Posts Tagged 'hope'

SOME FRUIT OF JUSTIFICATION

Justification makes a believer happy!

Romans 5:1—11

Chapter 5 of Romans marks a turning point. Up till now, Paul has been a professor of New Testament doctrine, teaching his readers all about the doctrine we call Justification By Faith. The first four chapters of this letter are what Joe Friday would call “only the facts.” In chapters 5 to 8, Paul leaves the facts of justification to cover the fruits of justification. The kind of fruit varies from chapter to chapter, and in chapter 5 Paul discusses a number of fruit that justification brings, all of which result in hope in the life of every believer.

1. Peace, vs. 1

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…

The first fruit or benefit of having been justified by faith is “peace with God.” It seems as though this is one thing human beings have been looking for almost since the very beginning. For most people, a life of peace is a fleeting dream. Grasping peace is like trying to remember the details of a dream you just awoke from. The problem is that while people want peace, they want it on their terms, not God’s terms. And unfortunately, almost always your terms will be in conflict with other peoples’ terms. This is true of God. If you pursue peace on your terms, you will be in conflict with God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ comes between man and God and paves the way for peace between the two.

The Greek word for “peace” that Paul used is eirene, and it does not primarily suggest an attitude or a relationship between people but rather a “state” or a “time of peace” in between an everlasting state of war. Thanks to the work of Jesus Christ, man has been set free from the continuing state of war that exists between God and the human race and can now be at peace.

This peace is both objective and subjective. We have been given peace through Jesus Christ, but it is up to us to enjoy it; to claim it. In fact, this is how J.B. Phillips translates the second part of verse 1:

Let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God.

The believer must never lose sight of the fact through the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, we have an unshakable hope for the future. This hope is rooted and grounded in our relationship with Christ:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… (Romans 8:1)

Peace with God is available only to those who have embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Peace with God is the foundation of all other peace in the world. This is why there will never be peace in the world or permanent peace in the human heart until all men everywhere submit to the rule of God.

Martin Luther once preached a sermon on Romans 5 and made some interesting observations, which are worth sharing:

  • The righteous man has peace with God but affliction with the world because he lives in the Spirit.
  • The unrighteous man has peace with the world but affliction and tribulation with god because he lives in the flesh.
  • But as the Spirit is eternal, so also will be the peace of the righteous man and tribulation of the unrighteous.
  • And as the flesh is temporal, so will be the tribulation of the righteous and peace of the unrighteous.

2. Access, vs. 2a

…through whom we have gained access by faith…

Here is the second benefit of justification: access to the presence and reality of God. This reminds us of something else Paul wrote:

For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18)

This was accomplished through Christ’s vicarious sacrifice. It was the shedding of His blood that brought reconciliation and it was the Holy Spirit that causes believers to appropriate and appreciate this great act of redemption.

The Greek ten prosagogen, translated “access,” means “our introduction.” The idea Paul is trying to get across is that of entrance into the presence of a monarch. It does not suggest that our access is accomplished on our own strength, but rather that we need an “introducer”–Jesus Christ. The French word entree is a good word for what Jesus has done for us. He brings the the justified believer into the full favor and grace of God the Father, and thus into His presence.

3. Grace, vs 2b

into this grace in which we now stand.

This statement sums up the privilege of all believers. We are currently able to enjoy every spiritual blessing in Christ. Grace is like a key we hold in our hands that will, one day, open wide the door that will permit us entrance in reality into the very presence of God Almighty. Right now we can enjoy God’s presence spiritually, but in the future, we will be literally and forever in the same “time” and “space” as He is!

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

4. Hope, vs 2c

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Closely related to faith is hope; these two great virtues have much in common. Our hope of eternal happiness with God the Father in Heaven is grounded in the glory of God. As we sit and reflect on God’s glory, our hearts are filled with hope. Thus, we can face the future with joy, confidence, and optimism. In fact, God’s plan is that we should reflect His glory. God is not gloomy or depressed. God is not downtrodden, sullen and melancholy. And neither should we be.

5. Suffering, vs. 3—5

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Depending on our current circumstances, these verses can be a little hard to take. Another benefit of our justification is a new understanding of suffering. The believer’s joy or glory is not something we hope we may experience some time in the future, but it is a present reality today, even during times of distress. Suffering of all kinds will come and go, but the peace, access, grace, and hope never leave the justified believer.

In the Christian life, suffering is helpful; it has real value. It produces a number things:

  • Perseverance, or “steadfast endurance.” This gives us the ability to literally “bear up” in the face of any pressure or trial.

  • Character is something that perseverance leads to. The word translated “character” denotes the quality of being approved, what has been proved by trial. This was something Job understood well: When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10)

  • Hope is produced by character. Interestingly, “hope” is the final step toward spiritual maturity. The other two steps lead to this one. It’s not that Paul is suggesting that our hope is in our character or that our character is the source of our hope. That source is clearly the grace in which we stand.

Paul stresses that the Christian hope does not put believers to shame. In other words, the Christian hope will never disappoint us. Our hope is not an illusion because it has been poured into our hearts by the Spirit. Get it? God gives us the hope we possess.

Our new understanding of suffering couldn’t be more different than the world’s. Christian suffering is a source of joy because it has a purpose: to build character.

6. Judgment, vs. 6—11

This wonderful benefit of justification relates to the final judgment.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (vs. 9)

Christian hope is not to be confused with things like wishful thinking that says, “I hope God will kind to me on judgment day” or “If I get to go to heaven.” In fact, our hope is based on something concrete: the things God did for us in the death of His Son. God did all that He did for us out of love for us. God, were were just told, poured His love into our hearts, and now we are told why:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (vs. 8)

We were so full of sin, we were powerless to help ourselves and powerless to latch onto God’s love. God, out of love, took the initiative and poured His love into us! God’s love is so unique, Paul gave a simple illustration to help his readers understand:

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. (vs. 7)

God demonstrated His love for sinful man in a most unique and remarkable way: He did it while we were at our worst! God’s love for sinful man, as revealed in Jesus Christ, is unprecedented and unparalleled.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (vs. 8)

Nothing we could have done would have moved God to send His Son to die for us. He did it “while were still sinners.” Moreover, we are told, Jesus died “at just the right time” or, as it can also be translated, “at the appointed time.” In other words, Jesus died at precisely the time set by God, not by us.

Of importance is the present tense of the word “demonstrates.” Even though Jesus died once for all; His death occurring at a point in history two thousand years ago, the fact is the death of the Son of God continues to impact and influence the present generations, so powerful it was.

Paul’s argument in the concluding verses of this section is a marvel of pure logic. If God did all these good things for us while we were at our absolute worst, how much more will He do for us now that we are on His side! When we look at the love He HAD for us, surely we can HAVE hope and confidence for the future.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (vs. 9)

The fact that we have “been justified by his blood” indicates that man’s sin problem has been thoroughly dealt with. The consequence of our sin is inescapable: sure and certain judgment. However, praise God, the love of God made it possible for us to know beyond the shadow of any doubt that we “shall be saved from God’s wrath through him.” As wonderful as this is, Paul says there is “much more” to our salvation that simply being saved from what we have done.

For if, while 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! (vs. 10)

That last phrase is the game-changer: “We shall be saved through (or by) his life!” In other words, Christ got rid of our sinful yesterdays and He is the answer to what we are today. Christ not only died, but has also risen. He saved us by His death, but because He rose, ahead of us also lies salvation. Barth observes:

Christ’s risen life sets a seal upon our justification effected by His death, and because He lives, this peace, our reconciliation, and the pouring forth of the love of God in our hearts, mark a point in our journey beyond which there is no turning back, going on from which we have only one future, and in which we can only glory, as long as we remain in Christ.

Paul set forth the wrath of God in the first part of Romans (1:18—3:20) and the righteousness of God in this second section (3:21—5:11). Next, we will tackle how the wrath of God and the righteousness of are seen in Adam and Christ.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

Practically Speaking: James, Part 12

A Hope For All Believers, James 5:7-12

In this closing section of the letter, from verses 7 to the end, James returns to addressing believers in a pastoral way.  He has expressed his disdain toward the godless rich, and now James is going to affectionately express his concern that his friends exercise the great virtue of patience.  This is clearly an important topic for James since he repeats the term four times in succession.  Almost as important as patience is the concept of perseverance, which he emphasizes twice.

The overriding theme, though, is God’s providence in the lives of believers.  Verses 1-6 tell us that God will punish unrepentant sinners.  Now James tells his readers that He will fully reward all faithful followers of Christ.

1.  Christ will come again, 5:7-8

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.

The first thing you notice is that James does not go into any kind of detail about the Second Coming; he doesn’t try to convince his readers of its reality or certainty, or prove it to them.  This tells us a lot about what the early church believed:  they believed that Jesus Christ was coming soon.  In fact, this doctrine, which may seem so esoteric to us, was so real to the early Christians that it was part of their everyday thinking.  The fact that Jesus was returning soon was reason for patience.

The verb for “be patient” is makrothymesate, and it suggests “long-suffering” in the face circumstances or an attitude of self-restraint in the face of being wronged (Lightfoot).  It is, as one commentator has noted, “a virtue possessed by few and sought by many.”  The old fashioned word, long-suffering, does not mean to suffer while tolerating someone or something for a long time.  Rather, it is the opposite of being “short tempered,” it is the art of living life despite persons or circumstances that may oppress us.

James goes on to give some illustrations of patience.

The patient farmer.  His crop was precious because the lives of the farmer and his family depended on it.  In Palestine, the grain is planted in the fall and gets the early rain in late fall and the latter rain in the spring.  In between the rains, the farmer has to be patient and trust that the (1) the rains will come and (2) the crop will grow.

In interpreting his own parable, James teaches that believers must be patient for the Lord’s coming just as the farmer is patient for the rains and his eventual harvest.  The phrase “stand firm” comes from the Greek clause sterixat tas karias hymon, and means “strengthen your hearts.”  In other words, be strong inside, don’t lose heart and don’t yield to discouragement.  The reality of Christ’s coming should be a powerful motivating factor that shapes our everyday attitudes.  Tasker observes:

If the Lord’s return seems to us to be long delayed, or if we relegate it to such a remote future that it has no effect upon our outlook or our way of living, it is clear that it has ceased to be for us a living hope; and it may be that we have allowed the doctrine that ‘He will come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead’ to be whittled away by skepticism, or to be so transmuted into something else, such as gradual transformation of human society by Christian values, that it has ceased to exercise any powerful influence on our lives.

2.  Pressures that tempt us to be impatience, 5:9

Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

It’s one thing to be patient with those outside the Church, but what about those inside the Church that “rub us the wrong way?”  Someone once wrote:

To walk in love with saints above
Will be a wondrous glory;
But to walk below with saints you know–
Well, that’s another story!

James warns believers not to “grumble” against each other.  When times are difficult, the temptation is to do just that.  The word stenazete, “grumble,” means to “sigh” or “moan.”  It actually refers to an “inner distress,” not so much to an open complaint.  In other words, what James is warning against is not so much the vocal complaints or denunciations we may speak to someone, but the feelings of bitterness and anger we harbor inside.  Many of us, when really annoyed with a brother or sister, would never speak out against them, but we would easily sigh, and role our eyes behind his back.  This is what James cautions against.

To hold onto that kind of attitude invites judgment, and the Judge, says James, is right at the door, as if holding onto the doorknob, ready to come in.

3.  More examples of patience, 5:10-11

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Back in verses 7 and 8, James offered an example of patience, and now he picks up that theme again with some more examples.

The patient prophets.  James is suggesting believers “imitate” the prophets of old.  If we suffer for God, then we walk in good company; Hebrew history is replete with godly men who worked for and suffered for God, yet remained steadfastly loyal to Him.  All the prophets suffered for the words they spoke, but probably the one prophet that stands out more than any other was Jeremiah, who is known as the “weeping prophet” because he cried so much for his people and suffered so much for his words.  Consider what he went through for his faith:  Jeremiah 20:2; 32:2; 38:6.  All the while, though, he continued his God-ordained ministry without any bitterness or resentment.  Such are the kind of me believers are to emulate.

The perseverance of Job.   When we think of patience, we always think of Job.  James echoes Jesus’ teaching when he writes that we consider blessed those who have persevered.  Imagine, when we persevere, we are blessed.  Note what James is not saying.  Believers are not blessed in the suffering or persecution, it’s in the perseverance blessing comes.  James has already stated this back in 1:12.  As an example of perseverance, James offers Job.  It’s not his patience that Job is noted for, it’s his perseverance.

James isn’t the first Biblical writer to mention Job.  Ezekiel puts Job in the company of Noah and Daniel.  But, again, it’s not for his patience but for his righteousness (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).  In fact, in studying the book of Job, it becomes obvious that he was not a patient man; he curses the day of his birth and complains about his friends long winded speeches, all the while making his own!

What makes Job memorable is his steadfastness–his persevering faith that triumphed in the end.  God blessed Job abundantly because he “did not sin in what he said” (2:10).  God blessed Job because he persevered.  God will bless James’ readers if they persevere.

4.  No swearing allowed, 5:12

Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.

On the surface, this verse seems out of place or unrelated to the context.  But there is a connection with the thought of verse 9.  The warning not to grumble against a fellow believer in order to avoid being  judged is related to this prohibition against making too casual oaths, “or you will  be condemned.”

Obviously, sometimes making an oath is appropriate.  God Himself is said to taken an oath (Psalm 110:4), and Paul had called on God to witness (2 Corinthians 1:21; Galatians 1:20).  But sometimes, when circumstances are bad, there is a temptation to make a hasty oath or to use God’s name carelessly, and so James says “Don’t do it.”

In our time, unlike the days of James, we don’t “swear by heaven or earth” or by our ancestors.  But some believers don’t think twice about saying things like, “I swear to God…” or “I promise I will…” or variations on that theme.  Others “cross their hearts and hope to die” to prove the sincerity of their words.  But those are worldly practices that James condemns.  So much so, that James says those who resort to such practices are under God’s condemnation.

A building built on a firm foundation can weather any storm.  If your foundation is Jesus Christ, and you are in a relationship with Him and communicate to Him, then you have no need to strengthen your words or beliefs.  As Kistemaker said,

Truth depends not on the use of expressions that approach profanity, but on the simple yes that remains yes and no that stays no.

(c) 2008 WitzEnd

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