God's Love Poured Out

There is no separation between theology and ethics

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May 14, 2023

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Commentary on Romans [3:28-30] 5:1-11

Romans 5:1–11 is a hinge. It summarizes Paul’s argument in Romans 1–4, and at the same time, it introduces Romans 5–8 (and beyond). Yet, one thing also distinctively stands out: Paul’s language of reconciliation and peace. This is largely lacking both in Romans 1–4 and Romans 5–8  (after 5:11). The gospel of God’s reconciliation according to Paul calls for human response in the form of communal life and a ministry of reconciliation. As Robert Jewett notes, “‘Peace with God’ has comprehensive implications that include a harmonious relationship with God as well as the rest of God’s creation, including one’s fellow humans.”1

Since we read Romans 1:1–17 last week and skipped the chapters in between, let us first start by reminding ourselves of what Paul has said in Romans 1:18–4:25.

  • Romans 1:18–32: Drawing on stereotypical images about gentiles, Paul accuses the gentile world of idolatry and describes its consequences.
  • Romans 2:1–3:8: Paul shifts his rhetorical attack to an imaginary hypocrite (who is either a Jew or a gentile who wants to be a Jew), who condemns those described in 1:18–32.
  • Romans 3:9–20: Using a series of scriptural quotations, Paul declares that both Jews and gentiles are “under sin.”
  • Romans 3:21–31: Paul proclaims “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ,” which has been revealed “apart from the law” but is “attested by the law and the prophets”—the implication is that God is the God of both Jews and gentiles.
  • Romans 4:1–25: Drawing a parallel to Abraham (through Paul’s particular interpretation of Abraham’s story), Paul argues that a gentile can be made righteous by faith, and through faith gentiles become descendants of Abraham.

Romans 5:1–11 joins this discourse with the conjunction “therefore” (5:1). Or, if you are Paul, you might want to write it this way: THEREFORE!

Several words in 5:1–11 reflect Paul’s important arguments from preceding chapters (Romans 2–4). “Christ died for the ungodly” (5:6), and thus he “justifies the ungodly” by faith (4:5). “[W]e have been justified by his blood” (5:9), and this Christ is one “whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith” (3:25). Paul has demonstrated that there is no reason for human boasting (2:17, 3:27, 4:2), but those who have been justified by faith have new reasons for boasting. “We boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God” (5:2), “in our suffering” (5:3), and “we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:11).

Furthermore, the conjunction “therefore” provides a logical conclusion or a further implication of what preceded it. Justification by faith is achieved (5:1), and its results are peace and reconciliation through Jesus Christ (5:11). Paul’s metaphorical language of reconciliation evokes the image of a peaceful resolution between warring parties: “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son” (5:10). When human beings were still considered hostile to God, God took the initiative and proved God’s good will and love through the death of Jesus Christ, bringing peace and reconciliation.

We need to wait for the next few chapters to clarify some aspects of Romans 5:1–11. For example,

  • What does Paul mean by saying “while we were still weak” (5:6)?
    • That will be answered in Romans 7 and 8.
  • Why and how can we “boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God” (5:2), and at the same time, “boast in our sufferings” (5:3)?
    • This contrast between glory and sufferings, as well as the language of participation, will be addressed in Romans 6 and 8.
  • What does it mean that we “will be saved by his life” (5:10)?
    • The meaning of “(his) life” will be discussed in the rest of Romans 5, as well as Romans 6 through 8.
  • What is the place of the Holy Spirit (given to believers) in the larger picture (5:5)?
    • This will be elaborated in Romans 8.

The fundamental implications of Romans 5:1–11 can be fully appreciated when we link this passage with Romans 14–15, a section about the tension among Roman congregations (terms such as “weak” and “strong” are used in those chapters). Although we cannot be sure about the precise situation because of Paul’s generalized descriptions (“those who are weak in faith” [14:1] … “We who are strong” [15:1]), Romans 14–15 suggests that there is tension and judgment among different groups, especially around observing certain regulations (see 14:1–6). Paul strongly calls for peace (14:19) and mutual acceptance (15:7).

In Romans as well as in other letters, Paul emphasizes that what Christ has done for believers does not only have meaning for individual salvation, but it has social implications; Christ has died for those on both sides of the conflict. This can be viewed in tandem with another passage where Paul extensively talks about reconciliation, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Human judgment is excluded. The “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18) was given to Paul and his team (and by extension, all believers!).

For Paul, God reconciled the world to God through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18). By pouring God’s love into our hearts (Romans 5:5), God turns us into a community of love, “putting up with the failings of [others]” and not “pleasing” oneself (Romans 15:1). Therefore, there is no separation between theology and ethics in Paul. As Longenecker succinctly points out, “[T]o divorce the ethic of reconciliation from the doctrine of reconciliation is, sadly, to deny them both.”2 Let us proclaim and embody the integrated message of God’s reconciliation.


  1. Robert Jewett, Romans: A Short Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013), 70.
  2. Richard N. Longenecker, Introducing Romans: Critical Issues in Paul’s Most Famous Letter (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011), 343.


Gracious God, you have welcomed all people into your kingdom. Remove from us the barriers that we build to keep people from you, so that all might live in your grace and peace. We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.


Let us talents and tongues employ ELW 674
O living breath of God ELW 407


The Spirit also helpeth us, J. S. Bach