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16
Unwavering Faith. Romans 5:1-5a
July 16, 2017

Over this past week, I had the privilege of leading a group of Vacation Bible School kids to focus on scripture and its realities. Although there weren’t any overt professions of faith, we know that God’s word can have a life changing effect on people, even children. But there are so many sources of difficulties for children, that this effect if often doubted or minimized. Teachers, parents, relatives, and even other kids can dismiss the faith of a child because they are a child. But the same work that can change an adult’s life, can equally impact, even a child.

 

One of Satan’s primary tactics against believers is that of making them doubt that salvation is secure forever or that it is real in their personal case. Perhaps for that reason, Paul describes one of the key parts of a Christian’s armor as “the helmet of salvation” (Eph. 6:17; cf 1 Thess. 5:8), provided to surround and protect a believers mind against doubt and insecurity concerning his redemption. This is both objective and subjective. First, salvation can be shown by the objective testimony of Scripture to be eternally secure for all the saved. The issue of eternal security, or “once saved, always saved,” has been hotly debated throughout much of church history. Everyone agrees that the truth or falsehood of that doctrine is of immense importance. But it is also crucial to the believer to recognize the evidence that one actually has that real salvation. Once security is established as a fact of salvation, then assurance must be maintained in the heart of the Christian subjectively.

 

In chapters 3 and 4 of Romans, Paul establishes unequivocally that salvation comes only on the basis of God’s grace working through a believers faith. The apostle has established the fact that faith has always been the only way to salvation. Abraham, the physical progenitor of all Jews and their supreme example of a man right with God, did not accomplish that relationship through his good works but only through his faith. The questions and objections Paul now addresses pertain to how salvation is maintained. “Granted that a person is made right with God only by ‘being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’ ” (3:24; cf 4:24), some of Paul’s readers would say. “Under what conditions then is redemption preserved? If a person is saved only through his faith, apart from any good works they may achieve, does that mean such a person can henceforth live just as they please because of their right relationship with God is eternally secure? Or is salvation preserved by one’s good works?”

 

In developing his argument in the book of Romans against the destructive notion that believers must live in uncertainty about the completion of their salvation, Paul presents “links” in the chain of truth that binds a true believer eternally to their Savior and Lord, completely apart from any effort or merit on the believer’s part. Believer’s can be Assured of their salvation, possessing Unwavering Faithbecause of: 1) The believer’s Peace with God (Romans 5:1), their 2) Standing in Grace (Romans 5:2a), and their 3) Hope of glory (Romans 5:2b-5a)

 

Believer’s can be Assured of their salvation, possessing Unwavering Faithbecause of:

1)   The Believer’s Peace with God(Romans 5:1)

Romans 5:1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV)

The first link in the unbreakable chain that eternally binds believers to Christ is their peace with God. The term therefore connects Paul’s present argument with what he has already said. In fact, “since we have been justified by/through faith” (v. 1) summarizes the entire argument of chaps. 1–4. In chapter 1, the wrath of God is declared. In chapter 2 is the summary of deserving judgement because all have transgressed God’s law and are deserving of His wrath. In chapter 3, we see our inability to save ourselves from the wrath of God and in chapter 4, Abraham is illustrated as the example of one who was justified by faith alone, just as how everyone to repents of sin can be right with God. Now in chapter 5, we see how one can have assurance of faith. Faith does not focus on our faithfulness or trustworthiness, but on God’s. Those who have placed their trust in Christ can rest assured that their faith has been credited to them as righteousness (Rom 4:24). Their confidence is based on the fact that Christ was put to death for their sins and raised again that they might be declared just (Rom 4:25) (Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, pp. 132–133). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.).

 

The verb translated we have is in the present tense, indicating something that is already possessed. Many of a believer’s blessings must await his resurrection and glorification, but peace with God is established the moment he places their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. By believing in Jesus Christ, the divine agent in God’s climactic act of deliverance, Paul and the Roman Christians—and Christians of all ages and placeshave been declared innocent of all charges justly brought against those whosin and fall short of God’s glory(3:23). The peace that Paul is speaking about here is not subjective but objective. It is not a feeling but a fact. Apart from salvation through Jesus Christ, every human being is at enmity with God, spiritually at war with Him (see v 10; cf 8:7), regardless of what their feelings about God may be. God is the enemy of the sinner, and that enmity cannot end unless and until the sinner places their trust in Jesus Christ. But on the cross, Christ took upon Himself all the fury of God’s wrath that those who He would drawn unto Himself, deserve. And those who trust in Christ are no longer God’s enemies and no longer under His wrath, but are at peace with Him. The person who is justified by faith in Christ is at peace with God, regardless of how he may feel about it at any given moment. This involves the destruction of the fancied securities and the false peace that we manufacture, as when we say, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14; 8:11) (Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 219). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.)

 

Through trust in Jesus Christ, a sinner’s war with God is ended for all eternity. This background defines for us what Paul means by “peace with God”: not an inner sense of well-being, or “feeling at peace” (what we might call the “peace of God” [cf. Phil. 4:7]), but the outward situation of being in a relationship of peace with God. (Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 299). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

  • This peace (shalom) is a state of wellbeing with God. Christ said (Mt. 5)blessed are the peacemakers”. Believers not only experience this peace but share the means of peace with others.

 

Please turn to Colossians 1 (p.983)

 

Most unsaved people do not think of themselves as enemies of God. Because they have no conscious feelings of hatred for Him and do not consciously oppose His work or contradict His Word, they consider themselves, at worst, to be “neutral” about God. But no such neutrality is possible. The mind of every unsaved person is at peace only with the things of the flesh, and therefore by definition is “hostile toward God” and cannot be otherwise (Rom. 8:7). Not only are all unbelievers enemies of God but God is also the enemy of all unbelievers, to the degree that He is angry with them every day (cf Ps. 7:11) and condemns them to eternal hell. Every person who is not a child of God is a child of Satan (John 8:44), and every person who is not a citizen of God’s kingdom is a citizen of Satan’s. As Paul declared near the opening of this letter, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18) To those who foolishly think God is too loving to send anyone to hell, Paul declared, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things [the sins listed in v 5] the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6).

 

Paul assured the Colossian believers of their situation of being in Christ:

Colossians 1:19–22 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him (ESV)

  • The most immediate consequence of justification is reconciliation, which is the theme of Romans 5. Reconciliation with God brings peace with God. That peace is permanent and irrevocable, because Jesus Christ, through whom believers receive their reconciliation,always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). “For I will be merciful to their iniquities,” the Lord says of those who belong to Him, “and I will remember their sins no more” (Heb. 8:12; cf 10:17). If anyone is ever to be punished in the future for the sins of believers, it would have to be the One who took them on Himself-Jesus Christ. And that is impossible, because He has already paid the penalty in full.

Illustration:After the famous missionary David Livingstone had spent several years among the Zulus of South Africa, he went with his wife and young child into the interior to minister. When he returned, he discovered that an enemy tribe had attacked the Zulus, killed many of the people, and taken the chief’s son captive. The Zulu chief did not want to make war with the other tribe, but he poignantly asked Dr. Livingstone,How can I be at peace with them while they hold my son prisoner?” Commenting on that story, Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote, “If this attitude is true in the heart of a savage chief, how much more is it true of God the Father toward those who trample under foot His Son, who count the blood of the covenant wherewith they were set apart as an unholy thing, and who continue to despise the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29)?” (God’s River: Romans 5:1–11 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959], p 26).

 

Believer’s can be Assured of their salvation, possessing Unwavering Faithbecause of:

2)      The Believer’s Standing in Grace(Romans 5:2b-5a),

Romans 5:2aThrough 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) (ESV)

 

A second link in the unbreakable chain that eternally binds believers to Christ is their standing in God’s grace. Through him refers, of course, to the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 1). Because of our reconciliation to God the Father through our trust in His Son, we have also obtained access/our introduction by faith into this grace. Access/introduction (Prosagōgē) is used only three times in the New Testament, and in each instance it is used of the believer’s access to God through Jesus Christ (see also Eph. 2:18; 3:12).

 

Please turn to Hebrews 10 (p.1007)

 

For Jews, the idea of having direct access/introduction, to God was unthinkable, because to see God face to face was to die. When God gave His law to Israel at Sinai, He “said to Moses,Go down, warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish’ ” (Ex. 19:20–21). After the Tabernacle was built, and later the Temple, strict boundaries were set. A Gentile could only go into the outer confines and no farther. Jewish women could go beyond the Gentile limit but not much farther. And so it was with the men and the regular priests. Each group could go nearer the Holy of Holies, where God’s divine presence was manifested, but none could actually enter there. Only the high priest could enter, and that only once a year and very briefly. Even he could lose his life if he entered unworthily. Bells were sewn on the special garments he wore on the Day of Atonement, and if the sound of the bells stopped while he was ministering in the Holy of Holies, they knew he had been struck dead by God (Ex. 28:35). But Christ’s death ended that. Through His atoning sacrifice, He made God the Father accessible to any person, Jew or Gentile, who trusts in that sacrifice. The writer of Hebrews encourages believers to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need(Heb. 4:16). To make this truth graphic, when Jesus was crucified, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” by God’s power (Matt. 27:51). His death forever removed the barrier to God’s holy presence that the Temple veil represented. Commenting on that amazing truth, the writer of Hebrews says:

Hebrews 10:19–22 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (ESV)

  • This entrance (v. 19) has been newly inaugurated by Christ’s consecrating work, and it is “livingjust as God himself is “living” (3:12; 9:14; 10:31; 12:22), as the word of God lives (4:12), and as those who follow Christ truly “live” (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2378). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.)

 

On the basis of our faith in Him, Jesus Christ brings believers into this grace in which we stand. Histēmi (stand) here carries the idea of permanence, of standing firm and immovable. This is another PERFECT ACTIVE INDICATIVE; literally “we stand and continue to stand. (Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 5:2). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.) Although faith is necessary for salvation, it is God’s grace, not the believer’s faith, that has the power to save and to keep saved. We are not saved by divine grace and then preserved by human effort. That would be a mockery of God’s grace, meaning that what God begins in us He is either unwilling or unable to preserve and complete. Paul unequivocally declared to the Philippian believers: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect/complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). Emphasizing that same sublime truth, Jude speaks of Christ asHim who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 24). We do not begin in the Spirit to be perfected by the flesh (Gal. 3:3). We are standing on a firm foundation, rather than clinging by our fingertips to some weak and tattered cord (Cottrell, J. (1996). Romans (Vol. 1, Ro 5:2). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.).

 

Standing in grace,we are in the sphere of constant forgiveness. Expressed as an Acrostic, grace is: God’s Righteousness, At Christ’s Expense. Believers will often fall into sin, but their sin is not more powerful than God’s grace. They are the very sins for which Jesus paid the penalty. If no sin a person commits before salvation is too great for Christ’s atoning death to cover, surely no sin a believer commits after salvation is too great to be covered. If a dying Savior could bring us to God’s grace, surely a living Savior can keep us in His grace. To Timothy, his beloved son in the faith, Paul asserted with the utmost confidence: “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

 

Story & Hymn:During Vacation Bible School, we raised funds for a missions project of workers from Erin to a town called “God’s River” in Northern Manitoba. The Cree living there face family turmoil, conflict, depression and suicide. A story was shared of the struggles of a social worker there named Barry and his story of how he found peace with God through Christ. He recognized God’s grace in his life and he now lives to share that hope with the other Cree there.

The former slave trader John Newton came through difficulties in his life and also lived to proclaim that liberty. He summarized it in his Hymn, “Amazing Grace”: ‎1. Amazing grace! how sweet the sound! That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see. ‎2. 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed! ‎3. Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come. 'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home. ‎4. When we've been there ten thousand years, Bright-shining as the sun, We've no less days to sing God's praise Than when we'd first begun.

 

Finally, believer’s can be Assured of their salvation, possessing Unwavering Faithbecause of:

3)      The Believer’s Hope of Glory(Romans 5:2b-5a)

Romans 5:2b-5a(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.) (ESV)

 

A third link in the unbreakable chain that eternally binds believers to Christ and gives them reason to rejoice/exult is their hope of the glory of God. Since every aspect of it is solely the work of God, salvation cannot possibly be lost. And the end of that marvelous divine work is the ultimate glorification of every believer in Jesus Christ. As the apostle has already established, salvation is anchored in the past because Christ has made peace with God for all those who trust in Him (5:1). It is anchored in the present because, by Christ’s continual intercession (Heb. 7:25), every believer now stands securely in God’s grace (v. 2a). Next he proclaims that salvation is also anchored in the future, because God gives every one of His children the unchangeable promise that one day they will be clothed with the glory of His own Son. Hope is not superficial optimism but the confident assurance of that which will surely come to pass. It distinguishes those who have kept the faith in times of severe testing (Mounce, R. H. (1995). Romans (Vol. 27, p. 135). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.).

 

To rejoice/exult (Kauchaomai) denotes jubilation and rejoicing. The Christian has no reason to fear the future and every reason to rejoice in it, because he has the divinely-secured hope that the believer’s ultimate destiny is to share in the very glory of God. The Greek word for glory (doxa) comes over to English in our word doxology, a hymn of adoration and praise to God. A doxology focuses upon who God is in His very nature, more than what He does in his powerful actions. Glory describes the splendor and brilliance of the character of God (Bence, C. L. (1996). Romans: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (p. 100). Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House.).

 

Jesus Christ,  embodying the glory of God,  guarantees the believer’s hope because He Himself is our hope (1 Tim. 1:1). In His beautiful high priestly prayer, Jesus said to His heavenly Father, “And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one” (John 17:22). A believer does not earn their future glory in heaven but will receive it from God’s gracious hand, just as a believer received redemption when they first trusted in Christ. We used to fall short of the glory of God (3:23), but now we boast in it! This sets us apart from the rest of the world. The Eastern religions offer no hope with their endless nightmare of reincarnations. Existentialists see the future as absurd. Evolutionists have no comfort. We Christiansrejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Hughes, R. K. (1991). Romans: righteousness from heaven (pp. 107–108). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.).

 

Please turn to Philippians 3 (p.982)

 

When our own perishable and mortal bodies one day are raised imperishable and immortal (1 Cor. 15:53–54), they will be fit to receive and to display God’s divine glory. Our faith is based on this confidence. As Paul explains:

Philippians 3:20–4:120 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. (ESV)

 

Because our human understanding is so imperfect, it is impossible for us to comprehend the wonder and magnitude of the glory of God. Nevertheless, we have the Lord’s own assurance that one day we not only will behold His divine glory but will partake of it. The glory of His own divine holiness and majestic perfection will radiate in us and through us for all eternity.

 

In addition to rejoicing in our certain hope of the glory of God, verse 3 notes that we rejoice/exult in our sufferings/tribulations. Verses 3–5a of Romans 5 are a synopsis of Christian maturity and sanctification, which, as every other aspect of salvation, is accomplished by God’s gracious power. In his beautiful benediction at the end of his first letter to Thessalonica, Paul prays, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thess. 5:23–24).

 

Sufferings/tribulations (Thlipsis) has the underlying meaning of being under pressure and was used of squeezing olives in a press in order to extract the oil and of squeezing grapes to extract the juice. The sufferings/tribulations of which Paul is speaking are not the troubles that are common to all humanity but the troubles that Christians suffer for the sake of their Lord. One of the less attractive promises that Scripture gives believers is that those who are faithful can be certain of being under pressure from Satan and from the present world system that is under his control. All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” Paul assured Timothy (2 Tim. 3:12). The last beatitude, which is as long as all the others together, contains the promise that persecution brings God’s blessing (Matt. 5:10–12). Perhaps because that beatitude is humanly so unappealing, it is given twice (vv. 10, 11) yet it is accompanied by the admonition to “rejoice, and be glad” when persecution comes (v. 12). Persecution for Christ’s sake in this life is itself an earnest or guarantee of our future glory. “For momentary, light affliction,” Paul assures us, “is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). Persecution for Christ’s sake is evidence that we are living Christlike lives. “Remember the word that I said to you,” Jesus reminded His disciples, “ ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20; cf. Matt. 10:24–25).

 

Christians not only should rejoice in sufferings/tribulations because those hardships are evidence of faithful living which is blessed and rewarded, but also because of the spiritual benefits they produce. Suffering/Tribulation produces/brings about endurance/perseverance. Endurance/Perseverance (Hupomonē) is often translated “patience,” as it is in the King James Version. It regards the ability to continue working in the face of strong opposition and great obstacles. This means not merely that we are to exult “in the midst of” afflictions but that we are to exult “in” the afflictions themselves: that is, to view them as a basis for further confidence in our redeemed status.( Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 302). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.) ‘Afflictions’ are not an end in themselves, for they nurture something further, namely, ‘patience’. This word hupomonē, which literally means ‘remaining under’, suggests the necessity of submitting to circumstances that we cannot change. As active people who automatically seek to ‘fix’ things, this ‘patience’ does not come easily! (Barnett, P. (2003). Romans: The Revelation of God’s Righteousness (p. 103). Scotland: Christian Focus Publications.)

 

 

verse 4 continues, endurance produces character; and character produces hope. Our afflictions for Christ’s sake produce ever-increasing blessings. It should not seem strange, then, that God’s children are destined for affliction in this life (1 Thess. 3:3). The Greek term (dokimē) translated character simply means “proof,” which in the present context obviously refers to Christian character. The term was used of testing precious metals such as silver and gold to demonstrate their purity. When Christians experience tribulations that demand perseverance, that perseverance, in turn, produces in them proven spiritual character. Just as a metalsmith uses intense heat to melt silver and gold in order to cleanse them of physical impurities, so does God use tribulations to cleanse His children of spiritual impurities. “Blessed is a one who perseveres under trial,” James assures believers; “for once they have been approved, they will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). Character is a quality of confidence that comes from having been through an experience. It only comes from following through and doing your duty despite it all. And the result is a growing poise that only comes from the experience. For example, a sports team new to the championship play-offs may play poorly because they have not been in that position before. But a “tested” team, who have experienced the play-offs in previous seasons, will have fewer jitters. They perform well because they have been there before. Notice that without the first step, the second step won’t happen. Suffering, if it first leads you to focus on God and proper priorities, will lead to greater confidence as you come through it (Keller, T. (2014). Romans 1–7 for You. (C. Laferton, Ed.) (pp. 112–113). The Good Book Company.).

 

Why does tested character spark hope? Because moral transformation constitutes evidence that one has really been changed by God. Thus it assures believers that the hope of future glory is not an illusion. There is a pattern of growth in the here and now, however imperfect, that indicates that we are changing. Believers, then, become assured that the process that God has begun he will complete (1 Cor. 1:8; Phil. 1:6) (Schreiner, T. R. (1998). Romans (Vol. 6, p. 256). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.).

 

Coming full circle, as it were, Paul concludes in the beginning of verse 5 that our “hope of the glory of God” (v. 2) is increased and strengthened by our heavenly Father through the process of tribulation, perseverance, and proven character, the end product of which is hope that does not put us to shame/disappoint. Our hope in God’s promises will never disappoint us by being unfulfilled. When our hope is in God, we are absolutely assured that he will fulfill all that he has promised—we will be resurrected to eternal life and will be with him in glory (Barton, B. B., Veerman, D., & Wilson, N. S. (1992). Romans (p. 102). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.).

 

The present irony while we wait for glorification, is that the more a believer pursues holiness, the more we will be persecuted and troubled and the greater will be our hope as we are sustained through it all by God’s powerful grace. Sufferings, rather than threatening or weakening our hope, as we might expect to be the case, will, instead, increase our certainty in that hope. Hope, like a muscle, will not be strong if it goes unused. It is in suffering that we must exercise with deliberation and fortitude our hope, and the constant reaffirmation of hope in the midst of apparently “hopeless” circumstances will bring ever-deeper conviction of the reality and certainty of that for which we hope (Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (pp. 303–304). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).

 

For those who repent of their sin and trust in Christ they have peace, they stand in grace and live in hope. This security was obtained in the past by Christ, maintained in the present by Christ and guaranteed for the future on Christ. We are called to move beyond just understanding the truth of justification by faith alone, to experience the power of assurance.

 

(Format Note: Some base commentary from MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 270–289). Chicago: Moody Press.)

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