Sunday, November 27, 2011

Romans 5:1-11 – Love demonstrated, Peace received

Do you realize that without FAITH it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God (Heb. 11:6)? Moreover Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

So we have access to grace through faith, we must have faith to please God, and Paul said in Romans 1 that the justified living by faith reveals the righteousness of God. It is a valid criticism that too many evangelicals got stuck on justification. Meaning for the life of a believer there is only getting saved, and being a missionary to those who are lost. But the faith taught by the apostles has far more to do with our life and relationship to God, than simple justification.

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

As we covered before if salvation were available through the law it would have been only for the keepers of the law, and it would be earned. Further if you could see all of the "how and why" with your eyes and if the benefits were received in your body, then faith would not be required. But this kind of salvation is not possible because all are sinners. The salvation was have available is by grace, not the law, and through faith not of works because it is spiritual it is supernatural. Righteousness comes from the unseen God and it is for His glory, not the glory of any man.

Verse 1 is the preview for this passage. By faith we are declared holy and reconciled to God. Before we were destined for wrath, but now we have escaped wrath and can be at peace with the God who saved us.

2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

This word access is used only twice elsewhere in the entire New Testament (Eph. 2:18; 3:12), and it describes an unprecedented privilege to all who trust in Christ – we have access to Almighty God!

Even the realization that we have escaped from God's wrath is incomplete. The end of the road of grace isn't just to escape judgment, but a spiritual transformation into the eternal presence of God and His full glory. This is our hope, this is our end, this is what God has predetermined for His redeemed. Paul says that this hope is so significant that is causes us to rejoice even before we fully receive it, because the outcome is certain.

3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Not only do we rejoice in hope but we glory in trouble or tribulation. To say that a "tribulation" is helpful or hopeful seems silly, but Paul writes that God is using tribulation to accomplish His purpose in us. The word "tribulation" that Paul uses here can be translated "pressure" like from a press that squeezes the juice from olives or grapes.

God wants to produce people of character who can persevere through trouble for his glory. Too many who claim to be Christians, try to stop on the edge of grace enduring as little change as possible. But that kind of redemption would glorify man rather than God. That would be God serving our purpose, not the other way around. Next time you find yourself trying to endure and persevere through a difficult time, understand that when you persevere by faith you are becoming what God wants you to be, a person of character. That is why Paul said we can even glory in tribulation.

5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

What kind of relationship do you have with God? Paul said God has reconciled us from a wrath relationship to a love relationship. God pours out His love in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit of God empowered Elijah to outrun a chariot (1 Kings 18:46), and we struggle to simply out-walk the world! Is the love and hope of the Lord visibly evident in us?

Jesus said to His disciples, "You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father" (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV).

Peter wrote in his epistle, "…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the HOPE that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15 ESV). People will only ask you about the reason for the hope that is within you if it is externally evident. A fruit-filled life will get people talking! When they see love instead of hate, joy instead of anger, peace instead of worry, patience instead of hurry, kindness and goodness instead of rudeness, faithfulness instead of doubt, gentleness instead of harshness, and self-control instead of volatility, they will ask what makes you so different (Gal. 5:22)!

Jesus knew that the Christian life would be impossible to live on our own; so He gave us the help of His Holy Spirit to strengthen us, sanctify us, help us pray, help us share our faith, and to help us serve others. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in your heart and mine! We must surrender every room every part of ourselves to the Spirit's control. We must, by faith submit to His leadership in our lives and, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom. 12:2 ESV).

Love demonstrates that the Spirit of God lives in us.

6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The cross of Calvary shouts, "I love you!" to a lost world. John the beloved tells us that, "God SO LOVED the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him" (John 3:16-17 ESV).

Without strength means impotent, lacking the power to accomplish the task. We were impotent to bring about our own reconciliation to God. But Jesus died in our place, God poured out His wrath on Christ as an act of love toward ungodly, unworthy people like us. He satisfied justice in order to give us grace.

9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

We are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. This means that God, by His own will and design, provided His only Son as the atoning Sacrifice for our sin so that we might be forgiven and have a restored relationship with Him. From enemies of God to friends of God by faith in Jesus!

Now, because we have been reconciled, we also have a ministry of reconciliation to the world. There are many who are still enemies of God in their trespasses and sins. We must share the good news that if they simply wave the "white flag of surrender" they can be saved and have peace with God. Paul writes in 2 Cor. 5 18-20 "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God" (NKJV).

God's demonstration of love brought about our reconciliation to a loving friendship with Him. None of us would have wanted to watch the crucifixion of Jesus, but we rejoice in what it accomplished. Likewise in our own lives nobody hopes for trouble; but knowing that our perseverance produces character, means that even in troubles we can rejoice. We live lives of hope, knowing that the glory that waits for us is far greater than all the pleasures we could provide for ourselves if we had lived selfish lives.

Just as God's love was demonstrated to us in Jesus, so the Holy Spirit should be demonstrated to the world by our love and good works, giving glory to God; this is our job as ambassadors of peace.

Questions to consider:

  1. Sometimes we're not thankful for something until it's gone. Imagine for a moment your life WITHOUT faith in Christ and describe what that might look like for the class.
  2. We've been reviewing that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Ephesians 2:8&9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through, and THAT not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (NKJV). We often thank God for His grace, which is an unmistakable gift; but have you ever thanked God for your faith?

In light of what Paul has taught us in chapters 1-3 regarding man's condition (unrighteous, unreasonable, unresponsive, and unrepentant), how is even our faith a GIFT from God?

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