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Romans (Series 2)

Peace and Joy

Romans 5:1-11

Lesson audio

Paul now gives us a rather lyric interlude – if you know how to read it properly. It introduces us to the concept that the Christian life is not peaches and cream, but much more vigorous.

We Have Peace

Romans 5:1-2 NIV

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[1]have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[2] rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

The “Let us” controversy

Those reading this passage in the NIV will note the footnotes, starting with “we have peace.” There is a considerable controversy about this reading.

  • The difference between the two readings is precisely one bar over the letter “o”. It is not surprising, therefore, that alternate texts have different readings. The Textus Receptus, used for the King James, translates it as “we have peace.” The Douay Rheims, the Bible in Basic English and ancient writers (e.g., Chrysostom) read it as “let us have peace.” Commentators disagree.
  • Those advocating the more common interpretation argue that the other version cannot be reconciled with good doctrine, and therefore must be a mistake. This might be related to a Catholic/Protestant point of division, whether or not it is possible to lose one’s salvation, or perhaps the role of works in salvation.

It is possible, in my view, to do that reconciliation.

Peace

If this is the correct reading, then it is clear that peace with God is a choice we make. It is entirely possible to be saved by grace and still be angry with God. We may stand on the solid rock and complain that our troubles are great and that God is not doing what we want. Or we can ask just what peace with God really means. Does it mean that He gives us all we want, or that the conflict that exists between mankind and God is over for us?

An illustration might make this clearer. After the American Civil War, southern citizens we required to take a loyalty oath before being allowed to vote. Many southerners were reluctant to do so. The choice of many was influenced by Robert E. Lee, who counseled them to accept the oath. His argument was simple: the war is over, we lost, and now we must get our state back on track. Loyalty to the Union was a requirement to do that, otherwise the war started all over again. Peace must not only be won, but accepted.

If we have peace with God, though, does this not also imply peace with his children? Could the South have reconciled with the Union government, but not with its citizens? It would have negated the meaning of peace. Similarly, peace with God, accepted, implies peace with his children.

Hope

Let’s be simple about this. Everyone dies. No one wants to. Each of us wants to live a little longer; death always comes too soon.[1] We long for life.

As Christians, that is what is promised for us – life, eternal life. The hope that Paul refers to here is the hope of the resurrection. If there is peace with God, the author of life, then there is hope of life. It is the deepest yearning of the human soul, placed there by a God who knew what it should mean to us.

More than that, there is the hope of glory. We are not being raised simply to a dreary existence, but to the glory of God. This lesson does not have space to expound upon it, but it is sufficient to say that the life to come is vastly superior to that which we have now – if for no other reason than the joy it will have. God himself will wipe away every tear.

Tribulation

Romans 5:3-5 NIV Not only so, but we[3] also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; (4) perseverance, character; and character, hope. (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.

Why would I rejoice?

Ok, so we’re supposed to rejoice – in our sufferings. Why would I want to do a thing like that?

  • It means you’re on the team.[2] Suffering and tribulation are the consequences of becoming a Christian. In a sense, you made it!
  • It’s how you mature in Christ. Even Christ himself was made perfect through suffering.[3] If our Lord found it necessary to suffer to become perfectly fitted for the role he had to play, does it not follow that his followers will suffer likewise?[4]
  • It also produces results in our character that can be obtained no other way.
Results

Specifically, it produces these kinds of results:

  • It produces perseverance. One writer put it this way: “The word rendered “patience,” means rather patient endurance, constancy. It is active rather than passive in meaning. Then the endurance which is developed under tribulation helps to form a tried, tested character”
  • It produces character. The NASB translates this as “proven character,” it can be rendered as trustworthiness as well. It is that sense of one who is consistently loyal to the Lord no matter the circumstances.
  • Which, tried and true, produces hope.
Is hope valid?

So, then, how do I know that the hope I have is indeed correct?

  • We have the testimony of the prophets. So much of what they have predicted came about in Christ that we can trust the rest.
  • We have the evidence of history – no one else rose from the dead.
  • Most of all, we have the Holy Spirit. When you find the Spirit moving within you, remember that this is a guarantee of the hope of the resurrection – as well as guidance for the present.

Reconciliation

Romans 5:6-11 NIV You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (7) Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. (8) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! (10) For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (11) Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Who would you die for?

It’s an interesting question. Deep down inside you, is there really someone who is so dear to you that you’d shove them away from the oncoming train and take the hit yourself?

  • The Scripture commands such love in only one instance: the husband for his wife. And the command is phrased in the idea that you are to love your wife as Christ loved the church.[5]
  • For most of us, we have a rather indefinite list of “good guys” for whom we would die, if the choice came to that. Your children? Your grandchildren?
  • But Christ died for the ungodly – not the good guys but the bad guys.
How much more

The point is rather hyperbolic. If God loved you so much that He sent Christ to die for you, is it at all possible he will then make your new life one of dreary misery, with no hope? It makes no sense; it is contrary to the character of God. His own consistency says that if he loves you enough to go to the Cross, then his love is sufficient to make your life a cause for rejoicing.

That’s one reason we have praise in our worship. You can look at worship as being nothing more than a rock concert with the preacher as the star. If you take it as the church has traditionally, it is much, much more. In the structure of worship you find the life of the Christian. Do you give at church? Then give during the week. Do you pray at church? Then pray during the week. Do you read the Scriptures at church? Then read the Scriptures during the week.

And if you have cause to rejoice during the week for what God has done for you, should you not then praise him for it? If this is so during the week, how much more should it be true in worship – and vice versa.

Praise simply reflects the truth about God – He is love, and his love is so great that he went to the Cross. Beyond that, his love is our constant source of joy in life. We praise God because he, and he alone ultimately, is praiseworthy.

That is the God who is the source of our lives in Christ. What then is suffering, compared to the blessing?



[1] I understand those who see death as a release from pain – but wouldn’t you rather live without the pain?

[2] John 16:33

[3] Hebrews 2:10

[4] Matthew 10:24-25

[5] Ephesians 5:25

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