Do you deserve your place on God’s team? Do you belong? We’re used to thinking about whether someone belongs on a team in terms of merit. Whether that’s a sporting team, work team or committee we naturally think and talk in the language of merit: “they earned their place”, “they’re a valued member of the team”, “they bring something special” etc. But does this apply to being part of God’s team? Romans 5:2 answers that question and the implications are brilliant.
Paul says in Romans 5:1-2:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand (NIV).
Let’s unpack this briefly.
Romans 5:1 provides the first ‘ad break’ in the relentless logical flow of Romans from 1:18 to 4:25. It signals that we can pause for a moment, take a breath, and reflect on what’s come before. And what’s come before is all good news.
Firstly, we have been justified through (or by) faith. This means we have been declared righteous by God. Despite being guilty of sin and rebellion and being deserving of wrath, death and hell, we have been forgiven through the atoning death of Jesus and imputed with his righteousness. We are not only innocent, we are also fully righteous before God. This blessing is received by faith i.e. received as a gift with empty hands and no hint of any contribution on our part.
Secondly, we have peace with God. Formerly we were enemies of God, whether we were aware of it or not. We and God had different values and goals and were at war with each other (whether a ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ war). It was a war we would have lost. But now we have peace. Through Jesus’ sacrifice we are friends. We’ve shaken hands, embraced and are welcome in each other’s lives.
This brings us to the point of this blog post. Through our Lord Jesus Christ we have “gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand”. We are now in a special position. We have crossed a barrier and entered into a place that was formerly off limits to us. And just like our justification, this entry was by faith, not our own merits.
And what is this place? It is “this grace in which we now stand”. That’s not so much a physical location as a spiritual position in relation to God. We are now continually in a relationship of grace with God. And what is grace? It is his undeserved loving kindness and favour and mercy. This is where we are.
‘Standing’, as opposed to, say, ‘sitting’ or ‘resting’, implies that we occupy our place there with some determination and will. The Greek word is sometimes translated elsewhere as ‘take one’s stand’ or ‘stand firm’ (e.g. 1 Cor 15:1 or Col 4:12). The sense is that we will not be moved from this position by external pressures or opposition.
But although we stand with determination, our location is still in ‘this grace’ – God’s undeserved favour.
So coming back to that question at the start of this post, “do we deserve our place on God’s team?” The answer is a clear no. We are friends with God through grace, not our own works. The great contribution of Romans 5:1-2 is that it shows that we continue to live in grace not works. We remain as undeserving people on God’s team.
This means we must not think like we usually do about teams, committees and other groups. We haven’t been “given a chance to prove ourselves” like newly selected Australian cricketers. We’re not being asked to demonstrate how we will “contribute to the goals of the organisation”. We don’t need to earn or hold our place. We will continue to be undeserving, failing, grace-requiring children of God.
Is that how you see your ongoing relationship with God? Can you sense the joy of knowing our place is secure by grace, not our own contribution?
This is grace. This is the grace in which we stand. Let us never be moved.