we enter His judgment in this state, we will be cast out of His presence forever (2 Thessalonians 1:8)!
Justification in the blood of Christ takes away the stain of sin, and replaces the animosity and wrath with peace. Paul revisits in different terms at the end of the passage, in 5:10-11,
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Whenever two people are estranged—whether friends, coworkers, neighbors, spouses—because human beings are imperfect, there is always a degree of fault to be assigned. Maybe it’s 50/50. Maybe it’s 25/75. Maybe it’s 10/90. Often the key to reconciliation is, like the old Diamond Rio song, to “meet in the middle.”
But that’s not how God reconciles. For when it comes to our relationship with God, the fault is ours 100/0. None of the fault is God’s. He is perfect. But the list is long of the wrongs we’ve done to others, and to God. We are the sinners! We are the liars, the cheaters, the immoral.
That makes the reconciliation spoken of here so amazing. Jesus’ work of reconciliation on the cross was done while we were His enemies! While we were shouting “Crucify!” and hammering home the nails, He was reaching out to save us. To rephrase Diamond Rio, I turned my back on God and said, “I don’t love you!” threw rocks at Him, walked away and sat down in the dirt and refused to budge. Most of us would harrumph and go about our own business. God walked my direction, all the way to my petulant, ungrateful self, and brought me home. God’s wrath is removed, justice satisfied, and man able to be reunited with God as a loving Father.
Members of the body of Christ deeply appreciate the peace with God they have obtained through the blood of Jesus. And we do our best to reflect that, as we strive to avoid sin (Rom. 6:1), as support one another in love (Gal. 6:1-2, Acts 4:34), as we treat one another as equals in the sight of God (Eph. 4:2-3, Col. 3:11). And we invite others to join the family and enjoy peace with God, too. –John Guzzetta