Whether it is dieting, exercising, studying, or practicing, we all want to see good results. If you study for three hours every night for a test, you want to see an A+ on your paper. When you stop eating tacos and drinking Mountain Dew, and start exercising five times each week, you want to see the number on the scale get smaller each time you take that fateful step up. Results are important because they prove whether something is true or false, helpful or unhelpful, worthy or unworthy.
Paul has spent Romans 1-4 defending the truth of our sinful condition, God’s righteous response, and Christ’s gracious provision. We are guilty of sin and deserving of wrath, but in his grace, God made a way for us to be right with him. The only way to be right with God is for God to declare us righteous, and this only comes through the propitiation of Christ on the cross.
Now, Paul moves to discuss the results of justification. What does it mean for us to be justified by faith? Paul’s answer is that being made right with God means we have peace with God. Being declared righteous means we have gone from being enemies of God to friends of God. He says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).
Jesus makes peace between God and man only through the blood of his cross. We are reconciled to God only through what Jesus did for us on the cross. When we were weak and ungodly, Christ died for us. Jesus didn’t die for us because he saw something special or admirable in us. Our value is not the motivation for God’s sacrificial love in Christ. God’s sacrificial love for us in Christ is the basis of our value because Christ died for us when there was nothing valuable in us. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Let’s think about God’s love for us in Christ.
Paul says God shows his love for us in the present through Christ’s death for us in the past. The way Paul said this means that God shows his love for us today and for a thousand tomorrows through one single event that occurred in the past. The death of Christ in the past was sufficient to extend God’s love to an eternal future (1 Peter 3:18).
But have you ever considered how it is that God shows us his love even today and tomorrow through something that happened in the past? It would make more sense for Paul to have said, “God showed his love for us…” But the gospel is sweeter than an expression of love through a past action. It is the promise of present and future love, which is made possible by a past action. Through the past action of Jesus’ death on the cross, God shows his love to us in the present forevermore.
How? God continuously show us his love in the death of Christ through the ever-present work of the Holy Spirit. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). Believers have been given the Holy Spirit who continuously pours the love of God into our hearts. Like an ever-flowing spring, the Holy Spirit never ceases to pour God’s love into our hearts. Assurance of God’s love is found in a present divine demonstration through a past definitive action.
Paul has seen the results of the gospel, and like a fat man seeing the needle on the scale drop, he rejoices in what he sees. We who fought against God’s righteous will and who God righteously opposed now are at peace with God because of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus’ death on the cross puts an end to the struggle between God and man. His blood purchased peace. At no cost to you, but at great cost to God in Christ, we can be at peace with the God of the universe.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.