Our Life in Christ

Our Life In Christ 

Third Sunday after Pentecost – July 11, 2021)

by Fr. Jonathan Cholcher
Holy Trinity

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5)

What a marvelous summary of the program of our salvation! With the word “therefore,” this paragraph presupposes what has come before in the first four chapters of the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans, namely, how we are justified – put right – with God.

We have heard the good news (Gospel) of forgiveness and reconciliation in Christ which itself produces faith. We have been rescued from the idolatry of self-love resulting in all kinds of other sins against God the Creator of the universe. The guidance of the natural and written laws (conscience and Old Testament) lead us to the Savior who alone fulfills their requirements, in whom we take refuge from the punishment of guilt. We see Abraham, the father of the faithful, who trusted God’s promises and was completely convinced of the truth of God’s promises as evidenced by his life of hope and righteousness.

Now we who believe in Christ have the same peace as Abraham, the same grace and joy, because we have the same hope. The proof of this hope is our boast of life amid tribulations; standing firm by faith in tribulations produces endurance, and endurance produces genuineness leading to more hope, just like Abraham “who, contrary to hope, in hope believed” (Rom. 4:18). Why? because Abraham believed “God who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Rom. 4:17).

The engine of hope is the love of God – both the love of God for us, and our love for Him – poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. So here in this short paragraph we see the holy triad of “faith, hope, and love” (1 Cor. 13:13) at work directly related to the operation of the Holy Trinity: God (the Father), the Lord Jesus Christ (the Son), and the Holy Spirit. We are justified from faith that is living and active, not only having been gifted to us by God, but an activity of the believer being proven and growing by God’s grace and our efforts joined to the will of God in Christ.

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more than, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:6-10)

Reconciliation (Gk., katallassō [vb.]; katallagē [n.]) means an “exchange” has taken place (see esp. 2 Cor. 5). Our spiritual position relative to God has changed due to the ministry of Jesus Christ. He died instead of us; now we live because of Him. He lives in our flesh, having overcome death and sin in our flesh; therefore, His indestructible life becomes ours in every dimension, overcoming the finality of death of the body and overcoming sin in the exercise of the body. And this is salvation, having been accomplished by Christ and being accomplished even now in the ongoing lives of the faithful. We are delivered from the power of sin and death. Our new lives of faith, hope, and love in Christ bear witness to the fact of our rescue.

Beginning with the Tuesday after Pentecost, we commenced the continuous reading of the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans. This is the reason for this text today, appointed for the Third Sunday after Pentecost. We consider these words, as we hear them repeated publicly, liturgically, every year in the church, just as the Apostle Paul wrote them in repetition to the early Roman Christians as a confirmation of the Orthodox Faith. May we remain faithful in these truths, to have peace, joy, and confidence in our salvation with God.