This chapter centers around the theme of justification, a big word that describes something pretty simple — to be declared “not guilty.” Justification is the Bible word that describes the effect of a faith-response to the gospel: you experience a change from guilt to acquittal. The simplest definition I have ever heard is that “justified” means “just-as-if-I’d” never been guilty.
When people testify about how they felt the moment they were saved, a common description is, “I felt like a weight was lifted off of me!” The removal of sin-guilt truly lifts the load of blame and shame from the soul of a repentant sinner. That immediate effect gives way to three lasting effects. First comes peace with God (v.1). As guilty sinners, we had offended God with our sin and demonstrated our hostility against His authority. But when Jesus died on the cross He made peace with God for us.
Next comes a genuine joy in being made right with God (v.2, “we rejoice”). It is a joy that remains even through suffering, because the gospel puts suffering in perspective: God uses it to build our character and increase our faith (v.3-4). Third is the love of God, “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (v.5). This love was demonstrated in the death of Jesus for sinners, saving us from the wrath of God (v.6-11). It is this love that continually amazes us — that God would love us when we have nothing to offer Him except a long list of sins. What love!
The rest of this chapter emphasizes the only hope and source of justification: Jesus Christ. It does so in a memorable comparison between the first man, Adam, and Jesus. These statements summarize the comparison and should give you plenty of reason to praise Jesus today:
Through Adam, sin came into the world — through Jesus, sin-covering grace came into the world (v.12, 15).
Adam’s one act of sin spread and led to condemnation of all people — Jesus’ one act of righteousness (His death on the cross) leads to the justification of all people who repent and believe in Him (v.18).
Through Adam’s sin came death — through Jesus’ death came eternal life (v.12, 17, 21).
Through Adam many were made sinners — through Jesus many are made righteous (v.19).
Adam was disobedient to God — Jesus was obedient to God (v.19).
What a Savior! And what a promise: “Eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (v.21)!