Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus was the turning point of his life. Jesus confronted him with a single life-changing question: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4).
Saul had persecuted Christians because he was on a collision course with God. But through his encounter with Jesus, he discovered the priceless gift of peace with God. How this peace can be yours is a central theme in the New Testament.
Paul explained what happened to him, and to all of Christ’s followers, in these words: “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). The gift of peace with God comes from Christ. It belongs to those who are justified, and it is received by faith. These great themes take us to the summit of our second mountain.
In a game of baseball, the umpire decides whether the pitcher has thrown a ball or a strike. The opinion of the crowd or the TV commentators is irrelevant. The umpire decides. Similarly, in a court of law, the judge decides whether a defendant is guilty or innocent. The attorneys present their case, but the judge decides. His declaration is final.
The word justified describes a decision or declaration that a person is in the right. Its opposite is the word condemned, which describes a decision or declaration that a person is in the wrong.
One day every person who has ever lived will stand before God. On that day, God will announce who is in the right and who is in the wrong. God will make the declaration. Other opinions will be irrelevant.
Since the Bible declares clearly and repeatedly that all people have sinned and fall short of God’s standard, this is not an attractive prospect. So when we read about how we can be justified, or declared right by God, we have every reason to explore how this is possible.
The good news is that God justifies sinners (Romans 4:5). But this statement obviously raises a problem. Declaring sinners to be “in the right” looks like a miscarriage of justice. How could God do that? The answer to that question is “through Jesus Christ.”
When Jesus died on the cross, God the Father laid the guilt and punishment for our sins on Him (Romans 3:25; 1 Peter 2:24). Justice demands that sin should be punished, and God demonstrated His justice by passing our sentence on Jesus. Jesus served the sentence for our wrongdoing. Justice was done.
The law of double jeopardy makes it clear that a person cannot be charged twice for the same crime. So if our sins have been paid for by Jesus, there is no way that they can be charged against us, either now or in the future. This is why “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
If God justifies people through the death of Jesus Christ, then we must discover how the benefits of Jesus’ death can be applied to us. The answer to that question is “through faith.”
Imagine a young couple who meet on a blind date. Over the course of time they develop a friendship, and then they fall in love. Eventually they find themselves making vows to each other as they are joined together in marriage.
This is a helpful picture of the way in which faith joins us to Jesus Christ. Like any other relationship, faith in Jesus begins when you discover who He is. That is what we have been doing in our journey through the Bible. But faith involves more than learning about Jesus. Knowing about another person does not make a marriage, and knowing about Jesus does not make Him ours.
In the marriage service, the groom is asked if he will take the bride to be his wife. Then the bride is asked if she will take the groom to be her husband. A marriage is formed when the bride and groom commit to each other in love.
Our union with Christ works the same way. Two thousand years ago, Jesus was asked if He would take you and become your Savior. Would He bear your sins? Pay your debts? Endure your hell? And on the cross Jesus Christ answered “I will” to all these questions.
Now God has a question for you: “Will you take Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of your life? Will you commit yourself wholly and fully to Him?” Faith answers “I will” to these questions, and when that answer is given, a bond of union is formed between you and Jesus.
Everything that Jesus accomplished on the cross becomes yours by faith. God counts your sins as being dealt with in His death. Your case is closed. There are no charges for you to answer. You are justified through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in this way you have peace with God (Romans 5:1).
The Hebrew term for peace is the beautiful word shalom. It is one of the most common Jewish greetings, and it means “May things be the way they ought to be.” When you are justified by faith through the Lord Jesus Christ, things are as they ought to be between you and God. “We have peace with God” (Romans 5:1)
Peace with God does not mean that you will be free from conflict. Every Christian is involved in a lifelong struggle against sin in his or her life, and we have already seen that the early believers faced hostility and persecution on account of their faith in Jesus.
Jesus spoke directly to this issue. He said to His disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” But immediately He went on to say, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). So the peace Jesus spoke about is not the absence of trouble or conflict in our lives.
Jesus made it clear that the disciples would have peace and trouble at the same time. To discover more of what that looks like, we need to pass through another valley.
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Use these questions to further engage with God's Word. Discuss them with another person or use them as personal reflection questions.
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