Dr. Richard L. Strauss
November 25, 1990
Purpose: To remind us of some of the great blessings we enjoy because we have been justified by faith, and to assure us that faith will see us through to heaven's glory.
Periodically through the years we have had players from the San Diego Padres attend our church. And sometimes they have offered me tickets to Padres games. I can still remember the first time I approached the "Will Call" window at the stadium to pick up my tickets. I was just supposed to give them my name and they were supposed to give me the tickets. That was it. But I couldn't believe it was that simple, and frankly, I was a little apprehensive when I walked up to the window.
Suppose the player had forgotten to make the arrangements. Suppose they didn't believe me when I told them who I was. I had nothing to offer for the tickets--you can't pay for tickets at the "Will Call" window--you just pick them up. It didn't seem right just to walk up there and ask for tickets and not have anything in my hand to give in exchange for them. It was difficult for me to believe that it was that simple. But, surprise of all surprises, it worked. They just handed me the tickets, and I walked in and enjoyed the game. As you might suspect, the second time I did it I was much bolder. I acted like I knew exactly what I was doing.
You know, we've been told so many times that there's no free lunch, that when somebody genuinely wants to give us something out of the pure grace of their hearts, we find it difficult to believe. And when God tells us that He wants to give us eternal salvation and the assurance of heaven out of the pure grace of His heart, we almost choke on it. We can't believe it's that simple. You mean there's nothing I can offer for it? All I can do is receive it by faith? But suppose I get to heaven's gate with nothing in my hands to offer, and they won't let me in? Suppose faith is not enough? Then what am I going to do?
Do you know what I need? I need a clear understanding of what I actually have as a result of my justification by faith. Paul has spent four chapters showing us that we all deserve God's wrath, but that God has provided for our right standing before Him out of the pure grace of His heart. He is willing to declare us to be as righteous as if we had never sinned if we will but admit our sin and place our trust in His Son's death at Calvary. In other words, we are justified by faith alone (refer to 3:24, 28).
But the question Paul anticipates in the minds of his readers is this: "Can this faith really see us through? Is it really enough to get us into heaven?" If we truly understand what we possess as people who have been justified by faith, that question will be answered for all time and our fears will be permanently allayed. We'll never worry again.
So Paul is going to talk about that. He's going to deal with what we have as believers in Jesus Christ. That's the theme of the first 11 verses of Romans 5. And he starts by saying that we have peace.
We Have Peace
Romans 5:1. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
"Therefore having been justified by faith" sums us the entire first four chapters of the book. We have been declared righteous enough for heaven, not by doing good deeds, or by keeping religious ordinances, or by obeying the ten commandments, but by faith in the death of Jesus Christ. Now because we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God.
The idea behind the word peace is "binding together what has been separated." The Bible pictures man as alienated from God, actually at war with God. And many people feel it. If they believe in a God at all, they feel as though He is on their backs, leaning on them, condemning them, rejecting them for not shaping up. And they react against that, they resist Him, rebel against Him, oppose Him. That's war! People are at war with God. But, you see, when we trust Christ as Savior from sin, the war is over. Hostilities cease. God draws us to Himself and binds us together with Him in a new relationship of acceptance and love. We have peace with God. God and us are friends. What a wonderful thought!
And remember how it happens. Romans 5:2. "Through whom, also"--he's talking about Christ--through Christ, "also, we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
"This grace in which we stand" is this new position of friendship with God that we have because we've been declared righteous. How did we get access into this new position? When you read the Bible, notice the connections between the verses. This grace is this peace and friendship we have with God. How did we get access into this new position--a friendship with God? How? Through our Lord Jesus Christ; through Him, we have access into this grace in which we stand. "Access" is the privilege of approaching someone of high position, like the president of the United States.
It would be like having a friend in the White House who knows the president, sets up an appointment for us, and makes sure we know the proper thing to say and do when we meet him. Our Man on the inside of the heavenly White House is Jesus Christ. He by His death at Calvary has provided us access into this glorious position of peace and friendship with the living God. He did it. He's the one that provides us access into this position.
It isn't ours because we deserve it, but because Christ has secured it for us. To think otherwise would be foolish.
It would be like me going to the "Will Call" window this afternoon and asking for my tickets to the Chargers game. "What's your name?"
"We don't have any tickets for Richard Strauss. Who do you know? Who was supposed to secure the tickets for you?"
"I don't need to know anybody. Don't you know who I am? I'm Richard Strauss, the pastor of Emmanuel Faith Community Church in Escondido. I deserve tickets to this game. Now cough them up!"
You know what would happen, don't you? Some men with uniforms on would escort me out of there. And if I gave them too much trouble, they might lock me up. You see, I don't have anybody on the inside to give me tickets to the Chargers game. Ha! I don't happen to have anybody on the inside to give me Padres tickets anymore, either! They all moved away, you know!
In like manner, if my access into a favorable relationship with God were on the basis of my worth, I'd be in big trouble. I can never do enough to be sure of heaven. I might as well forget the whole thing. But my access is on the basis of Christ's payment for my sins, and that makes it a sure thing.
That's something to get excited about. And Paul is excited. That's why he adds in this verse, we "...rejoice in hope of the glory of God." That word rejoice (kauchaomai) is one of the strongest words for "joy" in the Greek language. It's not just mild joy. This is triumphant, confident, bursting, boasting rejoicing. The NASB translates it "exult," and that captures the idea to some degree. We're talking about extreme joy. We rejoice in our new position as God's friends because it assures us of future glory, the full expression in us of all God is and all He intends us to be: eternally in His presence in heaven. We rejoice in the hope of glory--the glory of God.
God created us to share His glory. But because we have sinned, we cut ourselves off from that glory. Remember Romans 3:23? We "fall short of the glory of God." Our sin nullifies God's purpose for our creation. But, you see, now--because we have peace with God--we have regained the right to share in God's eternal glory. We will be all we were meant to be someday. All our faults will be corrected, all our idiosyncrasies taken away, all our aggravating personality traits and bad habits cleaned up. And the very character of Christ will be perfectly displayed in us (1 John 3:2). We shall be like Him. That's glory. And it's all possible because we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, having been justified by faith alone.
Human peace treaties often promise so much but deliver so little, don't they? President Woodrow Wilson called World War I "the war to end all wars." He went to the peace conference vowing to secure a peace that would right all wrongs and last forever. But 20 years later the world was fighting a war that would be even more horrible. I was only 12 years old when word arrived that World War II was over, but I remember the excitement. People hugged and kissed and danced in the streets with complete strangers. But it wasn't long before Korea, and then Vietnam. And now we stand on the brink of a horrible holocaust in the Middle East. Human peace treaties cannot fulfill the hopes that people have for them. But when God signed a peace treaty at Calvary on our behalf, He guaranteed our future glory. It's a sure thing.
Will faith see us through to glory? You bet it will. "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ...and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God."
We Have Hope
Hope! That's an interesting word. Paul just used it, but now he wants to pick up on it and amplify it. Not only do we have peace, we have hope. The question before us is this: "Will this faith way of salvation see us through the times of trial and trouble?" "OK, Paul, it's going to see us through to heaven. Is it going to see us through problems right now?"
And the answer? Not only will it see us through, but it will actually strengthen our hope. Watch how it works.
Romans 5:3-4. "And not only that, but we also rejoice"--or glory--"in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character"--it's a better word than King James' "experience." "…And character, hope." There it is, you see.
Interesting progression. Tribulation. Tribulation produces perseverance. The word "tribulation" is a word that means basically "pressure." Most of us know what it feels like to be in the pressure cooker, problems crushing in on us from every side, threatening to squeeze the very life out of us--family problems, financial problems, health problems, problems with unbelievers who resent our stand for truth and right, problems with carnal Christians who may be jealous of God's blessing on our lives. PROBLEMS! They're no fun. They hurt. Yet Paul says, "We rejoice in our problems," and he uses that same strong word for triumphant, confident, bursting, boasting rejoicing. Is he crazy or something? He rejoices in his problems?
No, he isn't crazy. He isn't rejoicing because he's in the pressure cooker, but because he knows what the pressure cooker can do for his life. It increases hope, and hope makes life worthwhile.
Since the advent of the microwave, not many people use pressure cookers anymore. But my wife used to use them quite frequently. I can still remember coming home and seeing a chicken lying on the counter defrosting. I'd look at that thing--cold, bloody, bumpy, slimy old chicken--and I'd think to myself, "Are we going to eat that thing?" Yuk. But she put it in a pressure cooker with some barbeque sauce or some other spices for a few minutes and it came out delicious and delectable. That pressure cooker did something good to it. The pressure cooker of life can do some good things for us too--whether you're a spring chicken or an old rooster. For everyone else, trials are tragedies. There is no sense nor purpose to them. But for believers, they can accomplish something good.
Mary and I have seen that in this last year in our lives. You know, there are some unpleasant things about having a terminal illness. But we've seen God do so many good things through it. We understand what the apostle Paul is talking about when he says he rejoices in tribulation. And he describes the process by which that happens. You see, problems give us the opportunity to practice trusting God. And the more we practice, the more our faith is strengthened. He calls that strengthened faith "perseverance." That's why tribulation produces perseverance: endurance, steadfastness. That's the idea in the word. It's like the wind buffeting a tree and driving its roots down deep into the soil, making it strong and steady and stable.
Then as we realize how God's grace has helped us persevere, it produces what Paul calls "character." The word means tested, approved character, like metal that has had the impurities burned out of it leaving it approved. In other words, perseverance burns the impurities out of our lives and leaves us with a sense of being approved. We say to ourselves, "Hey, this is great. It really works. I trusted God, and He helped me through the trial, and that strengthened my faith even more. It wasn't so bad after all. In fact, this stronger faith makes the whole ordeal worthwhile." We've proven something: that we can trust God, that He is trustworthy, and that it pays to trust Him. And by His grace, we've done it, we've trusted Him, and matured through it. We've grown in our knowledge of Him and in our faith. That's proven character. Tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance: proven character.
Every time that happens, we become more convinced that God is a God of His Word. He will do what He says He will do. In other words, it builds hope. The word hope isn't a "maybe" sort of hope--"maybe I'll make it and maybe I won't." It's a sure thing. It's the firm expectation that God is going to see us through. It's obvious to us that He is at work in our lives, and we become convinced that He will continue to work, that He who has begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).
It's like making bricks. A brick maker puts his bricks into the fire. The hotter the fire, the stronger the bricks. But he has a purpose for what he's doing. He's not going to throw the bricks away. He's going to use them to build something worthwhile.
When God allows us to be toughened through the fire of trials, we can be assured that He has a purpose for it. He's preparing us for greater usefulness in this life, and He's shaping us up for eternity. So while everybody else is wringing their hands in despair and going to pieces over their problems, we can rejoice, confident that the God who controls everything is going to see us through the trials, right through to glory.
And that hope is not going to be disappointed, you can be sure. It will be fulfilled, because of the third thing we have as a result of our justification by faith.
We Have Love
We have peace. We have hope. And we have love.
Romans 5:5. "Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out by the Holy Spirit, who was given to us."
We can be absolutely sure that our hope will not be disappointed, that it will be realized, that we will enter God's presence and be glorified. How can we be so sure? Because Almighty God loves us. You don't think that an all-powerful God will fail to keep His promises to people He loves so much, do you? That would be ridiculous.
Paul visualizes believers as containers into which God pours His love. That love comes in the person of the Holy Spirit who enters the life of every believer at the moment of salvation. God loves you, Christian. You may wonder how it can be. You may not feel worthy of it. You may not feel very lovable. That's all normal and natural. But take Him at His Word. He has poured His love into you in abundant measure in the person of His Spirit. And when you focus your mind on Him, you begin to sense that love and the tug of God's love at your heartstrings.
Billy Graham tells the story of a boy flying a kite. The kite was so high that it had almost disappeared from sight. A man came along and asked, "What are you doing, holding on to that string?"
The boy answered, "I've got a kite up there."
The man looked up and squinted into the sun and said, "I don't see it."
The boy replied, "Well, I know it's there because I can feel the tug on the string."
I can feel the tug. You see, that's the idea. We have the tug of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness with our spirits that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16). We are the objects of His undying love.
And if you have any doubt about God's love for you, consider this: Romans 5:6. "For when we were still without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly."
God's love is demonstrated in the greatest degree by the death of His Son. Why is that so great? Think about it. We find it easy to reach out in sacrificial love to somebody who does the right thing and pleases us, but not so easy when somebody displeases us.
I tell you, it's not hard to love my wife when she kidnaps me and gets me into a hotel room, by subterfuge. And in the morning, she pulls out two tickets to San Francisco, saying, "How would you like to go see your new grandson, whom you haven't seen yet?"
And I say, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. I can't go. I mean, the motel room was nice, but I've got to preach tomorrow. This is Saturday morning. I've got to get home and get ready, you know."
And then she pulls out the Friday night newspaper and shows me that she's already arranged for Dennis Keating to speak, and there's another title in there, other than what I was planning to speak on the next day. And then I realize why I couldn't find my newspaper the night before. I kept walking up the driveway to the street to get it four or five times, you know, and she had already confiscated it and hidden it so I wouldn't see. I always check it on Friday night to see what I'm preaching about on Sunday! Ha!
And what a delightful time we had. You know, it was a very emotional experience for me, cuddling that five-week-old grandson. I had not had the opportunity of doing that with any of my previous grandchildren. I first saw Kara when she was six months old and the others were several years old before I got to see them.
I tell you, it's easy for me to express my love to Mary when she's cheerful and congenial. But as much as I really do love her, I still sometimes find it difficult to express my love to her, you know, if she gets irritable or critical. I don't like to admit it, but that's how feeble my love is. But God reached out in sacrificial love to us when we were "without strength"--totally incapable of doing anything right that pleases Him. In fact, when we were "ungodly"--living in disregard for God and disobedience to His will. That's love! Real love.
Romans 5:7. "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die."
Very few of us would be willing to die for somebody else, even for a righteous person, or a good person. But look at what God does.
Romans 5:8. "He demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
That's us: sinners. People who miss the mark of His standard, going our own selfish way. Yet He was willing to punish His own dear Son in our place. And His Son was willing to bear that punishment for us. That's love! Do you think He could possibly fail to see us through to glory in view of so great a love? Not a chance! Our hope will not be disappointed, you can be sure, because He loves us.
And that firm assurance is the theme of the last three verses. We have peace, we have hope, we have love, and we have assurance.
Almost everyone who is loved has had moments of uncertainty, right? "Will I always be loved? Or will my faults and failures dampen my loved one's love for me?" And some of us have thought that about God's love as well. How can I be sure He will continue to love me?
Paul concludes this passage with a word of assurance. Romans 5:9. "Much more, then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him."
The point of the verse is this: If God did the harder thing, He will surely do the easier. If He sent His Son to Calvary to die in our place when we were sinners, surely now that He has declared us to be righteous in His sight He will see us through to the end and deliver us from His eternal wrath.
He comes at it a little differently in the next verse, but its the same general idea.
Romans 5:10. "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God, through the death of His Son, much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
Since God did the harder thing and reconciled us to Himself through the death of His Son when we were His enemies, He will surely do the easier thing and ultimately usher us into His presence now that His Son is alive and making intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). This verse takes us back to verse 1 and ties the whole paragraph together. Reconciliation is the peace we have with God, the cessation of hostilities we enjoy because we have been justified by faith. Now that we are God's friends, do you think for a moment that He will fail to see us through to glory? That would be absurd!
And that's cause for great rejoicing. So he uses the word one more time in verse 11.
Romans 5:11. "And not only that, but we also rejoice"--same word--"we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation."
This is the third time Paul uses this word for triumphant, confident, bursting, boasting joy. And we can understand why he use it. Our eternity in heaven's glory has been assured by a gracious God who out of the pure grace of His heart has reconciled us to Himself. He made us His friends and guaranteed eternity in His presence.
Trusting Jesus as Your Savior
So, is justification by faith alone adequate to gain us entrance into heaven? Can faith see us through? It not only can, but it will! When we approach heaven's "Will Call" window, we need have no fears that God will deny us entrance. It doesn't depend on whether we deserve it or not. That's already been settled. WE DON'T! That's what the first four chapters of Romans are all about: We don't deserve it. If we think we do, we're in big trouble. We're not going to get in. We have to acknowledge we don't deserve it, so we're not worried anymore about whether we deserve it or not. We praise God and rejoice in Him that Jesus Christ paid for it at Calvary. And we have peace, and we have hope, and then we have love, and then we have assurance. And that's all we need to see us through. All we need.
Do you have those things? Have you acknowledged that your sin separates you from God and He denies you entrance into His heaven? Even one tiny little sin is enough to bar us from God's holy presence. But Jesus died for that sin so that He could credit to us His own perfect righteousness and fit us to enter heaven's glory. Have you put your faith in Him alone? Can you say, "Having been justified by faith, I have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ"?
If there is any doubt in your mind, would you settle it today? Right here; right now. Let's bow our heads and our hearts quietly in His presence. With our heads bowed, just in reverence before God, let's get the issue clear again, one more time. Have you put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone and His sacrificial death on Calvary's cross, and His resurrection from the tomb, for your eternal salvation? Not your good deeds, not your religious affiliation, not your noble efforts to keep the ten commandments--only the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you put your confidence in Him? And if you've never done it, or you're not even sure you've done it, would you settle it right now? Just in the quiet of your own heart right where you sit, you commune with the living God, will you? He knows what goes on in your heart. "Lord, I'm a sinner." Tell Him that.
"Lord, I'm a sinner. I believe Jesus died for my sin. My sins nailed Him to that cross. And Lord Jesus, I'm putting my trust in You as my Savior from sin. Come into my heart and save me, Lord Jesus."
Will you make that decision today?
Oh, Father, I pray, that those who have neglected this, or willfully chosen to try to make it some other way, will see the truth of Your Word, at last, and put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And I pray that those of us who have made that decision and have been born anew by Your matchless grace, will live daily in the enjoyment of what we have in Jesus Christ; live in daily gratitude, and praise, and thanksgiving to You for this peace, and this hope, and this love, and this wondrous assurance; and live lives that honor You, and glorify You, as our expression of appreciation and praise. We ask it in Jesus name. Amen.
Continue to ROM 07: Whose Team Are You On?