Theology of Romans, Part 3

 

joy

Joy

 

Romans chapter 5 is a real turning point in Paul’s letter to the Romans.  The apostle had been discussing the magnificent doctrine of justification by faith, and now he assumes his readers are as excited about it as he is.

So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.  (Romans 5:1  TLB)

From this point on, Paul is finished his explanation and defense of justification and moves on to another aspect of the same doctrine:  spelling out the implications of our new relationship with God based on our justification.

Verse 11 may be viewed as the climax of not only chapter 5, but also of Paul’s argument of the doctrine of justification.  Christ died for our sins and we have been justified.  We therefore have peace with God and are now free to experience God’s massive storehouse of grace.

Now we rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done in dying for our sins—making us friends of God.  (Romans 5:11  TLB)

The great Cross of Jesus works both ways:  we have been brought close to God and He has been brought close to us. Because of that new relationship, we experience a number of things, culminating in joy previously unknown to man.

1.  Some consequences of our justification

Peace, Romans 5:1

So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. (TLB)

This verse is fraught with translational difficulties.  Do we have peace with God?  Or, are we supposed to make peace with God?  Different translations approach this textual problem differently, but the sense Paul probably meant to convey is this:  The Christian has been justified by his faith in the work of Christ on the Cross.  The Christian now lives at peace with his God.  Let’s enjoy that peace!

This new peace with God is not necessarily something that we can “feel.”  Rather, it is an objective peace based on a real change in our status or standing before God.  It is, as J.B. Philips translated the verse, something to “be grasped”; the Christian needs to try to understand this new peace he has with God.  The reality of this new peace boggles the mind because it ought to change every aspect of our lives.  Think about alienation from God, which was the reality before justification.  Without God, where did you find the meaning or purpose for your life?  Without God, what was the foundation of your hope for the future?  All that changed the moment of your new birth.

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!  (2 Corinthians 5:17  TLB)

This kind of peace resulting from our re-creation must alter our lives!

Grace, Romans 5:2

…through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  (NKJV)

More accurately, the believer has “access by faith” to God’s grace.  But it’s not faith in God’s grace that makes that grace real, and it’s  not faith in your goodness; it’s faith in the work of Jesus Christ; faith is merely the instrument.  Our faith in what Jesus did for us allows our Lord to, as it were, take us by the hand to introduce us to God’s grace.   Paul puts this idea across to another congregation like this:

And he has brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were very far away from him, and to us Jews who were near.  Now all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, may come to God the Father with the Holy Spirit’s help because of what Christ has done for us.  (Ephesians 2:17, 18  TLB)

This “grace in which we stand” opens the door for us to enjoy all the spiritual blessings you can imagine in Christ.  Furthermore, this “grace,” which is a present reality, is also a future hope.  Everett Harrison wrote:

Grace gives a foothold in the door that one day will swing wide open to permit the enjoyment of the glorious presence of the Almighty, a privilege to be enjoyed forever.

In other words, the grace that we as Christians enjoy today is the slightest foretaste of what we can expect to experience in Heaven, in the literal presence of God the Father.

Hope in trials, Romans 5:3

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient.  (TLB)

Here is the present benefit of God’s grace:  we rejoice in the fact of our glorious future, but we are also able to rejoice in the here-and-now, even during hard times.  We might well wonder why trials and tribulations present an excuse for joy.  The reason is very simple:  trials and tribulations help us to trust the right Person.  When we stop trusting ourselves or other people for deliverance during difficult times and we place our full faith and trust in God to sustain us, we actually persevere.  Perseverance, by the way, is not the same thing as avoidance.  Perseverance is a wonderful attitude that enables a believer to look beyond today to find hope and meaning in God.

Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.  (James 2:1—4  TLB)

So trials should never, ever destroy our faith!  They should have the exact opposite effect on us:  they ought to help develop a Godly character in us.  Not only that, as we exhibit the correct attitude during hard times, we bring glory to God.

Three different times I begged God to make me well again.  Each time he said, “No. But I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.” Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities.  (2 Corinthians 11:8, 9  TLB)

Andrew Murray, never at a loss for words, puts it like this:

First, God brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place;  in that fact I will rejoice.  Next, He will be with me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.  Then He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.  Last, in His good time He can bring me out again—how and when He knows.

John Knox gives us some useful advice saying:

It is impossible to suppose that Paul is intending to say that character is the source of our hope.  That source is clearly the grace in which we stand.  But the experience of tribulations properly sustained can serve to fortify the very hope they seem calculated to destroy.

Love of God, Romans 5:5

Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.  (TLB)

Our hope is not an illusion; it is real.  The Living Bible’s “hold our heads up high” and the KJV’s “we are not ashamed” simply mean we Christians will never be let down; we will never be disappointed in the hope brought about by God’s grace.  It is God’s love poured into us that makes everything real (not our love for God) .  We are made keenly aware of God’s love for us by the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

However, a quick lesson in Greek is needed at this point.  At our conversion, God’s love was poured into us.  But now, even long after our conversion, that love continues to flow into us!  The Greek word used is ekchoo, and it suggests a running stream.  God’s love flowing is a continuous action; it never stops.

It’s also interesting that at this point in Paul’s letter he is now using “God’s grace” and “God’s love” interchangeably, and both are linked to a work of the Holy Spirit.  Our faith is just our response to this amazing grace and love given to us.

2.  Ultimate Joy

Verses 6—10 outline in greater detail what Jesus did for us.  Verse 9 sums it up:

And since by his blood he did all this for us as sinners, how much more will he do for us now that he has declared us not guilty? Now he will save us from all of God’s wrath to come.  Romans 5:9  TLB)

In view of the magnitude of Christ’s work on our behalf, that brings us to the ultimate joy:

Now we rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God—all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done in dying for our sins—making us friends of God.  (Romans 5:11  TLB)

In regards to this joy, understand the following things:

It is absolutely needed, Psalm 51:12

Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.  (TLB)

The joy Christians experience is a direct result of their salvation!  You can’t be saved without experiencing joy in God.  If you are not experiencing joy in Jesus today, you need to examine your relationship to Him.  Have you experienced the new birth?  Are you saved but stuck in a meaningless “religion” full of man’s doctrines?  If you are, no wonder your joy is lacking!  There is abundant joy in Jesus, but never confuse Jesus with religion.  They are not the same by any stretch of the imagination.

Not only that, consider this:

…it is a time to celebrate with a hearty meal and to send presents to those in need, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. You must not be dejected and sad!  (Nehemiah 8:10  TLB)

The joy that flows from God is what gives its recipient strength.  Joy in the Lord is a powerful spiritual force that Christians should be tapping into daily.  D.L. Moody famously remarked:

God never uses a discouraged man.

Why?  Because in Christ there can be NO discouragement.  Joy in the Lord makes us strong; it gives us perspective.  You may “feel” discouraged for the moment, but take heart!

Weeping may go on all night, but in the morning there is joy.  (Psalm 30:5b  TLB)

It is God’s will, John 15:11

I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your cup of joy will overflow!  (TLB)

Did you know it is God’s will for you, if you are born again, to be full of joy?  It is!  Jesus has spoken and He did what He did so that HIS joy would remain in believers.  But mark this:  it is HIS joy that is to remain in us, not the joy the world has.

This may be why some Christians seem to be joyless; they are looking for something they already possess, but they are looking for it in the wrong places.  It’s the “joy of the Lord,” not the joy found in God’s material blessings or your own good fortune.

Peter and John discovered this joy even while they were suffering for the sake of the Gospel.

They left the Council chamber rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer dishonor for his name.  (Acts 5:41  TLB)

The joy of the Lord is something worldly people just don’t understand because it is impossible for them to experience it.  The joy of the Lord is only for you, if you are born again.

It is conditional, Isaiah 61:10

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels…  (NKJV)

As stated previously, the Christian’s joy is to be IN the Lord; it is not to be in ourselves, other people or anything we have.

You love him even though you have never seen him; though not seeing him, you trust him; and even now you are happy with the inexpressible joy that comes from heaven itself.  (1 Peter 1:8  TLB)

To “rejoice in the Lord” means:

  • We rejoice in His Name, Psalm 20:5

May there be shouts of joy when we hear the news of your victory, flags flying with praise to God for all that he has done for you. May he answer all your prayers!  (TLB)

  • We rejoice in His work, Isaiah 51:11

The time will come when God’s redeemed will all come home again. They shall come with singing to Jerusalem, filled with joy and everlasting gladness; sorrow and mourning will all disappear.  (TLB)

  • We rejoice in His Word, Nehemiah 8:12

So the people went away to eat a festive meal and to send presents; it was a time of great and joyful celebration because they could hear and understand God’s words.  (TLB)

 

 

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