In Romans 5, Paul explains that, while we have an established peace with God, tribulations will come. What’s more, we are to rejoice in these tribulations. How can this be?
We have the Holy Spirit.
Paul taught that our hope is sure because God has already given us the first fruits of the Spirit. God has already given his love, which is an Old Testament term used in the New Testament to refer to God’s redemptive power. He’s already poured out his love in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who’s been given to us. So we have the down payment, the earnest money of our reconciliation. His love for us has already been revealed.
We have a guaranteed future.
Paul goes on, in Romans 5:5-11, to restate his main theme: we have a hope that has been promised us through Jesus Christ. We have an assured future. The Christian need not be anxious about the final outcome when we stand before God:
And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:11)
Note that the emphasis falls on the word “now.” The verdict “innocent” has been given ahead of time and entered into God’s books. You don’t have to wait until the last day. The justifying, reconciling verdict of God has been passed upon us in our favor. We are at peace, because we have entrusted ourselves to God through Jesus Christ.
Verses 9 and 10 have the same kind of theme:
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through him. 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.
Notice the future tenses there: “shall be saved from the wrath of God,” “shall be saved by his life.” These two future tenses point to a guaranteed future.
Psychological peace is not the primary meaning of the word peace here in Romans 5, but there is certainly a psychological dimension to the peace that we have. A relationship with God is where we find that the deepest sources and wellsprings of peace, not only cosmic peace with God, and objective peace in our relationship, but even the beginnings—not the completion, but the beginnings—of the deeply affirming, even emotional and thus psychological peace that we need and that all humans long for.
We still live in a fallen world.
Although we have peace already and have already received the reconciliation, that does not mean we won’t go through trouble. The Christian and the atheist alike experience the same fallen world. But there is a key difference highlighted in this text. It’s found in the little word, “knowing.” Paul says,
We exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance… (Romans 5:2-3)
The Christian has a knowledge that goes beyond head knowledge. It is the deeply personal and healing knowledge of God.
The foundational questions of alienation, estrangement, loneliness, sin, rebellion, and separation between God and his creatures are now resolved through the faithful one—Christ himself. He took to himself on the cross the sins of humanity, and he was vindicated by God when God raised him from the dead. All who come to him now participate in what the Apostle Paul calls the new creation. And all who participate by faith in the new creation, which begins with the confession “Jesus Christ is Lord,” now have, and may experience, peace with God.
The previous was adapted from a convocation address Dr. Sloan gave at Houston Baptist University.
Image credit: Shannon Leith Photography