Peace with God opens and closes this paragraph on the blessings of justification. God’s love dominates the middle. But hope, mentioned in verses 2, 3, 4, and 5 and affirmed later in the paragraph, is the theme Paul emphasizes.
We “rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” Paul says in verse 2. There are lesser hopes and greater hopes, and the determining factor is the object of hope. A shopper hopes for a parking space. A farmer who has planted seed hopes for rain. The far greater hope of which Paul speaks is future glory with God, when we will be given resurrection bodies and see God face-to-face on a restored Earth.
So great is this hope that it sustains us through the tribulations of this age, as Paul explains in verses 3–5, a passage we will consider in a future message.
Why does Paul emphasize hope?
I will get to the answer of that question with an observation: We do not feel justified. We do not feel righteous, and the reason is that we are justified by God’s declaration, not by our experience of having accomplished something. We do feel many things that result from our justification—peace, joy, the Holy Spirit’s power, and especially the love of God described in my previous message. But we lack a sensory connection with justification itself.
The nature of justification is that God freely gives it by his grace to those who receive it by faith. That is why we must continue to reckon ourselves righteous—or, as Paul says in Romans 6:11, reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God—even when we see no evidence of these things in our experience. As I explain in my book, reckoning is a vital step toward lived righteousness.
Because justification lies at the heart of the gospel Paul seeks to defend, he is vulnerable to attack by those who charge that justification is “no more than a legal fiction—a ‘declaration’ of a relationship that cannot be proved and which effects no change—and requires no change!—in this life and which offers no security for the day of judgment” (Douglas Moo).
Paul’s Jewish opponents also believed there was no way to know in this life whether a person will be justified or condemned at the day of judgment. As one current Jewish leader writes, “Our place in heaven is determined by a merit system based on God’s accounting of all our actions and motives.”
When we understand this objection to the gospel of justification by faith, we can see why Paul builds his argument as he does in chapters 5–8. Hope, as Moo explains, is the overarching theme:
The verdict of justification, which Jews relegated to the day of judgment, has, Paul proclaims, already been rendered over the person who believes in Jesus. But can that verdict, “hidden” to the senses, guarantee that one will be delivered from God’s wrath when it is poured out in the judgment? Yes, affirms Paul. Nothing can stand in its way: not death (5:12–21), not sin (chap. 6), not the law (chap. 7) —nothing! (chap. 8). What God has begun, having justified and reconciled us, he will bring to a triumphant conclusion, and save us from wrath.
Justification and condemnation are both now
To hold out hope that God might welcome us into heaven on the basis of our good deeds is in stark contrast with the hope obtained through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This hope is a joyful confidence that rests on a guaranteed inheritance, the Holy Spirit being the down payment (Ephesians 1:14). And that is why Paul says in verse 5 “hope does not put us to shame.” Christian hope will not fail, it will not disappoint.
Anyone who trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation can be assured of being immediately justified. And as for the future, justification brings immediate freedom from fear of condemnation. Paul asks in Romans 8:33, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” His answer: “It is God who justifies.”
Conversely, anyone who does not trust in Jesus Christ is in a state of condemnation now. “Whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). My friend, if you are not now trusting in Christ, you are not innocent until proven guilty; you are guilty now. Condemnation hangs over every person alive today who has not trusted in Jesus Christ.
Saved from wrath, saved to glory
Hope is the focus of Paul’s “how much more” statements in verses 9–10. Since we have been justified, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath (verse 9), and since God reconciled us by the death of his Son when we were his enemies, how much more shall we be saved by his Son’s life—saved in the sense of being carried all the way through to glory, fully conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:30).
And Paul ends the paragraph with a final “more than that” flourish: “we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (verse 11).
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (8:38–39)