“God has poured out His love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us.” Romans 5:5b GNB (Good News Bible)
This is the 16th memory verses that I will use as a guide/focal point to writing these articles. The Table of Contents is available in the series introductory article.
Immediate Literary Context
Romans 5:1-5 is titled Right with God:
Now that we have been put right with God through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 He has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live. And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory! 3 We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, 4 endurance brings God’s approval, and his approval creates hope. 5 This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us.
These five verses collectively present the positive outcomes that having a faith placed in Christ’s righteousness produces. Our minds are transformed when a person becomes a true believer – their previous state as a sinner is no longer, and instead there remains a renewed heart and mind. Having been made righteous before the Lord, and having an appropriate perspective of our relationship with Him, one of the noticeable effects is the peaceful state of mind. Being justified by that faith helps to provide that heavenly peace that is sourced only from God. Whilst we remain under the guilt of sin, we cannot be at peace or reconciled with God who is holy and righteous.
The construct of the opening half of verse 1 also is a continuation from the earlier chapters and writing from Paul to the Church in Rome. Think of Romans 1:16-17 that the righteous will live by faith:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,[e] as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Our faith, as verse 2 continues, helps us to live in a state of experiencing God’s grace. By and through our faith, justification and sanctification removes the guilty mind and thus creates space for peace to fill – and fill to abundance and overflowing. This is the power of Christ Jesus; faith in Him as the Peace-maker and mediator between us and God. The happy state of believers is a state of grace. Into this presence of glorious grace we are brought, which teaches us that this was not our original state of living. The previous impossibility of our own efforts at transformation is now a real possibility because God leads us into it as sinners receiving the power of His forgiveness.
In that place we stand and remain, a posture that denotes perseverance; we stand firm and safe, upheld by the power of the enemy. For those who have hope for the glory of God hereafter, have enough to rejoice in now. Tribulation and persecution lead to patience, not in and of itself, but the powerful grace of God working in and with that tribulation. The Jews objected to the persecuted state of the Christians as inconsistent with the people/believers of the Messiah. It was therefore with great propriety that Paul so often mentions the blessings arising from this very thing; he knew of their state of mind in repeatedly proclaiming this over the early believers of Christ.
Those who suffered through patience received most of the divine consolation, which abounds as afflictions similarly abound. Patience is the quiet endurance of what we cannot bear but wish were removed. We may sometimes think that it could be the withholding of a promised good (Romans 8:25), or the continued experience of positive ill. There is something noble indeed about having a patience of unrenewed nature, though in many circumstances the outcome of pride can result, if not of something less.
In other versions of verse 3-4, we have the familiar chain of:
perseverance > character > hope
Most believers want to develop character and have more hope. These qualities spring out of perseverance, which is experienced along with tribulation. We may wish to have better character and more hope without starting with tribulation, but that is not God’s way of working. How much easier would it be if God just sprinkles perseverance and character and hope on us whilst we sleep? We could then wake up and be a much better Christian! However, God’s ways are not the easy path, but the hard and narrow path. Therefore we approach trials and tribulations with all manner of seriousness and need to consciously.
This hope will not disappoint, because it is sealed with the Holy Spirit as a Spirit of love. It is the gracious work of the blessed Spirit to shed abroad the love of God in the hearts of all the saints. A right sense of God’s love to us, will make us not feel ashamed, either of our hope, or of our sufferings for him. We are assured of this because God has proved His intention to complete His work in us – the proof being the love of God that is poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit who is God’s gift to us. Paul’s logical arguments in Romans are devastating but his letter to the church does not hold back on emotion or passionate experiences with God. Paul wants us to have the right thought and understanding about God, but he also wants us to have the right experience with God – the love of God… poured out in our hearts. God’s love is also not administered to us in a trickle, it is poured out in our hearts. Some Christians live as if it was only a trickle but God wants us to know the true outpouring of His love.
It is interesting to observe that this is the first mention of the Holy Spirit in Romans – and thus, this is Paul’s first opportunity to explain and introduce the Holy Spirit to the believers forming the church in Rome. God’s love is communicated – through communion with the Holy Spirit. A lack of awareness of God’s love is often attributed to a failure of being constantly filled with the Holy Spirit and walking in the Spirit. Everyone who is a believer has the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9), but not every believer lives out the fullness of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), and not every believer walks in the Spirit (Romans 8:4-5).
Wider Literary Context
Paul’s letter to the church in Rome is arguably one of the most important books within the New Testament after the Gospel accounts of Jesus because of the wealth of teaching delivered. Key principles of the Christian faith are espoused to the church in Rome. It is believed that Paul wrote this particular letter somewhere in the period 56 – 57AD with the main purpose of providing the church a solid theological foundation on which to build their faith and to live for and serve God effectively. Key theological topics include salvation, the sovereignty of God, judgment, spiritual growth, and the righteousness of God – the last one being the core theme of the entire epistle. In fact, Paul reiterates this so that the reader may realise that their salvation cannot be attained just through good deeds but only through having a faith in God and his righteousness.
A three-part structure for Romans can be formulated as:
- Chapters 1 – 8: Gospel fundamentals and foundations of faith
- Chapters 9 – 11: God’s sovereignty over salvation
- Chapters 12 – 16: Guidelines for living a holy lifestyle
The letter to the Romans is a central pillar to the Christian faith today. A large part of the dual nature of faith and actions as two essential parts of a believer are well defined in Romans, although there remains room for interpretation. Martin Luther fuelled the controversy in adding “alone” into the key verse – Romans 3:28 (King James Version):
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith (alone) without the deeds of the law.
That interpretation itself created a lot of debate, much of which still persists to this day. Contrast this with the passage from James 2:14 – 26 which is summarised as faith without works is dead.
As mentioned towards the end of the first section on Immediate Literary Context, there are differing levels of believers being filled with the Holy Spirit. The focus and application thus returns our attention to the pure scope of the memory verse – Romans 5:5 and being filled with the Holy Spirit and God’s love.
There are practical benefits to our faith and thus ample reasons for us to seek God and his forgiveness and grace. The peace we are filled with is centred on our relationship and identity in God/Christ. Having a faith does NOT help us be at peace with the world, nor does it mean less trials and tribulations. However, having and holding the faith is a source of stability for grounding us in God.
Before anything else that our faith may mean – our identity in Christ/God is key. Working out our faith and knowing our status as a child of God, because He first loved us is central. The only thing we had to do was open our hearts and make ourselves willing to receive God’s gift of love, grace, truth and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Seeking a baptism of the Holy Spirit and consequently being slain in the Spirit has been explained via the following analogy. All believers have the Holy Spirit which is manifest in this analogy as a misty rain. Spending time in a fine mist of rain will see us undoubtedly soaked by the rain – aka soaked in the pervasiveness of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Being baptised and then slain in the Spirit, according to this analogy, is like a torrent flood of rain drenching the believer. The outcome is similar in that in both cases, the believer is soaking wet – and the Holy Spirit totally covers the believer – the difference is in the experience – one being more obvious and direct than the other.
The lessons for application are:
- Having a faith in God is not easy, but hang in there
- Welcome and embrace the trials and tribulations; our faith can and will overcome the challenge.
- Exult and celebrate the fact of tribulation. The power to rejoice and exult in tribulation comes from omnipotent grace that we receive by trusting in God’s promises.
- Learn how to focus your prayers to God – seek His help in having faith and hope during times of tribulation; not for less tribulation.
- Eventually with practice and maturity you will learn to praise God inspite of the tribulations; when this is true and evident you know that you are a living testimony of God’s amazing grace.
Worship Song: Grace So Glorious
Grace So Glorious is the first worship song I will attempt to integrate and relate to the theme and content of the memory verse/passage of Romans 5. Maybe it is more of the fact that it has been a recurring song that I have recalled and used for my personal worship for the good part of a month. This was the one worship song that I kept going to during my overseas travel and thus it carries a special significance to me during a time of “testing” when I had every opportunity to focus on everything but God. Playing it at my aunt’s home in KL was a special highlight marked during the halfway point of the fortnight holiday. I could play the chorus non-stop on repeat and just worship God – worthy is the Lord to be crowned in glory, forever. You are indeed a Holy Lord!
Updated 21 October 2016