Book of Romans Bible Studies
Romans 5:1-2 - Grace by which we stand (and the tale of the two birds)

by Fraser Gordon

Morning Saints! Last time we looked through Romans Chapter 4 at the life of Abraham - about faith and justification and how he believed in a God that could bring life out of death. His body was as good as dead and his wife was well beyond the age of childbearing, but Abraham believed. In this study we're going to look at Romans 5, the first two verses. Before we get there, however, there's a 'therefore' at the start of Chapter 5 where Paul writes in light of everything that's gone before. So that’s where I want to start.

Raised for our justification

Romans 4:23 “Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”

You have these two great truths of the gospel; that God delivered up His one and only son and He also raised His one and only Son for our justification. The delivered up part is an amazing concept, that God would deliver up His son unto death, but He did that because of His great love, like some of the songs we sung this morning.

Romans 8:32 “he who did not spare His own son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things.”

God was willing to deliver up His one and only Son. Isaiah 53 writes that surely he has borne our afflictions and our iniquity, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. It goes on to say, that it pleased the Lord to do this, to inflict Him, to bruise Him. We will for all eternity be grateful that the Father was willing to pay the price and bring us the freedom that we have. You have this thought in Romans 4:25, first, delivered up, and second, being raised for our justification. The fact that he was raised from the dead is proof that the sin issue and that sin, has been dealt with. Had He not been raised it would have left you in a neutral position, the past being dealt with but nothing for the future. He was raised for our justification.

Romans 5:9 says “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when 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.

This is the importance of the resurrection, this is why we can be justified in God's eyes because He has been raised from the dead and we have been included in Him and placed in Him.

Romans 5:18 “therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”

The great thing about the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that it produces life, life that we can now partake of, which produces justification. Not only as a position of standing before God but in experience. Before you get into Chapter 5 you've got these two aspects of being delivered up and being justified.

A good picture in the Old Testament of this double aspect of God's working is in Leviticus.

The Cleansing of a Sinner

Leviticus 14:1 “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 this shall be the law of the leper for the day of his cleansing: he shall be brought to the priest. 3 And the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall examine him; and indeed, if the leprosy is healed in the leper, 4 then the priest shall command to take for him who is to be cleansed two living and clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop. 5 And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water. 6 As for the living bird, he shall take it, the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water. 7 And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed from the leprosy, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose in the open field.”

Whenever you see leprosy in the Bible it's always a picture of sin so this passage is about the cleansing of a sinner. One bird was clean and pure, and killed in an earthen vessel over running water. Now this speaks of the first aspect of Christ's life, that He was pure, clean and holy. This bird was killed inside an earthen vessel meaning that the Holy One took on humanity, a human frame of a body and chose to lay aside His right to act as God. This bird was killed over running water which in scripture is a picture or metaphor for the Holy Spirit. Hebrews writes about Christ through the Eternal Spirit offering Himself to the Father. One bird was to be slain in an earthen vessel over running water - a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ dying for your sins and for mine. The second bird was also clean but it had to be fully identified with the first bird. The priest sprinkled the blood of the first bird over the top of the second bird and then it was taken out into the field and set free. The second bird is a picture of the resurrection of Christ, fully identified with the first bird in it's death and sacrifice but taken out into an open field and set free.

A couple of weeks ago I heard this commotion in the garage. Well, my dogs in hot pursuit and he's up on my bench knocking everything over trying to get a bird. In the end he had the bird cornered down the back of the cabinet so I reached down with only enough room for my arm to get in and managed to grab the bird. He didn't peck me or anything so I took him outside. Have you ever looked into a bird's eyes? They are really piercing, they almost look right through you. He gave me this look, like what are you going to do now? The dog was jumping up thinking this is going to be a little snack before his main meal. This verse came to my mind; that the priest was to take the bird that was fully identified with the sacrifice of the other bird, the pains of death were all over this free bird and the priest took it outside and let it go. It was quite neat to do that, this bird had escaped death, my dog was going to have him. In the Old Testament God has given little pictures of what Christ would do in his death and his resurrection.

Peace with God

Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”

Therefore in light of all that sacrifice, the first result of justification, of him rising from the dead and atoning for sin is peace with God. Now everyone has a different concept of the word peace if we'd been around in the 60s we would have seen Chris in a tie-dye shirt walking around saying “peace dude”. The peace symbol was everywhere and it meant no more war, no more hostility, just live in harmony. In the New Age they are looking more for peace within, peace within communities and with one another. Some talk about peace in the age of retirement, older people want to enter into the elder age where there's no more danger or conflict. Where they can be at rest in their last year's on earth. I see many of them on the golf course where they put me in danger.

In this passage it's a different kind of peace. When the Bible talks about peace it means peace with God and the peace of God, they're two very different things. You cannot experience the peace of God which is in Philippians “that surpasses all understanding” unless you first have peace with God. In Romans 5:1 it's saying the result of justification is that we have peace with God. God is no longer hostile toward mankind because He has fully met all His righteous demands on His Son, on the cross. There is no longer the barrier, the veil has been torn and access is now available to go toward God because the standard has been met. His justice and His righteousness have been met by the Lord Jesus Christ, the war is over there is peace with God. It’s like a king with guilty rebellious subjects who says the war is over there is peace, the standard has been met and He is free to bestow grace and love upon all that come to Him.

I read recently that in the last 300 years there's been 286 wars in Europe alone. The question is always one of peace, peace with one another but more directly we need peace with God. Our job is to let people know that God is not hostile toward them anymore, the standard has been met, the doors are open. Come unto the Lord, most people don't know that God is not hostile toward them any longer. He's asking them to repent and receive His free gift. I read an article the other week about Japanese soldiers who were still holding their posts from World War II. There was one account of soldiers on the islands of the Philippines handing in their rifles 30 years after the war had ended. You might think how can that be but the Philippines has about 7,000 islands. The war had finished a long time ago but they were still holding their posts, and it's the same with humanity, the war is over, God has dealt with sin but people still approach Him as though He's unapproachable.

The first result is peace with God, a simple thing but some Christians still see Him as hostile toward them, they don't realize the sin issue has been dealt with. They are afraid of death, they have no assurance. What do they do with the enemy’s darts and accusations if they don’t realize we have peace with God? The Old Testament concept of peace was wrapped up in the word Shalom.

The Peace of God

Isaiah 32:17 “The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.”

In other words the work of the Lord Jesus Christ produces peace, and the effect of righteousness, my Bible says, is quietness and assurance forever. For those that know they have peace with God it produces quietness and assurance forever. I knew from the day I gave my life to the Lord that between me and God everything was okay and it wasn't going to change. Isaiah goes on to say;

Isaiah 32:18 “My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places, 19 Though hail comes down on the forest, And the city is brought low in humiliation. 20 Blessed are you who sow beside all waters, Who send out freely the feet of the ox and the donkey.”

The effect of righteousness brings contentment into your life, one of peace, rest, and assurance even though there's going to be trouble. Isaiah goes on to say “blessed are you who sow beside all waters”, that's our job to share about the peace that we have, peace with God.

He is our Peace

There is one more scripture concerning peace I want to look at because it is more than just a thing, it is a person.

Ephesians 2:11 “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision made in the flesh by hands, 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

That was our position;

Eph 2:13 “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”

We quite often used to sing a song:

“He is our peace,
Who has broken down every wall,
He is our peace, he is our peace”.

Peace is personified, if you have peace with God you have a person and Paul states He has broken down the walls. There are two types of walls; one between the Jew and the Gentile; He's taken away the differences between humanity, rich, poor, black, white, yellow, all may boldly approach Him now through Christ. There is no division between Jew and Gentile anymore. The second is the enmity that the law produced, the offence to God's character by us breaking His law, He's taken that away. If you have peace you have a person, the Lord Jesus Christ He is the peace between God and man, the Prince of Peace as Isaiah states. When Paul says in Romans 5 we have peace with God this is what we have, we have a person the Lord Jesus Christ who has met all God's demands.

A completely new position

Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

If you have ever been denied access to your car or your house it's a real pain, but Jesus is like a master key. If you’ve ever known anyone that had access to the Queen or the President or someone really important you think “wow”. This is what Paul is saying, we have access through Christ to the King of all Kings to the One who created all things. Access is such a simple word but what it contains is deep. Paul goes on to say; “into this grace in which we stand”, so the believer is given a completely new position which is the result and the benefit of justification. The believer is given a new standing and a new position before God and it's one of grace. Ephesians 1:6 “You're fully “accepted in the beloved”, and Ephesians 2:6 “you’re seated in the heavenlies”, these are positional truths. You’re loved with the same love the Father has for His Son which he now bestows upon you and I. In John 17.23 Jesus prayed to his Father he said;

“I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
You are loved with the same love, accepted in His son, amazing. William Newell had a few things to say about grace and I want to share them with you.

The nature of grace

“Grace is God acting freely according to his own nature, as love, with no promises or obligations to fulfil, enacting of course righteously in view of the cross. Grace therefore is uncaused in the recipient, it's cause lies wholly in the giver, in God.” (In other words there is nothing in you that actually deserves grace). “Grace cannot act whether either deserved or by ability. Grace does not help, it is absolute it does all. The flesh has no place in the plan of grace, this is the great reason why grace is hated by the proud natural mind of men. For this very reason the true believer rejoices for he knows that in him, that is in his flesh, no good thing dwells yet he finds God glad to bless him just as he is.”

The place of man under grace

“He has been accepted in Christ who is his standing, he is not on probation” (many christians live as though they are). “As to his life past it does not exist before God, he died at the cross and Christ is his life. Grace once bestowed is not withdrawn, for God knew all the human exigencies beforehand. His action was independent of them not dependent on them.”

The proper attitude of man under grace

“To believe and to consent to be loved while unworthy is the great secret.” (It's an amazing one” “To believe and to consent to be loved even though you're unworthy, that is the great secret, to rely on God's chastening hand as a mark of his kindness.”

Things which gracious Souls discover

“To hope to be better is to fail to see yourself in Christ only” (We all hope to be better but hoping to be better is to fail to see yourself in the position that God has put you). “To be disappointed with yourself is to have believed in yourself. To be discouraged is unbelief as to God's purpose and His plan of blessing for you. To be proud is to be blind for we have no standing before God in ourselves. The lack of divine blessing therefore comes from unbelief and not from failure of devotion.”

For we are His workmanship

Ephesians 2:1-2 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,

It's amazing that you're even saved when you think about that, because we don’t realise the extent to which our hearts and minds are held under the power of the prince of the air, his effect is everywhere. He has absolute hatred for God and he will continue to do so.

Ephesians 2.3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Even in the ages to come we will never stop marvelling at God's kindness and His grace toward us and all that he did for us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

in other words all of salvation is the activity of God from beginning to end, you cannot attain a right standing before God and neither can you maintain that standing before God. It is a work that He does and it's His work from beginning to end. Then Paul goes on to say;

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

The beauty about grace is that it's a work of God, He has done everything for you. He now holds you in that position. But grace is not just taken and then you live your own life, it's actually verse 10 “for we are his workmanship”. Now you have come into this great relationship with God where you've been given peace with God and He is no longer hostile toward you, you've been given a standing in grace, a position in which you stand that He maintains. Out of your love for Him, you allow Him to work in your life for His purpose. “For you are his workmanship”, we are His, not our own. Quite often with our children we try to work things out for them, we try, but they're God's as well. So the outworking of grace is that we allow God to do with us whatever he wants, to take us wherever he wants. We all have different callings in which God will use us on a day-by-day basis.

Glory Revealed

In the last part of Romans 5.2 he says that not only do we have this grace in which we stand, but “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God”.

Do you remember when we looked up the glory of God in Romans 3, “for all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. The glory of God is God's character it is His Holy, righteous nature. When it says that all men have fallen short, that's what it means. No man can live up to the standard of God’s character except one, the Lord Jesus Christ. It says of Him in John 1.14 “...we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”. In John 1.18 “no man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son… He has declared Him (...brought him out where he can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known).” Amp.

In other words when they looked at the Lord Jesus Christ they saw the Father. They saw Him in the way that Jesus lived and acted. They saw the life of the Father, glory revealed. Paul is explaining that we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Yes you've been given peace with God, yes you have a standing in God, but we rejoice in the hope that now God's character may be brought out and lived amongst his people so that God can be seen. This is what Paul is rejoicing, exactly the same as Ephesians 2, “we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works”. Colossians 1:27 “Christ in you, the hope of glory”. That person who is our peace, He is our only hope of glory. Many commentaries on this Colossians passage look to the hope of glory at the end when our bodies are renewed and we're at home with God. Yes, this passage is also future tense, but I think Paul's intent is actually present tense. There is hope for here and now, that God's life and character can be seen - present continuing.