"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).
The key verse in this section explains that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (5:5). The result of this work in our heart by the Holy Spirit is that we also have peace, access to grace, and reconciliation with God. There is also the hope that the Roman Christians will be saved by Jesus Christ himself in the coming period of wrath (see "day of wrath" in 2:5).
5:1 Here the 'therefore' refers to the previous chapter about the faith of Abraham, which we have seen has nothing to do with accepting a merely law court justification. We will therefore translate "Therefore since we are put right (given life, empowered like Abraham) by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." It is also clear that for Paul another name for the power that has put us right, and will perfect us in love, is the Holy Spirit (5:5).
5:2 "This grace in which we stand" is the multifaceted gracious work of the Spirit in our lives, which Paul will set out in Romans 8.
A fuller explanation of the power to stand comes in Ephesians. "Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." This text goes on to specify that the power to stand and fight and triumph is the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:10-18).
For Christians our faith includes the certainty of resurrection. For a comment on the word 'glory' see 9:4.
5:3-5 On the one hand we begin with hope when the resurrection assures us of our own resurrection. But hope is deepened as we experience the power of that resurrection in our sufferings, and the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Spirit. These verses are a preview of the power of the Holy Spirit set out more fully in Romans 8:11-39.
5:6-8 Our human weakness is overcome by the power that was released as a result of Christ's daring to die for us as he trusted the Spirit to raise him (see commentary on 3:25). There is certainly much more to the death of Christ than the power of his resurrection, but at least this is part of that unfathomable mystery (C.S. Lewis called it "the deeper magic" in The Last Battle).
5:9-11 The fact that Christ's death and resurrection has resulted in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit for all people further assures us that the same power can save us in and through the wrath consequences of our world (the word "God" is not in the Greek text of 5:9, see "day of wrath" in 2:5). And so rather than fearing God we find ourselves reconciled, which will be defined more fully as a sense of being loved and adopted through the power of the Spirit into his family (8:14-17).
There are two ways for humans to live their life. In Adam we can live by the ordinary natural resources of the human race. Or we can live in Christ by the miraculous empowering of the Spirit.
Again we are viewing faith as abiding in the eternal Son of God (the true Vine), which results in the life-giving power of the Spirit (the sap or life of the Vine) to make us alive and fruitful. In this model the Father is the Vinedresser who cares for, protects , and prunes us for maximum fruitfulness. If we are severed from that intimate faith relationship, we are spiritually dead.
This model also fits the beginning of Genesis. The first true humans did not emerge by chance from the hominids that had roamed the world for two million years. They were specifically created to be in the image of God (1:26-27). And because God is a Trinitarian family relationship of three Persons to one another, we can only be in the image of God if we are also connected into that Trinitarian relationship.
What went on in the metaphorical Garden of Joy (the Hebrew word eden means "joy" or "delight") is pictured as a choosing to be self-sufficient. "Your eyes will be opened and you will be like God" (Genesis 3:5). The chronic human condition is that, rather than be in a relationship with God, people try to perfect themselves by their own natural resources. And the result is spiritual death. This is the model we used in Romans 1:18-2:11 where the Greeks tried to perfect themselves by wisdom, and the Jews thought they could perfect themselves by the hard road of legalism.
On this assumption the sin of our self-sufficient humanity is a turning away from an original relationship in faith oneness with God. This is why Paul divides humanity into two classes, either in Adam or in the eternal Son of God.
5:12 Genesis 1 to 3 was the first lesson in Paul's Torah, and he refers to spiritual death in 5:12, 14, 15, 17, 21. Paul will later define the difference between being in Adam and being in Christ as "To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace" (8:6, as in 7:24; 8:2). For Paul it seems that the root of sin is the choice to be self-sufficient, instead of accepting a faith relationship to the Son which must include our welcoming the power of the Holy Spirit. If in our self-sufficiency we are closed off from the power of the Spirit we are spiritually dead.
5:13-14 Sin may not be defined as sin until we have a standard to judge it by. A severed branch is still dead even if we have not examined it by the standards of what a live branch should be.
5:15 There is a huge difference between the self-sufficiency of life in Adam and the free gift of grace that is poured out and abounds by Jesus Christ. Paul has earlier in this chapter defined this grace as all that is poured into our hearts by the Spirit (5:5).
5:16 The attempt to perfect and save oneself by one's own effort inevitably results in a sense of guilt and condemnation. We know we cannot even meet our own standards of what we ought to be, let alone the deeper sense of what we should be as children of God. But the gift of the Spirit results in our being put right so that we can be transformed by the renewing of our mind (12:2).
5:17-19 This abundant free gift of the grace to put us right enables us to have spiritual life and exercise the dominion we lost (Genesis 1:26,28; see 5:21). The human bid for self-sufficiency results in spiritual death and self-condemnation, but Christ's death and resurrection results in our being put right, and this new life is now for all people (5:18).
5:20 Human laws and rules make us feel chronically guilty, but grace restores the relationship we lose by Adamic self-sufficiency. Even though we know we are not perfected immediately, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ through the Spirit gives us a genuine sense of rightness, and assures us of eternal life. It also restores the dominion we lost (5:17).
The chapter ends with the second reference in this letter to eternal life (as in 2:7; and later in 6:23). It is only by being made alive by the Spirit through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ that we are assured our new life is truly eternal.
We might note in passing that Nicodemus was given a similar explanation in terms of two ways of living his life. "What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). In other words we are either in Adam or in Christ. And Nicodemus needed to be made alive for the eternal life which his Pharisaic legalism could never give. Later in that chapter we read that those who have this life "come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen their deeds have been done in God" (John 3:21) as opposed to being done in the flesh. That would suggest that the saving faith of John 3:16 is also the kind of faith that Abraham had (Romans 4). It is not a decision to accept a legal justification. It is a faith in God's power to give us life, as opposed to the attempt to be self-sufficient, and it results in life by the Spirit which as Paul says is eternal life.