Romans 5:1-5

Romans 5:1-5

SERIES: The Book of Romans

The Benefits of Justification  

Introduction:  For the last several months I have been working on my house.  I am getting ready to sell it.  I live in a small house, just over 800 square feet, which is no big deal except that the eat-in kitchen is not much larger than a postage stamp.  Recently we became a family of five.  And when the youngest of us is ready to sit at the table, forcing us to move it away from the wall, Robin will have to sit in the oven.  But the thought of buying a larger house has become rather disconcerting recently with the significant rise in interest rates.  

The monthly payment on my new house has gone up $300.00 since June and I haven’t even found the house yet!  For this reason I believe we should make a new law in this country, namely that Alan Greenspan is not allowed to have a fixed rate mortgage.  Every time I see that guy with his ubiquitous cigar I think, “O sure pal, raise the rates again.  What do you care?  You refinanced for 30 years at 6 percent!”  It’s just a guess, but it would seem that profound reasonings about interest rates are little more than an intellectual exercise when they don’t affect your mortgage payment.

So it is that to this point in the book of Romans, Paul has provided us with some pretty profound theology.  He has graphically illustrated the fact that the human race is lost in sin and bound for destruction with no way to weasel out of it on their own.  He has carefully explained how God, in his grace, has provided a way for humans to be declared “not guilty” of their sin simply by placing their faith in his Son, who paid the price for human sin on the cross.  But for some, these significant truths are little more than academic.  

Now, with the close of chapter four, Paul has come to the end of his lecture on the facts about justification by faith.  It is as if he has dismissed the audience.  But part of the crowd has remained, and they have gathered around Paul at the podium saying, “Paul, we believe.  We trust that God has justified us in Christ.  Now what?”  With the opening of chapter five, Paul turns to believers only and says “To you who have been justified by faith, these truths are no mere academic exercise, but rather they will have a profound effect on your life.  Let me tell you the benefits of being justified by faith.”  Romans 5:1-5:  

“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. {3} 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.”

Benefit number one:  We have peace with God.  

The definition of peace with God.  Now peace is a common word, and as such, has a variety of meanings.  It can mean the cessation of hostilities, freedom from disturbance, or even a subjective sense of inner tranquility.  This inner tranquility is, in fact, what most of us are likely to have in our minds when we think about peace with God.  But that peace is not peace with God, but the peace ofGod.  Paul refers to it in Philippians chapter four as the “peace of God which passes understanding.”  It is that great sense of inner calmness that God grants to believers even when our personal world is falling apart.  

But the peace Paul refers to here is no subjective feeling.  It is an objective state of no longer being God’s enemy and the object of his wrath.  Justification by God involves both the fact of being declared not guilty and a personal reconciliation between the believer and God.  For God is both the judge and the one who has been violated.  Picture it this way.  Judge Lance Ito has the power, with the help of the jury, to declare O. J. Simpson not guilty.  But even if he does so, there will be no reconciliation between them.  For O.J. is not accused of any offense against judge Ito. 

But when God declares us not guilty, he comes down from the bench and gives himself in friendship to us who have sinned against him and who have demonstrated enmity toward him, establishing a peace which was only accomplished at an unspeakable price to him.  This is what it means to have peace with God.

Now Paul considers this peace with God to be an amazing truth, something to be marveled at and sung about again and again.  Perhaps that is because there may have been no one in history so aware of the ugliness of his sin.  But we in the modern world have a problem with so much concentration on sin, don’t we?  We cringe at the so-called “worm theology” that depicts us as worthless and vile sinners.  Modern culture has an abhorrence for guilt and personal responsibility.  

So we have come up with many creative ways to escape guilt.  One of the most recent is to affirm together that we are all victims.  “I can’t help the way I treat people.  I am the product of a dysfunctional family.”  “I know I shouldn’t have committed adultery, but my wife pays no attention to me.”  “I can’t help it if I blow up at my husband and kids, I was abused as a child.”  Excusing ourselves for sin is ingrained in the human soul.

But friends, true peace with God cannot even be discussed without first confronting ourselves with the depth of our own self-centeredness and sin.  We must be painfully aware of the weight of guilt we bear in order to know what it means to be relieved of it.  Peace with God recognizes that there is hostility between us and God, that it is all our fault, and that he has erased our sins against him and embraced us as his friends.  And what do we have to do to attain this peace?  

The requirements of peace with God.  Look at the text.  How has this justification and the peace that comes with it been applied to our lives?  By faith.  We cannot earn it, we can only receive it as a free gift from God.  You know, one of the great accusations leveled against the God of the Bible by unbelievers is that he is unfair.  If God were fair, how could he allow evil people to prosper and innocent ones to suffer?  Now the fairness of that is for another sermon, but on the matter of making peace with us, we must be forever grateful that God is not fair.  If God were fair, we would be without hope.  For we are entirely the cause of the broken relationship between us and God, and we can do nothing to heal it.  God is the offended party and yet has done all that needs be done to reconcile the relationship.  We must simply believe!

So then, what are the practical effects of peace with God?  

The effects of peace with God.  Surely they are many, but perhaps the most general way to describe it is that peace with God lead us to the peace of God.  Here is where an objective reality becomes personal experience.  I don’t know about you, but I hate conflict.  When there is a problem between me and someone I love, it is intolerable for me.  I’m one of those husbands that can drive a wife absolutely crazy sometimes.  If I sense that there is some distance between Robin and me, I cannot let it go.  I’m asking her, “Robin, is something wrong?  Are you upset at me about something?”  Even when she assures me that I have done nothing, that she is just tired or not feeling well, she often has to tell me three or four times before I believe her.

What the Christian has over the adherents of every other religion is the peace that comes from knowing that God is not angry with us even when he has good reason to be.  It is the kind of peace that should allow us to address all the complex issues and insecurities that face us daily and say “It’s O.K.  There is no distance between me and God.  He has lifted my guilt and made me his friend.”

Benefit number two:  We have gained access to the grace of God.  

The definition of this access.  Now again, when we read this passage, we are often likely to interpret it experientially, assuming that it means we can always come to God and receive his gracious help when we need it.  Now that may be true, but it is not what Paul is getting at here.  The best way I can explain the meaning of the text here is to say that by the power of his work on the cross and his resurrection from the dead, Christ has given us the freedom to enter into the sphere of God’s grace. 

It is as if we have been welcomed into the presence of God, but we wonder if someone has made a mistake because we don’t deserve to be here.  But living in God’s grace means recognizing that while we could never pay the price to earn God’s favor, he has paid the price once and for all by the blood of his Son.  This is what it means to be under grace rather than law.

Now, to the many Jewish readers of this letter, this idea would be striking because of the very lack of access to God and his grace they had always experienced.  When God met Moses on Mt. Sinai, he told him to tell the people that if anyone even touched the mountain, they must immediately be put to death.  Later, the architecture of the temple clearly separated people from God.  In the various courtyards that kept people from the center of the temple, Gentiles could only go so far.  Women could only go so far.  And into the most holy place of the temple that represented the presence of God, only the High Priest could go, and then only once a year to ask for God’s grace to forgive the sins of his people.  It was like a huge “no entry” sign had been hung on the doorway to God’s grace. But now the entrance to God’s grace has been flung open for all to enter.

Then Paul goes on to say that not only has Christ brought us into this state of grace, but there is nothing that can remove us from it.  You see the word Paul uses here to say that we stand in the midst of God’s grace does not mean that we are standing here now, but maybe later we will go stand somewhere else.  It means that we stand firm, that we are fixed on this spot in the way that a boat is securely moored to the dock.  No storm can move us from where we stand.

So, what must we do to secure a place in God’s grace?  

The requirements for this access.  Is there a PSL (Personal Seat License) we have to buy?  Are there season tickets we have to renew?  No!  There is nothing we have to or even can do!  One of the great sermon titles I have seen in regard to this passage is “Don’t just do something!  Stand there!” When someone brings you a gift, you don’t run around trying to find enough money to pay for it.  You just stand there and receive it with gratitude.

So then, what are the effects of the fact that Christ has moored us permanently to the grace of God?  

The effects of this access.  In a word, the answer is “security,” a rather rare commodity in our fast-changing, low commitment modern society.  But every once in a while, a moment of security pops up in life and it is a wonderful thing.  I have a friend who has worked most of his life for the same company.  He is a hard worker and loves his job.  The company he works for is a family company, but, like most of the employees, he is not a family member.  Not long ago, the patriarch of the family died.  Now in today’s business world, such an event often results in all the employees updating their resumes for fear that the successors will soon clean house.  I am sure my friend wondered what might become of his job, especially since he was not many years from retirement.  But when the patriarch’s will was read, it was discovered that he had made a special provision for my friend, that he could stay with the company in his present position for as long as he wanted, he could never be let go.  Now I won’t soon forget the look on my friend’s face as he told me this.  He could drive to work every day knowing, “I can’t lose my job!”

The fact that we are tightly moored to the dock of God’s grace provides us with a similar sense of security.  Nothing can tear us away from God’s grace.  We cannot be let go from his loving acceptance of us in Christ.  Even our own sin cannot separate us from it, for we are justified.  God has embraced us as his friends and received us as permanent citizens of the city of God’s grace.

Benefit number three:  We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.          

The definition of this hope.  Notice that much of what we are talking about today is what the world lacks–peace, grace, and now hope.  Once America was the land of hope and opportunity.  Once America had Christian foundations, but it has lost them and there is a growing sense of darkness and loss of hope in our modern culture.  We have not become “The Great Society.”  With all the money and effort going into urban renewal, there is still very little hope in the inner city.  For many of our children the hope of an education has been replaced with the fear of violence.  But as Christians we have hope.  Not a hope that this world will reverse its downward spiral and climb to a place of peace, joy, and virtue, but a hope in the glory of God.

What this means is not that we have hope in God because he is glorious, although that is true.  It means that in the midst of a dying world we have a confident anticipation of the future, because one day Christ will return and, because we are justified, he will take us to be with him in his glory.  And, as the apostle John tells us, we will be like him.  No longer will we be weighed down by the sin and corruption of this world.  All those things that we hate about ourselves will be gone and we will be in the presence of the Lord forever.  I will even have hair.

The requirements for this hope.  Now this confident hope in our future in the presence of God is a wonderful thing, but it is also a two-edged sword.  For when people are moved to rejoice in and long for the future, it is usually because there is something about the present that isn’t so great.  Think about the content of many of the spirituals which African Americans have passed down to us.  Perhaps the lone but quite ironic ray of light to emerge from the horror of slavery in America was that thousands of those imprisoned by the “peculiar institution” found freedom and, therefore, hope in Christ.  And their music is filled with hope, not in this hopeless life, but in God’s great chariot which would release them from the sorrows of this world and take them to the promised land of God’s glory.  So it is that whenever Paul speaks of hope it is always in the context of suffering.

In essence, what we are saying here, and it is not a pleasing thing to say, is that true hope cannot exist without suffering.  Suffering is the prerequisite for hope in the coming glory of God.  If there were no suffering, what would be the need for hope?  Those who have all their bases covered with pensions and financial security don’t have much need for this kind of hope.  That is why Paul tells us here that we are able to rejoice in our sufferings; they produce something of great value.  

Now I must tell you that as I began to study this passage, I conceived of rejoicing in suffering in a way that is common to other biblical passages.  It’s not that we rejoice at the arrival of suffering, but we rejoice in God in the midst of suffering.  But that is not what this passage says.  Just as we rejoice that the glory of God is coming, so we rejoice that suffering has come to us.  Does this mean that I am glad that bad things happen, even calling them good?  Not at all.  It means that I rejoice when suffering comes because, as a Christian who is justified and at peace with God, I know something non-Christians do not.  God is using this very suffering to do his work in my life that can be done no other way.  Because God is sovereign, suffering is never random, but always has a purpose.

And what is it that God does in my life through suffering?  First, he produces perseverance.  This word literally means “to remain under.”  It is as if there is a heavy load on top of us, pressing us down so that we want to escape.  In fact, the word for suffering here is the same word used for pressing grapes to squeeze juice out of them.  But because we know it is God at work in our lives, we are willing and able to remain steadfast under the pressure.  

Second, when we remain under the pressure, we develop character.  The word has the sense of proof or evidence.  It is a demonstration, not to God or to the world, but to ourselves that our faith is truly in God and that we are firmly tied to his grace.  Finally, as we recognize again and again through suffering that only God by his grace can bring us victoriously through, our hearts are moved to an even deeper hope for the day when he will return for us that we might share in his glory.

Friends, this teaching is not easy to receive.  But the fact that suffering can produce something of great value is not foreign to human experience.  And of all human illustrations, perhaps labor and childbirth is the most clear.  Even as a man I will never forget the suffering involved in the birth of our children, especially the first two who came through unusually long and difficult labors.  But the greatness of the suffering was more than matched by the sweetness of holding a newborn baby that belonged to us.  In a similar way, Paul tells us the sufferings we endure serve to produce in us a dependence upon the one who has made peace with us, who has established us in his grace, and who is coming again in glory to receive us as his own.

Finally, almost as a postscript, Paul wants us to know that our hope in God’s glory will not disappoint us.  

The assurance of this hope.  All of us have known the pain of having hopes that lead only to disappointment.  Some of you sense the pain very acutely, even this morning, of hopes which have been dashed.  A job you hoped to land that was offered to someone else, a marriage you hoped would prosper that has turned sour or ended in divorce, a child you have hoped for that has never arrived, a teenager you have loved the best you could who has gone astray.  Sometimes there is nothing that can restore those hopes.  But there is one hope that will not let us down—the hope of God’s glory. 

How do we know that we will not be disappointed?  Paul says that God has given us a guarantee, an assurance that he will come through for us.  The text says he has poured out his love like a flood, like a tidal wave into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  But what does this mean?  Does God inject into our souls some spiritually liquified form of love that makes us feel warm all over?  Not at all.  As we have seen, the emphasis of this passage is not on our experience, but on what God has done and will do for us in Jesus Christ.  

The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not to make us feel good.  The primary ministry of the Holy Spirit is to tell us the truth, to remind us of what God has done for us in Christ.  Listen to the words of the Apostle in John 15:26:  “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.”  The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to produce in the believer an overwhelming consciousness that he is the object of God’s unconditional redeeming love.  He points us again and again to the cross and the empty tomb to say to us“Look how much he has loved you.  Do you think that if he loved you enough to pay such a price for you that he would not fulfill his promises to you?  He will not disappoint you.”

Conclusion:  So what do we do with all of this?  We have spent the last half hour dissecting a very theologically profound passage.  On the surface it seems rather simple.  Peace, grace, hope, and a little suffering.  But the deeper I got into this passage this week the more I despaired of my ability to communicate its significance for you.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have been given a great gift, the benefits of having been justified by faith.  But just because you have received this gift does not mean that you are fully enjoying its rewards.

I heard a great story once about Henry Ford.  It seems he had a niece who was getting married.  And long before the wedding, the niece and her fiancée wondered anxiously what uncle Henry, one of the richest men in America, would give them for a wedding gift.  Would it be a car?  That would make sense.  Or perhaps he would surprise them with a house or a trip around the world!  When the time came to open presents, they searched for Uncle Henry’s gift trying not to be too obvious.  Finally, they found it.  It was a small package.  As they tore it open, they were surprised to find … a Bible. Trying hard not to be too disappointed they put it with the other gifts and went on with life.  

Some months later a knock came at the door.  It was Uncle Henry.  After a bit of small talk, he asked them what they thought of his gift.  They assured him that they loved it and read it together often.  “O really?” said Henry.  “May I see it please?”  After a short search, they found the Bible and brought it to him.  Henry leafed through it and said, “It seems that you have not really taken advantage of the benefits of my gift.”  And from the Bible’s pages he pulled a check made out to them for $100,000, (seven figures in today’s economy!) tore it into pieces, and left.

Friends, the truths of this passage are God’s most precious gift to us.  But too often we become so preoccupied with what seem to us the most important issues of life, that we lose touch with the power of God’s gift.  We frantically pursue personal peace, we seek to earn our way to a place of favor and place our hopes in circumstances, as if they were the answer to life’s troubles.  Such a pursuit will never produce the results we want.  

But God has a better way.  Stop doing for a moment.  Just stand there and consider what God has done for you.  You have peace with God, for he has declared you “not guilty.”  You are permanently tied to God’s grace, for he has paid the price for your sin.  And you have a sure hope that God will one day remove you from this world of suffering, that he may share his glory with you.  And if in this moment, by the power of God’s Spirit, you sense the greatness of this gift, don’t do anything.  Just say thank you and allow him to magnify his love in your heart.

DATE: February 12, 1995



Peace with God