Comfort and Encouragement
If I understand these two verses aright then the all about comfort and encouragement. Consequently I have a simple goal in view as I seek to open up these verses for you this evening: I want you to be comforted and encouraged by the truth they contain.
The Christian gospel is wonderfully good news and ought to thrill us far more than it does. When you are asked to say something about the gospel I wonder which words come most readily to mind. If you struggle to know what to say then our text this evening is for you. Why so? Because it is stuffed full of words that are key to understanding what the Christian faith is really all about. In just one sentence (as it is in the original) Paul manages to cram in an awful lot – justification, faith, peace, grace, hope, glory. He refers to the Father and to the Lord Jesus Christ. Small wonder then that he rejoices!
And, if that is not enough for you, in the immediate context he crams in a whole lot more: the death and resurrection of Christ, the love of God, the Holy Spirit, salvation from the wrath of God by the blood. And reconciliation.
The story broke this week of a man who found the largest nugget of gold found in Britain for 500 years. He found the nugget two years ago and kept the matter secret so he could investigate the whole area to see if he might find some more. Well this portion of Scripture is far richer than that Scottish river where the gold nugget was found! And there are riches in abundance for any and for all who care to search.
So let us now do some searching of our own.
We’ll divide the text up and consider it in 5 sections:
Justified by faith
Peace with God
Through our Lord Jesus Christ (through him)
Access into this grace in which we stand
We rejoice in hope of the glory of God
Justified by faith
As we begin we must take note of the fact that Paul introduces this verse with another very important word – it is the word therefore.
This tells us that Paul is building upon what he has already written and that the verses we are thinking about here are not intended to be read as stand-
In the early part of this letter Paul carefully explained what real life looked like for the human race and the picture he painted was not a pretty one. Mankind because of sin was in a mess. However that analysis was not the end of the matter it merely provided the backdrop against which we might appreciate the value of just what it was that God has done for us. Man in sin was in a mess but God had provided all that was needed to save mankind from that mess. The gospel really is good news.
So Paul began by showing that sin was indeed a problem for the whole human race – sin had affected everyone whether they realised it or not. It is important to understand that the Bible regards sin first and foremost as being God related. We will go wrong if we simply think of sin as a problem between people. Sin is the problem it is because by it men and women come up short of God’s standards.
The fact that men and women are sinners means that they do not possess the righteousness they need in order to safely approach God. Indeed sin puts men and women at enmity with God who is described as a holy God, a God who is a consuming fire.
A thousand years before the coming of Christ and the psalmist had already raised this troublesome question of how a person can draw near to God:
The NT underlines the gravity of the question:
Heb.12:14 "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."
But where and how is a man to secure this holiness? Where is he to find the righteousness he so badly needs?
Oftentimes men and women have tried to render themselves acceptable to God by doing this or doing that, vainly hoping to satisfy God by their own efforts. These efforts turn out to be fruitless because the human heart wants to do things its way rather than submit to God’s.
It all seemed to add up to a hopeless situation as though all was lost and we are meant to think like that! For it is only when we realise the scale of our predicament that we are ready to listen to what God has to stay and to consider what God has done for poor sinners.
Paul illustrated his message by taking Abraham as an example from history. Abraham hadn’t done anything to secure God’s blessing but he had received it because he took God at his word, he exercised faith. And faith in God, Paul wrote to the Romans, was the vital principle not some form of self-
And then, Paul wrote, God operated a wonderful exchange: our sins were handed over to Jesus who shouldered the responsibility for them while at the same time his righteousness was credited to our account. This was why Jesus had come to suffer and to die – he did so in order to secure salvation for sinners who could never save themselves. God having satisfied his own holiness is enabled to forgive us our sins for Jesus’ sake and all he asks us to do is to believe, to trust in Jesus. And we are not to imagine that God forgives us because of our faith as though our faith was somehow meritorious. No, our faith is merely the means by which the blessings of the meritorious one, Christ, flow to us.
Paul maintains that we can be confident that Jesus can be trusted because God raised him from the dead.
All this Paul has in mind as he writes "since we have been justified by faith". All those who entrust themselves to Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead are declared to be right with God (justified) the moment they do so believe.
Have you seen that Paul when writes here of being justified by faith he does so using the past tense? The language of justification is legal language and it involves making a legal declaration concerning the legal standing of a person. When a person is justified by faith it means that God declares that person to be in a right relationship with him. God considers the justified person to be as righteous in his sight as Jesus is himself! What a wonderful thing this is!
Now, sometimes folk get things confused and consequently are ill at ease. They may say that they don’t feel as though any change has taken place in them and therefore it can’t be true. But the change of justification is not a primarily a change that takes place within a person – it is a change in that person’s standing before God. When people insist on a felt change in themselves they are confusing justification with sanctification. Justification does not deal with our actual character and behaviour that is the realm of sanctification.
Now although justification and sanctification go together they must not be confused. Justification is the work of a moment. When faith leads us to put our trust in Christ at that moment his righteousness is credited to our account:
The vilest offender who truly believes
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives
Then for the rest of his life the work of sanctification will develop ensuring an ever closer conformity to the image of our Saviour. The presence of sin and failure in the Christian’s life does not say anything about his justified state but shouts his need of further progress in sanctification.
We have spent a long time on justification by faith we will deal with the other four points more quickly.
Peace with God
Centuries earlier the prophet Isaiah had made a dramatic statement:
Is.57:21 "There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked."
But now in the gospel of Jesus Christ peace with God is proclaimed as the fruit and consequence of being justified by faith:
"we have peace with God"
Paul does not have in mind the sense of emotional peace that Christians might or might not have. He does address the matter of a Christian’s emotional experience of peace when passing through particularly trying circumstances in his letter to the church in Philippi. There he will refer to:
Phil.4:7 "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
And how wonderful such "beyond logic peace" is! But you’ll notice that when Paul speaks of that peace he does so in terms of "the peace of God" whereas now in writing to the Romans he speaks of peace with God or towards God.
Here in at this point in his letter to the Romans Paul has the objective theological reality of peace with God in view. For the person who is justified by faith there is no longer anything that hinders the relationship between God and himself. He is no longer at war with God and God is no longer at war with him. The peace treaty has, if you like, been signed and both sides are bound by the terms. The enmity that my sin had caused has been definitively dealt with.
In fact there is now nothing that can change the objective reality of this peace – not now, not tomorrow, not ever:
"we have with peace with God"
The worst that the enemy of men’s souls can do is to hinder us from enjoying the benefits and the fruit of this peace but he can’t tear us out of our Father’s hands and neither can he tear us out of our Saviour’s hand. And this explains why we can sing in the hymn "A debtor to mercy alone" these words:
More happy but not more secure
The glorified spirits of heaven
Peace, peace! Wonderful peace! To the Hebrew mindset peace was something inherently positive. We have the tendency to think of peace in terms of the absence of hostility etc. but to the Hebrew mind peace meant far more than that. It implied everything rightly ordered and rightly relating to everything else.
When we are justified by faith all of the relationships that had gone awry because of sin are altered. We are brought out of the rebel camp and are given peace with God and flowing from such an objective change we are free to enjoy a conscience at peace, peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ, peace as we recognise our true place in God’s creation.
Our Lord Jesus Christ
And it is all centred on Jesus!
Our justification is due to his righteousness being credited to account. That it can be is due to the fact that he died in our place and was raised for us too.
The peace we have with God is through him too. He is the door through whom we pass and by which we enter into that peace with God. But we must never simply imagine that once we have passed through Jesus as the door that we are somehow to go on without him. Yes, he is the door but he is also the way and we continue that way having entered; he is also the life and we go on living that life which is in our Lord Jesus Christ.
How wonderful that God doesn’t just start the ball rolling and then leave us to get on with things on our own – we continue to enjoy our every blessing in union with our Saviour.
Thus the true Christian will never tire of singing songs like "How sweet the name of Jesus sounds" for the longer he knows Jesus and the further he walks with him the sweeter the believe finds Jesus to be!
When a Christian does begin perhaps to lose his focus on Jesus and perhaps is tempted to move on to other things this is no indication of growing spiritual maturity quite the reverse in fact. The Christian who no longer focuses on Jesus and who begins to be embarrassed by the old, old story is a Christian in danger of backsliding, of spiritual decline:
Ashamed of Jesus, that dear friend,
on whom my hopes of heaven depend!
No, when I blush, be this my shame,
that I no more revere His name.
Every blessing we have is bound up with Jesus and Paul underlines the truth of that by using Jesus’ full title: "our Lord Jesus Christ"! Truly every promise of God finds its yes and amen in him! (2Cor.1:20).
Access into this grace in which we stand
The blessings of the Christian life just keep on coming. Not only does Jesus bring us to enjoy peace with God but he also has brought us into a new sphere where grace is the dominant feature.
We’re not meant to see this access as some sort of permission to enter from time to time. No, Jesus has definitively introduced us into this new sphere and it is here that we now stay. A definite, irreversible change has taken place. Once under law but not any longer – now grace determines our lives – lives which have undergone a total change of spiritual circumstances.
Again Christians sing of this grace which has transformed their lives. Not only do they celebrate sing "Amazing grace how sweet the sound!" as they celebrate the salvation that has been given to them but they also continue with "He gives us more grace when the burdens grow greater" – for we have not finished with grace the moment we are saved but rather we are introduced to more and more grace as the years roll by!
Many people think it is an easy thing to pray and a certainty that God will hear them when they do decide to call upon him. But men and women are foolish to imagine that they can approach him just as they fancy. Jesus alone can bring men and women to the Father and he has brought all those who trust him into this favoured position of grace. If you are a Christian you stand in this domain of grace and can ask God for all the grace you need to go on standing. And we’ll need grace to stand – it’s no easy thing to stand firm in the faith confronted as we are and will be by the ruses of the devil, by false brethren, by temptation and by outright hostility and persecution but it is possible for those who have been introduced into this grace in which we now stand!
Paul has cast his eyes to the changes that have taken place in the past as he looked at the fact and reality of justification by faith. He has examined some of the consequences of that justification as they work out in the present life of a believer in terms of peace with God and access to him for grace. He has reminded his readers that none of this happens in a void but it all is utterly and totally dependent upon our Lord Jesus Christ.
But he has not finished yet!
The past, the present and the future -
As Paul looks ahead what he sees there also has an influence upon his life in the present – what he sees as he looks forward causes him to rejoice, to exult, to boast!
And what is it that has such an effect upon the apostle? It is the hope of the glory of God!
He gazes into the future and there by faith he contemplates the final and complete stage of salvation worked out in the life of the believer as he arrives in glory and is finally introduced to the beatific vision of God!
For the moment the Christian’s experience is real and genuine though limited and restricted. Now he sees but only as in a glass darkly, like looking into a dim mirror. Ah but then...
Then the partial shall give way to completeness as we shall see face to face.
The glories of the future are referred to in different ways in several places in the Scriptures:
Ps.17:15 "As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness."
Jn.17:24 "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world."
1Jn.3:2 "Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is."
As the apostle thought about this glorious future he rejoiced and small wonder. Let us be sure that we do the same!