So far we’ve seen Paul’s desire to preach the gospel message in Rome. And he wanted to preach the gospel message in Rome because he believed the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. God works through the preaching of the gospel to give salvation to Jews and Gentiles. And the gospel message is powerful because it reveals to us that there is a way for sinners to become right with God; and that way is through faith in his Son.
And, of course, we need this salvation because the wrath of God is revealed everyday in the way that he allows sinners to fall deeper and deeper into sin and into the misery our sin causes. And, of course, Paul has made clear that everyone is a sinner, even the Jews who boasted that they had the law. They might have the law, but so what? So what? Because even though they have the law, they don’t obey it. So, the truth of the matter is that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile: we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
So, that’s the bad news: that we’re sinners. But then there’s the good news: there’s a righteousness which comes from God and which we receive through faith in Jesus Christ who died for sinners. And from the end of chapter 3 to the end of chapter 4, Paul has been showing us the importance of faith. We’re justified through faith and not by our good deeds. We’re justified through faith and not by circumcision. We’re justified through faith and not by the law. Just as Abraham was declared right with God through faith, so we are declared right with God through faith in Jesus Christ who was delivered over to death for our sins and who was raised to life for our justification.
As we move into chapter 5, we’re moving into a new section of Paul’s letter which runs to the end of chapter 8. Whereas the previous section was about how we’re justified through faith in Jesus Christ, the emphasis in this new section is on the assurance of glory. So, now that we’ve been justified through faith in Jesus Christ, nothing will be able to prevent the believer from being glorified in the presence of God one day. Death won’t stop us. Sin won’t stop us. The law won’t stop us. Nothing at all will separate us from God who is working out his plan to glorify us in his presence one day.
And in the verses I read a moment ago Paul is outlining for us two of the benefits we receive now that we have been justified through faith. First of all, we’re reconciled to God so that we have peace with him. Secondly, we’ve given the hope of glory. And so, we’ll begin to look at these verses today.
Verses 1 to 2a
Take a look with me at verse 1. With the words, ‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith’ Paul is summarising the main point of the previous section. And by summarising what he’s already said, he’s signalling that he’s about to begin a new section. It’s as if he’s saying:
Okay, we’ve covered that subject. We’ve dealt with that. Let’s put that aside now, and move on to consider this next topic.
But, of course, this new topic builds on the previous one, because what he’s about to teach us is the result, or the consequence, of our being justified through faith.
But, before we get to that, let’s revise one more time what he means by the words ‘justified by faith’ in verse 1. Firstly, we need to remember that justification is an act. It happens in an instant. It’s not a process like sanctification which takes place over the course of our life. It’s happens in an instant. So, think about planting and growing a seed. We plant the seed in an instant. It’s done once-and-for-all. But the plant then takes time to grow. In the same way, we’re justified in an instant. It’s done once-and-for-all. And then, once we’re justified, God begins to work in our life to sanctify us and to make us more obedient to him. And that happens over time, throughout the rest of our lives. Sanctification takes time, but our justification happens in an instant, the moment we first believe.
Secondly, we need to remember that there are two parts to justification. When God justifies the sinner, he pardons our sins. That’s the first part. And when God justifies the sinner, he accepts us as righteous in his sight for the sake of the righteousness of Christ which is counted as ours. That’s the second part. So, our sins are pardoned and we’re accepted. God pardons us for what we’ve done wrong and he treats us as if we’ve done everything right.
And then thirdly, we’re justified through faith. In other words, whenever we give up trying to earn our salvation, or whenever we give up trying to climb up to God by our good deeds, whenever we realise we have nothing to offer to God, whenever we realise we must rest and rely solely upon Christ and his righteousness, that’s when God justifies us. So, we look away from ourselves, and we look with faith to Christ the Saviour.
So, that’s what Paul means by justified through faith. And what does it lead to? Well, look again at verse 1: it leads to peace with God. Since we’ve been justified through faith, we have peace with God. And so, we’re to imagine a battle scene, with God on one side, and we’re on the other. And there’s only enmity between us because we have rebelled against him. Or we’re to think about a law court, and there’s the judge on the one side, and we’re on the other. And we stand there as guilty lawbreakers who deserve to be condemned by the judge.
But then, the moment we look away from ourselves, and we look with faith to Christ the Saviour, God declares us righteous in his sight. And instead of being our enemy who is against us, or the judge who is ready to condemn us, he becomes our loving Heavenly Father. The enmity is gone and now we should expect only good things from the Lord.
When Paul mentions ‘peace’ here, he’s not referring to some inner feeling of peace or calmness. He’s referring to the fact that the enmity between God and us has been removed and there’s now peace between us, because we’ve been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
And look at the beginning of verse 2. Through Jesus Christ we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. Often when Paul uses the word ‘grace’ he’s referring to God’s kindness to sinners. So, we say we’re justified by grace and we mean that God graciously pardons and accepts us. He wasn’t obligated to do so. He didn’t have to pardon us. He did it out of his sheer kindness to us. That’s how we usually use the word ‘grace’. But here Paul is using the word ‘grace’ in a different way. Once we were standing under God’s wrath. So, if we stayed in the same spot, then one day all of God’s wrath would be poured out on us. But now, God has moved us to a different spot. He’s moved us so that we’re now standing somewhere else. We’re no longer standing under his wrath, but we’re standing under his grace and his love and his mercy. And how have we gained access to this new spot? How come we’re now in a different position? Well, it’s through faith in Jesus Christ. Through faith in him we have gained access to this new position.
So, what does justification lead to? It leads to peace with God. Instead of standing under his wrath, waiting for it to fall on us, we’ve been moved into a new position, where we can expect only good things from the Lord.
Verses 2b to 4
So, our justification leads to peace with God. It also leads to the hope of glory. And that’s what the next verses are about. Look at the end of verse 2 where Paul says:
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Do you remember what we read in chapter 3 verse 23?
There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
That’s the way we were. But here Paul is able to say that now, now that we’ve been justified through faith, we’re able to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Once we fell short of it, now we can look forward to it.
When we were thinking about chapter 3 and verse 23, I said that Paul means that we have fallen short of the glory of being like God in holiness and righteousness. Instead of reflecting his glory, we have become sinful and corrupt and wicked and unclean. And I suggested that we should think of the difference between a car which is sitting on the garage forecourt — and it’s gleaming, because it’s brand new and there’s not a spot of dirt on it — and a car which has been driven hard for many years, and there are scratches and chips and dirt and dents all over the bodywork and the engine has broken down and the tyres are flat and the lights are smashed. One is gleaming, the other is a wreck. Well, we were meant to gleam and shine and reflect God’s glory, but instead we’ve become corrupt and broken because of Adam’s sin which we’ve inherited.
But now, now that we’ve been justified through faith in the Lord Jesus, we know that one day we’ll be gleaming again. One day, we’ll be glorified and will become the way God wanted us to be. We won’t become like that in this life, because we’ll never be perfect in this life; but there is a day when we will be glorified. And we can look forward to that day with hope. We know it’s coming. And though we still mourn over our sins, we can rejoice because we know that one day we will be made perfect in the presence of God.
So, we rejoice in that hope. But, of course, our life in this world is often spoiled by troubles and sorrows. And Paul understands that and he mentions it in verse 3. He mentions the sufferings of this life. And really there’s no need to explain that, because everyone is familiar with the sorrows and sufferings of this troubled life, especially in 2020 when the whole world is suffering because of the coronavirus crisis. However, Paul says we can even rejoice in our sufferings, because God is able to turn our sorrows and sufferings to our good.
And look how Paul explains it. He says that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance produces character; and character produces hope. While our natural inclination is to complain because of our sufferings, the Lord is able to uphold us and to help us to put up with this life’s troubles and trials, which come to us, not by chance, but by the hand of our Father in heaven who loves us and is at work to make us like Christ. And he does that by enabling us to persevere and to endure this life’s troubles and trials. He gives us the strength we need to face each day with all its sorrow and suffering. So, he enables us to persevere.
And perseverance produces character. And the word Paul uses refers to a something that has been tested and found to be true. In our Lord’s parable of the seed and the sower, the seed on the rocky ground stood for those who hear the gospel and who receive it with joy. But these new converts don’t last, because when trouble and persecution comes, they quickly give up the faith. It soon became apparently that their faith was not real. But the believer who perseveres through many trials and troubles and who keeps going has been tested again and again and again and it’s clear that this is a true believer.
And, of course, through our troubles and trials we begin to yearn for and to long for a new life in the new and better world to come when all our suffering will be over and there will be perfect peace and rest for God’s people. Our trials in this life make clear to us that we will never have perfect happiness in this life and they make us yearn for the next life and to the fullness of joy and the pleasures forevermore which God has in store for us in the world to come. And so, our suffering produces in us a hope that one day the Lord will bring us into his presence to be with him for ever and ever. And because this is true, we’re able to rejoice even in our sufferings, because we’re looking forward to what we’re hoping for, which is glory in the life to come.
I’ll pause here and we’ll come back to this the next time. But the two benefits of justification are peace with God and the hope of glory.