Second Reading: Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
Justified by Faith
What do people of faith have to show for their efforts?
1 When we first believed in God, we walked the right road to him. Now, we have peace with God because of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through Jesus, we enjoy God's favor. We took our stand in his favor when we first believed. Now, we boast about our hope in the glory of God that will come soon.
3 We can also brag about the troubles we endure. Troubles produce patience. 4 Patience proves character, and character gives us hope. 5 We're not embarrassed by our hope because the gift God gave us, the Holy Spirit, pours his love into our hearts.
6 When we were still weak, Christ died at the right moment for those who hated God. 7 No one really wants to die for an innocent person. Someone might even have the courage to die for a good person. 8 But God proved his love for us, when Christ died for us while we were still sinners. 9 So how much more will God save us from the coming times of trouble. When Jesus died, he set us on the right road to God!
1 So, having been made righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our LORD JESUS CHRIST, 2 also through whom we have had access [by faith] to this grace in which we have stood, and we brag in hope for the (coming) glory of God. 3 Not only (this), but we also brag about (our) afflictions, knowing that afflictions (completely) produces patience, 4 patience (produces) proof (of inner strength), and proof (of inner strength) (produces) hope. 5 (This) hope is not shamed because the love of God is poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, the (one) having been given to us. 6 For, while we were still weak, CHRIST died at the right time for the irreverent. 7 For only a few will die on behalf of a righteous (person). Someone might even dare to die for the good person. 8 God commends his love for us, that still being sinners, CHRIST died for us. 9 How much more, then, having been made righteous by his blood will we be saved through HIM from the wrath.
5:7 "For only a few will die on behalf of a righteous (person)." The phrase "only a few" could also be translated "with difficulty someone..." In the former sense, only the truly brace would die for the innocent. In the later sense, anyone would have problems dying for others. The former sense is particular to the individual. The later sense is universal in scope.
What does the phrase "justified by faith" mean? Obviously, we cannot prove ourselves to God. And just as obviously, we cannot "earn" our way into heaven. We are broken, wounded creatures who live in a world tinged by evil. Even with this insight, many take the phrase to mean that faith in God justifies the person. This is the wrong meaning of the phrase. We cannot "believe" our way into God's good graces and into eternal bliss. Faith does not justify us. Only God can justify us. Faith is the vehicle that allows us to realize our salvation. And faith itself is a gift from God.
Notice the actor in these verses is God. The believer can only have peace with God, take a stand in his grace, and have hope in God because GOD ACTED FIRST! He loved the sinner, gave his Son as an offering for the sin, and provides the means to save the sinner. That means is grace. Faith merely opens the eyes of the believer to his grace.
Faith is important to the believer, but it pales in comparison to the activity of God. We should always remember that justification, being made right with God, begins and ends with God, not the faith of the believer.
How does God act in your life? How do you realize his activity? What is the connection between his activity and your realization?