Romans 5:1-8 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Life has times of waiting, times when God seems silent. We know from last week that as we “wait right” God will do a work in and through our life not otherwise accessible. But it is hard to “wait right”. What kind of things help us in these dark times? Psalm 23 talks about the valley of the shadow of death. What can help me through these confusing times? One answer is to look to the promises of God. They are found throughout the Scriptures, and one word in particular has great meaning. It is HOPE. Hope gives us the ability to see God at work around us. Today I want to focus on Hope – the Hope we have as Christians that help us through the tough times and help us keep our stick on the ice in good times. Before we do that, let us look quickly at 2 other words in this passage that help shape our understanding of Hope.
Faith – Faith is rooted in the past. It is focused on the power of God. Notice that the verbs used with faith are in the past tense. It is not that faith is something we do once, and then are done with it. It is in the past because it is connected with our salvation and provides the change necessary for us to see God. It is focused on the power of God which raised Jesus from the dead.Verse 1 – Faith justifies! It provides peace where there was enmity. It changes our position. It puts us in a place where we can experience grace ongoing in our life.Verse 2 – Faith provides a connection to Grace, precluding Hope.Understand that faith is not a magic formula. Words have no power or force in and of themselves (it is not an incantation). Faith is not just a ritual prayer saying, “God forgive me. Be my Savior and Lord.” There is much more depth to it than that. Faith does say that, but if you truly believe that and it is your choice, your life will change. Understand that it is faith that is the foundation of who we are in Jesus. What separates our next door neighbour who is far from God and living under judgement for sins and you and I who have made the decision to follow Jesus? It is that faith, that choice to follow Jesus! Before we move on, let me give you a working definition of faith as the Bible understands it: Faith is following Jesus by living intentionally (by our choices) regardless of circumstances or emotions, having an eternal perspective in the present. Hebrews 11:1, 2 Corinthians 4:18 Next week we will unpack this definition more fully.
Grace – Grace is rooted in the present. It is focused on the presence of God. I love that phrase “this grace in which we stand”. Grace is about 2 things: acceptance and freedom. Have you ever been in a relationship where you are loved unconditionally? Often we find this love in our family; and all too often we don’t find it there. Sometimes it is a best friend who sticks by us, through the many highs and lows of life. In Christ there is an acceptance that goes beyond anything we could expect. Grace is based on God’s Agape love, a love that is everlasting and will never leave us. It is something in which we stand – a place of security knowing that if God is for us, who can be against us?If we experience that grace, that acceptance, we will know true freedom. It is a freedom to be all we can be in Jesus – to be what we were created for. I have mentioned before that if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We are constrained because of what we have. When the Carpenter of carpenters comes into our life, though, He brings His whole toolbox with Him. Sin has us cooped up in life like a lion in a zoo. We may be eating and sleeping, but we are not really living. Only when that lion is loosed into the wild savannah is he truly free to roam the wild plains. Bars no longer cage. When we experience the grace of God we will know the Truth of freedom in Christ. Understand that grace goes before our faith. We talk of prevenient grace. Romans 5: 8 says that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s grace was calling us long before we responded to it at salvation. Faith is not a work, it is a response to God’s grace.
Hope – Hope is rooted in the future. It is focussed on the promise of God. The word “hope” in the New Testament is almost always connected to the second coming of Jesus. The specific phrase here is “we exalt in the hope of the glory of God.” A word study of “glory” helps us to understand the definition as “revelation”. When we see the phrase “the glory of God it is referring to God being revealed for who He is. We sing, “In our life Lord be glorified”. That means “be revealed in our life, Lord”. Let us show those around us who You are by our thoughts, words and deeds. The ultimate glory or revealing of God that is yet to come is Jesus’ return. He said He is coming back soon, and that we should be ready for it. He promised that He will return for us, and as you read several of the passages like 1 Thessalonians 5 we see that it is about the culmination of our relationship with our Creator. While we live and have breathe in this world there is a tension between the now and the not yet. We have a dual citizenship. We are human, but we also have a spiritual citizenship in heaven. There is a part of us that connects to friends and family and ministry here, but there is the part that longs to be with God forever. Paul summed it up well when he said, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” Let’s look at this promise of God.
The promise is broad. Advertisers will print a big word like “FREE” that attracts your attention, but when you read the fine print you find you have to spend money to get something “free”. That doesn’t sound like free to me. I worked in a warehouse and we would get calls from different supplies. If we ordered a case of their packing tape at a slightly expensive cost we would get a free camera that we could keep for ourselves. Well, sure enough, a camera came. It looked like one you would get in a box of cereal. What kind of deal was that? God’s promises are up front, and not for some cheap little plastic camera. God promises an eternal love. He promises an eternal presence. Look at John 14:1-3 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” Look at Romans 8:35-39 “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Read the last 2 chapters of Revelation. The promises of God are vast. We experience so much grace today, but in your times of silence, of waiting, rest in these promises.
The promise is sure. We often see in advertising today promises. Your teeth will be white, your car will go far, your money will double. So often these promises are merely advertising jingles, designed to make you buy a product or service. Ever been let down by those pie crust promises? They are easily made and easily broken. There is little accountability to keeping the promises. Witness the scandals that have rocked the financial world in the last while. The promises of God, in comparison, are rock solid.Hebrews 6:9-20 contains an extended passage where the writer states the unchangebleness of God and how sure His promise is because it is rooted in the very character of God. Hebrews 6:19 says “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil”. Hebrews 10:23 says “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful”. As you read through the Bible, watch for God’s faithfulness to His promises.
The promise is empowering. Every passage that talks about hope, about the second coming of Jesus makes reference about how we should live today. Because Jesus is coming soon, you should be pursuing holiness. Because we understand how life will end, we don’t have to get caught up in the temptations of money, sex and power. We can separate ourselves from the things of this world and go about doing God’s business. We can be free from pursuing empty promises and find true fulfilment that was created in us from God. We can be all we were meant to be. Look at 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Look at the process in this passage in Romans again: “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” It almost seems to start with hope and end with hope! You have the firm belief that Jesus is coming again. And maybe when life comes crashing down on you, you pray even more fervently, “Now! Come now, Lord”; but that assurance of eternal life will keep you close to God. Satan and the world will try to cast doubt on your hope, as he did back in the Garden of Eden. Don’t listen. Know God’s promise is sure, and you will persevere in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our spiritual life started and continues by faith. We stand in grace and exalt in our hope. Know that Jesus is coming again – let the truth of that encourage you to continue to pursue the holiness and plan of God for your life.