Exposition of Romans 5:1-2, You are standing on home base

There is serenity in seeing a child standing on home base and bragging to the other children about being safe during a game of tag. Many of us spent happy hours dealing with the pretend-risks of playing tag during childhood.

But childhood is over, and the path to safety is blocked by our sins. How can we reach home base now?

(ESV) Romans 5:1-2

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.

The beginning of Romans 5 marks the boundary of a major division in the book. The key sentence of Romans 1-8 occurs in Romans 1:17b, which C.E.B.Cranfield translates as: “He who is righteous by faith shall live.”[1] Cranfield outlines Romans 1:18-4:25 as: “The revelation of the righteousness which is from God by faith alone — Hewho is righteous by faith expounded”; he also outlines Romans 5:1-8:39 as: “The life promised for those who are righteous by faith shall live expounded.”[2] I accept Cranfield’s placement of Romans 5 with chapters 6-8, joining Douglas Moo, Thomas Schreiner and Grant Osborne.

Romans 5 also serves as a transitional chapter with strong links to what has preceded. We see that immediately with the opening clause “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith” (5:1), looking back to the theological arguments of Romans 3-4. Before we leave this backward-looking summary, we should clarify some issues of word choice.

The Greek verb dikaiaohere (5:1) means “be acquitted, be pronounced and treated as righteous.”[3] This is terminology of a law court and is sometimes called forensic language. Some Bible translations prefer forensic language for Romans 5:1; NET and HCSB say declared righteous by faith. Other translators like to boil it down to one word that has the same general force but is a bit less legal in nuance; so, ESV and NIV say justified by faith. Justified has the sense vindicated. Either way is acceptable so long as you remember that “declared righteous” and “justified” are saying the same thing. For precision, “declared righteous” is probably the better choice, as the standard lexicon suggests.

(ESV) Romans 5:1b we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Since all of us had been lacking God’s approval (3:23) and expecting his wrath (1:18) because of our universal domination by sin (3:9), the statement that we have peace with God (5:1) provides terrific relief. This change in our condition is described by Paul in Colossians 1:13 by saying, “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son” (NLT).

The word “peace” is a good example of how Greek and English do not enjoy a one-to-one relationship. For English speakers, peace is primarily freedom from war or a stopping of war.[4] Here (5:1) the Greek noun eirenemeans “a state of well-being, peace.”[5] According to theologian Herman Ridderbos, “Peace refers to the all-embracing gift of salvation, the condition of shalom, which God will again bring to unrestricted dominion.”[6] Bring it on!

As for the phrase “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1), Douglas Moo says, “That all God has for us is to be found in or through Jesus Christ our Lord is a persistent motif in Rom. 5-8.”[7] I am reminded of Paul’s clause in Col. 3:11b: “Christ is all and in all” (NET), a fitting summary of life in Christ! Actually, I prefer a more literal translation: “All and in all –Christ!”

(ESV) Romans 5:2 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.

Christ is the “him” (5:2) who provided us the life-giving access into grace. Greek grammar authority Daniel Wallace states that the two Greek perfect-tense verbs in this verse stress our current status: we currently have access and stand in the realm of grace.[8] We stand in the safety of this grace through Jesus.

This amounts to an astonishing change in status; we have moved from being under sin (3:9) to standing in grace (5:2)! When you consider that is the difference between heaven and hell, the significance becomes more apparent.

The dramatic change of status makes it all the more puzzling that translators throttle back on Paul’s word selection in the remainder of Romans 5:2. The Greek verb kauchaomai means “to take pride in something, boast, glory, pride oneself, brag.”[9] The lexicon specifically suggests the verb should be translated “boast in something” in Rom. 5:2 due to combination with the Greek preposition epi. What is worth boasting about? ESV says the hope of the glory of God (5:2).

There is a big difference between boasting and rejoicing. Dunn explains Paul’s bold use of the word boast, which has been used negatively prior to this point in Romans:

Not by accident Paul again picks up language (boast) which he has used only pejoratively [i.e. as something to avoid] so far (2:17, 23; 3:27; 4:2). Since boasting epitomized Jewish pride in Israel’s privileged status among the nations, so Paul deliberately inserts the equivalent note into this conclusion of his argument so far. . . . Paul does not condemn boasting per se; on the contrary, it should be a natural and proper response to the wonderful favor of this divine patron.[10]

So far, we have said that boast is superior to rejoice in Romans 5:2b, but improvements have not been exhausted. You will recall that the Greek phrase underlying “the glory of God” also occurred in Romans 3:23. Concerning that verse, Cranfield reluctantly admits, “Taken by itself, [the Greek phrase translated “the glory of God”] tesdoxa tou theou could, of course, mean “the approbation [approval] of God,” as it does in John 12:43 (cf. John 5:44), and it is so understood here by some.[11] Using that meaning, I recommended that Romans 3:23 be translated: “For all have sinned and lack God’s approval.”

The same Greek phrase occurs in Romans 5:2, and the same translation applies there as well. The standard Greek lexicon also offers “divine approbation [approval]of person” as one translation alternative in 5:2.[12] After all, justification by faith is all about our becoming acceptable to God.

So, to sum up, I believe the best translation of Romans 5:2 would be: “Through him we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in expectation of God’s approval.” The only way we can stand securely in grace is because Jesus won our access through his death.

Standing in grace

Through Jesus Christ our Lord we have not only gained well-being before God but also the right to stand in the realm of grace. This is what you may expect when God approves of you through faith in Jesus Christ.

1. What does having peace with God do to stabilize your Christian life? How does having peace with God undercut the idea that we must use good works to maintain a status of salvation?

2. How does knowing you already stand in the sphere of grace affect your motivation to live for Christ?

Stand where God has placed you, with grace and peace surrounding you because of Christ.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 27.

[2] Cranfield, Romans, 28.

[3] BDAG-3, dikaiao, be acquitted, q.v.

[4] peace, Websters New World Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Michael Agnes, Ed. in Chief (New York: McMillan, 1999).

[5] BDAG-3, eirene, well-being, q.v.

[6] Herman Ridderbos, Paul, Trans. John Richard De Witt (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975) 184.

[7] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 300.

[8] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 576.

[9] BDAG-3, kauchaomai, boast, q.v.

[10] James D.G. Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1988) 264.

[11] Cranfield, Romans, 204.

[12] BDAG-3, doxa, approval (meaning 3), q.v.