The Implications of Our Justification
One of my favorite movie genres is legal dramas. I have found that they are fast-paced like action movies, but they provoke the audience to self-reflection. As you follow the protagonist (usually an attorney), you constantly wonder if justice will prevail. Legal dramas also often confront viewers with an ethical dilemma. As the movie unfolds, viewers must consider what is right. Even now, you can probably picture a courtroom scene from your favorite movie. Well, as we reflect on Romans 5:1-2 this month, I want you to imagine another courtroom scene.
Setting the Scene
Start by picturing yourself in the defense seat of a royal courtroom. You are guilty of the allegations against you. There is no sliver of doubt, no plea for insanity, and no hope for acquittal. You know it, the judge knows it, the witnesses can see it, and the prosecution has proven it. You are hopeless and indefensible. You expect that, at any moment, the judge will declare his verdict, motion to the bailiff, and have you escorted to the prison cell you deserve, with the perfect view of the gas chamber that awaits you. Imagine the sorrow and pain you would feel.
Now, imagine that in your anguish, you cry out to the judge for mercy. You beg him to show you favor, understanding that you do not deserve it. Astonishingly, he does! He appoints a new defense attorney for you, who defends you with an unexpected proposal. He offers himself in your place. He accepts the consequences of your guilt and punishment upon himself and pleads with the judge to pardon you based upon his own blamelessness. The judge approves this petition, silences the prosecution, and legally declares you innocent of all charges.
Then, to your amazement, he leads you to an elevator in the corner of the room, swipes the access key to unlock it, and enters the elevator with you. When you enter, you realize it is glass and look through to see that you are coming into a beautiful land. It is free of crime, sorrow, and pain. It is the perfect and glorious homeland of the judge, who is adopting you as an honored son. As you look out the glass, joy overwhelms you while hope floods your soul.
Understanding the Scene
That is an incredible picture! What is even more astounding is that it is not fiction! It is what Paul is describing in Romans. In the opening chapters, Paul disassembles any notion that humanity could stand before God righteously. The reality is that we are guilty defendants who fully deserve punishment for our crimes. However, as Paul progresses into chapter 3, he explains that the Lord has manifested his righteousness in Jesus Christ, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (3:25). Much of Romans (including chapter 5) deals with the implications of that reality. That is why he begins 5:1 with the words “therefore, since you have been justified by faith.” He wants his readers to fully understand what it means to be declared righteous by God through Jesus Christ. There are three important implications!
We have peace with God.
First, our justification means that we have peace with God. Consider that courtroom scene again. What we deserve is a guilty verdict, a prison cell, and capital punishment. Yet God does not treat us according to what we deserve but deals graciously with us. Our exoneration through Christ means that we are no longer God’s enemies. We no longer have to fear his wrath because of our sin. Instead, we count him our ally!
We have obtained access to grace.
Next, through faith in Christ, we have access to grace. In other words, we have access to God. Our justification enters us into a new position before him. The word for access carries the sense of “introduction.” Like the locked elevator in our courtroom illustration, we previously were unauthorized to enter His presence. However, our justification by faith initiates a father-child relationship with him. He has handed us the passkey, and we can now come before him boldly and confidently, knowing that he will be delighted to hear us (Eph 3:12, Heb 4:16).
We rejoice in hope of the Glory of God.
Finally, our justification changes our perspective. Whereas before our helpless estate was cause for sorrow, now our hopeful expectation is cause for great joy! Though we deserve the gas chamber, we are adopted into his family and clothed with honors. Paul’s use of “the glory of God” here looks forward to humanity’s restoration and glory, which we lost during the fall. The term points to the coming day when God will reveal his adopted sons and free creation from its bondage to corruption (8:18-24). Paul is exposing a great irony. Earlier in the epistle, he described our unworthiness by explaining how humanity had “exchanged” and “fallen short of” the glory of God through sin (1:22, 3:23). The irony is that we who deserve death and punishment (6:23) are gifted with righteousness, glory, and life (5:17). In short, we are joyful because we have hope, we have hope because we have been justified, and we have been justified because he showed grace.
Putting it all Together
As we memorize these verses, avoid the temptation to meditate on them shallowly. Let the fulness of their implication saturate your heart. Realize how precious your savior thought you were that he would suffer such loss to count you right. Recall that, though you deserved the chair, he gave you the cross. Remember that you can come before your Father when you suffer and trust that he hears you. Understand that you can look forward to a day when his glory will be manifested by glorifying and renewing you. Appreciate that, even now, he is transforming you into the image of Christ. Then, when you have done those things, Rejoice!