Paul has been illustrating the fact that becoming “right with God” (righteous) has never been about the good things we do and has always been about trusting in God.
In these verses he continues to point to Abraham, the revered Jewish forefather, as the prime example of faith that results in righteousness.
By normal standards, Abraham had no reason to hope that he and his wife Sarah would have a child that would produce descendants, as God promised. But he “hoped against hope”. He put his hope in God's promise despite the fact that he and his wife were both well beyond the age of having children. (v.18-19)
Regardless of what he may have been feeling, Abraham persisted in trusting God's promise. Faith is not a feeling. In fact, Abraham encountered perplexity and anxiety when he heard God's promise! (Genesis 17:17-18) But his faith didn't waiver. He was “convinced” that God could do what he promised. (v.20-21) And it was because of this faith that God considered him righteous. (v.22)
Why is this incident relevant to us today? Because God does not play favorites or show partiality! (Job 34:19, Romans 2:11) Whatever system God used to make Abraham righteous is in place for us, as Paul observes. Abraham believed that God could do something miraculous to fulfill his promise: make non-functioning (or “dead”) reproductive organs operate again, to give Abraham a son. Likewise, believers today put their faith in God and believe that he raised Jesus from the dead to make forgiveness and a “clean slate” available to everyone. (v.17,23-25)
Because of this “clean slate” (justification) with God that believers have, they also have “peace” with God through the saving work of Jesus Christ. (His earthly life, death on our behalf and resurrection) (5:1)
As we enter the Christmas season, we hear lots of songs about peace. When we think of peace, we typically conjure images of personal, emotional tranquility. But this subjective kind of peace is not chiefly the peace the angels announced to the shepherds (Luke 2:14) or that Paul refers to here. It is peace “with God”. “God and sinners reconciled” as the song “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” says.
Through faith in Jesus, we have access to God's undeserved favor toward us (grace) and actually live in a continual state of God's favor. We can also look forward to the event of God one day revealing himself (his “glory”) to us. (5:2)
In addition, because of this reality, we can celebrate what God is doing and what he promises to do even while we are experiencing suffering. God uses suffering to produce character. As our character grows and our faith matures, we more easily place our hope in God, instead of our own efforts or what other people might offer us. (5:3-4)
And this hope isn't empty, leaving us out in the cold. The love of God changes the way we think about others and the way we prioritize our lives. The Holy Spirit changes us over time(Galatians 5:22-23), turning our very lives into additional evidence for all that God has promised. These changes we experience serve as encouragement to us that God is really doing something tangible and real. His promises are trustworthy.(5:5)
All of this is possible, not because of our own efforts to be really good, religious people. The catalyst was Jesus. At a strategic time chosen by God, while we were still weak and completely unable to satisfy God's standard of goodness, Jesus died in a cosmic transaction that paid the penalty for our rebellion against God. (5:6)
This stands in contrast to normal human self-sacrifice. It's very rare that some will die even for a person who, by perception at least, is living a life in accordance with God's will. (Meant by “righteous person”) And maybe someone will die once in awhile for a person who is kind and and does good for others. (Meant by “good person”) (5:7)
But Christ, the promised Messiah of Old Testament prophecy, came and died for us, even though we live in constant opposition to God's will and standard. (5:8)
Next Week- Adam and Jesus. Two men that radically changed the fate of the human race.
Coffee House Question- What does self-sacrifice for others usually look like in movies and TV shows? Can you think of an instance in fiction where someone dies for a “bad” or “evil” character?