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Romans 5 Study Notes

charis

Greek pronunciation [KAH rihss]
CSB translation grace
Uses in Romans 24
Uses in the NT 155
Focus passage Romans 5:2

The Greek noun charis refers to an unmerited favorable disposition toward someone or something. In the NT, charis is commonly used in relation to salvation, especially in Paul’s writings. Paul used charis to explain that salvation comes from God’s own choice to show favor in redeeming lost persons through faith in Christ (see vv. 1-2; Eph 2:8-9; 2Tm 1:9). However, God’s undeserved favor is not toward those who have done nothing offensive; rather, God shows grace toward those who have sinned against him and are actually his enemies.

In Rm 5, Paul explained that peace with God is an act of God’s grace (vv. 1-2). He reminded believers that at one time they were God’s enemies (v. 10; see Eph 2:1-16; Col 1:21-22). Therefore, a better NT definition of charis would be unmerited favor toward an enemygrace toward one who has forfeited any claim on God’s favor because of sin and who deserves the opposite—God’s judgment (v. 9).

5:1 Commentators differ over whether chap. 5 belongs thematically to the first major section of Romans or to the Christian life section, chaps. 6-8. It has connections to both. Paul in 5:1-11 uses “we” and “us” as he explains the benefits that those who are justified possess. Justification is just one of many ways of speaking about salvation. In this division, Paul showed how justification involves reconciliation. Justification speaks to our sound legal status before God while reconciliation describes our repaired relationship to God in more personal terms. We were at war with God, relationally alienated from him, but he reconciled us by his Son (v. 10). We have peace in some manuscripts can be read as “let us grasp the fact that we have peace.” This peace is an objective, settled fact because Jesus has accomplished it once and for all.

5:2 Access to God’s grace is the privilege of all believers. We have the freedom to enter his presence at all times. His golden scepter is always extended (cp. Est 4:11-5:2).

5:3-4 Believers can rejoice in tough circumstances and afflictions because we know that through such things the Father is disciplining us for greater holiness (Heb 12:10).

5:5 The Christian’s hope is certain because God’s love is assured to us by the Holy Spirit’s ministry within the core of our being (our hearts).

5:6-8 We can be sure of God’s love since he did so much for us when we were helpless. We were ungodly, we were still sinners, and we were his enemies (v. 10). Jesus died for that kind of person. The word translated “for” is the Greek preposition huper used in substitution contexts. Jesus died in our place. God freely chooses to love us and by doing so confers worth on us through our faith in him.

5:9 No debt of wrath remains for those who have now been declared righteous through faith in Christ.

5:10-11 If by the death of Christ we were reconciled to God, how much surer must the good news of salvation be now that he has risen and lives forevermore!

5:12-21 In this section, Paul brings his major discussion of justification by faith to a close with a complex, compressed, and controversial analogy. He shows that grace in justification reaches and affects us in Christ much more than sin and death have affected us in Adam.

5:12 Therefore gives this verse a loose connection with the previous section. Sin and death are almost personified here (cp. v. 21, “sin reigned in death”). Just as introduces a long and difficult Greek sentence. The main comparisons are clear, but some of the details lead interpreters to different opinions. Paul was thinking of how both the first Adam (Gn 1-3) and the last Adam (Jesus Christ) have a universal significance for humanity. Interpreters are divided over the phrase because all sinned. The two major interpretations are (1) all people commit sin and therefore die, and (2) somehow all humans sinned “in Adam.” The second view is more likely and entails either that Adam was the federal head of the race and acted on behalf of us all, or that Adam was the seminal head of the race and we were somehow “in him.”

5:13-14 These verses support the second interpretive option for v. 12 (see note there). Sin “reigned” (v. 21) over humanity before the giving of the law even though none had sinned in the way Adam sinned. Adam’s sin was a personal, deliberate act that plunged the human race into physical and spiritual death. All humans, including newborn infants and young children who are incapable of judging right and wrong and thus are not deliberate sinners, are under death’s domain. All people now are born spiritually dead (Eph 2:1-3). Adam’s sin had this broad effect because he was a type (Gk tupos) or prefiguration of Jesus, the Coming One, and represented all of humanity just as Jesus would do on the cross.

5:15-16 The works of Adam and Jesus have similar scope but drastically different effect. One sin plunged humanity into ruin, but God gave the gift that issued in justification in spite of our many trespasses. What was gained through Jesus is far greater than that which was lost through Adam.

5:17 Death took the entire human race into its kingdom. The author of Hebrews portrayed this vividly when he wrote about what Jesus accomplished through his death on the cross: “Through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death” (Heb 2:14-15). Believers, who with the rest of humanity were once slaves in the kingdom of darkness (Col 1:13), were brought into Christ’s kingdom as sons to reign with him.

5:18 Adam’s sin resulted in condemnation for everyone, whereas Christ’s substitutionary death made possible justification leading to life for everyone.

5:19 The expression will be made does not refer to the last judgment, as if our salvation were pending until that time. Rather, it pictures the fact that believers are made righteous when they come to faith. Since Paul knew many people were yet to come to faith when he wrote, it was fitting to use future tense.

5:20-21 As in Gl 3:19, Paul describes the law as a subordinate player in the drama of redemption. The law was never an end unto itself. Rather, its function was to multiply the trespass by bringing the knowledge of sin. By this the need for grace is highlighted, allowing God to bestow it even more. The law also had other functions that Paul does not discuss here.

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