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).
Our 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!
10 thoughts on “Access to God – Romans 5:1-5”
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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.
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.
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.
The distinction of the peace with God not being an inner peace, but a peace of no longer being God’s enemy cleared some things up. “This confident assertion sharply contrasts with Paul’s depiction of God’s wrath standing over the arena of life dominated by the power of sin” (TTP, p.181). Going off the quote of TTP, People can have peace with God instead of being under God’s wrath, because of the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ. Those who have faith in God can have a relationship with Him through His son Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:2). Also, people can have hope in God through Christ and have the Holy spirit in them (Rom. 5:5) which will set them free.
The unrivaled access that believers have to God today, is often taken for granted. Jews were God’s chosen people and had the Law of Moses revealed to them, along with having the temple where God’s presence resided, and even prophets that could relay God’s words directly to the nation. Yet despite having these, a normal everyday Israelite wouldn’t think that he had the ‘access’ to God as compared to being able to have ‘access’ with a king. Normal Jews were only allowed to get so close to God’s presence. They had a specific court that they were allowed to enter, but they were not allowed to enter the temple, unless they were priests or high priests. Yet today as believers, we can enter the presence of God anytime we wish by simply praying, and Jesus who mediates for us brings us into that presence. I believe that the availability of the Bible on demand through our phones, or most people having grown up with one or more in their houses, also desensitizes people to just how special having a Bible is. Even the Jews who received the Law, didn’t just have their own scrolls to be able to read. Even into the middle ages when more Bibles were at least being copied, most people were illiterate and couldn’t even afford to have a Bible, let alone know how to read one. So, today to be able to google thousands of translations and simply go buy a Bible for less than the price of a coffee is an unbelievable, and unimaginable luxury to Christians and Jews in the past, that we simply take for granted by not appreciating our Bibles and not reading them enough.
With that said I want to bring up a point Moo makes. “The Greek word for access… like our English word, was used to refer to one’s approach to an eminent person. We would expect, then, Paul to say that the believer has “access” to God. But he does not. Instead, he claims that we have access to grace,” (Moo, 102) What would you say about that?
He’s not wrong, because that’s what Paul says. Jewish people in the second temple period avoided saying the name of God, perhaps this is an example of circumlocution, Paul is using Grace instead of referring to God. On the other hand, the topic in Romans five is the grace of God, we have access to that immeasurable gift through the faithful act of Jesus on the cross.
“The first blessing, we should note, is “peace with God”, not the “peace of God”. Paul is referring here to the objective state of peace that comes to the justified believer. The enmity between God and the sinner is removed (Moo pg. 85).” Paul makes the distinction clear; we are no longer enemies of God. Jesus has sealed the gap between us and God. And now we are in peace with God. It is a new relationship with God. We were once enemies of God but now through our new relationship with God, we are like friends with God. He knows us personally and cares for each believer. “through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2).” When Jesus was crucified and when he died, there was a great earthquake and the curtain was torn. The curtain torn symbolized that we have total access to God. Before that only the High Priest was allowed to enter into the presence of God, and that was for one day each year, during the “Day of Atonement”. But now through our faith in Jesus’ we have complete access to God.
It is amazing how Paul would explain better to the Jews about anyone can be adopted into God’s family (Ephesians 2:19). As well as you could talk to God personally anywhere instead of through a priest or to a sacred spot where only a selected few can go (Luke 12:3). As it is no longer Jews and Gentiles being separate from each other, but combined into something new (Galations 3:38). Reminding me of the song “City on our knees” by TobyMac. It’s also interesting of the concept of having “access” to God, like before we didn’t before the crucifixion or Paul’s writing/teaching of this. But did we not always have access to God? More so in the Old Testament?
the beast has been crushed we have a new identity through Jesus Christ, we don’t need to carry on in our old sinful ways because God has given us a new route its been there for us. we have now just been lead to it and that is why the Word of God is there to sharpen us and give us something to live by that is where our standards should come from the gospels and seeing how Christ truly lived. nothing should hold us back from being close to God we have complete access to the one that created us. he sent our son to die for us and rise again. its up to us to make the choice sin and death has been defeated. the only enemy we need to worry about is our self.