Since We’ve Been Justified
Scripture: Romans 5:1–5:5
My earliest memories of Christmas are from the years we spent in Tanzania, where my parents were missionaries. We lived on a remote mission station a day’s drive from the nearest town, so shopping opportunities were non-existent. Even when we did make it to town, there wasn’t much to buy that interested little boys. So one of the highlights of our Christmas each year was the package my Grandmother used to send from America. When the box would arrive in the weekly mail bag, we were dying to open it. But of course we had to wait until Christmas. Finally the great moment would arrive. The string and the tape would be cut away and the box opened. Inside we would find an enticing array of individually wrapped smaller packages.
I would like you to imagine that we have received a package from heaven from our Heavenly Father. This package is a free gift that has been identified. It is the gift of justification by faith.
We already know something about this gift. God has declared us to be righteous in his sight as an absolutely free gift. All we have to do is receive this gift by believing in Jesus and his death and resurrection. That is the big package. But as we open this big package, we find that there are other packages or gifts included in it. Today we are going to open and take a look at some of those gifts included in the gift of justification by faith.
Romans 5:1 begins with the words, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have… In this message we are going to look at four additional benefits or gifts we receive when we are justified by faith.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…
There is the first additional benefit: We have peace with God.
Peace with God! What a wonderful gift! What does it mean? It is important that we are clear on this, because there can be some misunderstanding here. We sometimes hear Christian preachers who say that Christians are the only ones who have “peace” and that followers of all other religions do not have “peace.” But then I have read testimonies of people who have converted to other religions who say that the thing that attracted them to that religion was that they found a sense of peace. Who is right? Do Christians, followers of Christ, have a corner on the market in this matter of peace?
We need to understand that Paul is not referring to a feeling of peacefulness or a sense of peace. He is not referring to an emotional state at all. Peace with God is a standing; a position before God. It is a status of relationship with God that states that between me and God there is not a status of war and hostility and alienation, but there is a state of peace, of friendship and of alliance.
The nations of the world have sadly and all too often declared war on one another. Such a declaration means that a state of active hostility exists. When the soldiers of one side encounter the soldiers of the other side, they will shoot and shoot to kill. When the nations become weary of the fighting or one side gains the upper hand, treaties are negotiated and there comes a declaration of peace. It is a factual statement of a new status between the two nations; a status of peace rather than hostility and enmity.
This is the kind of peace that Paul is talking about; an objective, factual, positional relationship. You see, before we were justified by faith, the Bible teaches that we were in a state of enmity with God. We were in rebellion. We were at war with God. Look down at Romans 5:10. Do you see the phrase there, “we were God’s enemies”? Because of our sin, we were under God’s wrath and we could only fear his hostility and his judgment. Now we have peace with God.
Do not get me wrong. I am not saying that there are no feelings involved. But this peace is above and beyond feelings. It is a legal position and a status of our relationship with God. We are at peace with him. In this sense, followers of Christ are the only ones who have peace with God, because it comes as a result of having been justified by faith in Jesus. Apart from being justified by faith, we remain at enmity with God, because our sin has not been dealt with. Our peaceful feelings may come and go and ebb and flow. Others may claim to have such feelings. But the reality of Scripture is that only those who have been justified by belief in Jesus have peace with God.
This reality is expanded in the first part of verse 2; through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. The word “grace” occurs more frequently in Romans 5 than in any other chapter of the Bible. In this verse, it is used to describe our standing. We stand in the status of those who have been recipients of God’s divine, unmerited favor and kindness. We were under God’s wrath. That was our standing. But now we stand as recipients of God’s favor and kindness. I believe this is simply a different way of describing our state of being at peace with God. How did we gain access to our new standing? Through Jesus Christ and by belief in him. This belief has given us access to this new standing; a standing as a recipient of God’s favor; a standing of being at peace with God.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God… we now stand in his favor. But that is not all. Let’s look at the second gift or benefit we have received since we have been justified through faith. Look at the rest of verse 2: And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. There it is!We have hope for the future. It is a very specific and magnificent hope. It is the hope of the glory of God.
Can I ask you a question? Where have we seen that phrase, “the glory of God” before? Do you remember? That’s right! In Romans 3:23: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Way back in Genesis 1 we learned that man was created from dirt but destined for glory. Made from the earth, but made in the image of God, to reflect and share his glory forever. But sin marred the image, and ever since that fateful day when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, every human being has “fallen short of the glory of God.” But now here is hope. Hope that because of Christ’s death for our sin, and the righteousness from God which is by faith, we are being restored to the glory for which we were intended. There is hope that we shall one day fulfill our destiny and become the people God intended us to be. We shall one day fulfill the glory of God, be worthy of it and experience it in all its fullness. What a future we have to look forward to since we’ve been justified!
But there is still more here in our text. Look at verse 3a: Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings. Here is a third benefit we receive when we are justified by faith. We can rejoice in our sufferings. The word for “sufferings” here is rather inclusive. It can refer to emotional and spiritual stress that can be caused by either external or internal pressures. It covers the whole gamut of human sufferings, whatever their source. Now, how can we rejoice in our sufferings? We can rejoice because we recognize that they have a positive purpose and promise a positive outcome. That is what Paul says in the rest of the verse: because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Let’s take this apart. We know that suffering produces perseverance. Let me first take an axe to a horrible little tree that has grown up in the minds of many Christians. The King James Version translates this, “tribulation worketh patience.” Maybe you’ve heard preachers who say: “Be careful not to pray and ask God for patience. Because tribulation worketh patience, so if you ask God for patience he’ll send you tribulation.” Have you ever heard that? Well, put it out of your mind. That is not what this passage is teaching. It is a different word for patience. When most people talk about praying for patience, they mean self-control and the ability to keep their cool and to be gentle and understanding in their reactions to life’s stressful situations. You are safe to pray for that! That is not what is in view here. The word means “perseverance” or the ability to “remain under” and “bear up under” tough circumstances; to keep going when the going gets tough. It is the quality of spiritual endurance and it is a quality that is developed through suffering.
As followers of Christ, we must be ready for the long haul. The Christian life is a marathon, not a 100 meter sprint. We are going to need endurance. Where does that come from? Suffering produces endurance. Are you suffering this morning? Maybe it is financial difficulties; maybe it is emotional. Maybe it is related to your family or your job or your health. If you are suffering, you can rejoice. God has a good purpose and he promises a good outcome if you will “keep on keeping on.” Keep on trusting God and keep on doing the right thing. If you “remain under” the trial and “bear up” under it, you will learn perseverance and you will grow in spiritual strength and stamina. Don’t throw up your hands in despair when life is difficult. Regard the difficulties as a prescribed set of spiritual calisthenics, designed to make you strong.
Let’s go on. Perseverance produces character. We learn something here about the Christian life. We are not promised that it will be easy. We are not promised that God will take away the struggle and make things smooth. We are not even told that we will have fewer struggles than we had before we trusted in Christ. Rather we are told that God has an entirely different agenda than we do. He is developing something in us called “character.” What is character? Do you have it? The word Paul uses here is a rather difficult word to translate into English. It has the idea of not only undergoing a test, but also passing that test. There is an expression in English, often used in throwing down a challenge to someone in some form of competition; “Let’s find out what you are made of.” In that sense, character is what you and I are made of. It is what is left after the testing is over. What is real and what is just pretend and bluster. We can say we believe a lot of things. We can say we trust God. But when the suffering comes, what then? What are you made of?
And so, when we have gone through times of testing and suffering and our faith has stood the test, we have increased our endurance and we have been molded and shaped in our character. This, in turn, produces something else. It produces “hope”; the increased confidence that our faith is genuine, that God is real, that we are his children, and that we shall experience his glory. Charles Finney was a famous American evangelist of the 19th century. He once wrote a letter describing how many people had responded to the invitation at one of his evangelistic crusades. He then added these words: “We shall see how many of them are genuine.” That is what hard times and suffering do for us. They prove the genuineness of our faith.
And this hope does not disappoint us. (verse 5). The word “disappoint” is closely related to the word “ashamed” we looked at back in Romans 1:16 when Paul declared that he was “not ashamed of the Gospel.” It is a word that combines elements of disappointment and embarrassment; of trusting in something that did not happen and believing something that did not come true.
I was always a fan of Charles Shultz and his cartoon strip “Peanuts”. One of the recurring themes he revisited every Halloween was the story of Linus. Linus believed in the “Great Pumpkin” who would descend on the pumpkin patch on Halloween, bearing gifts for all the children who believed in him and stayed up to wait for him. Linus would stay up every Halloween night, waiting beside the pumpkin patch. And every Halloween, he went home disappointed and embarrassed because the Great Pumpkin never showed up. Linus had a hope which disappointed him. Paul tells us that our hope in God; our hope based on our justification by faith, is a hope which will not disappoint us and embarrass us. God will fulfill his promises to us.
There is one more package for us to unwrap in our message today. The second part of verse 5 says, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. The fourth gift we find here is that we have God’s love in our hearts.
This is the first mention of the Holy Spirit in Romans since a passing reference to him in the opening paragraph. We are told here that “he has been given to us.” The assumption of this passage is that everyone who has been justified by faith has received the gift of the Holy Spirit. And what is his ministry? One aspect of it is to flood our hearts with the love of God. I believe this refers to a subjective experience of God’s love. God pours out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, assuring us of his great love.
This is tied to the earlier sequence in the passage. When we are in the midst of struggles and suffering, one of the things that keeps our hope alive is the sense of the love of God. In my own experience, it is when I have gone through the greatest crises in my life that I have been most dependent on and most aware of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life. His consistent message to me during those times has been: God loves you! God loves you!
Well, there is still more to come. We are only half way through this wonderful paragraph. But we are going to save the rest for next week. But that is already a wonderful list of benefits, isn’t it? Since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God…we have hope for the future…we can have joy in the midst of our suffering…and we have a deep, Spirit-given sense of God’s love flooding our hearts.
No wonder God called his message the Gospel: the Good News!
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION
- What does the phrase “peace with God” mean to you? Discuss the difference between “a state of peace” and “a sense of peace.” How are they related? How are they different?
- How would you engage a follower of another religion who told you that he had “found peace” when he embraced his religious beliefs?
- What do you think “the hope of the glory of God” means? What is your picture or vision of life in eternity? Where did you acquire it? How does it relate to this phrase? Do we have to wait until the next life to experience the glory of God?
- How does being justified by faith influence our response to the difficulties of life now? Can you give examples of how suffering has produced endurance in you?
- Do you believe God loves you? How do you know? When have you felt the greatest sense of awareness of God’s love?