So We Are Now at Peace with God
Through chapter four, Paul has discussed our helpless sinful state that God has answered with His gospel. And that gospel is predicated on the work of God’s Son upon the cross as an atoning sacrifice in which his blood appeases the just wrath of God for our willful rebellion. By taking our sins upon himself, God does not sweep sin under the rug but justly condemns it, punishes it, nails it to the cross, and thereby remains the just God that He is. Those who now believe and trust in this God and what He has done for them through His Son’s death and resurrection are given a right standing before God and thus made right before God. They are given this right standing, or righteousness, as a gift of His grace. This righteousness is not theirs by nature since by nature they are children of wrath (1:18); it is for them what the sixteenth-century Reformer, Martin Luther, called an “alien righteousness,” a righteousness that by nature belongs to God but which He graciously gives to those who by faith cling to His dear Son. We may say that God covers these with His own righteousness that He may be to them a loving Father rather than a God of wrath.
And what is the result of this exchange whereby God trades His righteousness for our sin? “Peace,” Paul answers. We are now at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not here speaking so much of an inner feeling of peace as we are an objective and real peace that God has established between us and Him; in short, we have been reconciled unto Him and are at peace with God regardless of how we may feel some days (Moo, NICNT, 327). And we now have access to this grace through Jesus Christ, which is why in Trinitarian theology he is called the Mediator, the one through whom the plan of redemption is accomplished.
The next result is hope. And so we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; that is, the future promise of the glory of heaven. And it is this hope of heaven that carries us through life such that we may even rejoice in our sufferings. The purpose of these sufferings is to produce in us endurance and godly character, which leads to even more hope as we grow in grace and draw closer to God and heaven, looking less like ourselves and more like Christ. And hereby is the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, so that the objective reality of our reconciliation to the Father through the Son is matched by the more subjective and inward reality of the inhabitation of the Holy Spirit come to live within us. The plan of redemption is so marvelous and mysterious! Only our God could have dreamed it up.