The apostle Paul has shown us so far in this epistle that all men are sinners before God. To use legal jargon, all have been brought up on charges before God. And all of mankind stand condemned because of our sin against God. There is none righteous, not even one. And according to God’s law, we are all given the penalty of death.
Paul says the only people that escape this penalty are those who are made righteous by faith in God’s word, of which Abraham is given as a prime example. AS evidence that the righteous shall live and not die as a result of the penalty, Paul quotes from Hab 2:4 which says, “But the righteous will live by his faith.” Paul made it clear that Abraham was declared righteous by faith in what God had promised, and not by keeping the law, nor by his own merit.
So as Paul summarizes in vs 22, “Therefore IT (faith) WAS ALSO CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, [He] who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
So we see that Abraham was actually justified by faith in the promise of God that One would come from his seed who would by His death become the sacrifice by which we are justified. And so, Paul says, this is applicable to us as well, because as Abraham was justified by looking forward to what Christ would do, so we are justified by looking back in faith at what Jesus Christ did on the cross as our substitute, who was raised from the dead resulting in the justification of those who believe in Him.
So having set forth the necessity of justification (because we are all sinners under the wrath of God), and the means by which we are justified (which is by faith in Christ) now in chapter 5 Paul sets forth the benefits of justification. And the first benefit that he gives is that we who have been justified have peace with God.
Peace as used here indicates reconciliation with God through the death of Christ. Reconciliation is the removal of the wrath of God and the restoration of favor with God. Peace then means the absence or removal of hostility. As sinners, we are at enmity with God, and we were by nature hostile to the things of God. Col 1:19-22 says, “For it was the [Father’s] good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in [Christ], and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, [I say,] whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, [engaged] in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.”
So having been justified, we are at peace with God, because our offense was nailed to the cross with Jesus. We are transferred from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of God by faith in what Christ accomplished on our behalf.
Let me clarify this benefit of peace though. Only when we first have peace WITH God can we have the peace OF God. There is a peace that God promises to those who are His, that is based on the fact that we have been forgiven, we have been transferred into his kingdom, adopted as the children of God, and as such we have been promised that nothing can separate us from the love of God, neither life, nor death, nor anything. So peace is a double blessing that we receive in justification.
That is what Paul is speaking of when he says in vs 1 and 2, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand.” 1 Peter 3:18 speaks of this doctrine of substitutionary atonement whereby we can be reconciled to God. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, [the] just for [the] unjust, so that He might bring us to God.”
So though the blood of Jesus Christ we are brought near to God, so that we might stand before Him, no longer condemned, but justified, having gained access by faith so that we might stand in His presence by grace, at peace with God. That’s the second benefit of our justification, we stand in grace.
This benefit of grace is such an important doctrine that I feel I must deal with it more thoroughly, rather than gloss over it and go on. And to more fully express it I would remind you of the legal scenario that I started out with. That we have been brought up on charges before God and found guilty and the penalty is death.
But let’s think about that in an earthly setting for a moment. Imagine that you are brought up before the court as a person found guilty of the worst type of criminal activity; premeditated murder. And the court finds you guilty. The judge announces that the punishment prescribed by the law is death. But then rather than the judge sentencing you to death in the electric chair as you deserve, he announces that he will offer himself as your substitute and take your place in death. And because he does so, he declares you justified before the law – but it’s evident that it’s not because of any merit of your own, but because of the merit of the judge.
So you walk out of that courtroom a free man, not on the basis of your own rightness, but on the basis of grace. On the basis of the gift of justification. Grace is the basis of your justification. Faith is the means of your justification, believing in who Jesus is, and what He has done. He died on the cross in our place. Justified by faith then is a legal decree by which we are are given a right standing before God. And we stand in grace. Grace means gift, so this legal standing is given to us by what Jesus did on the cross. And by faith we enter into that legal standing. We cannot earn it, we do not deserve it, but by faith we can appropriate it. As Eph. 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
So on the basis of grace, Paul says, because we do not deserve it, “we exult in the hope of the glory of God.” Hope is another blessing of our justification. Because we are justified we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And what that simply means is that we have no reason to boast, as if we did something to deserve justification. But rather we boast or exult in the hope of the glory of God. Notice, he doesn’t say “we boast in the glory of God,” but “we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” That means we boast in what God has promised in regards to the future glory that will be revealed to us when Christ comes again. As Paul told Titus, in Titus 2:13, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” So the blessed hope is the appearing of Jesus Christ. It is a sure hope, it is faith in that hope, that we boast in, that we rejoice in.
It should not be difficult for us to rejoice or boast in the coming glory of the Lord, should it? After all, we also will be glorified when Christ is glorified at the end of the age, when all the world is made subject to Him. We will share in that glory. But here comes a more difficult thing – Paul says we are to boast, or rejoice in our sufferings while on this earth. Notice vs 3, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations.” Another translation of that word tribulations is sufferings. So the next benefit of our justification is that we boast or rejoice in tribulation.
The word tribulations covers a lot of territory. Some would like this to only be applied to persecution. But persecution for our faith is only one element of tribulations. It also can mean affliction, suffering, anguish, burden, or stress. I would suggest that tribulation is a part of life as we live in a fallen world. It may take the form of sickness, or anguish, loss of a loved one, stress from work or the stress of life. I would go so far as to say that this Corona virus is a tribulation. Some are dealing with it more than others.
In John 16:;33 Jesus said, “in this world you will have tribulation, but take courage for I have overcome the world.” Tribulation then is a universal facet of life. Paul talked about a weakness or infirmity in his flesh, which some think was a disease in his eyes. He called it a “thorn in his flesh.” Paul said he asked the Lord three times to take it from him, but God said to him according to 2Cor. 12:9 “’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
Notice there that Paul uses that word again, “boast”. He boasted in his tribulation. He rejoiced in his tribulation because God’s power would be magnified through it. It’s important to notice that God would be magnified not by healing him, but by enabling him to go through it, and as he went through it, he was a testimony to the power of God that was in him.
And while we are in that passage, notice the next verse, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2Cor.12:10) Notice how Paul defines weaknesses; as insults, distresses, persecutions, and difficulties. That’s similar to the list I gave for tribulation a minute ago. But Paul makes an important distinction, which I think is the reason that he is able to boast in these things. And that distinction is he say these weaknesses are for Christ’s sake. In other words, Christ used these infirmities, these distresses, these persecutions to show forth His power. Paul spoke in another place that even when he was in chains in prison, he considered it as being a prisoner of Christ. So whatever tribulation he endured, he could even rejoice in it for the sake of sharing in Christ’s sufferings so that the power of God might be manifested.
The point is clear that all men are going through tribulation on this earth, sooner or later, perhaps often, as long as you are in the flesh. The difference is that for a Christian, we do not go through it alone and without achieving a higher purpose. Christ lives in me and evidences Himself in my sufferings, so that I may manifest the power of Christ in me.
That’s what Romans 8:28 says. It’s a verse that is often misquoted, and seldom understood. It says “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose.” God isn’t promising to make everything work out so that no one gets sick, or no one dies, or nothing bad happens. But God is promising to glorify Himself in whatever circumstances we go through, through those who are called to be His children, who love God and are called to live for God. That is the purpose for which we are called, to glorify God in our body, by life or by death.
We talked extensively last week in our study of the previous passage about the necessity to make sure that our faith is founded on the word of God, on the promises of God. And it’s important to understand that God has not promised that we will never get sick, or that we will never have financial problems, or that we will never have sorrow. But God has promised to never leave us or forsake us, to go through the fiery trials with us, and to refine us, and bring us out as gold. That we might be ambassadors for the power of God which is in us. God has promised to one day raise us from the dead, to live forever with the Lord and share in the glory of the Lord. God has promised to use suffering in this earth, so that we might be glorified in the new heavens and new earth.
Listen to how these promises of suffering and the glory to follow are explained in Romans 8:16 “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with [Him] so that we may also be glorified with [Him.] For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
So back to our text in vs 3, Paul said, “we also exult or rejoice in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Notice then this chain of blessings that come as a result of our justification, of which the product is sanctification. Sufferings, in whatever form they come, reveal our weakness while at the same time reveal God’s power. And when the Christian realizes he is weak, then he is forced to turn to God for strength, and thus his faith is strengthened. So suffering, Paul says, brings about perseverance.
Perseverance is the strength to persistently bear up under trials. Perseverance is not giving up, continuing to trust in the Lord even though you recognize that you are too weak to go through it on your own. It’s a commitment. Perseverance is faith plus commitment. Not quitting. It’s not a passive quality, but a persistent quality of faith. In Rev. 2:25, Jesus refers to it as holding fast to your faith. A few verses earlier in vs10, Jesus says to be faithful even to death. That’s perseverance.
Then Paul says, perseverance produces proven character. I came up with an definition of character that I thought was pretty good, if I do say so myself. “Character is the mettle (pun intended)(spirit, fortitude, strength of character, moral fiber, steel, determination, resolve, resolution, backbone, grit, courage) that is produced in the fire of trials.” So to have your character proven is to endure trials which reveal that you have passed the test to which you were subjected, whatever that might be.
Bob Jones Sr. once said “The test of your character is what it takes to stop you.” And in Zech. 13:9 God speaks of these tests saying, “I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.” As the refining fire of the goldsmith purifies the gold of impurities it also makes it more valuable. So also the perseverance of the believer in trials purifies them, producing proven character. Or producing tested, evident, character.
Now for that person who passes the test by the power of God working in him, it cannot help but strengthen their hope. After all, if God just showed Himself faithful in my test, then I can go through more trials with a greater hope, knowing that what God has done in the past can be done in the future. So proven character, Paul says, produces hope.
Vs5, “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Notice how Paul has transitioned from faith in vs 1 to hope vs 4, and now to love in vs 5. Faith, hope, love, the trifecta of our religion.
It’s impossible to be a Christian without faith. We have established that already, and fully. But there are people without hope. I think hopelessness is one of the primary maladies of the world. The fundamental problem in the world is sin, but sin produces a lack of hope. And that lack of hope is the symptom of a sick world.
There are also people who have a false hope. They may hope in the things of this world, or they may hope in false religion. Ultimately, both those who have no hope and those who have a false hope find heartache and disappointment. But Paul says that there is a hope that does not disappoint. That hope which does not disappoint is anchored in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the hope of the world.
Heb 6:19-20 says, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a [hope] both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Jesus who came to earth in a visible form of a man, who died on the cross, was raised from the dead and rose into heaven in the sight of 500 witnesses. This same risen Jesus is the basis for the hope that we have, that He is alive and seated at the Father’s right hand, where He forever lives to make intercession for His people and who has promised to come again that we might be with Him forever. So because He lives, we know that we will live with Him.
Our hope is anchored in God’s love that was expressed by offering Jesus to take our place on the cross. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Paul isn’t saying that God’s love is given out sparingly. But he says it is “poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us.” God lavished His love upon us, not sparing anything that we needed to be fully reconciled to Him.
Notice, he says God’s love has been poured out within our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” That goes back full circle to this state of grace by which we stand that we talked about earlier. God granted us justification as a gift because He loved us and had compassion on us. But that is not the full extent of this state of grace. God also granted us adoption that we might be the children of God. We are not just forgiven at the court, but we are also granted sonship to the Judge. As sinners, at enmity with God, we are justified, then we are adopted, and because we are adopted we are given the life of God, even eternal life. And then wonder of wonders, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to live in us. God Himself dwells in us! What a tremendous gift that is. That explains why John could say, John 1:16 “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.”
And even that is not all the grace that is ours, for God has promised that we will be granted to sit on thrones with Christ and reign over the world with Him. That we will be co heirs with Christ. That boggles the mind. What blessings are in store for us we cannot imagine – all because of our justification by faith in what Jesus did on the cross for us. So I pray you know the peace of God because Christ has made peace with God on your behalf. And then let us persevere in faith in the midst of trials, that the endurance of our faith produces proven character, and a hope that does not disappoint as we go through the tribulations here on this earth. They cannot compare to the glory which is set before us as promised by God.