16I am not ashamed to communicate God’s good news with you, and let me tell you two reasons why. First, it is the power of God that makes salvation—the final deliverance from sin, evil, death, and separation from God—universally available to everyone who believes. It is first good news to the Jews, since God has been preparing them throughout the Old Covenant’s [Old Testament’s] history to receive the Christ. Then, it is good news to remainder of the Gentile world which has now also received God’s invitation to salvation.
17The second reason: in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed. And what does the righteousness of God mean and look like? It means that in the good news about Christ, we see how God (who is just, pure, and morally complete) puts human beings (who are unjust, impure, and morally incomplete) into a right standing with Himself. This reality of being put into a right relationship with God only happens by His grace and through His divine intervention in our lives. And how does God make it possible for us to be right with Him? Only through faith in Christ from beginning to end. It is just like what is written in the Old Covenant Scripture of Habakkuk 2:4: “The person who is made right with God through faith shall live.”
21But now, I have the most amazing news ever! God has made known to us a new way to be right with Him—one that does not depend on our efforts to earn God’s favor (which we cannot do anyway). In this new way, God is the One who acts and does the work to make us right with Him. And this new way of being right with God fulfills what He promised in the Old Covenant Law of Moses and the Prophets. 22In this new way, in this New Covenant between God and human beings, God brings everyone who believes to a right relationship with Him through their faith in Jesus Christ. And everyone needs it! Because when we are standing before God, there is no difference between one’s race, nationality, or religious background. 23For all have sinned—it is part of everyone’s cumulative past throughout human history. We all fall short daily of God’s glory. We are made in God’s likeness and created to reflect His holy character in every way, yet we come short of God’s created purpose for our lives every day.
24 And God, by His grace, and under no requirement or compulsion to do so, freely makes us right in His sight through faith in Christ. By His free grace and unmerited favor, all who have faith in Christ are justified before God. Through Christ, God finds no evidence for a guilty verdict against those who believe; He looks at those who have faith as though we have never done anything wrong. How is that possible? God did this through Christ Jesus, who had paid the price to free us from the guilty verdict and just penalty we deserve for our sins.
23Given that you likely have questions about how God’s truth related to our spiritual forefather Abraham, and how God’s plan of salvation is consistent with God’s promises in the Old Covenant, I have shared a lot about Abraham. But let us not lose sight of what these truths mean to us as followers of Christ. What God said about Abraham—that “because of his faith, God has gifted a credit to his account, giving him something he did not have before: a right standing before God”—was not written for him alone. 24What was written belongs to all of us and is for our benefit too! Because of our faith in the One who raised Jesus Christ our Lord from the dead, God will give us the gift of a credit to our accounts as well, which is the credit of being brought into a right relationship with God and having a right standing with Him. 25Because of our sins, Jesus was delivered over to death and was raised to life in order to put us into a right legal standing with God, a legal standing where God declares us not guilty of any sin or wrongdoing and looks at us though we have never done anything wrong.
1So far in this letter, we have talked extensively about how we have been justified by God through faith. We have talked about our new legal status with God where, by faith, we are declared not guilty of any sin, disobedience, or wrongdoing—where we are treated as if we have never done anything wrong.
Now, let us transition toward two new topics:
- how we can be certain and assured of our justification, and
- how God’s power works in us in our continuing struggle against sin, and how it works against efforts at self-justification when we try to keep God’s moral law.
Let us start by talking about the certainty and assurance we can have because of our new legal status with God.
Since we have been justified through faith, we have received and experience several proofs that help us be certain of our new legal status in Christ. The first proof of our justification is this: We have peace with God, a peace that not only gives us a general sense of well-being in life but also of living in a state of harmony with God. We have this peace with God only through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2The second proof of our justification: Through Christ and faith in Him, we have gained access into a constant state of grace, in which we now live. And we can be confident and rejoice in the hope not only of experiencing the restoration of glory that was lost because of sin but also in looking forward to sharing in the experience of God’s glory throughout eternity.
3The third result of our justification: Not only will we share in God’s glorious future throughout eternity, but we can continue to be confident and rejoice because we know God is working in and through our present sufferings. Why? Because we know God uses suffering to build perseverance in our lives; 4and by building perseverance, it leads to a more developed and proven character; and by building a stronger character in Christ within us, it leads us to be stronger and more confident in the hope of our salvation and the recreation of all things.
1Since we followers in Christ have been brought into a right relationship with God and are assured that our eternal life with Him is secure, what does all of this mean for our present lives? Since our eternity is secure, does that mean we do not need to worry about our morality and ethics in the present? If our sinning causes grace to increase, should we not sin more so that God’s grace might also increase?
2No way! Absolutely not. For us who have faith in Christ, a decisive shift in the state of our being has occurred. We have died to sin, and we no longer live under its dominating power. Since we are in a state of death to sin, how can we go on living in it any longer? 3Do you not realize that when we all were converted and brought into a union with Christ Jesus through our baptism, that we were also immersed into His death—immersed into a status where the power of sin could no longer affect us?
4Upon our conversion to Christ, we are identified with and become participants in what He has done for us. We have been buried with Christ through our baptism—becoming dead to the power of sin over our lives. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, we, too—right now—share in and experience a new kind of life that is like Christ’s.
22But now you have been set free from the influential rule of the sinful, spiritual power at work in the world. You have become slaves to God’s new, spiritual power and authority. As a result, you choose to serve Him and do the things that develop more of a Christ-like character in you, the things that develop and promote your new life with God, the life that endures eternally in this new age.
23When you worked hard for the sinful, spiritual authority that is active in the world, your regular paycheck and eternal retirement plan was death (in every sense of the word). But under God’s spiritual power and authority—where the new reign has already begun because of Jesus’ resurrection—God gives you the gift of a regular paycheck of His grace and the new kind of life that endures eternally through Christ Jesus our Lord.
3.5 The new power of God working in peoples’ lives can be celebrated because nothing can ever separate those who have faith in Christ from the love of God (8:28-39).
28In the first part of this letter, I discussed how we are justified by faith. Since the beginning of this second part of the letter, I have been talking about two themes that are a result of our being made right with God: 1) how God’s people can be assured of our final salvation, and 2) how the new power that God gives us helps us in our struggle against trying to perfectly obey the Old Covenant moral law and against the sinful nature that leads us to rebel against God’s moral standard. But now, I want to shift our focus. I want to elevate your minds as high as I possibly can, so that you might be certain of the eternal security God’s people have. Specifically, I want you to have three experiences in connection with God’s bigger plan and greater purpose:
- be convinced of the bigger picture of how God works in our lives,
- see the stages through which God achieves our salvation, and
- ponder a series of questions that will help us settle the matter in our hearts and minds.
First, let us look at the big picture of how God works in our lives.
3.5.1 Those who have faith in Christ have five certainties about how God works in their lives (8:28b).
There are five things we can be certain about in connection with how God works in our lives:
- We know God is energetically and purposefully at work in our lives and does not stop.
- We know God is at work in our lives for our spiritual and holistic good.
- We know God is for our good in all things. Through all the good, bad, and ugly moments of life, God is achieving the positive purpose of our salvation, which also plays into His larger, eternal plans.
- We know God works for the good of our salvation in all things. He works in this way for all those who love Him. His good is openly offered and available to all, but only those who love Him will know and experience it fully.
- We know that God is working in the lives of those who love Him, because they have been called by Him. Life is not a random mess of chance events and happenings for those He has called. God has called them, and He is working in their lives for His purpose.