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Romans (Series 1)

Rejoicing... in Hope, in Suffering, in Reconciliation

Romans  5:1-12

Too often the Christian is portrayed as having the long face, the sober mien -- the kind of person who drinks sour persimmon juice for breakfast. The rejoicing Christian, it seems, is forbidden. But this is not the sense of the Scripture.

Rejoice in Hope

(Rom 5:1-2 NIV) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, {2} through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Peace with God

Look carefully at that first verse. See the phrase “peace with God.” Think about this: why is there no peace in, say, Bosnia? There are “cease fire” agreements almost weekly, but there is no peace. I submit that it is because true peace comes when the combatants are reconciled to each other. Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, talked of binding up the Union with “malice toward none, charity toward all.” He understood that without reconciliation there would be no peace. His successors did not understand that, and we had a hundred years of Dixiecrats and segregation for it.

Peace with God does not mean peace with the world. Indeed, it may well be said:

·         Peace with God means tribulation with the world -- but it is eternal peace, for God is eternal.

·         Peace with the world means tribulation with God -- and it is temporary peace, for the world and all in it are temporary.

Two to make peace

How many combatants does it take to make war? Only one. But to make peace, both combatants must wish it. If God does not wish to make peace with us, there will be no peace. As He is eternal and unchanging, His conditions for peace are likewise unchanging. But there is good news. Look in verse 2, at the phrase “gained access.” In the Greek this word has two meanings:

·         it can mean that we have been ushered into an audience with royalty, and that is appropriate. We have been granted an audience with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

·         it can also be used of a ship making harbor (we still speak of a ship “gaining the harbor before the storm.”) This too is appropriate; the ship of my life is pictured as making safe harbor in God as the storms of life approach.

And to what have we gained access? To grace! This grace is always available (remember, God is eternal and does not change) -- but it is available through only one way: Jesus Christ.

The natural reaction: rejoice!

Having so great a salvation, it is a natural reaction for us to rejoice. Note what Paul tells us we should rejoice in: hope! Now, hope has one primary characteristic:

(Rom 8:24 NIV) For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?

So then, we rejoice in hope -- of something not seen. And what is that something? The glory of God; which I submit is not seen -- yet! It will be seen someday (even so, soon, Lord Jesus) at His return. This hope reminds us that we are pilgrims in this world, citizens of a better world to come, at His return:

“This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through,

My treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door

and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

Rejoice in Suffering

(Rom 5:3-5 NIV) Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; {4} perseverance, character; and character, hope. {5} And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Why on earth (the correct modifier!) would anyone rejoice in suffering! Paul makes an argument that comes only with mature faith. Let’s look at it: Suffering (literally, pressure)

Þ    produces perseverance (Greek hupomone). We often feel that suffering will break us, but that is not God’s intention. Recall what He said:
(1 Cor 10:13 NIV) No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Þ    which produces character. The Greek word here is the noun form of the adjective we might translate as “refined”, in the metallic sense. “Sterling” (as in silver, or character) might be a good translation of the sense of it. This then produces

Þ    hope. There is nothing like experience in this. The first time I was laid off, I was in a panic. The second time I was calm, knowing that God would provide (and I still got the ulcer). I’m facing it again -- this time with much more hope in my Lord. I did not get that hope by reading about it. And then this hope

Þ    does not disappoint us. Why? Because God has poured out His love for us in the form of

Þ    His Spirit. In this sense, it is well to recall that there are two (among many) reasons the Spirit is sent to the believer:

·         The Spirit is a “seal” - a down payment as proof of God’s intention to raise us from the grave. (2 Cor 1:21-22 NIV) Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, {22} set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

·         The Spirit is also our Comforter: the one “called along side us.” An experienced Christian, encountering the sufferings of life, will be made aware of the Spirit -- a strong proof of the resurrection to come.

There are other reasons to rejoice in our sufferings as well. Here are some:

·         Our suffering with Him means we will reign with Him:
(2 Tim 2:11-12 NIV) Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; {12} if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us;

·         Such suffering (for Christ) is a mark that we are a Christian (if you doubt your own faith, it’s a good test). It’s as if Satan considers us a worthy enough foe to attack:
(1 Pet 4:13-14 NIV) But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. {14} If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

·         God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness; where is our weakness shown more than in our suffering -- at least in the world’s eyes?
(2 Cor 12:9 NIV) But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

·         Finally, there is a sense in which we are made much stronger by suffering, and should rejoice for it. For in suffering we are driven to seek our Lord, if for nothing more than comfort. In seeking Him we shall find Him, and in finding Him we shall find both strength and joy.

Note the sequence of Paul’s argument in the first five verses: faith, then hope, then love. It’s a theme he’s used elsewhere! That love is not dribbled out, but poured out -- for God is always generous to His children.

Rejoicing and Reconciliation

(Rom 5:6-11 NIV) You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. {7} Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. {8} But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. {9} Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! {10} For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! {11} Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Accountants are the only people who really understand this passage, for they are the only ones who understand reconciliation. In its annual budget, the Federal Government adds up the debits and the credits -- which never match -- and the difference is placed in an account labeled “Errors and Omissions.” This is not reconciliation. Reconciliation happens when the debits and credits not only balance but tie to each other -- all is explained. Everything is set right; all the numbers go into the buckets in which they belong.

That is similar to the concept of reconciliation proclaimed here. Paul expressed it this way to the Ephesians:

(Eph 2:14-16 NIV) For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, {15} by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, {16} and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

You see the point? Christ, by taking on the form of man while remaining God (I told you the doctrine of the Trinity was important) reconciled God to man and man to God. The war caused by sin can now end. In our passage here we see some important points:

...at just the right time... God selected this time carefully. He prepared Israel for it by the words of the prophets -- see Daniel 9:24 for a stunning example of this -- so that all would know approximately when. More than that, the world situation was so set that an explosion in the size of the church would happen. This was due to the sense of sin in most men, and to the fact that the Roman Empire provided a society in which the Prince of Peace might spread His reign.

... when we were still powerless... This recalls Paul’s earlier argument about the Law. Since those who knew God were under the yoke of the Law, they were sinners with no escape -- powerless to effect reconciliation.

...God demonstrates his own love for us... This is a very strong argument for the nature of God. Death is universally feared (or was, before Christ). To die for someone else is the pinnacle of love.[1] It is also the “why” of the Cross.

Justification and Sanctification

We need to look back at one verse:

(Rom 5:9 NIV) Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!

This may seem puzzling, especially the part about “how much more”. To understand this verse, we need to look back at what Paul is talking about when he uses the phrase “the wrath of God.”

(Rom 1:18-24 NIV) The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, {19} since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. {20} For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. {21} For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. {22} Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools {23} and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. {24} Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

You see the picture: God’s wrath is shown here in that He allows man to slide downward in a spiral of sin -- with the obvious consequences. To be saved from that wrath, then, is to be prevented from going down that spiral! With that in mind, we need to understand the difference between two key concepts: justification and sanctification.

Justification is a change of status. It is instantaneous, and comes at the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Justification requires faith.

Sanctification is a change of state; i.e. a change of character. Sanctification requires obedience.

Perhaps an example would serve us better. We have some friends who adopted twin (drug addicted) boys. These boys lived with them for many months, learning from the people they called “mom” and “dad.” One day, all of them went before the judge. He pronounced the adoption final. At that instant (like justification) the children’s last names were changed to Smith (really). The process of growing up in that family, however, had already started and would continue.[2] Before the instant, they were legally someone else’s children, unable to inherit by law. After that instant, they were Doug & Kim’s kids -- and heirs. But the process whereby we would have said, “That’s Robbie -- Doug & Kim’s boy, doesn’t he talk just like his dad?” was an ongoing one.

By analogy then, God justifies (adopts) us by faith in an instant; He sanctifies (and saves us from His wrath) by obedience over time.

If you think not, consider the opposite -- and see the absurdity. Suppose he justified us and left us alone. We have the label, but not the Spirit. Paul will take this up in more detail later, but you can easily see that justification without sanctification to follow is hypocrisy.

So why, then, do we rejoice in this? Because the wrath of God has another expression -- the Day of Judgment. For those whose life has had neither justification nor sanctification, it is a day of doom. For those who have both, it is a day of hope, a day of reward. Thus, we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation

[1] (John 15:13 NIV) Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

[2] The judge asked one of the boys, about age 4, “Do you know what this ceremony means?” “Sure,” Robbie replied, “it means we get to go the Chuck E. Cheese’s!”

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