Updated: Feb 6, 2019
By Mike Flom—
Often when we read the Bible certain scriptures just jump out at us. That happened to me recently in the book of Romans. After reading Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” verse 2a beckoned to me for further examination: “through him [Jesus], we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” I questioned myself as to whether I really understood that verse, so I got out my commentaries, read some online resources, and studied. I want to share with you a small measure of what I found both about the “access” and the “standing in grace” phrases found in Romans 5:2a.
Access to God’s Grace
The Greek word translated “access” in this verse has the meaning of “leading or bringing into the presence of.” It is used only two other times in the New Testament and both times it refers to the access to God we have through Christ and by faith in Him (Eph. 2:18, 3:12). Access to the Holy God is an astounding blessing, especially as we consider how access to God was so limited under the Old Covenant. Of all the people of Israel, only one person, the High Priest, had access to God in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle – and that just once a year. He entered the Most Holy Place through the veil with incense and the sprinkled blood of animals. But Jesus changed everything for us in the New Covenant. God signaled our new access to Him soon after Christ’s crucifixion by tearing the veil of the temple in Jerusalem in two from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51). After His death, our High Priest Jesus passed through the veil of the holy places in heaven with his own blood for our redemption (Heb. 9: 11-12), procuring access to God for us in a “new and living way” and paving the way for us into God’s presence (Heb. 10: 19-22). Our access to God now is through prayer in the Spirit, but after Christ’s return we will have direct access to Him (Rev. 21: 3). So, beginning with our salvation, we have permanent access to God.
Romans 5:2, however, says more. Not only do we have access to God, but we have access to His grace. It is one thing to have access to God but quite another to have access to His grace. For example, the Aaronic high priest had to perform his duties perfectly in the holy places or else he faced God’s wrath, even death (Lev. 16:2ff). In his commentary on Romans, William Barclay says, “It is as if Paul was saying ‘Jesus ushers us into the very presence of God. He opens the door for us into the presence of the King of Kings; and when that door is opened what we find is grace; not condemnation, not judgment, . . . but the sheer undeserved, incredible kindness of God.’” Without Christ we would be obliterated in God’s presence because of His holiness and our sinfulness, but now through Jesus, we can come to God boldly and confidently in prayer as children to a gracious and loving Father – not fearfully as to a mighty king. What an incredible blessing!
Standing in “This Grace”
Now, what is the grace Paul is referring to in this verse and what does he mean by “standing” in it? Since he has been talking about justification in the prior two chapters of Romans, many think he is talking about justifying grace (Rom. 3:24). By “standing” in it he is saying that we can stand firm in the same grace that justified us and reconciled us to God (vs. 1). Once justified at salvation, we remain justified. God does not rescind His imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us, and we remain free from the guilt and penalty of sin. We do not have to maintain our justified status nor indeed can we. We can rest in our justified position. When we sin, we confess our sins and know that God is faithful to forgive us, but we are still standing in God’s grace. The Apostle Paul confirmed this after his lament about his own sin and sinfulness in Romans 7 by reminding himself and us “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). He knew he was still standing in God’s grace, and so are we.
Many commentators also see the grace of Romans 5:2 in which we stand as the entire state of saving grace we are under as Christians. This includes His justifying grace, His sanctifying grace, and His preserving grace that keeps us from stumbling (Jude 24-25). In Romans 5:10, a parallel passage, Paul writes “much more now that we are reconciled, we shall be saved by his [Christ’s] life.” Jesus’ life now is occupied in interceding for us at the right hand of God’s throne. As the writer of Hebrews says, “[Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). God’s throne is a throne of grace and we can come boldly to His throne through Christ to ask for help in times of trial, temptation, and need (Heb. 4:16, 10:19). Through the intercessory work of Christ, we stand firmly in God’s sanctifying and preserving grace as well.
One more point is worth noting. In later times, the Greek word for access mentioned above came to mean a “harbor” or haven for ships. As Christians in this life, Jesus has lead us into the safe harbor of God’s grace and we are securely anchored there. That is why we can “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5: 2b), and His grace will continue at our glorification and beyond throughout eternity (I Pet. 1:13, Eph. 2:7). We have permanent access to God’s grace for all time. To God and His glorious grace through Jesus Christ be praise forever!