“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
This is a statement of profoundly confident assurance. This assurance is not based on an examination of our Christian growth, or on any other thing about us. It comes from looking entirely away from ourselves to Christ. That is what “by faith” in “justified by faith” refers to. When we believe, like Abraham did, God’s impossible promise to bring death out of life, God credits righteousness to our account and treats us as totally acceptable.
At the point of justification by faith alone, even before noticeable sanctification happens, we can confidently say “I have peace with God.” And that peace is complete. It is not a state in which God, though he is legally obligated to accept me, still harbors some personal animosity toward me or frustration about me because of my ongoing sin. Rather, he is altogether for me. He is never angry with me.
God is comprehensively aware of the sin remaining in my attitudes and behaviors. He hates that sin, and is not content to leave it in my life. As a result, he works in a variety of ways – often painful for me – to remove that sin. Yet even when he brings this discipline into my life, he does so with sovereignly kind intentions toward me. He frowns at my sin, but he smiles at me.
It is only when I hold on to this understanding of God’s disposition toward me that I can move on to the further promises of Romans 5, and the deeper assurance of hope that comes from proven character (v 4).