We hope then for what we do not (yet) see, which rests on the bedrock of certainty that “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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” (Rom. 5:1-2). Indeed, “those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). From dust to glory is our destiny, a hope-filled truth to which we look with patient fortitude. For, we know who promised, who delivered, and who sustains us, and he is our hope and salvation.
While we may have a tendency to overcomplicate it, the gospel is quite simple. As the Apostle Paul articulates it in the fifth chapter of Romans, “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1). Quite simple indeed. But, as simple as it is, what flows from it is multiplicitous.
In conclusion, let me encourage all of us who are tempted to set our minds on the things of the flesh yet have the Spirit of Christ to remember, reflect, realize, and rejoice. Remember that you belong to Christ. You are not your own but were bought with his blood (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Reflect on the reality that the very Spirit of God dwells in you, a guarantee that you are his child and an ever-present reminder that he is with you, even to the end of the age (verse insert). Realize that “although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life.” Regardless of how you sometimes feel, you are in fact alive in Christ. And rejoice that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4), and the power of his presence transcends all the trials this world has to offer. So, let him who is greater do greater things in and through you, as you set your mind on the things of the Spirit. For, the Spirit is life.
The list of problems facing humanity is myriad. Our very existence has been and continues to be perilous, as we seem bent on self-destruction. Yet, there is one root problem that is the cause of all other problems and common to everyone, the same for those who have gone before us and those who will follow: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
In his life, death, and resurrection, Christ did indeed fulfill the law. The ceremonial law was abrogated under the New Covenant. The civil law expired with the conclusion of ancient national Israel. And the condemnation of the law ceased for all who trust in the perfect righteousness of Christ. As such, for the Christian, God’s moral law becomes not a dirge but a delight, a rule of life for all saved by grace.
What is Paul’s opinion of the law of God? On the one hand, he says the law incites transgression (5:20), constrains liberty (7:1), arouses sin (7:5), and promises life but proves death (7:10). But on the other hand, he says, “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (7:12). How can this be? Is Paul confused?
In the second century, Rome, seemingly out of nowhere there were Christians across every social class, from slaves to the wealthy, living their lives, not separate, but in Roman culture yet differently. They were known as followers of “the way” (Acts 9:2, 22:4), forming a new community, following a resurrected Jesus, fellowshipping in a new way of life. One second century observer referred to Christianity as a “Third Way,” distinct from Rome’s religion, distinct from the Jew’s religion, a new way of life.
For, we are slaves of God, purchased and delivered, and the divine paradox is, as slaves of God, we are truly and eternally free! And this freedom is found only through faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As he said himself, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Freed from sin and freed to righteousness, freed from death and freed to life, as slaves of God we find that we have been freed to live as we were created, to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
God’s gift in Christ is one of measureless magnitude: Adam is overcome by Christ, sin by righteousness, condemnation by justification, death by life, trespass by gift. And it is through the marvelous generosity of God’s grace that we realize the inexpressible glory of God’s purpose in us. Christian, every day in Christ is a gift of life. What the Christian must guard against is resurrecting Adam and calling him Christ, trying to live the Christian life in spite of rather than in light of the gospel. When tempted to sin, look not to the reign of death but the life of Christ, who enables us to live the victorious Christian life by his Spirit. When tempted to despair, look not to the poverty of sin but to the abundant grace of God, who encourages us in his hope by his Spirit.
Jesus summarized the Decalogue simply: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And…You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39). It is a brilliant, comprehensive yet succinct understanding of God’s Moral Law. It is also clear in its inclusion: God, my neighbor, and me. Of course, only the fool questions who God is (Ps. 14:1), and I know who I am, but who is my neighbor? Is my neighbor my friend but not my enemy? Is my neighbor my social or political tribe but not yours? Is my neighbor those I like but not those I dislike or those who dislike me? Who is my neighbor?