This article is part of the Reading the Bible with Dead Guys series.
Reading the Bible With Dead Guys is a weekly blog series giving you the chance to read God’s Word alongside some great theologians from church history. With content adapted from the Crossway Classic Commentaries series, these posts feature reflections on Scripture by giants of the faith like John Calvin, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, John Owen, and more.
Today we’ll hear from Francis Schaeffer (1912–1984) on Romans 5:1
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (5:1)
Verb tenses will be very important in our study of this section. Let’s start right off by noting the verb tenses in this opening statement: “Therefore being justified by faith [in the past], we have [in the present] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Greek makes this past tense very plain. Based upon Christ’s finished work on the cross about 2,000 years ago, and based upon the past specific moment in space and time when we individually accepted Christ as our Savior—whether five minutes of five years ago—based upon what transpired in these two moments in the past, we find ourselves in a certain situation in the present.
This question of historical sequence is a very important distinction and must be kept in mind. There is a constant danger in our culture of thinking of Christianity as merely a sort of a progression, without understanding that there must be a moment of justification, a moment of birth. Just as in a marriage there must have been a moment somewhere in the past at which we came into a contractual marriage relationship with the other person, so also there must have been a moment in the past when by grace we accepted Christ as our Savior and were therefore declared justified by God.
Having accepted Christ as our Savior, “we have peace with God.” The first and most important aspect of this peace with God is not the peace in our own hearts but the fact that God is at peace with us. Though we were separated from God by the guilt of our sin, on the basis of Christ’s finished work God has declared us justified. On the basis of Christ’s finished work, He is at peace with us.
Because God is at peace with us, because He has declared us justified, because we have returned to the purpose of our creation, we can in the present have a relationship with God and can have true peace in our own hearts. People struggle like mad to have peace in their hearts. They try all kinds of psychological methods to find some point of integration. But all such efforts lead only to disappointment unless it involves the relationship and the purpose for which we were created.
The only way we can return to that purpose and to that relationship is by having our guilt before God removed on the basis of Christ’s finished work. Once we have thus had our guilt removed, there can be a peace in our hearts that is not false, a peace that will never disappoint us.
This article was adapted from The Finished Work of Christ: The Truth of Romans 1-8 by Francis Schaeffer.