Romans 5:1-11

Sep 14, 2017


In case anyone is interested, I posted a revised version of Romans 5:1-11 outline in Dec 2023.  Please view that structure along with its pdf file. However, I will leave the old explanation below “as is” for the time being.

This section 5:1-11forms the conclusion to Paul’s uprightness through faith section. It is ironic that Paul uses boasting as a key part of this conclusion since we surmise from Romans 2:17 that it was the Jews who assumed it was their prerogative to “boast in God.”  So he is making a point with this conclusion in 5:11 using a similar construction.  Christians are now those who boast about their relationship with God (based on their standing and reconciled status in Christ).  This is not an unbiblical response when we consider Paul’s boasting in the Lord elsewhere, e.g., 1Cor 1:31, per the quotation from Jer 9:23-24, “let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Although the introduction uses a coordinate conjunction to tie the boasting based upon hope to that of its foundation in faith, the other parts of this pericope are made clear by the use of “boasting” (5:2,3,11) along with “not only, but” (5:3,11), “therefore” (5:9), and clear changes of thought in combination with linguistic markers, de and gar (5:5, 6).  One of these clear changes of thought in 5:5 probably makes use of the figure “Tapeinosis” (Humility).  Using this figure, Paul demeans his point so that he intends quite the opposite of what he said.  There is no threat in Paul’s mind of his hope putting him to shame.  Paul used this same figure in Romans 1:16 using a different Greek word for “to be ashamed.”  In that reference, we are not intended to understand that there is possibility of Paul being ashamed of the Gospel.  That is not the point.  In its counterpart in 15:17-19, Paul proudly boasts of his ministry in the Lord.  That is his real point.  So here, Paul is just using alternative wording to refer to the boast introduced in 5:3-4  (where tribulations lead to hope).  He is, in effect, continuing that same thought to its conclusion such that boasting in our tribulations really amounts to being proud and thus boasting in our hope.  There are really two main boasts in this pericope: one based on our relationship to God through faith (vs 1-2, 11 = outer terms) and one based on our hope of glory.  The middle section (re: the hope of glory) is built first upon faith in B and then upon God’s love in the longer B’ section.  God’s work (for us and in us) yields these benefits. Notice also that the longer B‘ term is not only structured as a chiasm; it is simultaneously outlined in parallel (outward/inward, outward/inward).  

More observations are explained below.

In the Introduction (Intro) Paul utilizes the uprightness through faith theme to introduce the concept of reconciliation, at least in conceptual form by referring to “peace with God” and “access into this grace.”  Had this structure not been a chiasm, we might have referred to the extensive use of inclusio in vs 1-2 compared with vs 11.  “Right-standing” (justification) is interestingly parallel with the idea of “access...

into this grace in which we stand.  This concept fits nicely into the scheme of right-standing as being put right in terms of standing in the (new) covenant community, which is the church, the body of Christ.  After all, we are all united through the Spirit with Christ (and so, as Paul actually says in vs 11, “in God”).

Both the Intro and Conclusion make one thing clear and important (by locating the reference in the central position in the smaller chiastic structure) - that these present aspects of our salvation are “through the Lord Jesus Christ” (referring, via nomenclature, to the agency of his person and work up to this point in redemptive history).  Remember that when he introduced the idea of uprightness through faith in 3:21-26, Paul did so with sin and the consequent lack of the glory of God in mind. Uprightness is obtained “from faith” (the distinctive phrasing used earlier in 1:17, 3:26, 30, 4:16). 

The outward manifestation of the Christian faith experience is highlighted in 5:3.  Experience leads to hope and this is then explained in terms of inward love.  In vs 5 we see the subjective basis of our hope in that we know God’s love through the Holy Spirit (HS). This is because we believe the objective truth of Christ’s work in his sacrificial death for our sake (vs 6-8).  This rationale is made clear in the concluding synthesis to the inner section of the chiasm in vs 9-10.  Thus, our inward faith leads us to understand God’s love for us.  Because we are reconciled, we can place our hope upon him. Thus, in vs 3, this entire concept is expressed and confirmed outwardly.  When we persevere through the testing of tribulations by faith (understanding the unstated assumption, that this endurance involves the indwelling Holy Spirit) this is proof of the genuineness of our faith and so this results in hope (as Paul explains in vs 9-10).  Note the use of the “true middle” to describe how affliction “produces for itself ” endurance - this is because the Holy Spirit is indwelling those who are afflicted. Because of our faith-based understanding of God’s love (our reconciled relationship) we thus boast in hope.  It is interesting that in B and its counterpart B’, Paul refers to “the tribulations” and “the wrath” respectively.  It is evident from the latter reference that the time of the future wrath of God (as retribution for our afflictions) is intended.  As we know from other contexts (Romans 2:5,8,9; 1Thess 1:6,10), these concepts are associated.  The troubles and afflictions that come upon Christians from human beings will be repaid someday by the angry wrath of God.  Christians are to be patient in tribulations and are not to avenge themselves. Instead they are to leave vengeance for the wrath of God (Romans 12:12,19).  Here in Romans 5 the two thoughts are again associated via the chiastic structure.  The afflictions (from men) may be here for the present but the wrath of God is repayment for the future (and will not include those who have been put right by Jesus’ sacrificial death).