Justification: God Really Likes You

Launching into a new section in his letter to the Romans, Paul draws to a fine point all that he has said about the remedy to our sinful condition in Christ: “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5.1). Peace as the result of our justification is not altogether unexpected, but it hasn’t been given much attention in the first section. He greets the Romans with the wish of “grace and peace” (1.7). He included peace with glory and honor as one of the rewards to those who do good (2.10), equating these blessings with eternal life mentioned earlier (2.7). But there really doesn’t seem to be an emphasis on peace.

However, it is evident that peace is the need. God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (1.18ff.). All men are under sin (3.9); that is, all men are living in this kingdom of sin which is at war with God. To be under sin and, therefore, under the wrath of God, is to be an enmity with God. What is needed is peace between us and God.

God created us to be at peace with him. We humans, along with the rest of creation, were to something of a fourth note added to the divine triad, living in harmony and expressing the effulgent glory of God. Peace was never intended to be merely the absence of dissonance. Peace is wholeness, health, fullness, and harmony. A peaceful relationship is one in which each does what is right by the other–justice–and joy and health are the result. Peace is not a living arrangement in which those in the relationship vow not to bother one another. Peace is intimate involvement with another and that relationship being nourishment to both.

We could have no peace with God because there was a lack of justice within the relationship. That is, we had not done what was right by God, and that created the enmity. We were thieves. God created us as his images to reflect and participate in his glory. In sin we robbed from God by not giving him ourselves. In addition to that, sin left us in a position that we could not make restitution even if we had wanted to do so. There was no peace because there was no justice, no righteousness.

What God did for us in Christ was to restore justice to our relationship. Through Jesus we are made right, justified, before God. Now that there is righteousness or justice, there is peace. He has done everything that was necessary to provide the restitution and, thus, restore peace. He is just and the justifier of all who pledge their loyalty to Christ Jesus (3.26).

Paul’s statement is not an exhortation to peace but the statement of our position before God. We are at peace with God. Through Christ Jesus God has made peace. The enmity is past. The war is over between us and God. In Christ we are reconciled to God in the deepest most intimate relationship of peace imaginable.

Being at peace with God is sometimes difficult for us to comprehend. There are times that we settle for understandings of peace with God that are deficient. We have had bad examples in relationships that have shaped the way we think of peace. Some have even been taught from pulpits that peace is really there, but it is more of a tolerance from God. God tolerates us from his holy aloofness. We had just better keep our place quietly in the corner lest we wake the ire of God and he remembers that we are there. God really doesn’t like me. He’s just not going to send me to hell.

That is not the peace of justification. The peace of justification means that God really loves you and wants to be near you. He wants to enjoy your presence and you to enjoy his. For some of us this is difficult to imagine. Have we ever had a relationship in which someone knew us so thoroughly and still wanted to be around us? There are times in all of our relationships that we think, “If this person really knew everything that I have done or all that goes through my mind, he/she would have nothing to do with me.” We can’t imagine that God who penetrates our deepest darkest secrets wants to be around us. But he does. He who knows you the best loves you the most. In Christ Jesus all of those sins have been forgiven so that God could have the peace with you that he intended from the beginning. God wanted peace with you, and he pursued it to the point of the death of the cross. He has made this peace with you.

What we must do now is receive God’s word by faith. What he has declared we must believe. It is no spiritual position to think of yourself unworthy of God’s peace when God himself has declared you worthy. In fact, it is just the opposite of spiritual. It is idolatry; you have put your word above the word of God himself. That unbelief is killing you and those around you. Believe the word of God in Christ concerning you. Be at peace.