Peace with God – Lectionary Reflection for Trinity Sunday Year C (Romans 5)


"Trinity" (Kelly Latimore)

Romans 5:1-5 Common English Bible

Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.



                When it comes to contemplating God’s nature, the Christian confession that God is Trinity can challenge our imagination. How can God be One (we’re monotheists) and yet three (we’re not tri-theists or polytheists)? Despite the challenges, this is our confession (even if not all Christians buy into it). It’s also a confession we take up on this first Sunday after Pentecost, which is celebrated as Trinity Sunday. If you’re interested in my take on the Trinity, I did write a little book that speaks first of all to my own denomination—The Triune Nature of God: Conversations Regarding the Trinity by a Disciples of Christ Pastor/Theologian. The Second Reading for Trinity Sunday in Year C, as designated by the Revised Common Lectionary, comes from Romans 5. The trinitarian witness here is more indirect than direct. We see the witness to the activities of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. While not explicit, we see how Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are interacting for the good of the Roman church (and for us as well). The message here is that we can experience peace with God (reconciliation) through the faithfulness of Jesus and the love of God poured out through the Holy Spirit.

                With this reminder of the liturgical context, and thus the provision of a lens through which we can read the passage, we start from the top. I chose to share the translation from the Common English Bible rather than the NRSV, which is my usual pattern because the NRSV opens with the traditional rendering of the relationship of faith and justification. That is, according to this translation, embraced by Martin Luther, among others, we are justified by faith, and therefore we might have peace with God. It is the habit to read this, at least as moderns, individualistically, as if this word is simply about our relationship with God. But what if it has a more corporate dimension? Could Paul also have in mind the Jewish-Gentile relationship within the Christian community?

                While the NRSV offers the traditional rendering that speaks of our justification being rooted in our faith in the one who brings with him peace with God—Jesus, what if we follow the translation in the Common English Bible? There we read: “Since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Notice the difference? In the first version, it’s our faith that makes us righteous. In the second, it’s Jesus’ faithfulness that makes us righteous. While I am not going to argue over whether one is a better translation, I do find this one intriguing because it speaks to how Jesus’ faithfulness to the ways of God paved the path for our reconciliation with God. It also fits with the idea developed by Irenaeus that in his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus recapitulated human experience, restoring what is broken by his faithfulness.

                However we interpret this opening phrase, it is through Christ (whether his faithfulness or our faith in him) that we experience peace with God. That is, Jesus makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God (be at peace). Thus, we must remember that peace/shalom here is not the same as the Pax Romana, which often involved oppression and even death. So, what Paul has in mind here is reconciliation between God and us, which enables us to be reconciled (at peace) with our neighbors. Thus, ultimately, this is God’s doing, not ours.  It is an act of grace, which we receive by faith, allowing that grace restores what is broken in the relationship with God. The result is sharing in the hope that is God’s glory.

                What comes next is a series of experiences that starts with suffering/problems. Now, it’s important to note that God does not cause us to suffer. While Paul looked forward to the blessings of the new creation, he also knew that he was, and they were (as is true for us) still living in the old realm of this world. In this world, there is suffering and death. There is still brokenness (gun violence and mass shootings seem to be a daily occurrence while a pandemic rages along with the war in Ukraine, just to name a few of the challenges of this moment). While this continues to be our reality it need not define us. To be in Christ is to be reconciled (at peace with God), so as we live in this interim period between the cross and resurrection on one hand and the new creation on the other, we can experience endurance. Our endurance during these difficult times builds character. That leads to hope. In other words, the walk of faith will not necessarily be easy, as Paul knew only too well. In those early days, being a follower of Jesus was not a pathway to worldly power and glory. Paul knew this reality, having suffered imprisonment and beatings because he proclaimed the good news of Jesus. By enduring these difficult times, he had developed character. From this comes hope. Thus, hope is not wishful thinking. It is transformation.

                Paul lived in a world defined by an honor/shame continuum. Shame is not something we think much about in the west, but it is still part of many cultures. So, knowing that shame is part of the culture, he wants the reader to understand that this hope he’s speaking of “doesn’t put us to shame.” That is “because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” Yes, the Holy Spirit we speak of on Pentecost Sunday (and the third member of the Trinity) has been “given to us.” By that, we can know the “love of God that has been poured out in our hearts.” For Paul, as Ron Allen and Clark Williamson note, “the “gift of the Spirit . . . demonstrates that the community already lives in the age to come” [Preaching the Letters without Dismissing the Law, p. 38].

                When it comes to love, Paul reminds us that love comes from God, and thus we love through the Spirit. If we drop down to verse 8, we hear that God proves God’s love for us by Christ dying for us even while we were sinners. The First Nation’s Version renders this verse this way, opening up a deeper meaning (at least to me): “But here is the way the Maker of Life proves how deep his love is for us: even when we were still following our bad hearts and broken ways, the Chosen One gave his life for us” (Rom. 5:8). Once again, we see an echo of the idea of recapitulation, with Jesus restoring what is broken through his faithfulness so that we might be at peace with God and one another. So, let us walk by faith, allowing God’s love to transform us into the people God envisions us to be.

                Let us celebrate the God who reconciles us to God’s self through Jesus and shares love with us through the Spirit so that we might be transformed and made righteous (even if it’s a process). So, we sing: “Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! All thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea; holy, holy, holy! Merciful and might, God in three persons, blessed Trinity!” (Reginald Heber). 

Latimore, Kelly. Trinity, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved June 3, 2022]. Original source:


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