YouTube video sermon
Well, it’s been another extremely tough and emotional two weeks. If dealing with all of the anxiety, and stress, and sickness, and death of COVID-19 wasn’t hard enough. Now our country is crumbling under the weight of riot and protest as a result of the death of George Floyd. And once again, our nation finds itself teetering on the brink of complete chaos and anarchy. Of course, as pastors tend to do, I began asking myself what parallels there were in all of this. What does the Bible have to say. And I didn’t have to go very far.
Ever since Cain lifted his hand against his brother Abel (Genesis 4), peaceful coexistence has been little more than a fleeting ideal. There’s a reason for that, of course. It’s not that people don’t want peace – we do. It’s just that we want it on our own terms – terms which, of course, conflict with other people’s terms.
Whether it’s presidents and politicians attempting to hammer out policies and treaties, or pastors and popes working on religious agreements, or your average plumber trying to keep the peace at home – after all, if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy – everybody finds that peace escapes them. But chapter 5 of Romans tells us there’s a peace that’s available and attainable any time, any place and by any person, and that’s peace with God.
Paul introduces Romans 5 with this statement: “[W]e have peace with God…” Folks, as we wrestle with all that’s going on in our world today (and will, no doubt, come again in the future) the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that peace with God has been established. Peace with God is what the gospel of Jesus Christ produces in the lives of those who embrace Him. That’s the most fundamental peace there is – peace with God. All other peace in the world has its basis there.
The question before us this morning is simply this: “Are you at peace with God?”
Let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn with me to Romans 5. As you’re finding your place, let me offer a summary of how we got here. Paul is writing to:
- Clarify the Gospel
- Connect the Church (Jew/Gentle)
- Confirm God’s Righteousness
He began, in chapter 1, by telling us that the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first for the Jew and then for the Gentile” (v. 16). Then, at the end of chapter 1 and all of chapters 2-3, Paul has gone to great lengths to demonstrate that the entire world is worthy of and stands under the present and future wrath of God. Gentiles are guilty before God for violating His standards. Jews are guilty before God for violating His standards.
By the way, to make this more tangible and meaningful to you, when you hear the Bible refer to Gentiles that would kind of be like the modern equivalent of saying people that weren’t born into Christian homes. And the modern equivalent of the Jew would be those that were blessed to be born into Christian homes. So, Paul says, “Hey, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from. You’re guilty of sin. You’re guilty of cosmic treason – turning your back on God.”
To the Gentile, to the average Joe on the street, or the native in the jungle, Paul says, “God, through His creation, through the world that He made, and everything you see, hear, taste, and touch, has given enough evidence of His existence. And yet, you’ve rejected Him and worshipped the creature rather than the Creator. You’re guilty.”
To the Jew, to the little Sally’s and Billy’s that grew up going to church (whether Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Catholic, etc.), Paul says, “You guys had the benefit of the Bible (the equivalent of the Law to the Jew) and you still blew it. You knew the Bible said, ‘Do not lie,’ and yet you lied. You knew the Bible said, ‘Honor your daddy and momma,’ and yet you stayed out past curfew. You knew the Bible said, ‘Don’t steal,’ but what about that time you slipped a piece of bubble gum in your pocket at Jean’s country store and walked out undetected? You’re just as guilty as the next guy. Don’t give me any of this ‘I-go-to-church’ business.”
And that’s where Romans 3:11-12 lands us, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Gentile, guilty! Jew, guilty! Guy on the street, guilty! Teenager in the church pew, guilty! World, guilty! And just about the time that Paul makes his final argument and nails our coffin shut, he introduces us to the solution that only God can provide – Jesus Christ. That’s what last week’s sermon was about.
Despite all of that, God has responded to the need of humanity by declaring the wicked to be righteous in a way that upholds His own righteousness (remember, Paul wants to confirm God’s righteousness) and, at the same time, upholds His justice. Romans 3:26 says that God is both “just and the justifier.” He does this by sending Jesus to become a propitiation and expiation for those who, by faith, trust in the sacrifice of Christ. And I gave you a helpful way to remember those big theological words: propitiation and expiation.
Propitiation is the process by which Jesus satisfies the wrath that God has against me. And I told you to remember walking down the center aisle of a cruciform church (or you could just remember the cross itself). The vertical is representative of propitiation, which is satisfying God’s wrath. The horizontal represents expiation, which is the removal of our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.
So, not only does Jesus death on the cross (in our place) satisfy God’s wrath against us because of our sin, it removes the penalty of sin from us. Notice I did not say that it removes sin from us. Christians still sin, and Paul will address that in coming chapters. But the wrath and penalty because of our sin have been satisfied and removed. And that’s good news that brings peace with God. Follow along as I read verses 1:11,
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.
Romans 5 is Paul’s pit stop. It’s his rest area on this theological journey. I loathe stopping on trips.
My boys and Melissa will tell you there’s nothing worse than telling dad, “We have to stop. I have to use the bathroom.” Now, I know, there are some trips that you just have to stop on. If your trip is more than 350-450 miles, depending on the size of your fuel tank, there will come a time when you have to stop for more gas. I get it. But otherwise, my mission is to get in the car and drive straight through. No stopping. No using the bathroom. No food. When you stop all those cars/trucks that you passed will overtake you, and it’s just a hit to my ego. And don’t try to use logical arguments like, “Yes, but they’ll have to stop too. And when they do you’ll pass them again.” And definitely don’t tempt me to drive faster to catch back up to where we were before we stopped, because I’ll take that bait every time. No, I get it. I just don’t like stopping.
But there are times when it’s necessary to pause and rest. That’s especially true in theology, and Paul knows this. He knows the church in Rome is likely to get lost. He knows we’re apt to get confused in all of this heavy and weighty stuff, too. So, he pulls into rest area of chapter 5 and offers his passengers the refreshment of our being made right with God. And the first benefit is…
Notice verse 1 again, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now, before I explain peace, let me take a real quick detour and tell you that I do not like the use of the English word “justified” in the Bible (especially here). Yes, the Greek word dikaiōthentes, which is used here can be translated as “justify.” But here’s my problem with using “justify” or “justified.” It’s not that it’s biblically incorrect. It’s that our society and culture have twisted the word to make it the ultimate excuse. Therefore, Christians often get the wrong idea.
See, in our world, maybe even in your own life, we tend to use the word “justify” as a way of explaining bad behavior or just making anything we’re choosing to do acceptable. Think about it. We justify watching things we shouldn’t. We justify speaking a certain way or using language that we shouldn’t. We justify all sorts of actions. In fact, I’ll bet that most of the images you have in your head are not godly. Are they? When was the last time you felt the need to justify feeding the hungry or clothing the naked or sharing the gospel? Probably never. We justify NOT doing those things, right?
“Oh, I didn’t give that guy any money because he’s just going to use it to buy alcohol.”
“No, no, I didn’t give her any money because, well, I have to buy lunch too.”
“Well, I didn’t tell my golfing buddy or my neighbor or my friend about Jesus because I didn’t want them to think I was weird.”
See, justification just puts the wrong taste in my mouth. Rather, what I do, and what I’d like to encourage you to do is to replace the word “justification” with the made-up word “righteousize.” When you righteousize something you make it right. Read verse 1 again, “Therefore, since we have been righteousized by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Doesn’t that do something different in your mind?
That was free. You didn’t have to pay for that. Paul says that because we’ve been made right with God we have peace. How many of you have noticed that since we moved to church online that I’ve been ending with the same statement? (Until next week, charis and eirene, which means what – grace and peace.) Eirene is the Greek word for peace. It’s also the basis of the female name Irene. (Again, that’s free.)
For the people that Paul was writing to, for the Roman church, for Christians (whether Jew/Gentile) the primary peace they would’ve been familiar with was the pax Romana (peace of Rome). Started under the first emperor Augustus, the pax Romana was a period of approximately 300 years of relative peace and prosperity that everyone in the Roman Empire enjoyed. While peace with Rome was unstable and insecure for Christians, peace with God was a settled fact.
Peace is not usually a reference to an internal feeling, though it certainly leads to that, but rather it’s an external and objective reality. For Paul, for the Roman church, for you, for me it’s a condition in which the war, the hostility, caused by sin has been removed. To have peace with God means to no longer exist under the wrath of God.
It’s an objective reality. It’s not just a feeling. It’s the thing that makes verses like John 14:27 so sweet, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Folks this is objective truth. Regardless of what is going on around me in the outside world, because I’ve been reconciled to God, because I’ve been made right with God, I have peace with God.
For some of you this morning your goal has been to have peace with your co-worker, or peace with your neighbor, or peace with your friends, or peace with your family members (your kids, your parents, your in-laws), but you’ve never given any thought to having peace with God. And at the end of the day, when the chips are down and you’re facing death, it’s only this peace that matters. Do you have peace with God? This leads to the second benefit…
Look at verse 2, “Through Him [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” That word “access” is the Greek word prosagōgḗ. It’s only used here and two times in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In fact, hold your finger here and flip over to Ephesians 2:18 and 3:12 really quick. All three occasions of prosagōgḗ refer to “having an audience (direct access) with God.”
Ephesians 2:18 says, “For through Him [Jesus] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Then, Ephesians 3:12 also speaking of Jesus, says that “we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him.” The author of Hebrews echoes this very same truth when he says that because of Jesus we may “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16). You and I have access into the very presence of God the Father because we’ve been made right by Jesus.
Think about the early days of David’s life – before he was king. You might recall that he served in the royal palace for King Saul – playing his harp to soothe Saul’s anxiety. But, on more than one occasion David had to flee for his life. Ultimately, we read of the cat and mouse game played by David and Saul, before Saul died and David was made King of Israel. Is that the access, based on peace, that you might expect from the king? David’s access was dictated by the king’s mood, and ultimately by his desire for murder. What began as a relationship of grace turned into a grappling by Saul for power and control. On the other hand, the picture that Paul paints here is one of complete, unhindered access to God because we have peace with God.
The most graphic illustration of our access to God is when the curtain, the veil that blocked access to the Holy of Holies was torn in two when Jesus died. That curtain served two functions. It blocked access to God’s holiness, but it also separated God from our human sinfulness. When the veil was torn from top to bottom – even the direction of the tear was symbolic – representing God breaking into humanity to provide a solution, not us climbing up to God’s standard, it made it possible for us to “draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22).
So, we have access into grace. We have access to the gift of God’s righteousness – eternal life through Jesus Christ. In other words, the overarching peace with God (shalom of God) allows us to stand in the place of righteousness, eternal life, and salvation by grace. Folks, there’s no way to enjoy these blessings if you don’t have peace with God. Are you at peace with Him today? This leads to the final benefit we’ll consider today, and that’s…
Look at the end of verse 2ff, “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 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.”
Paul’s words here have become some of the most memorable in the history of Christian writing. The Christ-follower, the believer, can rejoice in suffering because suffering ultimately produces hope. In what other outlook on life does suffering produce hope?
Now I do have to make an uneasy clarification here. Paul is not talking about enduring suffering that’s just a natural part of life. Paul isn’t talking about enduring cancer, or heart disease, or hunger. He’s not talking about the tragic and emotion suffering that we experience when a family member dies or when a house burns down or a tornado levels a city. Those are all types of suffering that come from living in a fallen world.
Now hear me closely. If you’re currently suffering through something like that or have in the past, I’m not saying you have no reason for hope. I’m simply saying that’s not what Paul is talking about here. Paul is specifically talking about enduring suffering as it relates to sharing the gospel and making disciples.
The Ladies’ Bible study is currently going through a series on the history of Christianity, and one of the unfortunate realities of a study like that is being introduced to a bunch of dates and names. One of the dates that we’ve talked about is the year 325 A.D. Ladies, what happened in the year 325 A.D.? (First Council of Nicaea). The Roman emperor Constantine had convened the first ecumenical council in the little town of Nicaea, what is today Iznik, Turkey. Without going into all the detail, the primary purpose of the council was to decide the nature of Jesus. Was He fully God and what was His relationship to God the Father.
When Constantine called for the council, he invited all 1,800 bishops (pastors) in the Roman Empire, but only 318 showed up. Of the 318 in attendance, only 12 did not have some form of disfigurement or scar from being persecuted for their faith. That means that 306 men showed up with some sign: perhaps they were missing an eye, maybe they lost a hand, or an arm was missing, maybe a leg or a foot, maybe they had the marks of being beaten, or burns from hot coals and pokers. The usual thing in that day was this: if you followed Jesus Christ you would be persecuted. It wasn’t odd. In fact, the odd thing was the 12 guys that hadn’t been persecuted for their faith.
You move some 1,800-1,900 years in the future, and the odd thing is when you ARE persecuted for your faith. What used to be odd (no persecution) has become the norm. And what was the norm then (persecution) has become strange. Hope comes from persevering and enduring afflictions where we prove to ourselves that we belong to Jesus. The person who falls away from faith in the moment of suffering for Christ is the person who fails to offer proof that he or she is standing in the grace of God.
Some things we hope for in life don’t come to pass. When that happens, disappointment sets in. Disappointment produces discouragement; discouragement, unproven character; unproven character, despair. How does the Christian know that he will not one day be sick of heart? How does the believer know that one day she won’t have suffered in vain? The answer is found at the end of verse 5 and verse 8, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us… and God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
As we prepare to take the Lord’s Supper remember this: being made right in God’s eyes didn’t bring about perfection in our lives; only a status, a standing. We’re reconciled. We’re at peace with God. Those who have been redeemed still sin, and the reason we’ll be saved in spite of our sins – the reason our sins don’t become an offense to the Father to such a degree as to make us irreconcilable – is because Jesus continually intercedes for us with the Father, applying the benefits of His death in the heavenly tabernacle. Is it any wonder that Paul says we also rejoice in God?