(2) Assurance & Suffering in God’s “How much more…”: (A) Briefly discuss your understanding of the progression of the gradatio in Romans 5:3–4. How does Paul interpret suffering here? (What is the logic of this section? What is the end-goal of the progression? What is the relationship between hope and the Holy Spirit?)
(B) Then, discuss your understanding of the argument in 5:6–11, and how the death of Jesus offers assurance for the blessings of reconciliation and rescue from ‘wrath’. (What is the progression of the identity of humanity [i.e., from “weak” to “sinners” to “enemies”] and how does God respond in this situation? What does this indicate about how God relates to humanity? According to what logic does God value humanity, and how does this relate to Paul’s “gospel of grace”?)
(C) Finally, by interacting with Kirk, discuss the role of resurrection as a key image of the salvation presented in this passage.
2A. Romans 5:1-11 looks back to the beginning of the Christian life (“Since we are justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” v. 5:1) and forward to its consummation (“We rejoice in our hope of sharing of the glory of God” v. 5:2). Both views are beheld as a cause for rejoicing (5:2 – future; 5:11 – past). What is more, Romans 5:3-4 looks at the present and sees it as a cause for further rejoicing: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings” (5:3). The progression of gradatio (Latin) or climax (Greek) is a device that Paul uses to basically characterize the Christian life between conversion and consummation. We rejoice in our sufferings à knowing that à suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. The three “products” of suffering Paul spotlights – endurance, character, and hope – again are characterizing a period in which the believer suffers. However, the suffering is not meaningless! Instead, Paul is saying that it educates, strengthens, and prepares the believer for things to come. Here, as I believe Paul interprets it, suffering is the arena/classroom in which the believer develops endurance.
The relationship between hope and the Holy Spirit has to do with apocalyptic traditions. Because Paul is essentially saying in the passage (5:1-11) that the hope of future glory for believers is entrenched in suffering, a paradigm shift is in order to reconcile the immediate correlation the Jews would have had to Deuteronomy 28-30. Deuteronomic theology holds that God promises material blessing and protection for his people (for covenant obedience), and poverty and suffering for disobedience. This presents an obvious problem.
However, Paul’s perspective is perhaps best grasped by understanding how his thinking would have been shaped by the apocalyptic traditions from the Second Temple Period and that is, the theological suggestion that the Deuteronomic blessings and curses are postponed until a future age. It is this “future age” which links hope and the Holy Spirit, as the suffering, according to Blackwell, et al, “is not merely for the sake of suffering, nor is it necessarily a form of testing. Rather, it is the process by which the believer’s assurance in the hope of future glory is procured (8:17).” Furthermore, that hope is not a hope in something that is suspect that may or may not happen – it is the gift of the Holy Spirit and the love God has already displayed through Jesus who testified to the reality of this hope (5:5).
2B. My understanding of the argument in 5:6-11 is essentially that we need to not only consider our fallenness and salvation from a very human perspective, but we also need to know who we are, and thus live accordingly. As Paul says in verse 10, before we were Christians, we were enemies of God. But no newsflash here – everyone outside of Christ has God as his or her enemy. We were (before) objects of God’s displeasure, hence the need to be reconciled to Him; He did not need to be reconciled to us. Moreover, we were objects of His wrath. What is this “wrath” of God against us? It is the wrath that will be dispensed to the ungodly at the day of judgment, the eschatological wrath. Even as Christians, that is who we (they) were – weak, sinners, enemies of God.
The tie in of time is an important one in the passage, or to say it differently, time matters. Kirk uses this as a section heading to highlight that Romans 5:1-11 is a “transitional passage in the letter and the lack of consensus about whether it concludes what precedes or introduces what follows testifies to its connections in both directions.” Not only is the letter is moving from past to present and from present to future, but so is humanity (i.e. our lives). I believe God’s response can be seen as an incredible parallelism between our “selves,” our “conditions” and the demonstration of His love for us through sending Jesus at just the right time, wherein “right time” equals “justification that removes wrath.”
Beginning in verse 6, God’s love came at the perfect time: “In due time, he died” (5:6); “Christ came at the time appointed by the Father” (Gal. 4:4). In verse 8, Paul adds that the love by which God acted was literally “of himself” – God is love, and he manifested His love for us in Christ’s death at the perfect time. This relationship is implied in verse 6, is explicit in verse 8, and both are parallel: “while we were yet weak” and “while we were yet sinners.” The death of Christ was the manifestation and expression of the love of God; God loved us first, however we could not go to him because of our sin, i.e. until justification occurred thus aligning us with Christ. Justification saves us from the future wrath of God (v.9), and our freedom from the wrath to come produces a hope and assurance of deliverance from the cusp of God’s displeasure. “The future eschatological salvation of which Paul is so confident comes in the life of the Son.” Reconciliation is a gift that we receive by grace, in the same manner as justification – in His death, His cross (cf. Eph. 2:16) – which took place “when we were yet enemies” and consists above all in the effecting of peace as the fruit of justification.
2C. Paul’s establishment of Jesus within the final setting of judgment in 5:9-10 prepares the way for the arguments in the following chapters (through 8) whereby Paul will methodically reinterpret the purposes of resurrection commonplace in early Judaism surrounding the resurrected Christ. For Paul, the roll of resurrection is a key image of the presented salvation here, as the crucified Christ becomes a new source of life lived in coherence and accordance with God’s will, essentially disestablishing Torah as the position of moral exhortation. Could you imagine what Paul must have been thinking when this transformation of his understanding and expectations occurred? According to Kirk, what 5:9-10 shows us is that the resurrection gives Paul a brand new perspective on the final judgment and ensuing entry into the age to come.
Specifically, Romans 5:9 frames the past to present movement in the preceding 1-8 verses by spanning the discussion into the future. The reference Keck makes to that assessment is profound to me: The implication [as Joseph Fitzmyer points out] is that “What Christ Jesus did is actually the restoration of the relationship of friendship, love and intimacy: justification and reconciliation are part and parcel with the accomplishment of redemption.” And people question how much God loves us? “…how much more shall we be saved…?” (v.9) According to Leander Keck, “the new framework presented in 5:9-11 is an absolute underscoring on the future in light of the presently experienced change from the past.”
The present reality in 5:9 is that believers have “now been justified by his [Jesus’] blood.” Paul is now envisioning that something is happening to and for other people in the death of Jesus, and what’s more, this is when and how God justifies the ungodly, i.e. the cross is the “already” element of justification and Paul is now seeing this as an eschatological event. (Again with the, could you imagine what he must have been thinking?). The present justification in Jesus’ death is deeply connected by the exact event it confirms: future salvation from wrath.
While 5:9 focuses on justification, verse 5:10 parallels it via reconciliation. It is important to note that verse 10 does not just repeat verse 9 with another analogy for the present effect of Christ’s death. Instead, it presents a different analogy in an effort to give logical grounds for what came before in verse 9; that it to say, verse 10 (future eschatological salvation) is telling us why verse 9 is true (“reconciled to God through the death of his Son” = “justification that removes wrath”). This (present) life is Jesus’ resurrection life – the resurrection ensures final salvation.
Kirk states that by using the resurrection as an eschatological event in this passage, Paul is provided the significant leverage required for him to reframe the stories of Israel’s past, present, and future in such a way as they all hold together. Not only that, but Paul’s thinking of the end is transformed in the irony that resurrection life comes not to Israel, but to a man crucified. Resurrection life does not come to the most accurate interpreters of the law (could you imaginenow what lots of people, not just Paul, were thinking?!). This renders future hope not in the Torah, but in an act of the past – Jesus’ resurrection.
Blackwell, Ben C., Goodrich, John K., Maston, Jason. Reading Romans in Context, Paul and Second Temple Judaism. Page 73. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.
Blackwell, Ben C., Goodrich, John K., Maston, Jason. Reading Romans in Context, Paul and Second Temple Judaism. Page 74. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.
Blackwell, Ben C., Goodrich, John K., Maston, Jason. Reading Romans in Context, Paul and Second Temple Judaism. Page 77. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.
Kirk, Daniel J.R., Unlocking Romans. Page 85. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008.
Kirk, Daniel J.R., Unlocking Romans. Page 89. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008
 Kirk, Daniel J.R., Unlocking Romans. Page 85. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008
 Kirk, Daniel J.R., Unlocking Romans. Page 87. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008
 Kirk, Daniel J.R., Unlocking Romans. Page 87. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008
 Kirk, Daniel J.R., Unlocking Romans. Page 89. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008