This evening we begin a short series looking at various texts that speak to us about the familiar New Testament triad of Christian virtues that sort of together sum up so much of the Christian life – faith, hope and love. And to kick things off tonight we’re looking at Romans chapter 5 and we’ll think about verses 1 through 8 together. You can find that on page 942 of the church Bibles if you would now please turn there with me. A brief glance at the text will immediately demonstrate this is an extraordinary paragraph, so full of riches. The distinct work of each of the three persons of the blessed Trinity is mentioned here. Our past – “we have been justified.” Our present – “we now have peace with God; we now have access into this grace in which we stand.” Our future – “the hope of glory; a hope that does not put us to shame.” That’s all here. The beginnings of the Christian life – our justification. The progress of the Christian life – our sanctification. Our future glorification – that’s all here. Subjective benefits – peace with God. We are being changed. The Spirit pouring out the love of God in our hearts. And objective blessings – the work of Christ, being reconciled to God and counted righteous in His sight. All of that is here. It’s an amazing paragraph.
And as a consequence there are all sorts of different ways we could come at the teaching of these verses. We’re going to consider it tonight by looking at those three cardinal graces that sum up the Christian life in the New Testament – faith, hope and love. In verses 1 and 2, if you look at the passage, you’ll see Paul reflecting on faith and the benefits that faith receives. Then in 2 through 5, he talks about hope; the Christian hope. And then in 5 through 8, he talks about love, although here it’s not Christian love – our love for God or our love for one another, but here it is God’s love for us. Before we read the passage, would you bow your heads with me again as we seek God’s help that we may understand and embrace and obey His holy Word. Let us pray.
O Lord, we ask now that Your Spirit would take up Your Word and by it quicken us, give us life, generate within us faith, hope and love. Pour out in our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, the love of God through the means of grace. For we ask it in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Romans 5 at verse 1. This is God’s Word:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Amen, and we praise God for His holy Word.
As I was preparing for the message this evening reading through the passage, it reminded me of those Russian dolls. You know the ones? They’re sort of bowling pin shaped dolls that split in half, you know, and you open one and inside there’s another and you open it and inside there’s another and still another. That’s actually very much like the way that Paul is working in our passage this evening as he begins with a reflection on the blessings of saving faith in verses 1 and 2, the discussion of Christian hope necessarily emerges, as if it’s contained inside of it. Open the doctrine of faith and soon you’re talking about hope. And then open up the doctrine of the Christian hope and you are confronted with the marvel of the love of God. Each inside the other, you see? Like those Russian dolls. Do you see that in the text?
The Doctrine of Faith.
Let’s think first of all about faith, what Paul has to say about faith. Look at verses 1 and 2. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” You’ll see first that Paul is telling us faith is the instrument of our justification. We have been justified by faith. Now the doctrine of justification by faith alone, that’s been the burden of chapters 3 and 4 leading up to this one. Paul has taught us that we are sinners, you and me; we’re sinners. Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” That means that we are without hope before the holiness of God. We are condemned by nature before the bar of heaven’s justice. But there is good news. Paul says God has put forth Jesus Christ as a propitiation by His blood. That is to say, He’s provided Jesus to be a sacrifice to satisfy the demands of justice that burn against us so that now His righteousness can be reckoned to the account of all who believe. If you are a believer, God does not count your transgressions against you; He counts Christ’s righteousness as if it were yours. Romans 4:24, “Righteousness will be counted to us who believe in Him, who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Justification means the righteous record of Jesus Christ imputed, reckoned to us, received merely by faith, merely by faith.
That ought to be an enormously precious truth to us. Think about it this way. For all the self-help techniques of our therapeutic age, we’re not able to remove the deep stain of guilt that still sears and stings our consciences. And so the question remains – it’s a pressing question for so many all around us – “What can I do with my sin, with my guilt?” You can’t wipe it away. You can’t work to offset it with your best efforts. There’s no amount of therapy that can absolve you of it. The fact is, your sin, my sin, it leaves us liable to the penalty of divine justice. What can be done? Paul says there is only one thing to be done, so preciously simple; only one thing – believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, the Son of God, the only Savior of sinners, and the moment that you do, God declares you righteous in His sight once and forever. Not because you are righteous, but because Jesus Christ is righteous for you. A great exchange has taken place. Your sin was punished at the cross. On Jesus Christ your sin was punished and His righteousness was accounted to you so that you might be accepted. He died that you might live. There is no other strategy. Do you get that? There is no other strategy to deal with guilt or with sin before God. You must be declared righteous, justified by faith alone. Just believe. That’s all. Simply believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be reconciled to God. It is so simple. Trust in Christ and you will be counted righteous at the bar of heaven’s justice. What a glorious Gospel truth.
Then, having explained that truth in the chapters that are leading up to the passage now before us, Paul now wants to tease out for us the implications. “Therefore,” he says – chapter 5 verse 1 – in view of the glorious fact of our justification, here are the consequences; here are the implications. Look at the passage again. “Since we have been justified by faith” – what? – “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Peace” here means not just the absence of hostility, that God sort of says, “Well, I guess I’ll turn aside from my anger.” That’s not simply what is intended. So much more is intended. It is the presence of a right relationship with Him now. It is, Paul probably has in mind, the Hebrew idea of “Shalom” in the back of his mind here. Not just the absence of conflict but the presence of a right relationship with God under His covenant Lordship. That’s what Jesus gives us.
And Paul says, “more than that He gives us,” verse 2, “access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” The faith that receives Christ’s righteousness and establishes peace with God for us introduces us into a world of grace. We now stand in it, Paul says. He pictures grace almost like a habitat, like a new environment for a Christian. Grace is our new home, he’s saying, and faith in Jesus gives us access to it. That word “access,” we need to be careful; it doesn’t simply imply an open door. “You know, grace is like a room on the other side of the door. You can go in or not as need be.” That’s not what Paul means at all. No, what Paul is saying is there’s this world of grace and we had no way to gain entry. We were excluded from it. And Jesus brought us in and made us dwell there. That’s where you live now, Paul is saying. That’s what faith in Jesus does. Because you have peace with God, you live in a new world of grace. Grace all around.
Don’t we need to be reminded of that reality? I certainly do, when the world we see with our eyes is so full of daily disappointment and heartbreak; when the world leaves us ashamed and fatigued. Don’t you need reminding? I need reminding that our dwelling place, our new, natural habitat is a realm of grace. And in that land of grace we stand. It’s there, not here, our roots are sunk. It’s from there, not from here, that our life daily flows.
The Doctrine of Hope.
Now remember the Russian dolls. So the first one is the doctrine of faith. Paul has opened it for us and shown us beautiful things. And as we look inside, now we see in the second place, hope. He talks to us about hope. Do you see that? First faith; now hope. Look at verse 2. “We have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” If you live now in the land of grace, you will one day soon live in the world of glory. That is our hope. Specifically, Paul calls it, notice, “the hope of the glory of God.” Back in Romans chapter 1, Paul describes sin as exchanging the glory of God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Sin, Romans 3:23, is a “falling short of the glory of God.” The glory of God is what we lose sight of, what we’re excluded from, because of our sin. And it is to the glory of God that the Gospel of Jesus Christ restores us.
That’s really what Paul means in Romans 8:30 when he says famously, “Those whom He predestined He also called, and whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He” – what? Are you awake? “These He also glorified.” Glory! He doesn’t mean one day you’re going to have a supernatural makeover like no other; you’ll be glorious. You’ll be so beautiful. That’s true, I suppose. That’s not really what Paul is focused on here. He’s focused on the reflected glory of God that will one day shine from you when you are drawn at last into His presence and you are made like Christ for you will see Him as He is. You’ll be swept up into the glory of God. Now we live in the land of grace, but one day soon we will live in a world of glory.
And so it’s not really a surprise, is it, that Paul says “in all of this we rejoice.” Have you ever wondered if one reason we find joy so elusive as Christians is that actually we’ve lost sight of the Christian hope of the glory of God. We’re too “this worldly.” Our minds are here. Our hopes are here. Our ambitions are here. We’re not looking for the world that is to come. Well if that’s you, Paul says, get ready, because God is not prepared to leave you there. He has a process of change in mind for us designed to deepen our joy and cement our hope.
Look again at verses 2 through 4. “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings.” Now pause there for a moment. He is not suggesting – this is so important. I hope it’s obvious; it may not be. He’s not suggesting that suffering should ever be viewed as a cause for happiness. That, I think, is obvious, but it’s sometimes crept into the Christian church. We’ve gotten things all mixed up and confused and we think that if God sends suffering our way that’s an inherently good thing, something even perhaps to be desired. That’s not at all the teaching of the apostle Paul. He doesn’t simply rejoice in suffering. That would be perverse. Look at what he actually says. “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces” – it’s knowing that suffering produces, knowing that in God’s economy, when He sends it into the life of a Christian, is productive in our lives. That’s what enables us, through tears if need be, yet still to rejoice. I never get tired of hearing that – that my suffering is productive not pointless, not meaningless, not fruitless.
And look at what suffering produces according to Paul. It produces, he says, “endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Let’s be clear. The root that leads from here, this world of grace tinged with suffering, the root itself is a pathway of trials. The normal Christian life, if you’re a follower of Jesus, there will be grievous trials, as we’ve seen in our morning services from 1 Peter; trials of many kinds. But Paul wants you to know that as you walk that path, the path that leads from here to the realm of glory to come, that God is at work by every one of those trials to awaken and generate perseverance and tenacity and endurance in you that will form Christian character in you, that will make sure no matter what may come, no matter how great the waves that engulf you, you have an unbreakable grip of the hope of glory knowing this world is not your home and that you are bound for another world. That’s what Paul says God is up to in your trials, and so he says when you see that, when you get that, you’re able to rejoice even in the midst of suffering; rejoicing in the hope of glory.
The Love of God.
And it’s right at this point that Paul splits the second Russian doll. You know, he’s opened the doctrine of faith and we’ve seen hope. Now he’s opened hope and we get now to see, in the third place, love. Look at verses 5 through 8. Hope, he says, does not put us to shame. It never disappoints. It’s not a forlorn hope, an improbable hope. How do we know that? How do we know there’s glory to come? Paul’s answer is we can be sure of our hope because of the love of God. Hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to pour out, to shed abroad in our hearts the knowledge, the experience of the love of God for us.
Now the Holy Spirit, Paul says, is the possession of every single Christian. He’s been given to us and it is one of His great and mysterious works within us to communicate to our consciousness, to our awareness, that God loves us. He does it often in the preaching of the Word. Doesn’t He? He does it here at the Lord’s Table. How many of us have come tired and weary, longing to meet with God and to have some word from Him for our comfort, and we’ve gathered around the Table of the Lord and the bread and the wine have preached a sweet sermon of the love of God to our hearts. He does it by calling to mind in moments of crisis His precious promises. He does it by answering prayer. He does it by guiding our steps. And in a thousand other ways, both mysterious and sweet, He pours out the love of God into our hearts.
Imagine, I imagine God almost like a skilled carpenter and He’s carving a bowl from a big block of wood. That’s our lives. We’re a block of raw wood and He uses the sharp chisel of suffering to chip away and to carve out of our lives a vessel, a container. And as the container deepens and takes shape, into that container the Holy Spirit pours God’s love. And it’s the pouring in of God’s love that helps us remember “Why is God chiseling away so painfully at my life?” Love is poured into us now and one day it will overflow. We will be full and it will overflow when the realm of glory for which we hope is ours at last.
And do notice before we close the fountain from which the love of God pours into our hearts. Look at verses 6 through 8. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” I wonder if you really believe that the love of God is an inexhaustible, unbreakable reality lavished upon you. It will never be taken from you. It is fixed upon you. He loves you forever.
Do you really believe that? How can you be sure? Well, it’s part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to help us be sure. But where does the Spirit direct us to assure us of the love of God? He directs us to Calvary. “You want the proof that I really love you?” the Father says. “Look at the cross of My beloved Son, whom I gave up for you.” “How deep the Father’s love for us. How vast beyond all measure. That He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure.” That’s the message, isn’t it? And listen, as we sit together in just a few moments at the Lord’s Table, I want you to know that God is preaching again this very same love. The Holy Spirit is pouring into our hearts God’s love as we see in the bread and in the cup, the great memorial of Christ’s cross – His body broken, His blood shed for sinners. We touch and we taste here at the Table the promise of God’s love, renewed again for the comfort of our hearts. The Jesus who died for you, beloved in Christ, reigns for you. The love that sent Him to the cross is a love that has been fixed immovably upon you. And from its grip, nothing – not death nor life nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation can separate you. If you doubt it, look at the cross. God demonstrates His love for you. He loves sinners like me, like you.
So faith brings us, do you see, into a realm of grace, reconciles us to God. Hope calls us to wait for the day when the realm of grace will give way to a world of glory. And the love of God, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, demonstrated once and for all decisively at the cross, the love of God assures us that grace now and glory to come will be ours forever. Let’s pray together.
O Lord, we are so often too mindful of our circumstances such that we do not believe that we are surrounded on every side by grace. We have been drawn into the realm of grace, that’s where we now stand, because we have been declared righteous and have peace with You through our Lord Jesus Christ. Strengthen anew our faith and enable us to trust You as we pass through this veil of tears so that trusting You we may have hope, the hope of the glory of God; that we will see You, and seeing You shining in the face of Jesus Christ at the last, we will be transformed, transfigured into the mirror image of our Redeemer, reflecting Your glory back to You. Help us to cling to that hope, and as we cling to it, give to us the assurance of its certainty by pouring out into our hearts by Your Holy Spirit Your love. Point us back, as the Lord’s Supper so beautifully and eloquently does, point us back to Calvary, to the cross, where Jesus loved us and gave Himself for us. And there, silence every doubt. Silence every argument that disputes the possibility that You could love us, wretched sinners like us. Instead, would You melt our hearts as we begin to taste anew the wonder if Your love and rise to praise You and serve You with all the days that remain ahead of us in Your kind providence. For we ask it in Jesus’ holy name, Amen.
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