Romans 5:1-11

Dec 4, 2023

Romans 5:1-11.pdf

Note: The rest of the Roman series was posted back in 2008-2009. This Romans 5:1-11 pericope was inadvertandly omitted at some point and so I am reposting the (revised) structure. 

First of all, Romans 5:1 contains a textual variant. Basically we have to decide if the text reads as the indicative EXOMEN (“we have”) or the subjunctive EXWMEN (“let us have”) peace with God. The early Alexandrian witnesses clearly favor the subjunctive reading. The Byzantine textual witnesses are pretty evenly divided between both readings - as are the church fathers.

There is an interesting article posted at that investigates the witness of 0220 for this variant. 

0220 is known as the Wyman Fragment, which is an early (3rd/4th century) witness to the text of Romans 4.23-5.3.

In every published apparatus this witness is listed with the indicative readings, but as “vid”.

“Vid” is the abbreviation for “videtur” (Latin, for “it seems”). And so this abbreviation stands for a reading which is uncertain, especially in a damaged manuscript.

I think the author, Peter Head is correct that 0220 does appear to have a hole over an omicron in the Greek word EXOMEN. 

Thus, 0220, by normal standards, should be regarded as supporting an indicative reading.

Being early, it should also be regarded as a "heavy hitter" witness. In this case, it parts company from the other heavy hitters (which clearly favor the subjunctive).

So that rocks the text critical boat a little. I wanted to bring up how the chiastic structure of this pericope helps to buttress the (pretty much already generally accepted) argument that the internal evidence favors the indicative reading. 

That is, although 5:11 is superficially far removed from 5:1, the two verses are closely associated because they are rhetorically parallel.

I won’t argue the details supporting this structure. For our purposes, suffice it to say that both parallel verses speak similarly of the concepts of peace and reconciliation.

In 5:11 there is no doubt about the indicative (“we have now received the reconciliation”).

So, IMO, the internal argument favors the indicative in 5:1 (that “we have peace with God”) and this reading has sufficiant “heavy hitter” external basis & support from 0220.

Regarding the structure, please note that I have portrayed it with two outlines.  The fuller outline on the left is a threefold (ABC) chiasm of faith, hope, and love. However, I think St.Paul has taken the trouble to also construct this pericope as an AB parallelism.  In fact, I think he has deliberately constructed it in such a manner that it can be construed as either/both ABBA and ABAB. This is reflected by the brief outline in italics on the right side of the outline column. It could be ABBA in the sense that the pericope turns on the concept of hope. It could be ABAB because of the way Paul inserts “Not only so” for his B terms.

Here is some commentary on just a few aspects of this passage.

Verses 3-4 are confusing to some readers.

“Not only this, but we also rejoice in afflictions, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope.”

It might seem strange for Paul to say we rejoice in afflictions (rather than what might instinctively do, which is lament). The word for “Afflictions” could, of course, refer to any of the various sufferings that come upon all people whether they are Christians or not. However, in St. Paul’s writings, such hardships often are directly associated gospel missionary enterprise. While St. Paul was carrying out his apostolic duties, he endured not only incidents like shipwrecks, but also persecutions, such as beatings and imprisonment.

These sorts of afflictions also became part and parcel of the churches within his missionary territory. So, it is probably more accurate to think of afflictions as particularly what Christians are subjected to because they are Christians. While enduring such afflictions, St. Paul is able to regard (or “spin”) outwardly terrible and shameful sufferings into what we, particularly as Christians, are able to see with the eyes of faith.

Here is his chain of “faith based” reasoning:

Afflictions > (Patient) Endurance.

Endurance > (Tested) Proof.

The idea is “proof” i.e., “proven worth/genuineness.” Most English Bibles translate the word as, “character.” However, this is not so much the meaning, but rather, the interpreted significance. In that scenario, the assumed reference is that testing builds character (as most would agree). Yet, whether that is St. Paul’s reference in this line of reasoning is questionable, IMO. I think St. Paul is making reference to what he will explain next. That is the “proof” is that of the genuineness of our present right standing before God (which comes via the indwelling Holy Spirit, which in, is ours because of the death of Christ). It is what he has just mentioned, “this grace in which we stand” (Romans 5:2). The verb “we stand” is parsed as a perfect active indicative. The perfect tense focuses on the completion of the action and so the certainty of our current standing.

We should be able to get just a glimpse of how, for St. Paul, the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is intimately involved in our journey to salvation.

Saint Paul’s reasoning might be likened to the old saying “the proof is in the pudding.” This saying doesn’t make much sense unless we understand the old British idiom, which reads “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” The pudding was probably a minced-meat dish. It didn’t look very appealing and so it likely didn’t present very well. Yet the proof of its goodness was a tested proof. The true test of the goodness and success of the minced-meat pudding dish was inside - how it tasted, not how it appeared outwardly. So also, it should be clear to us that, although outwardly painful, the endurance of afflictions comes by way of the inward power and grace of God. This endurance by God’s grace is the proof of “this grace in which we (presently) stand.”

The last step in the chain of reasoning is the most obvious:

Proof (of our present standings) > Hope.

The ultimate reason we, as Christians, can rejoice in afflictions is because we have hope. Just as our present faith (as in Heb 11:1) is said to be, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” – so also is our future hope. Hope is like a spiritual anchor, sturdily fastened in our future in Christ. The glory of future salvation is brought into our present through our sacramental union with Christ. In Christ, afflictions are exalted to a holy vocation. That is, they are the blessed occasion God uses to impart the grace to endure.

The next verse explains that this gracious link between outward experience and inward hope comes through the Holy Spirit (whom we received at baptism/chrismation when we were incorporated into Christ).

“Now the hope is not putting us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

The reference to not being put to shame (humiliation, disgrace) by the hope is at first both unexpected and nonsensical. This is exactly the opposite of the exalted status he just previously mentioned in 5:2 (“And so we boast on hope of the glory of God”). In fact, that is why I think St. Paul is figuratively saying “far from it” (i.e., the opposite of shame)…“we are proud and so we boast about our present hope.” Recall, he has already used such a figure in Romans 1:16. When he says there, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel,” he intends us to understand he is proud, even boastful, of his heavenly commission. It seems that St. Paul likely avoided using the actual word for boasting for rhetorical reasons, not only for variety, but also because he is evidently being careful to use the word as a semantic marker. Therefore, in this context of boasting, the reader should be alert to such hints and readily understand this reference in the same manner. Paul then explains on what basis he can make such a statement. It is because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Note the specific idiom used by saying “poured out.” It is that of blood being poured out in sacrificial death. The next verses make it clear that the Holy Spirit makes us understand and inwardly know the love of God for us through the death of Christ. So, in this context of reconciliation, this idiom is not far from being analogous to a Pauline John 3:16 of sorts. Just as God “so loved” the world (i.e., God loved the world in this way) “that he gave his only Son,” so here, the love of God “poured out” in our hearts is inextricably tied to the death of Christ.

When we patiently endure afflictions as Christians, we are synergistically persevering in the faith via the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. Later, in chapter 5:15-17, we will learn that the “gift” we received is also a dynamic power. This is because the gift is not a thing, but rather, it is our communion with the triune God. As summarized in Romans 5:21, we rejoice that, in Christ, we participate in a reign of grace, through uprightness, unto eternal life. The gift is said to “reign” (like a kingdom regime) “through Jesus, the Christ, our Lord.” This redemption accomplished (righteousness reigning in life instead of sin reigning in death) is applied in our everyday experience of faith (i.e., our trust in our reconciled standing in grace before God) as the Holy Spirit makes known God’s love for us, as epitomized by the death of Christ.

Just as Romans 5:1-2 reflects a literary cause and effect pattern, so also, this functions as proof that 1. we are partakers of the Holy Spirit – and 2. this means we can also have hope in the glory of God (our future resurrection & salvation).