Romans 5:1-8: Requiescat in Pace

The grass is soft and unstirring, a soundless bed of sorrowful green. Etched on headstones in this old cemetery is “RIP,” an homage to the Latin phrase, “requiescat in pace.” In English, we use matching initials, chiseled in stone, to express the same sentiment: “rest in peace.” Words we write, speaking of the dead, each grave with its own story.

Regardless if someone passes in the blossom of youth or endures to a ripe old age, our hearts grieve his absence. No matter the manner of death, our anguish lingers long beyond her passing. Is this genuine and actual repose? Does true tranquility exist when our family members lie in silent stillness?

Ponder our days while we wend our way through life. Of course, we treasure our moments—of unfading love, never to die. In focused gaze, forward we strain, yet still seeking solace in our memories, letting not the weight of our woes encumber us. This world is always in turmoil. Can we be otherwise?

In today’s Epistle, Paul builds on his earlier chapters, where he makes the case we’re among the dead—in our trespasses and sins. Twice, he emphasizes this: condemned to eternity in death’s grasp, doomed forever. Apart from Jesus, you and I are bereft of hope, with no glimmer of heavenly peace for you and me.

Scripture declares: No distinction exists. Everyone is sinful and falls short of God’s glory (Romans 3:22-23). How so? Every person born inherits a twisted bent toward sinning. God didn’t design people with this inborn failing. No, our first parents tumbled into sin. A fallen seed now infects us, evermore altering our lives. Our corruption weaves itself into our beings in ways we cannot ignore, entwining us in death’s burial shroud.

In today’s reading from Romans, God’s Apostle speaks to the depths of our desperation. Descendants of Adam, we are born infirm and of the frailest form (vs. 6). Life’s darkest hour demands courage. Do we not need to summon our fortitude, not fragility, to face our adversities? Yes, but in matters spiritual, we’re too lackluster and feeble to revitalize ourselves.

Scripture carves out you and me as “sinners” (v 8). Suppose you think these words are false. Do we not still succumb to sin and falter against its strongest pull? No one escapes its withering sting unscathed. A depth of depravity so profound only the most seared conscience and calloused soul cannot sense its foulness.

What is the measure of sin’s stain upon our souls? Oh, the indelible mark, a relentless curse never departing. The greater our trespass, the deeper its darkness, letting loose for a moment. Read a few pages of human history—and you will only begin touching its surface.

The story of our plunge from grace deepens and grows darker. Sinners, yes, and not only weak, for we enter the fray as enemies, foes against our Creator. Adversaries? Of course, but our heavenly Father is generous, kind, and compassionate. How staggering, then, to be an outright, defiant, in-your-face enemy of God!

Ponder the crowd who stirred before Pontius Pilate. The mob’s fury fills the air, venting their rage against Jesus. Don’t be aghast at their contorted faces, shouting for His death. “Crucify Him,” went their cry, fists pounding into the sky! Those gathered didn’t lurk as secret serial killers or the despicable of society. No, they are respectable citizens and religious folk.

Oh, we won’t do such evil deeds! Opponents of God? Yeah, since Eden—and we’ve been in conflict, rebelling against the Lord of heaven. Such hostility hides within our nature, which we may not always admit or recognize. Not friends who sometimes disagree on foreign policy. Not neutral, nor banded brothers sympathetic to the cause. No! Rivals and Antagonists!

Every single offense puts you and me at enmity with the Almighty. Often, we express this against others over an act we’re not prepared to forgive or reconcile. Dive into your soul’s depths and ponder your misdeeds. Emit your sighs of regret. Wince from your transgressions and wring your hands in remorse.

Recognize the real problem between God’s holiness and the sinfulness of your flesh, deeds, and doings! Our sins mean war! Our indifference isn’t neutrality but opposition. Listen to your Lord, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30). Enemies of God! No resting in peace for such rebellious children.

Every bit just spoken is correct—but incomplete. “At the appointed time Christ died for the unrighteous,” us sin-trapped weaklings (vs. 6). Despite our weakness, the incarnate Son became as we are, to die and perish, to save the weak and vulnerable. Soon, His executioners will drive nails into His frail flesh, hands, and feet, into a Roman cross. Such is His wondrous love!

At the decisive moment, Jesus snatched the keys of death from Satan’s grasp. Now, He holds them in His firm, resurrected hand. Are you corrupt, feeble, with inborn wickedness? Yes, but in the long-promised Sin-Slayer, you entered death’s tomb. From His baptismal waters, you’re washed in His absolving blood, forgiven, purified, and redeemed.

Paul’s joyous tidings go forth as if he couldn’t preach enough, “While still sinners,” Jesus died for us, for you. Lost, corrupted, and condemned, Your Lord yet took you in and made you His own. Your deliverance began, baptized into His redemption, fresh and anew. Weak? Yes, but Christ’s death became yours in baptism—as did His life!

The point is obvious. In matters of salvation—you are powerless! How are you righteous since sin stirs in your every bone? Where are your impressive set of qualifications to finish salvation’s job yourself? Oh, you have none. So, you did nothing, nor can you, to be in God’s saving graces.

In devotion and affection, kindness and mercy, Jesus liberated you. Yes, He took something crooked and crafted a change in you, declaring you as holy in love so true. Out of His wellsprings of grace, He died for you, His enemy, and defeated your foes: sin, Satan, and death.

Lost no more, He holds you in His everlasting arms. Nothing you do can earn or buy such a gift. Such glorious news, since you can’t mess up what God does for you. Is this not heaven’s serenity granting solace and renewal to your soul? Yes!

Well, if someone exhales an “RIP” for you, this won’t be because you might happen upon such tranquility on your own. No, this sacred stillness is yours today, not because of you, but Jesus. Cross-earned and resurrected-given, He brings You His saving work in Word and Sacrament. In His means of grace, “the peace of God, beyond understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Justified by faith, this becomes ours through Jesus. How? The heaven-sent Son takes away the discord of our sin and silences our disrupting disobedience. Breaking the brokenness of our rebellion asunder, He reconciles and restores us. Your Savior redeems you, offering mercy for every misstep, absolving you of your sins, and fulfilling the Law. RIP: rest in peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Everybody needs hope—most of all, in Jesus—and you’re no exception! Laden with your sinful flesh, still living in a corrupted creation, suffering will come your way. Thank God He can take your sufferings to work something valuable and virtuous. Through them, He helps produce endurance, character, and hope in us.

The season of Lent presses on toward the cross. On a rocky crag, Golgotha, we confront the most daunting and disquieting execution. Not the crucifixion itself. Thousands died in such horror. Real agony afflicted Jesus when He, the sinless One, became sin. In this way, God reconciled the world through His incarnate Son. Yes, He is our justification and our given righteousness.

Our sins so offend God. No rationalization we conjure will excuse them. Our sickness weaves inside, leaving us too weak to rid ourselves of our wayward inclinations. So immorality runs rampant. No matter where we run, wickedness is still widespread. Worse, most people don’t or wish to believe in Jesus.

Oh, but let’s not gloat over another’s failings. With Paul, are we not, likewise, the chief of sinners? From our mother’s womb, we come estranged from our Creator, with a mind at odds against Him. Except in the flesh-cradled Jesus, we find refuge from our sins.

Is this not something wondrous? Yes, so don’t forget how He rested in the tomb. Did He not await a resurrection? Take comfort. Beneath death’s sealing stone, wrapped in burial clothes, Jesus well comprehended resting in the grave. God is faithful and will raise you at the proper and appointed time.

On a future day, when death beckons, allow these words from an old pastor to become your prayer.

At last, Lord, let Your angels come
to lift me to Your heavenly home,
so I may die unfearing.
Within my earthen chamber, keep
my body safe in peaceful sleep
until Christ’s reappearing.

Each week we confess, believing in our body’s resurrection and the eternal life awaiting us. Those are peace-bestowing words and thrum with hope. Why not inscribe those truths on your tombstone? In Christ, they are and will become true.

Remember, if you are cross-marked, you shall dwell in heaven’s graces evermore. Today, Paul celebrates the end of our cosmic strife, for we find respite in its aftermath, in our resurrection. RIP, dear saints of God. Fear not, and rest in His peace. Amen.