Grace and Righteousness Lead to Eternal Life through Christ (Romans 5:12–21)
Romans 5:12–21 reflects a dense and complex theological argument involving a number of different contrasts between the disobedient Adam and the obedient Christ, through whom we are made righteous and promised eternal life. The passage gives us assurance that Christ’s obedient act of self-giving for others puts all who come to him into right relationship with God and one another. As participants in Christ’s faith and faithfulness, we receive a share of the divine gifts of righteousness and eternal life promised by God through Christ. Therefore, we no longer participate in Adam’s disobedience but find eternal life by participating in Christ’s obedience to God.
Paul speaks of God’s grace operating in both the present time and eternity. Reconciliation has already been given through Christ (Rom. 5:11), so that we are already able to live God-honoring lives. Yet God’s reconciliation is not yet complete and is still in the process of “leading to eternal life” (Rom. 12:21). If we have received Christ’s reconciliation, then our work now is an opportunity to contribute to the better future where Christ is leading. Innovators gain new possibilities to create, design, and build products that improve the common good. Service workers have new opportunities to make other lives better. Artists or musicians can create aesthetic beauty that enhances human life for God’s glory. None of these are means to eternal life. But every time we work to make the world more as God intends it to be, we receive a foretaste of eternal life. When we remain obedient to Christ’s pattern of faith and faithfulness in our workplace settings, no matter what the circumstances, we can trust that our life is eternally secure in the hands of our faithful God.