Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thoughts on Romans 5:1–5

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 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. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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. (Rom 5:1-5 ESV)

V1a — This verse begins with a “therefore” which shows that it is tied to the previous four chapters. The previous four chapters articulate justification by faith. Chapter 1 says that we are sinners, sinners who have exchanged the glory of God for a lie. Chapter 2 shows that even the Jews were guilty, even though they are the chosen of God. Chapter 3 unites all people, both Jew and Gentile, into the same sinful boat. We are all guilty and deserve wrath. Yet, towards the end of Chapter 3, Jesus Christ shows himself to be our propitiation with God and we are saved by him through faith. Chapter 4 argues that this salvation comes by faith. Justification is by faith alone, and the example of Abraham proves it. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith…

V1b — The inference to this reality of being justified by faith is two-fold. First, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This peace is an amazing reality. The truth is that before we were justified by faith, we were at war with God. He was set against us. We deserved hell. But, since we have been justified by faith, we are at peace with God. Second, we can have peace in our own hearts. There is both an objective outward reality to the peace we have and a subjective inward reality to the peace we have.

V2a — Paul can’t seem to stop himself and further elaborates something that we have through Jesus Christ. We have peace through Jesus Christ, and by the way, we also have obtained access into the grace in which we are standing. We are no longer standing in a place where grace doesn’t occur, but we are physically in a new realm. The entire world is in a realm of common grace; it rains and the sun shines and doctors heal our bodies. But for the Christian, there is another realm, a realm of grace. A realm where particular grace happens. This other realm can only be entered one way, by faith in Jesus Christ. So, our faith not only justified us in a past tense sense, but also in a very present sense, our faith is the means to our present standing in grace, our present sanctification.

V2b — That was really an aside, though, because Paul comes back to the second major inference from the reality that we have been justified by faith. That second inference is that we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. This is the future reality. The word rejoice comes from the Greek word that is literally boast. We boast or we glory in the hope of the glory of God. We revel in it. There will come a day when we will fully and finally see and partake in the glory of the living God. What a wonderful day to look forward to. Yet, this hope, this boasting in hope, is only a reality because we have been justified by faith.

But wait, there’s more!

V3a — I have not been able to wrap my head around this fully, but I will try. Paul says, literally, “Not only this, but also…” He really says, wait there is more. Amazingly, though, the more doesn’t seem as helpful as we would like. The “more” is that we rejoice—which is the same word used in v2—we boast, we glory in our sufferings. Tribulations and trials happen. Suffering happens. Friends lose babies. Many have questioned their faith or have doubted the goodness of God. A dear friend of mine gives one definition of suffering as anything that shakes ones faith or causes one to wonder at the goodness of God. But, Paul, here says “since we have been justified by faith, we glory in our sufferings.” That is stunning. It is not an easy saying.

V3b–4b — Paul does not leave us without a reason though. I think he anticipates the what and why questions that we ask. So, he says, “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” My reaction when I first read that is so what? What do I care about endurance or character? I would rather not suffer. Obviously, that is a very crass thing to say. Jesus says that you must endure to the end to be saved. We want to have a deep, Godly character so that we honor Christ. Notice that the third piece of the chain is hope. Peter writes, “be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” So, then, this chain—endurance, character, hope–is extremely important and valuable. It is Christ-centered and God-glorifying. But is it really “not only this, but also”?

V5a — The ESV simply says “and” at the beginning of v5. I think it should be “Furthermore, hope does not put us to shame.” In other words, there is a lot more to this hope. Suffering does not just make you a better person who can endure and who has a good character. I believe that suffering can do the first two things for a non-Christian. Non-Christians can gain endurance and character from suffering. The thing that makes suffering as a Christian different is hope. Hope does not disappoint. Hope does not put you to shame. Hope is something different entirely. Hope is not an “O boy, I really hope it happens…”, but hope is something sure, a settled belief that what God says is true. Hope is sure that the last Adam, Jesus Christ “has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:20–22). We hope in that.

V5b — Paul does not leave us with no argument for why hope does not put us to shame. He gives us a reason, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The love of God in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. This brings us full circle back to our justification by faith. This love is both God’s love for us and our love for God. Our ability to look on Jesus in faith, to hope in him, indeed, to love him, is his work in us. We will not be put to shame, fully or finally, because it is his love in us that he put there by the Holy Spirit. Hope is no small thing. Hope is a certainty of the future resurrection, of the future glorification, that we know to be true, because God’s love is in us via the Holy Spirit. We have the stamp of final salvation upon us. We will endure to the end. Our character will be proven in suffering.

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