What does it mean to be justified by faith?
That is a central question that Paul answers in Romans. The book of Romans begins by declaring all men to be sinners and deserving the wrath of God (1:18-3:20). Paul then begins to describe the good news of Jesus Christ that man can be justified before God by faith in Jesus Christ (3:21-4:25).
The book of Romans begins by declaring all men to be sinners and deserving the wrath of God (1:18-3:20). Paul then begins to describe the good news of Jesus Christ that man can be justified before God by faith in Jesus Christ (3:21-4:25). The next three chapters (5-8) of Romans unpack rich implications of justification by faith. The structure of those chapters is outlined and illustrated below, and serve to give the big picture argument of Romans 5-8:*
1. Romans 5:1-11 – Paul begins by declaring believers to “have peace with God” and having obtained access to God’s grace in Christ (Romans 5:1-11). This floods believers with joy and hope because God’s love as demonstrated in Christ’s death (Romans 5:8) “has been poured out into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1
2. Romans 5:12-14 – Before justification by faith, believers are in the realm of Adam where sin and death reign.
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” Romans 5:12
3. Romans 5:15-21 – Through Christ’s death and resurrection, a new realm has been created that coexists with the realm of Adam. In Christ’s realm, grace, life, and righteousness reign.
“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17
4. Romans 6:1-7:6 – Union with Christ in His death and resurrection mean Christians are able to enter the new realm of Christ. This union with Christ breaks the power of sin and death that characterize Adam’s realm and free believers to live in the new realm.
“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:8-11
5. Romans 7:7-8:17 – While the power and penalty of sin no longer holds Christians, Christians still sin because they live in the overlap of realms (7:7-8:17). Romans 8:11 makes it clear that we will be freed from the realm of Adam through physical resurrection.
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:11
6. Romans 8:18-30 – Christians still suffer in this world but can be confident that God will bring Adam’s realm of sin, suffering, and death to and end (Romans 8:18-30).
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18
7. Romans 8:31-39 – Paul closes his argument showing that nothing can stop God’s salvation and that believers should have complete assurance.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
Romans 5-8 covers some of the richest implications of the gospel for believers and should flood our hearts with hope and a love for God. After three chapters describing God’s righteousness to Israel and the Gentiles (9-11), Paul shows us the proper response to the grace of God:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1
Understanding how each part of Romans fits together allows us to conform our understanding and interpretation of the Scriptures to what Paul had in mind. Being conscious of a biblical book’s structure provides clarity to our understanding, and as a result, clarity to the preaching and teaching of the Word.
*This material is adapted from Read Mark Learn: Romans A Small Group Bible Study from St. Helen’s Bishopsgate and are used with kind permission from Christian Focus Publishers.
This article originally ran at LeadershipResources.org