In Romans 5.1, there is a difficult matter that complicates the interpretation of the passage. The manuscript evidence has two variant readings: the indicative verb ἔχομεν (“we have”) and the subjunctive verb ἔχωμεν (“let us have”). The latter read has a far stronger support in ancient witnesses, including the church fathers, but the majority of scholars today favor the former reading because they feel it matches the mood of the passage. They read Romans 5.1-5 as declarative that the indicative fits, rather than exhortative which the subjunctive would suggests.
However, not all scholars are convinced, as Bruce Longenecker argues for the subjunctive rather than the indicative. However, he observes that important concern for understanding 5.1 is the notion of peace/shalom (εἰρήνην), which was about “completeness” and “fullness” as much as it was about the cessation of conflict.1 As such, one could argue that the subjunctive is used to encourages believers to proceed from their status as justified to some experience of their relationship with God. This is consistent with taking the whole of Paul’s presentation of Abraham in chapter 4, both the justification ‘event’ and Abraham’s continued faith to the receiving of God’s promise. The subjunctive would essentially function to encourage Paul’s Roman audience to proceed forward from their status as those justified by God towards pursuing the deeper peace/shalom that occurs with continuing in faith.
However, while I do think εἰρήνην can be thematically connected with Abraham’s reception of God’s promise, I do think it is a mistake to minimize the “cessation of conflict” in understanding Paul’s discussion of shalom. If my thesis that I have written on a few times is that Romans is addressing some sort of movement towards a Maccabean-like zeal for resisting Roman Empire that texts like 1 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, and Wisdom of Solomon could be seen as inculcating and legitimating, then we would have exegetical grounds to also consider the “cessation of conflict” side of shalom in Romans 5.1. Put simply, the call for the audience to pursue shalom is a call for them to pursue God’s blessings by seeking God’s promises through continuing in faith as part of boasting in the hope of sharing God’s glory (Rom. 5.2) rather than by boasting in Torah as part of a dream of projecting Jewish national power against the Roman Empire. Whereas the interminable stresses and fears of Roman power may have tempted some of the Jewish Christians in Rome to give into the Maccabean-like zeal they witnessed among other Jews, Paul is encouraging them to pursue the blessings of God’s shalom through continuing in faith like Abraham, even as it comes with suffering. To take the zealotry route is to abandon the transformation of character and the attitude of hope that suffering brings (Rom. 5.3-5), seeking instead to take vengeance for the sufferings created by injustice (cf. Rom. 12.17-21).
Consequently, we would have good internal grounds to support the subjunctive reading in Romans 5.1. Rather than construing Romans 5.1-5 as simply declarative of the benefits of being justified, the other indicative, declarative statements in 5.1-5 are seen as providing reasons for pursing shalom, as one has already obtained access to God, one can legitimately boast in God’s glory rather than the ultimately self-deluded boasts in Torah, and one can even boast and find righteous character and hope through the sufferings. This reading thereby joins the overwhelming testimony of the external manuscript evidence with the internal evidence of an interpretation of Paul based upon a plausible and warranted historical and literary thesis.