Rom 5:1-5 - Since We Have Been Justified by Faith …
Have you ever run into a word that you don't know? Of course you have. And what did you do? You asked, or you looked up the meaning in a dictionary, and then you understood. As parents, we teach our children the words and phrases that we know, and yes, some take some esplainin'. There is a phrase that God uses in the Bible that is loaded with useful meaning, and today we stop to consider the meaning that God has given this phrase in our text, and that phrase is "justified by faith." And as we examine Romans 5:1-5, Paul will complete this sentence for us, "Since we have been justified by faith…" He reminds us that "Since we have been justified by faith, we are at peace with God." Secondly, Since we have been justified by faith, we have access to God. And finally, Since we have been justified by faith, we have God's love.
If Paul merely means that there is no obvious hostility, then many people could agree with what he is saying. These days the big buzzword to describe the religion of many Americans is "none". Many Americans answer "none" when asked which religion they practice. And since they have no awareness of their relationship with Father, they would say that they are at peace with God.
The truth is that whether we might be aware of it or not, we are always in a relationship of some sort or another with the Father. The reason that I exist is because He upholds the universe. If He were to decide to forget me, I would not be. I am more dependent on Him than the baby in the mother's womb. That's a relationship.
The reason that I am able to think and reason about this is that He made my race with Adam and Eve and fashioned me in the womb of my mother. He has known me every moment of my life. That's a relationship.
He created this world with purpose and made all that it is in it with a purpose of its own, and He has made His purposes and His purposes for us clear. He has revealed some of His purposes and caused them to be written down. And He has made our moral purposes fully clear in His Law. That's a relationship.
But our own personal purposes as individuals are not what He wished for us. Our purposes are at odds with His. Not only do we break His Law, we ignore it and Him quite often. We make choices that we know are at odds with His Law. That's a relationship, but not a good one.
God calls it enmity. We are born already enemies with God from our conceptions. So even if we should say we are "nones" and have no relationship or knowledge of the Father, we are nonetheless in a relationship with Him, one of ignoring Him, who made us and has cared for us our whole lives.
When Paul says that we are at peace with God, he's clearly not talking about the non-relationship of two people who don't even know each other. He's talking about a change from our natural born state. And what a contrast from the enmity that once characterized our relationship!
The Father has reconciled Himself to us. What we might not even have known we needed to do, what we could never have done ourselves, even in part, the Father did for us by sending His own Son into His Creation, into our race, the sinless One into the midst of our sinfulness. God the Son entered our race in the womb of Mary, into the family of David, born in Bethlehem. He was the opposite of "none." He came knowing His relationship to the Father and to us His brothers and sisters. He came to do the Father's will and save us. He came to lay down His sinless life for us on the cross and rise again from death to give us eternal life. And He did not fail. He won the peace that we have with God, for us, peace that we have hold of by faith. He sent the Spirit to create that in us with His own Word, the same powerful Word that created the world.
This is why Paul says that we have been "justified by faith." "Justified" means that we have been declared acceptable to God and perfect in His sight, because Jesus' perfection has been credited to us as though we ourselves had lived that perfect life that He did. Jesus changed our status with God, but being at peace with God means much more than a status change. Since we have been justified by faith, we have access to God.
"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." We are no longer under God's righteous condemnation of sin. We stand in God's grace. Grace means "undeserved love." God says this, not me. He does not count our sins against us. He looks at you and me and says, "I do declare, you are righteous as far as I will see, for your sins have been removed from you as far as the east is from the west." We never deserved this kind of treatment from God.
So why does He say that we have access. That seems to present an option. If a door is locked, and I have no key, then I have no access. If someone opens the door for me and ushers me into the formerly locked space, then I would say, "I have access now and I did not have it before."
God has given you faith, and in that faith, you live in His grace or you can leave it as you please. No one has forced us to believe. God has forced no one into a love that is no love at all.
We are free to turn Him down, but "having obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." There is no other relationship that we could want more than to be the beloved of the Lord, to be able to go to Him at any time in repentance and have the joy of forgiveness, to be able to go to Him with our cares and concerns at any time and rejoice to know that He will make manifest His love for us; that's what His glory is.
Now Paul throws us a curveball that is meant to shake up our everyday understanding of things. We are born without the ability to see the spiritual truth underlying all things, but now in faith, we are to see God's loving hand in everything that happens to us. There is nothing random about our existence at all. The false idols of probability and happenstance must be cast down, lest we look at our troubles here in this world wrongly.
"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."
The Father and the Son have sent forth their Spirit as promised to make it possible for us to see the truth. Even our sufferings are meant for our good. We don't seek them. And boy do they hurt at times! But look at what the Spirit is doing through them. This is no theoretical exercise. This is like weight lifting, shredding the muscle fibers so that they grow stronger. Just thinking about exercise won't do (Trust me, I know.), and so also with the suffering of the Christian.
We need this strengthening of the Spirit. We need the endurance, character and hope that He produces in us, otherwise we will never grow to be the strong heirs of heaven that God has made us to be.
If you are suffering today, if your life is not going the way that you imagined it, if time has passed by you and you have not become what you imagined you wanted to be, fear not, for God the Spirit has been working in you this whole time. Look at what He directs your attention to. Look at the cross and the empty tomb of God's own Son. Look at His Words of promise and His loving invitations.
This morning we celebrate Trinity Sunday. Today is day to remember the doctrine, the Scriptural truth that God is Father Son and Holy Ghost. That each Person is one with the others in that One divine Being. That truth we could contemplate this forever and not fully understand it.
But Paul reminds us that there is more to it than mere facts about the godhead. He is our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, and He loves us every day, every moment of our lives, everlastingly, and that He gives us everything. Let this be in the front of your mind as you worship Him, the only true God, in faith and full of thankfulness. To Him be the glory, forever and ever. Amen.