How is there peace with God - Romans 5:1-11
An audio recording of this sermon is available.
Imagine on this dark autumnal night in the North of England that you are a long way from home on holiday. The weather is great, the company good & the food is perfect.
There's just one thing that's wrong. You feel dreadful.
You go to bed early hoping that the headache & temperature will go away by morning. But they don't if anything they're worse.
All day you feel terrible. By the 3rd day it's obvious to those with you on holiday that something is fairly serious.
Then you wake up from a delirious sleep & see someone leaning over your bed it turns out to be a hospital doctor What is your 1st thought? "I have had to be brought from holiday to hospital. There must be something seriously wrong with me".
That is a bit like the truth the Apostle Paul has been making clear in the letter to the Romans we've been learning from over the last few weeks. Any one with ears to hear must realise that there is something seriously wrong with us.
The 1st 4 chapters of Romans have shown that the Human race is in a terrible mess, everyone has rebelled against God & quite justly we deserve his anger, his wrath against us.
There is something seriously wrong with us & worse still any self-help remedy can't work; specifically the attempt to be moral or religious is not enough.
But God has provided a way out of the mess Jesus His death on the cross is the unique way by which God can be just & punish human rebellion & yet also in love reach out & rescue people, bringing people back into relationship with him. People can be "justified", considered as righteous, clean & acceptable before God on the basis of Jesus & his sacrificial death.
So God has provided the way, but not everyone receives the benefits of it. As we saw last week we must make it our own, which means trusting in what God has said & done through Jesus. To use the jargon; "Justification" is received by "faith" in Jesus & his work for us.
We've reached Ch 5 this eve (p1132) begins "1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have..." and Paul goes on to explain some of the good things that are received when we trust in Jesus. What the benefits, the blessings are of being justified by faith.
1) Have peace with God V1
Peace is the longing of many today: peace of mind & peace instead of war but the most important peace is peace with God.
If human beings are to be in touch with God, peace certainly does need to be made. The opening chapters of Romans make it clear that naturally we have no right to relationship with him having tuned away from him, suppressed his truth, worshipped created things rather than the creator.
Because we have "turned away" (3;3 ) we are completely unfit for his presence, we have become, v10 "God's enemies".
On this Remembrance Sunday, we no longer have to think back to the 2nd WW to get a feel for what it means to have enemies. The western world has declared that the Taleban & Bin Laden's Al'qieda, are enemies after Sept 11th sides against each other, separated from each other, fundamentally opposed to each other. Indeed as we are all too well aware at war with each other.
Paul is saying that such has been our treatment of God, we have shown ourselves to be God's enemies & in his holy, pure justice against our abuse of Him, God has become ours.
Yet, v1, if we have been justified by faith in Jesus, things are now different. The state of war is brought to an end, ruptured relationships are healed - We have "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ".
Do you realize what had to be done to bring this about? We were opposed to God, unable to do anything about it, but Jesus the God-Man has died to pay the price of our rebellion, bringing us into relationship with God. And Jesus the God-man has satisfied God's right anger against our rebellion, talking in himself the penalty against us, bringing God back into relationship with us.
There is now, to use Paul's word in v11 "Reconciliation". And it is, if you like a double reconciliation - between us & God & between God & us.
App: Are you conscious of your guilt before God? That guilt is right not just a neurosis, but God has dealt with it it is no longer held against you if you are trusting Jesus it was held against him & dealt with at the cross you are now free at peace with God. The ground of our forgiveness is sure, you can be confident of God's attitude towards you we have peace with God.
2) Stand in Grace. V2
This Remembrance Sunday many will be looking back to incidents in war time. I was brought up sitting at my grandfather's feet listening to his stories of life in Europe during the 1st WW, others here will have their own memories some 1st hand.
I had a teacher at secondary school who told me of his time at sea during the 2nd WW. On one voyage the King of Norway was on board & my teacher was given the duty of looking after the King's young son. He befriended him & played games with him. The boy got on well with my teacher & asked him to come & see his Father. My teacher knew this was not part of his brief as a relatively lowly serviceman but the boy insisted & added "He may be the King but I'm his son & I will introduce you".
My teacher had no right to meet the King but with an introduction by his son he was able to enjoy some time in his royal presence.
Justification by faith in Jesus brings with it the possibility of entry into the King of Heaven's presence for those who have no right otherwise to be there.
Through Jesus, v2 "we have gained access by faith into this grace.." The undeserved presence of God is open to those who trust Jesus. We are unfit to enter, but we have been introduced by Jesus, the son, God's agent who has made our entrance possible because he has won us forgiveness & averted God's opposition from us.
What's more we are not only enabled to enter God's gracious presence occasionally, but through Jesus v2 we "stand" in it. We don't just get a rare audience with the King, we have the privilege to live in the palace! This privilege has been won for us by Jesus so it is secure, we stand in it.
It's a great encouragement to know that we are not going to get booted out of God's presence yes we shall fail but God's work through his son is enough to deal with our sins. So in the presence of God we find, not what we deserve punishment & condemnation, but mercy, grace & love.
The 3rd blessing of justification by faith is;
3) Have Hope of glory v2-4
Hope is one of these words whose modern usage is very different from how the Bible uses it. "I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow, I hope the right questions come on my exam next week, I hope another team other than Manchester United wins the Premiership this season." Rather wistful, uncertain, even unlikely wishes. Rather Biblical hope is like we saw with Abraham last week (4:18) where "Abraham in hope believed". He had a humbly confident expectation based not on a wish, but on the sure promises of God.
Having been justified by faith in Jesus, having seen so many of God's promises finding fulfillment in Jesus, we have far more grounds for hope than Abraham did. And the particular hope we have, indeed that we are to rejoice in, is "the hope of the glory of God" v2.
God's glory, his substantial, radiant splendor that is the reflection of his greatness, is in some ways seen in the creation around us (Ps19:1), it has been more clearly made known in the life death & resurrection of Jesus (Jn17:1f) but it will be fully revealed when Jesus the God-Man returns to earth "with great power & glory" (Mk13;26). Then as Paul goes on to explain in Rom 8:17 human beings who in their sinfulness have "fallen short of the glory of God" 3;23, if they are justified by faith in Jesus will share in God's glory. When Jesus returns his people & the universe will be transformed & pervaded with the glory of God.
Having this hope for the future affects us now.
Many of you know my wife Sheena is expecting our 3rd child at the end of Jan. As a man I find it quite difficult to understand pregnancy. I think it should be an experience to be enjoyed woman say that's because I'm a man!! Even as a man I can see that the experience of Pregnancy involves quite a measure of discomfort. You swell up, get heart burn, nausea, sleeplessness, strange aches & pains - all this never mind the birth itself! And yet throughout the pregnancy a woman has the hope of a child at the end of it, & that keeps her going.
Well in a more assured way, Christians have a great hope of glory at the end of this life or when Jesus returns it gives us great confidence as we live in this life now.
And don't we need it? For the Christian life is indeed one of rejoicing - one of joy, but not necessarily one of rejoicing because things are always easy v3 "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings
Part of being a Christian as we live in this period of history between Jesus' death, resurrection & ascension to heaven 2000 years ago & his return to earth in glory in the future, involves "sufferings. The Bible is clear this is part of our Christian experience & we should expect such pressures, particularly the pressures & opposition that come from being associated with Jesus.
Yet Paul says actually we can be positive about them because they are related to the blessing of hope we have in the justification we have received by faith in Jesus. V3 "we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope."
There is a progression; We face pressures, misunderstanding, opposition & we learn to persevere, to put up with the pressures keeping our eyes on Jesus & thanking him that he went through far worse & is with us in our experience.
This perseverance in turn enables God to build in us a mature character, honed by the experience of dealing with pressure. And character builds our hope in God's glorious future, for the God who has been maturing us through difficulty can be trusted to share with us good things in the end. As someone has expressed it, for Christians "trials work for us not against us".
We have the blessing of the hop of glory, but there's a final blessing to consider:
4) Have great Assurance in the gospel v5-11
We live in an uncertain world. Few have any confidence in where we're going or what's going to happen. That uncertainty spills over so Christians in this broken world ask, "Does God really love me?" "How can I be sure?"
2 classic false ways of seeking assurance Works If I keep up my performance, do a bit more, keep being good I'll be sure God loves me. Experiences We want God to give us a special spiritual experience & that will reassure me that He loves me. I wonder if this could be the reason for the hunger for odd spiritual experiences we've seen over recent years?
Paul here tells us how we can be sure answer is the love of God seen in the gospel.
V 5"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us".
The Christian justified by faith in Jesus receives the gift of the Holy Spirit when they put their faith in Jesus. The HS is Jesus' presence with his followers on earth & he makes the love of God real, deep down in our hearts. He promotes joy in our inmost being helping us grasp that God really does love us & has made us his child. (Rom 8:16).
How does the HS do this work of assurance? Should we look for a special "zapping" to reassure us?
Well it is no accident what Paul goes onto say after all there is no paragraph division in the original. V5 "has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
*The HS brings us assurance as we hear & dwell upon God's gospel word about the death of Jesus. We can be sure, as the HS brings us back to the wonder of God's love seen in the cross. (p)
It may be that some of you have started Christmas shopping. Sorry to mention it! Presents are meant to be signs of love after all love is essentially about giving.
If someone is special to us we are more likely to spend more money or put more effort into acquiring or making a Christmas present. If we don't like someone or they have offended us we are not likely to give them a present, but if we are obliged to it will be small or cheap. That's how it usually works with people. God's giving love is so very different.
God has sent his son into our world & He v8 "demonstrates" or proves his own love for us in that "Christ died for us". God had before sent prophets or messenger angels but now he has come himself in his son & his son died for us. Here is the ultimate costly gift. God has given his very self to pour out his love for us.
But what makes it more astonishing still, is what the recipients of the gift of God's love are like. Did you notice the 4 words used to describe human beings in their state of rebellious unbelief? We are v8 "sinners" we have left God's right way for our own & we have fallen short of God's standards.
We are v6 "ungodly"; rebels against God. And we've already seen v10 "we were God's enemies". And if we think we can find a way out ourselves we are reminded v6 "we were still powerless" helpless, unable to get ourselves out of the mess our sin, rebellion & enmity against God has got us into.
God in his brilliant piercing purity is deeply offended by us, there is something seriously wrong with us, we deserve nothing but Hell. (P)
Now granted we can be very generous in giving to those we like or admire, people may even be prepared to sacrifice much for a person they consider worthy. So v7 "..rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die."
But God's love is made known in that he gave himself in Jesus to die a dreadful death on the cross, for undeserving enemies!
V8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. V9 Since we have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be save from his wrath through him?
Do you see something of the enormity of the love of God? In sending Jesus to die for rebels God was giving everything. And he was giving everything to those who deserved nothing, except wrath.
When we doubt, when we feel unsure (as every believer in this world does at times) don't look to yourself be it the quality of your own life or the sensations of your own experiences. They will often disappoint, or you will strive for more & better ones. -Instead look to Jesus, particularly remember the extent of the love God showed in sending him to die for you that is where God's love is supremely demonstrated & proved, that is where our assurance lies. This is our focus as we share bread & wine tonight in HC.
Perhaps you're here tonight & it's not reassurance you need you know you haven't trusted Jesus so you don't know the blessing that come from justification & yet you sense God's spirit drawing you You will never ever encounter love like this give yourself back to him trust in what God has done in Jesus & know this love for yourself.
Conc. The dangers of forest fires are well known throughout the world. It's a danger that also confronted the American pioneers as they crossed the rolling plains of the mid west in search of new land.
The prairie grass could grow as high as a man & when summer came it became dry & dangerous.
Summer also brought storms including "dry" storms with no rain just lightening & thunder. When the lightening struck the ground & the dry grass ignited the fires could streak across the prairie faster than a man could run & much faster than the pioneers with their heavy wagons could move.
Yet the pioneers faced this threat to life with confidence. How?
When a fire was spotted they would stand with their backs to the wind. Then they would light a series of fires that would take off before them. In a few minutes they had a large burnt area in which they could stand with their families & wagons to confidently wait for the ongoing fire. The fire would not burn in the same place twice. Where the fire had already burnt it would not burn again.
There is something seriously wrong with all of us & as a result God's judgement is coming on us all. No one can outpace it; even our best efforts are futile. We cannot save ourselves. Yet there is one place where the fire has already burnt, where God's fierce judgement has already taken place- the cross of Jesus. At the cross, Jesus takes our place & our punishment. If we try to take shelter anywhere else we have no hope.
If we trust Jesus, we can know the great blessings of justification by faith; peace with God instead of wrath, grace to stand in, hope for the future & while we wait tremendous reassurance of his love rooted not in ourselves but in God's unique love proved on the cross.
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