Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 for the Third Sunday of Lent
Posted by Dim Bulb on March 22, 2011
This post includes Father Callan’s summary of chapter 5. Also, the verse numbering of older translation, such as the DRV used below, differs slightly from other translations. The beginning of verse 9 in the DRV is found at the end of verse 8 in translations such as the NAB. For this reason I’ve included verse 9 in this post.
Following Cornely and others we have made the second section of the Dogmatic Part of this Epistle begin with the present chapter (see Introd., vii). Up to this chapter the Apostle has been engaged in showing the need of redemption and the necessity of obtaining justification through faith. For him justification is essentially the same as sanctification, although he seems to restrict the term to the first justification from a state of sin and unbelief to a life of faith and sanctification through grace. Accordingly, after having discussed in the first section of the Dogmatic Part of the Epistle the origin and source of the new life of justification, he passes on in the second section to dilate upon the fruits of this new Christian life of sanctification.
THE FIRST FRUITS OF JUSTIFICATION ARE PEACE WITH GOD AND HOPE
OF FUTURE GLORY; THE LOVE OF GOD FOR US, MANIFESTED IN
GIVING TO US JESUS
A Summary of Romans 5:1-11~In these verses we have an enumeration of the first fruits and blessings of justification. Man justified through faith in Christ enjoys first of all a state of peace. And while the present life is a time of trial, we have the hope that the same love which freed us from sin will also maintain us in our new and perfect state.
But these observations led the Apostle to reflect again on the necessity of justification, and consequently also on original sin, and the relation between it and the Law, on the one hand, and grace and justification, on the other. As a consequence, the remaining verses (12-21) of the chapter treat of the part played by sin, the Law, grace and justice in the history of humanity down to the time of Christ (Lagr.).
On account of the subjects discussed in the second part of this chapter Fr. Lagrange thinks it better to regard the whole chapter as pertaining to the first main part of the Epistle rather than to the second, or as suspended, so to say, between the two. Here, however, we have followed the division given by Cornely.
1 Being justified therefore by faith, let us have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ:
Let us have peace. The subjunctive reading of this clause (εχωμεν) has the support of the best MSS.; and yet the indicative (εχομεν) is preferred by Cornely, Lipsius, etc., because as these authors observe, peace with God is the natural result of justification, not of special personal effort after justification. Still, the phrase can readily mean: “Let us maintain the peace we have by sinning no more, by not incurring again the anger of God, or by reflecting on the anguish of soul we had while in sin.”
Through our Lord, etc., i.e., through the merits of whose Passion and death we have obtained the grace of reconciliation with God (2 Cor 5:18).
2. By whom also we have access through faith into this grace, wherein we stand, and glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God.
By whom, etc. By the merits of Christ we have obtained through faith, as through its beginning and root, the grace of justification which we now enjoy. Likewise through the same merits we glory and rejoice in the hope—lost through sin, but regained in justification—of having one day a part in the glory and happiness of the children of God in heaven.
The term προσαγωγην (“access”) means that Christ has actually reinstated
us in the favor of God.
Of the sons (Vulg., filiorum before Dei) is wanting in the Greek. Fide is more literal than per fidem (Lagr.).
5. And hope confoundeth not : because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us.
Hope confoundeth not, i.e., our hope of future glory is not vain and deceptive like human hope, which rests on the uncertain power and fidelity of man; our hope is unshakable because grounded on the power and fidelity of God. The proof of this is that the charity of God, i.e., the love God has for us (Cornely, Lagr., and others) “is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us” at Baptism; and this love of God for us now is an earnest of our future bliss with Him. Love or charity is attributed to the Holy Ghost by appropriation, because the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity proceeds from the mutual love of the Father and the Son.
Who is given to us. Literally, “Who hath been given to us.”
The charity of God is understood by other authorities (St. Aug., Martini, etc.) to mean the love we have for God. Since the love we have for God is the effect of God’s love for us, it seems reasonable to understand the “charity of God” both in his sense and in the sense given above. Both God’s love for us and our love for Him are a pledge of salvation and future glory, because charity or sanctifying grace is a habit of the soul and already a participation of the Divine Nature.
6. For why did Christ, when as yet we were weak, according to the time, die for the ungodly?
Another proof of God’s love for us, and of the consequent certainty of our hope, is found in the fact that Christ died for our salvation. When as yet we were weak, etc., i.e., when we were in a state of sin and unable to save ourselves, Christ at the precise and opportune time foretold by the Prophets and foreordained by the Eternal Father, gave up His life on the cross for the ungodly, i.e., for sinners, to save those who were His own enemies.
In Greek the verse is not in an interrogative, but in a declarative form, ετι γαρ, according to most MSS. The Vulgate reading, however, is very old, and is preferred by Comely and many others. Interrogative (DRB): For why did Christ, when as yet we were weak… Declarative (KJV): For when we were yet without strength…
7. For scarce for a just man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man some one would dare to die.
To show still more the charity of God for us, which was manifested in the death of Christ, St. Paul notes that it is very difficult to find anyone who would be willing to sacrifice his life, even for a just and good man; while to die for one’s own enemies, as Christ has done, is indeed a singular and unheard of thing. The words just (δικαιου) and good (αγαθου) here are usually taken as synonymous; but some authorities see in the former an honest man, and in the latter a benefactor. Hence there would be a stronger reason for dying for the “good man” than for him who is only “just,” i.e., honest.
8. But God commendeth his charity towards us; because when as yet we were sinners, according to the time,
9. Christ died for us; much more therefore, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from wrath through him.
In these verses St. Paul shows the forceful reasons we have in hoping for salvation and future glory. God, he says, commendeth, i.e., proves (συνιστησιν) His charity towards us especially in this (as said above, in verse 6) that He has offered up Christ in death for us while we were yet His enemies. If He did so much for us while we were still in sin and enmity towards Him, how much more will He save us eternally, now that we have been justified by the blood of Christ! If the death of Christ for sinners is a proof of God’s love for us, it is also a proof of the union between God and Christ, and shows that God in Christ was redeeming the world (2 Cor 5:19) (Lagr.). These verses
illustrate how comparatively easy salvation has become under the Christian dispensation, if only men care to make use of the means provided for salvation.
The words, according to the time (Vulg., secundum tempus) of verse 8, are not in the Greek, and are regarded as a gloss introduced here from verse 6. The in nobis of the Vulgate should be in nos or erga nos, to agree with the Greek.