What Else Has God Given?

October 24, 2021 Speaker: Ben Janssen Series: Romans: Real Hope for the Righteousness of God

Scripture: Romans 5:1–5:11

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 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. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

The opening words of chapter five (“therefore, since”) remind us that while we are making a transition into a new section in Romans, it is a section that is built upon the foundation of the first four chapters. The theme of justification by faith has dominated the previous section. Abraham was justified by faith, and the same holds true for you and me “who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord” (v. 24). But let’s first remind ourselves what this justification by faith is. There are two main things to keep in mind.

The first thing we need to remember is that it is God who first must be justified. The word justification refers to being right, or being proven right, being vindicated. God has been vindicated against the charge of being either unjust for overlooking sin or of being unfaithful by not keeping his promise to Israel and to the world. In the gospel—in the person and work of Jesus, in Jesus’s faithfulness—the righteousness of God, that is, God’s rightness, has been manifested or vindicated. God is just.

But second, this means that God is also the justifier, the one who can count or credit us with righteousness, the one who can rightly, justly say that we share in his rightness, in his vindication. How does he do this? By faith. It is by believing and trusting in Jesus that we rightly receive the status of being right.

Now the next four chapters in Romans are meant “to draw out what having been justified by faith means.”[1] It’s like Paul has labored to help us see that the gospel promise is justification by faith in Christ, but now he labors to help us see what this means for us who are so justified. What are the implications for our lives now? What difference does justification by faith make for how we now live? Okay, so we are justified by faith, but now what? What else has God given?

This is important because if we are not to be ashamed of the gospel (Rom 1:16), then we need to be satisfied by the gospel. It needs to be meaningful and practical in our lives. Justification by faith cannot be a doctrine left in the abstract or we’re in danger of treating it like a Christmas present we received when we were young, a momentary joy that doesn’t last beyond the next day or week. So what we find in this passage is that along with justification by faith come all the other benefits of Christ, the basis for our enjoyment of those benefits, and the boast of the Christian, the evidence that we are satisfied with the gospel are not ashamed to proclaim it.

The Benefits of Christ

Here in chapter 5, we get right to this question. “Since we have been justified by faith,” Paul writes, “we have peace with God” (v. 1), “we have also obtained access . . . into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (v. 2). Peace, grace, hope—here are the first benefits Paul enumerates for those who are justified by faith.

Peace with God

To have “peace with God” means that the justified have been reconciled to God. Verse 10 remind us that we were once at odds with God; we were his enemies. But to be justified means that we are now his friends.[2] When we speak of justification, we must not think of it as a status that is granted to us by an impersonal God. Because sin, which creates the need for justification, is an offense against the one who justifies, God could not possibly justify us and then remain distant from us. This is all the more true when we remember that justification is not simply found “by faith”  but “by faith in Christ.” So, as verse 1 states, if we are justified by faith in Christ, then this peace with God we have is also “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are reconciled to God because we’ve been united to God’s son by faith. So, peace with God is a fact, a benefit that is ours who are justified by faith in Christ. If you trust in Christ, then you also have been reconciled to God, and he does not hold you away from him at a distance. He does not merely tolerate you. He welcomes you as his friend.

Access into Grace

Verse 2 says that “through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” So, another benefit that we now must have if we have been justified is here described as though we’ve walked into a new room and we now live in a new realm, a new world. This world is called grace, and grace makes us think of an environment of freedom and generosity. The last verse of this chapter speaks of grace “reigning” as opposed to sin “reigning.” So if we’ve been justified by faith in Christ, then it is also true that in Christ we are no longer under the rule of sin and death. Christian, if you feel like you are enslaved to sin, then notice here this benefit that is yours in Christ, through faith in Christ. There is a stronger power than sin, and in Christ you have access into this greater power called grace.

Hope of Glory

There’s a third benefit that comes with justification. Verse 2 also says, “and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” The glory of God, which we lack because of sin (Rom 3:23), is something those who are justified by faith can rejoice in. Why? Because if we have indeed been justified by faith in Christ, then we can be certain that we will not be left out of the final outcome of this faith. If we’ve been justified by faith in Christ, then we can be sure that, holding on to faith in Christ, we will not fail to receive the goal of faith (1 Pet 1:9). We can be certain that we will share in his resurrection, that our bodies will be raised from the dead and transformed into immortal, glorified bodies, and we will share eternally in the glory of God himself, the glory we now lack because of sin.

Rejoicing in Suffering

Far too many of us Christians do not stop to ponder the implications of our justification by faith in union with Jesus. We live as though we have one or another of the benefits of Christ without considering the fact that in Christ we share in all his benefits. Every single one of them. Not believing this, or at least not thinking much about it, a verse like the one we read next just seems impossible. Look at verse 3. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings.” I suppose we can say it’s a fourth benefit of our justification mentioned in this passage. It’s a strange benefit to be sure, but it comes to us with this explanation: “suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope.” So suffering, the argument goes, doesn’t diminish hope but produces it or leads to it.

That’s fine if the argument is true, but clearly it is not true, at least not in every case. Suffering so often leads people into hopelessness and despair. The Bible acknowledges this. The Psalms are filled with complaints to the Lord in suffering and with clear depictions of despair. What makes the difference is not that Christians are spared from tribulation nor yet that these tribulations are not in themselves distressing. Paul wrote elsewhere of experiencing such affliction that he “despaired of life itself” (2 Cor 1:8). John Calvin noted that “the Lord sometimes so depresses . . . for a time his people, that they can hardly breathe, and can hardly remember any source of consolation. But then, “in a moment he brings to life those whom he had nearly sunk in the darkness of death.”[3]

Christian rejoicing in suffering usually takes place after the fact, when the progression from enduring suffering to proven character ends with increased hope, a hope which “does not put us to shame.” That is, a hope that does not disappoint because it comes true.[4] If you have hope, you can cope with just about anything. If what you have got to now cope with ends up increasing your confidence in what it is you are hoping for, then suffering becomes the ground for further rejoicing.

The Basis for the Benefits

Now, stay with me here because the argument that is being sustained here—that Christians find in Christ the gift of rejoicing in suffering—is given further grounding at the end of verse 5, and it is critical to the validation of what is being put forward. We’ve been told about three benefits, benefits we must now possess if we have been justified by faith. But underneath it all, upholding and sustaining these benefits for us, is the assurance that God loves us. This is the basis for us enjoying the benefits of faith in Christ. If we can know that God is 100% for us, that his love for us is sure and certain, that he withholds nothing of his immense love for us, then even if we suffer horrific circumstances, we will be able to maintain are confident hope that even in this dread we will ultimately find sincere reasons to say, “I thank God for this suffering.”

The Subjective Experience of God’s Love

But how do you know that God loves you? How can you be sure? We need not only see it, but we also need to feel it. Both are important, and God sees to it that those he has justified have both.

Here in verse 5, the emphasis is on the subjective experience of God’s love. We are not disappointed in our hope in God “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.” Poured. Not sprayed. Not sprinkled. Poured out. God’s love for his people has been poured into our hearts, so that we are meant to not only know God but to enjoy him. One of the great aims of the gospel is that we experience a loving fellowship with God that is every bit as satisfying as a coffee date with a good friend or a hunting or golf trip with your best buddy. Do you experience God and his love for you like that?

How can we? The text tells us: “through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” If you genuinely experience God’s love and enjoy God’s friendly company it will be through the agency of the Holy Spirit. But this Holy Spirit has been given to all who belong to Christ (Rom 8:9). The subjective experience of God’s love is not a feature of personality nor is it some mysterious religious trance into which one might enter. It reaches our heart and leads us to see it and savor it through the agency of the Holy Spirit.[5]

The Objective Reality of God’s Love

But what should you do if you do not feel this love? The important thing to understand is that the subjective experience of God’s love cannot be isolated from the objective reality of that love. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to impress upon our hearts the objective reality of God’s love. Without this objective reality, your subjective experience will be lacking or you will be seriously deceived about the love of God.

What is this objective reality? In a word it is this, at the end of verse 6: “Christ died for the ungodly.” Or, to make it more personal, we see these words at the end of verse 8: “Christ died for us.” Here is where we see the love of God most plainly declared and attested. Just consider the answers to three questions.

First, when did Christ die? The answer in verse 6 is “while we were still weak” and “at the right time.” Of course, we know when in history Christ died, but the question here relates to the timing of Christ’s death in relation to the state of humanity. Jesus did not die when humans were strong but when we were weak. He did not lay down his life for the powerful but for the powerless. His death came “at the right time” because otherwise humanity would have been without rescue from their peril. Christ died when it had become clear that there could be no other hope for the world.

Second, for whom did he die? The answer in these verses comes in a crescendo: the weak, the ungodly (v. 6), sinners (v. 8), enemies (v. 10).[6] The point made plain is that Christ died for those who were not in any way moving toward God or seeking a resolution for the hostility between themselves and God. He died for those who were his most bitter enemies. Indeed, he died for those who were carrying out his crucifixion. Now just think of it. Who does that? We do of course find heroic examples of people who give up their lives for someone else, and Jesus says that doing this is the greatest example of love known to man. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). A person may willingly give up his life for someone who has some claim upon them, whether by relationship or friendship or by some moral imperative, as in risking one’s life to save someone else. Verses 7 and 8 recognize this reality in human experience. But God’s love goes further still. He laid down his life for his enemies!

Why would he do this? That’s the third question to ponder. And the answer here is simply to demonstrate the greatness of God’s love. Yes, of course he died to overcome hostility, to reconcile sinners to himself, to turn us from enemies into friends. His love has a saving purpose—to spare us from his righteous wrath—and it accomplishes that purpose for his elect. But that saving purpose does not diminish the free and unconditional love of God demonstrated by the cross of Christ for the world (Jn 3:16). If you reject this love, you will perish under his righteous wrath, but this wrath in no way compromises or cancels out the greatness of his love. God’s love and God’s wrath are both righteous (Rom 1:16-18), so they are not opposites.

So what we can say is this: if pondering the gospel leads you to the subjective experience of God’s great love, it is because of the indwelling testimony of God’s Holy Spirit. If you taste it, this also is evidence that you belong to Christ, since it is only by his Spirit that you can taste it.

If you are not so moved by the gospel than what should you do? Ask the Holy Spirit to help but look to the gospel itself. Look to the cross of Christ and what he has done for you there. For this is the greatest display of God’s great love. And it is his love that assures you that you possess all the benefits of Christ.

The Boast of the Christian

When we come to verse 9, we find yet another implication that emerges from our justification, another benefit. What else has God done for us? What else has God given? Verse 9 tells us there is still “much more” to look forward to. As we keep on unpacking the treasures of Christ, the response can only be celebration. Rejoicing. Or maybe the word should be boasting, the boast of the Christian because of the benefits of Christ.

Boasting in God

We see the word rejoice in verses 2-3, but we come across it again in verse 11. “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Three times in this passage we see this verb rejoice, a Greek verb that occurs 36 times in the New Testament. It is the Greek word for boasting, and it is translated that way in the ESV virtually every other time it occurs.[7]

Boasting, the expression of taking pride in something, is not inherently sinful. It is only sinful if the object is anything other than God himself, but it is also sinful to not boast at all. God commands us to boast—in him (1 Cor 1:31)! God calls us to rejoice—in him! Can there be a greater sin than to be dissatisfied with God and all the benefits he has granted to us freely in Jesus Christ?

Christians are not commanded to pretend. We can be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor 6:10). Why? Because we are well aware that things are not yet what they ought to be, but we are confident that God’s promised outcome will come to pass at last.[8] So our boasting is strange; it appears at all times. It is to characterize the Christian’s life.[9] Even when we suffer, we rejoice, that is, we boast in God. Why? Because of all the benefits we’ve been given in Christ.

Happily, Ever After

In verse 9, the Apostle speaks of the now present reality of our justification “by his blood.” We who trust in Christ are already justified by virtue of his death. The sacrificial nature of the cross signifies the establishment, the inauguration, of the New Covenant, that great promise of the Old Testament and indeed of the entire Bible. In Christ we have already come in one sense to the end of the story. But that does not mean there is not more to come, that there is not still a future into which the gospel still speaks and offers hope. Fairy tales may end with, “And they all lived happily ever after,” but the gospel tells us more about what comes after. If we are already justified members of the New Covenant by virtue of Christ’s death, “much more,” verse 10 explains, “shall we be saved by his life.”

Verses 9 and 10 are parallel and complementary. They tell us that both justification (righteousness) and reconciliation are benefits that are ours in Christ, gained for us by the New Covenant inaugurated by his sacrificial death. But the point of these two verses is to highlight how much more there is to be gleaned in the fact that Christ lives. If we’ve been given so much by virtue of Christ’s death, then just imagine what all we have been given by virtue of his resurrection.

So again: the death of Jesus means that the problem of God’s wrath against sinners has a solution, a solution which includes turning these sinners from God’s enemies into his friends. But God’s purpose for us in Christ is so much more than even that! His purpose is life from death and even life beyond death—"a life no longer confined or threatened by death.”[10] That is the resurrection of the body for which we await. It is still in our future, and it is every bit as exciting as Easter morning must have been for the disciples of Jesus.

The Present Future

But even this benefit has a present manifestation and enjoyment. Remember, we come to share in the benefits of Christ only by sharing in Christ himself. And since Christ has already died and has already risen, we have come to share already in the benefit of both his death as well as his resurrected life. To be “saved by his life” (v. 10) means that not only have we been spared from the coming final judgment, from the wrath of God (verse 9), from hell. If we’ve been spared from this death, it means we’ve simultaneously been granted life, the life of the resurrected Christ himself.

When we think then, of what it is we’ve been given in Christ, we cannot think only of what we have in his death, we must also ponder what we have in his resurrection. Only then can we think of what all we have truly been given, not merely a salvation from sin and death but a salvation to righteousness and life, entrance into God’s new world where we find that we are saved “not as souls, but as wholes.”[11] If we can see this, it will have a profound effect on everything in life.

Oh how God loves you and me! He loves all that we are, body and soul together. He cares about every aspect of your existence. And the God who has given you life will, in Christ, give you even more life, life more abundant than you could ever dare to dream.

_____

[1] C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2 vols., The International Critical Commentary (New York: T&T Clark International, 2003), 1:253–54.

[2] Ibid., 1:257.

[3] John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, trans. John Owen (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 190–91.

[4] Walter Bauer et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 517.

[5] Cranfield, Epistle to the Romans, 1:263.

[6] James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1–8, vol. 38A, Word Biblical Commentary (Word, Incorporated, 1988), 254.

[7] The only other exception is in Philippians 3:3 where it is translated “to glory in.”

[8] Dunn, Romans 1–8, 249.

[9] Cranfield, Epistle to the Romans, 1:268.

[10] Dunn, Romans 1–8, 260.

[11] Tom Wright, Surprised by Hope (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2007), 211.

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