Paul has raised up Abraham as a model of faith, emphasizing hoping against hope, against all the odds predicting the impossible; and relying on the still small whisper of God. Paul now moves on to what this relentless faith means for us:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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. 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” (Rom 5:1-5).
The first part of this passage underscores what faith brings:
- Justified with God;
- Peace with God;
- Access to God’s grace;
- Rejoicing in hope; and
- Rejoicing in suffering.
No, Paul is not kidding me or you – the latter part of verse 3, plus verses 4 and 5, suggest a metaphor or two that might offer something encouraging rather than the drudgery of suffering.
What comes to mind first is a cocoon encasing a what will eventually become a gorgeous butterfly.
But then something even better – a baby in the womb.
Yes, even a 72 year-old Grandpa can feel like a newborn baby through faith in Christ, over and over again, not just once!
Why do I say this? Because Paul is describing the growth process we undergo – true transformation – when we suffer. We grow from suffering, to endurance, to character, and finally to hope. How does this happen? It is as trustworthy as a godly umbilical cord – because God’s love has literally been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
Not just connected. Poured!
We will be “born” out of this virus period soon. And as the Spirit quietly whispers to me this morning:
“Relax. I AM here.”
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Rom 5:6-11).
From Paul’s point of view, there are three types of people: righteous, good, and sinner. Without trying to quantify these types, it is safe to suggest that there was probably only one truly righteous person, and likely only a few good ones. Prior to the advent of Jesus, the vast majority were sinners (and we still are!).
But because Jesus died for all of us, our foibles and failures are washed away and we are saved by his life.
Most of all we are reconciled with God and delivered from his mighty wrath. We shiver to even imagine what we have escaped and what has been poured into us in replacement.
Every day we are like newborn babies in Christ, growing from endurance, to character, to hope, to hearing the still, small voice of God in our most chaotic and loud challenges of life.
“And now, let the weak say, ‘I am strong.’ Let the poor say, ‘I am rich.’ Because of what the Lord has done for us.”*
*(“What the Lord Has Done in Me” performed by Hillsong.)