Reading the Bible with Dead Guys: Charles Hodge on Romans 5:1

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 Charles Hodge (1797–1878) on Romans 5:1.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” - Romans 5:1

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God. That is, we are reconciled to God. We are no longer the objects of God’s displeasure, his favor having been propitiated by the death of his Son (verse 10). As a result of this reconciliation, we have conscious peace with God; that is, we no longer have either the constant censure of an unappeased conscience or the fear of divine anger. Both these ideas are included here. The latter, however, is much more prominent. The phrase we have peace with God means God is at peace with us — his wrath towards us is removed. It expresses, as Friederich Philippi says, “not a state of mind, but a relationship to God.” It is the relationship which arises from the expiation of sin, and consequently justification. We are no longer his enemies, in the objective sense of the term (see verse 10), but are the objects of his favor.

The phrase we have peace with God means God is at peace with us — his wrath towards us is removed.

The whole context is still dealing with reconciliation and propitiation and the removal of the wrath of God by the death of his Son, and not on inner sanctification. It is true that the immediate and certain effect of God’s reconciliation to us is our reconciliation to him. If he is at peace with us, we have inward peace. Conscience is only the reflection of his countenance, the echo, often feeble and indistinct, often terribly clear and unmistakable, of his judgment. Therefore subjective peace always accompanies faith in the love of God, or assurance of our justification. So although the apostle’s primary idea is that God is at peace with us, it is nevertheless true that inner tranquillity of mind is the fruit of justification by faith.

It is especially an evangelical doctrine that pious reflections are the fruit of this reconciliation with God, and not the cause of it. Paul says that this peace is the result of justification by faith. The person who relies on his works for justification can have no peace. He can neither remove the displeasure of God, nor calm the fear of punishment. Peace is not the result of mere free forgiveness, but of justification, of a reconciliation founded on atonement.


Charles Hodge

Takes readers through this epistle one passage at a time, providing commentary on the themes set forth by Paul in Romans. A Crossway Classic Commentary.

The enlightened conscience is never satisfied until it sees that God can be just in justifying the ungodly, that sin has been punished, the justice of God satisfied, and his law honored and vindicated. It is when he sees justice and mercy embracing each other in this way that the believer has that peace which passes all understanding, that sweet quiet of the soul in which deep humility in the light of personal unworthiness is mingled with the warmest gratitude to that Saviour by whose blood God’s justice has been satisfied and conscience appeased.

Hence Paul says we have this peace through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not through ourselves in any way, neither by our own merit, nor our own efforts. It is all of grace. It is all through Jesus Christ. And the justified soul is always anxious to acknowledge this.

This excerpt was adapted from Charles Hodge’s commentary on Romans, part of the Crossway Classic Commentaries series edited by Alister McGrath and J. I. Packer.

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