On good terms with God
Some might die for a good person, Jesus died for sinners1 So if God has accepted us because of our faith, we’re at peace with him. This happened because of our leader, Jesus the Messiah. 2 Jesus opened the door to God’s grace. In faith, we stepped inside. Now here we stand, celebrating this new hope: one day we’re going to share in God’s glory.
3 That’s not the only thing we celebrate. We can even take pride in the troubles we’re experiencing. Hard times like these strengthen our patience. 4 Patience builds our character. Strong character gives us reason to be more hopeful.
5 I’m talking about the kind of hope that won’t disappoint us. How could it, since God has given us the Holy Spirit who has poured God’s love into our hearts? 6 When we were helpless to do anything about our sins, the Messiah came at just the right time. He died for sinners everywhere.
7 It’s rare to find someone who’ll put their life on the line to protect an innocent person. Maybe we could find someone willing to die for an exceptionally good person. 8 But Christ died for us while we were still sinners. That’s God showing us how much he loves us. 9 Blood of the Messiah has made us acceptable to God. It protects us from God’s angry judgment.
10 As sinners, we were still God’s enemies when the death of his Son changed it all, turning us into God’s friends. Since that’s the case, think of what the Son’s life will do for us now. Surely, we have all the more reason to expect that because he lived, we can live, too. 11 We’re celebrating that. God figured out a way to reconcile with us. He did it through our leader, Jesus the Messiah.
Adam gave us death, Jesus gives us life12 Back in the beginning, one man sinned. Death came into our world, as a result. Since then, everyone has sinned. Death has spread everywhere. 13 So sin was in the world long before the Jewish law showed up. But people weren’t held accountable for breaking the law because it didn’t exist yet. 14 They did die, however. Death was king from the time of Adam clear up until the time of Moses. Even people who weren’t as blatantly disobedient as Adam died. Think of Adam as a symbol, as the opposite of the Messiah.
15 God sent us a gift that’s nothing like the death that Adam brought on us when he sinned. Many people died because of Adam’s sin. But God’s kindness is stronger than sin. Many people are going to benefit because of that kindness, which came to us through one man: Jesus the Messiah. 16 God’s free gift is nothing like what we got from Adam, who sinned. When Adam committed that one sin, God condemned him. But after we have committed many sins, God forgives us.
17 Because of one man’s sin, death ruled the world. But don’t worry, Jesus Christ brought life more powerful than death. It’s ours through the grace of God, who has restored our relationship with him.
Lots of sins, not too much for God’s kindness18 There you have it. One man’s sin brought down the hammer of condemnation on everyone. But because of another man’s noble act, God is offering acceptance and life for everyone. 19 Because of one man’s sin, many became sinners. But because of one man’s obedience, many are now on good terms with God. 20 Jewish law made it possible for people to see they were more sinful than they realized. There were a lot of sins. But God had even more grace.
21 Death, powered by sin, once ran this world. No more. Now goodness, powered by God’s grace, can lead us through this life into eternal life. For that, we can thank Jesus the Messiah, our leader.
“Grace” sounds like a vague word that’s hard to define. In fact, it’s a specific word that can be hard to define: charis. When Bible writers use it to describe God’s expression of grace to people, the word comes in different shades: mercy, kindness, love. We have to look for context clues if we want to understand how the writer used the word. One interpretation of God’s grace is this: “Grace is God accepting us the way we are and exactly where we are in our lives, yet it’s also his unwillingness to leave us there.” That may cover all the shades of “grace.” We should probably add that Paul says we can’t earn the right to any of it (Romans 9:16). In the Casual English Bible, we typically substitute “kindness” for “grace,” because the word “kindness” is more easily grasped and is a key feature of grace. But in Paul’s letter to Romans, we go back to “grace” because this is Paul’s greatest surviving work and the most theological. Some scholars describe this letter as the first thorough work of Christian theology. If you can handle Romans, you can wrap your welcoming arms around God’s grace.
Scholars agree that Paul was talking about the sin of Adam (see verse 14), who accepted his wife’s invitation to eat forbidden fruit. The couple got escorted out of the Garden of Eden, banished. God had told them, “Don’t eat fruit from the tree that gives you wisdom to know right from wrong. If you do, you’re dead” (Genesis 2:17). Though the Genesis writer says the couple lived for several centuries, they did eventually die. Some speculate that God’s original plan was for the couple to live forever. Enter free will. Others argue that God is the boss of all things, and he knew what he was doing. In either case, most would agree that what Adam and Eve did didn’t come as a surprise to God.
More literally, we received “the gift of righteousness.”
Paul says that “Jesus opened the door to God’s kindness” (5:2). What do you think he meant by that?
Paul says that hard times “strengthens our patience” (5:3). He builds on that and says patience gives us more character, and strong character makes us more hopeful. If you had to make a case that Paul was speaking from personal experience, how would you do that?
Paul says, “One man sinned. Death came into our world, as a result” (5:12). Some Bible experts use statements like this to talk about something called Original Sin. As the theory goes, Adam’s first sin somehow affected everyone who came after him. It’s as though he somehow spiritually contaminated us all. We might think of it as a genetic disorder that has a 100% chance of getting passed onto our kids and grandkids. But instead of passing along physically, it seems to move in the realm of the spirit. Original Sin is not a theological slam dunk. Not everyone buys into the idea. What do you think about it?
Paul says something that doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to some people. “So sin was in the world long before the Jewish law showed up. But people weren’t held accountable for breaking the law because it didn’t exist yet” (5:13). Oh yeah? Tell it to Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible says God destroyed those cities several hundred years before Moses delivered the Jewish law. Paul knew this. So what do you think he was talking about? Go ahead and guess. Bible scholars have to do it. Here are a few guesses to prime the pump.
- It makes no sense at all. And we probably shouldn’t try to make it make sense. How could it possibly be that “people weren’t held accountable” (5:13) yet “They did die, however” (5:14)?
- Sometimes preachers talk without thinking and writers write without thinking. Maybe this was one of those times.
- Paul was saying the law didn’t make any difference because when people sinned they died anyhow, eventually (5:14). The law didn’t save them from that.
- Paul’s big point is that sin and death ruled the world.
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul says “We can even take pride in the troubles we’re experiencing” (5:3). He explains that hard times produce patience, which builds our character, which amps up the hopefulness inside of us. Really? If you’ve seen this happen to anyone, do tell us.
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul tries to set Jesus apart from most other people in the world. Paul says, “it’s rare to find someone who will put their life on the line to protect an innocent person. Maybe we can find someone willing to die for an exceptionally good person. But Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (5:7-8). Do you know people like that…people who know the good and the bad about you, and love you anyhow? Who are these people and why do you think they love you in spite of what they know about you?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul makes a fair number of engaging statements in this chapter. What’s the one that most got your attention, for better or worse?