Read Romans 5:1-21
Family identity is a concept that is largely lost on our society. In other cultures, the successes and failures of a father would play a part in the identity of his children. If a father gains honor, it means status and notoriety for the children; if the father shames himself, that dishonor is passed down to his children. In our society, we like to choose who we identify ourselves with. We proudly wear jerseys for our favorite sports team, or identify ourselves with a political leader, all of which gives others an insight into our likes, dislikes, and beliefs.
As we enter into chapter 5, Paul introduces the concept of “federal headship”—the idea of identifying with a leader. Only we don’t get to choose our leader—we are either under Adam or under Christ. Before we come to faith in Christ, we identify with Adam. Under Adam, we all sin just like he did; and because we all have sinned, death spread to all of us (Romans 5:12). Our evil actions secured our fate and solidified our dishonorable family identity. But grace works differently. When we receive grace through faith, God gives us a new leader. We are no longer under Adam, but under Christ! Unlike our alliance with Adam that is made through our sinful actions, our alliance with Christ is made only through His perfect righteousness.
When God transfers our allegiance from Adam to Christ, this demonstrates God’s rich love for us. He loves us so much that His desire is to adopt us into His family! “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)
But God doesn’t stop there. He wants us to begin to take on His characteristics as we identify ourselves with Him. God deposits this rich love for His people into us! (Romans 5:5) Paul demonstrates this point in Romans 9:1-5. There, Paul shows such love for his Jewish brothers that he wishes he would be damned so that they would be saved. That is incredible love which reflects the sacrificial love of Christ! Martin Luther commented on this passage saying,
“From this text it is very clear that love is found not only in the sweetness and delight, but also in the greatest sorrow and bitterness. Indeed it rejoices and delights in bitterness and sorrow, because it regards the misery and sufferings of others as if they were its own. Thus Christ even in the final and worst hour of His suffering was aglow with His deepest love…. It filled Him with the greatest joy to suffer the greatest pain.”
Questions for study and discussion:
1) Before you were a Christian, when you were under Adam, what behaviors and allegiances characterized your life? Now that you are under Christ, how have these changed?
2) Read Romans 5:1-21 again. List the many benefits of being justified by faith.
3) Three times in this passage, Paul says that these benefits lead us to rejoice, and ultimately to rejoice in God (Romans 5:11). This is worship! Which benefits of justification by faith lead you to worship and rejoice in God?
4) How are you growing in love for others? What problems in our society burden you? What might God be asking you to do about it?