Theme: Peace with God
This week’s lessons discuss the important benefits that come to every Christian because of their justification given by Jesus Christ.
Scripture: Romans 5:2
This new state has several important features marked by the other key words in the first half of Romans 5. The first is “peace.” It occurs in verse one in the phrase “peace with God.” This is a military metaphor, of course, and it points to the fact that before our justification we were not at peace with God. You might say, as Henry David Thoreau is quoted as having said, “I am not at war with God.” But you are lying when you say that. Jesus said that your responsibility is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and that you are also to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39; cf. Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18). But you do not love God in your unsaved state. You actually hate God, hate others, and hate yourself. Someone has said, we would murder God if we could, we murder others when we can, and we commit spiritual suicide every day of our lives. However, having been justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, this state of spiritual warfare has been changed to one of peace. We now have peace with God, make peace with others, and experience a new measure of personal peace within ourselves.
Yet it is not only that we are at war with God in our natural state. God is also at war with us because of our ungodly behavior (cf. Rom. 1:18). The word Paul has been using is “wrath,” saying that “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wicked ness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (v. 18). Having shown what this means and having answered the objections of those who feel that this may be a right description of the condition of other people, but not of themselves, Paul reveals what God has done to satisfy his wrath against us in Jesus Christ.
Christ bore the Father’s wrath in our place. He died for us, and we receive the benefits of his atonement by believing on him and in what he has done. This is what we were studying last week. But where does this lead? Obviously to peace with God. For since we have been justified by faith, the cause of the conflict is removed and peace is the result. Peace has been provided from God’s side, for God has removed the cause of the enmity through Jesus’ death. Peace has been received on our side, for we have “believed God” and have found the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ to be credited to us as our righteousness.
The second benefit of standing in the grace of justification is union with Christ, which is developed extensively in the second half of Romans 5, though it is found in these earlier verses as well. Verses 1-11 teach that justification is important— immensely important. But in addition they also teach that we are united to Christ in what theologians call “the mystical union.” This means a union with Christ which we do not fully understand but which God has revealed to us.
Paul mentions this first in verse 10, which speaks of our being “saved through his life!” In the Greek text the last three words are “in his life.” So the argument is: If God has saved us through the death of Christ (through faith in his atonement), he will certainly save us by our being “in him.”
Here are two important points to keep in mind.
First, the union of the believer with Christ is one of three great unions in Scripture. The first is the union of the persons of the Godhead in the Trinity. Christians, as much as Jews, speak of one God. Yet on the basis of the revelation of God in Scripture we also believe that this one God exists in three persons as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We cannot explain how these three persons of the Godhead are at the same time only one God, but the Bible teaches this and we believe it.
The second mystical union is of the two natures of Christ in one person. The Lord Jesus Christ is one person. Nevertheless, he is also both man and God, possessing two natures. The theological formulation of this truth at the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) said that Jesus is “to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into persons, but one and the same Son.” If you understand that completely, you are a better theologian than I am. But although I do not fully understand it, I believe it since it seems to be what the Bible teaches.
We have a similar situation in the case of the third union, that of believers with Christ. We may never understand this fully either. But it is an important truth, and we should hold onto it and try to gain understanding.
The second important point to keep in mind is that the mystical union of the believer with Christ is not something that was invented by the church’s theologians or even by the Apostle Paul, but rather was first taught by Jesus and then was built upon by Paul. Jesus taught it by analogies, which also occur again later in Scripture.
How are we at war with God, and he with us, in our unsaved state?
Explain how this relationship changes for believers?
From the lesson, what are the three great unions in Scripture?
Reflection: Think back to when you became a Christian, and recount your experience of the peace of God at the time of your conversion, and in the first few weeks and months beyond it. How did the Holy Spirit, through the doctrines of the Bible, generate that peace?