Lectionary Year A
June 16, 2002
Romans 5:1-8



The Christian Church is in its infancy as Paul writes the epistle to the believers at Rome. It is barely a quarter of a century since Christ died. Very few inhabitants of Rome would be professing faith in Christ as Savior. Christianity needs to learn the first of basic skills, e.g., how to focus on God in Christ's revelations and teachings. They need repetitive reminders that God justifies them, that Christ died for them and that they can rely on the gift of God's Holy Spirit to bolster them in their attempts to live lives serving God in Christ and for Christ and with Christ, even and perhaps especially, when that association (with Christ) brings suffering, endurance, character and hope. The recipients of this letter need "Christianity 101". They need to read and hear the content of Christianity's elemental specifics, on which to build an ethics of faith throughout, even and especially, the capital of an empire. They need encouragement that they are God's chosen vessels to build such a faith where relationships might grow in mutual respect among such a diverse population that inhabited Rome. They need to feel support that they can withstand any threats to prohibit or retard such edification.


Beginning by declaring that believers receive justification from God, this pericope emphasizes and re-emphasizes and re-emphasizes again, the rationale for believers' ability/permission to boast in God's glory. The emphases get more emphatic, ad seriatim, as the passage crescendos toward its conclusion. Its second point tells that the justified get peace with God. Many commentators call this result of justification, "reconciliation". It gets more such descriptions in 5:9 and II Corinthians 5:18-21. That II Corinthians 5:18-21 passage includes the cosmic result, that claims, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself". Paul proceeds to explain how and why we might respond, especially in the midst of suffering. Declaring that the knowing what suffering, endurance, character and hope do seems to be an attempt to diagram in order to clarify the nature of hope as presented in this text.

It ends as it begins, referring to God's great grace in Jesus' death, a death even for sinners who perpetually sin. The words and phrases in these verses could be charted, drawn on a graph, illustrated by stick figures labeled such as suffering, endurance, character, hope, justification, peace, hope, etc. However, the doctrinal themes mentioned here escape any attempt to reduce to such expressions their significance. They seem to report in an almost argumentative style, what this author considers to be the best of the Best News in the context of real and/or imagined human weaknesses and problems. They declare Gospel in one of its fullest attempts to capture some of its majestic mystery in mere words.

So, we are justified and we have peace and we obtain access to God's grace in which we stand and we boast in hope and we boast in knowing suffering >>> hope which doesn't disappoint us BECAUSE God's love fills us up. Are all these blessings ours sequentially? Does hope we have differ from hope that doesn't disappoint us? Are they similar to or different from the hope of sharing God's glory? And, are they the same as or are they different from the hope that character produces, etc.?

And, we, the weak, are the same as the ungodly for whom Christ died, are we not? Does verse 8 answer that question? I certainly hope so. Aren't we always "still weak"? Surely we are, re: to God's strength revealed in Christ's passion and death. Right? Does our weakness have anything to do with suffering, endurance, character, hope?

Isn't any time Christ died for us the "right time"? Is justification as predominant in this pericope as the study note in the NRSV indicates? It reads, "5:1-11: Consequences of Justification. . ."

Okay, justified I am. Are we all? Peace I have, most of the time. (Or, is time irrelevant to God's Peace?)

Into God's grace I have attained, or, at least, have been given access. All along I have been permitted (expected, enabled) to be standing in God's grace, in the Lord and in gospel. Now, Paul tells me I might also boast in it. New Testament boasting, Pauline boasting, can refer to boasting positively and humbly, surely. Sounds reasonable. It gets reinforced by the mention of Jesus' death on the cross. I try it and it works for me. I invite others to try it too. Some do and some decline. Some receive blessings different from mine. So?

And, my heart is full, usually, of God's love, which the Holy Spirit gives. All this because Christ died for me/us = unworthy. So, what this pericope claims is true, or, at least, it could be. Even for the whole world? Yes!

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