Access to God – Romans 5:1-5

Since we have been justified by faith (like Abraham), we experience peace with God rather than wrath (5:1). The wrath of God has been satisfied in the death of Jesus so that those who are in Christ by faith experience peace, not wrath. Paul uses an aorist passive participle (Δικαιωθέντες) to indicate we did not justify ourselves, but also that this justification is an accomplished fact (Kruse, Romans, 225).

great-and-mighty-ozOur experience of peace, however, is a present tense verb (ἔχομεν), having been justified in the past, we are now in a state of peace with God. I should mention the famous textual variant here, some manuscripts read ἔχωμεν, a subjunctive verb rather than indicative. This alternate reading is supported by both Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus, but in both cases a later hand corrected the text to an indicative. In short, Paul appears to be making a statement using the indicative rather than making an encouraging statement using the subjunctive.

The peace Paul has in mind is not inner peace, but rather a cessation of the enmity humans have with God. In Romans 1-3, humans were enemies of God, but now they can be in a state of peace with God. Ephesians 2:11-22 has a similar idea. After he describes Gentile alienation from God, he declares it is the work of Jesus on the cross that “brings close” Jews and Gentiles. This is the idea of reconciliation: Gentiles who were apart from Israel, and the Jews who were apart from the Gentiles, are now made into something new.

Thiselton points out reconciliation was not used in the Jewish writings of the Second Temple period, nor is it found in the Old Testament. He considers this an example of Paul’s genius, using a word for familiar to Gentile readers in order to get make the Gospel clear in terms they would understand (Discovering Romans, 124).

Since we are in a state of peace with God, we have now access to the Father (5:2a). In order to have access to a king, one must have appropriate status. The word translated access (προσαγωγή) is used by Xenophon, for example, to describe those who have access to the Persian king Cyrus (Cyr. 7, 5, 45). The same word appears in Ephesians 2:18 to describe Jews and Gentiles having access to God the Father through the same Spirit.

The one who is in Christ has the appropriate status to enter into the presence of God through the Holy Spirit, later Paul will expand this metaphor by describing us as adopted into the family of God, so that we can call God abba, father. This is in contrast to anyone who tries to obtain salvation through works. Since they are not justified by faith (and adopted into the family of God), they never really do have access to God.

In Second Temple period Judaism, one did not directly approach God. Only the high priest could enter the presence of God in the Holy of Holies, others can only approach so far (court of men, women, gentiles, etc.)  In the worship of Greco-Roman gods, one did not approach them directly nor were humans granted access to a god. This access to the Father is a remarkable claim in the ancient world!

4 thoughts on “Access to God – Romans 5:1-5

  1. I love how Paul uses language to help his readers better understand what he is trying to describe. In particular I like how we have access to God much like a person would have access to a king. Not only does it use language that the people could understand but it shows how much God loves us and how we have been reconciled to Him. I also think it is interesting that it is not a feeling of peace because that is how I would naturally think of it but it is more like a lack of enmity. We are no longer separated from God but there is now peace. I also like the use of Abraham as an example of justification because it shows we are not justified by works, the law, circumcision, or anything else besides faith. Putting our faith in Christ is what saves us.

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  2. Something that always amazes me it the fact that God, an all-powerful and perfect being, could love sinful humans who constantly disobey him and work against him. He could have just left us as we are, but instead he chose to die for us and pay for our sins against him with his own life. He made it so humans have peace with him, even though humans will never be right with him if it weren’t for the blood of Jesus. By doing so, he also gave us access to him, as Paul pointed out in Romans 5:2. We can talk with God, and he actually listens. He gave us the opportunity to have a relationship with him. Certainly not because he had to or was obligated to, but because he wanted to have a relationship with the sinful humans that constantly disobey and work against him. He wants to love us and that blows my mind.

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  3. If someone wanted to approach royalty, they most likely had to be of some renown. They required some sort of title or they may have received a special invitation into the presence of the king. In the case of Christianity, those who believe have access to the person of Jesus Christ. For the Jews who heard this for the first time, it could have shook their foundations of faith. Growing up Jewish, they were used to the priest approaching God on behalf of the people of God. Also, this could only happen once a year. This comes from people being justified (5:1) and being declared righteous by faith as Abraham was. For everyone to be able to have as close a relationship to God as Abraham had would really shock the minds of the Jewish Christians. For the Gentiles, it would be a similar response. The Gentiles could have lived a cautious life trying to appease their respective gods lest they be punished if they rebelled against that god’s will. We can approach God because of the blessing of peace (Moo, 85) that comes from being justified. We can come before God if our faith is in Him.

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