Alive In the Here and Now, and the Hereafter
Romans Part 13—5:1-11
When I was on Guam many moons ago, I shared Christ with all who would listen, and with some who didn’t! One day I met a guy named Bill. Now, Bill was no ordinary guy. He had a strong desire for all things spiritual, only not in the Christian sense of the word. Bill was into yoga—and when he wasn’t actually on duty, he would sit in his room and meditate—up to 8 hours a day. Praise the Lord that, for awhile at least, Bill turned his heart to Jesus and stopped his yoga meditation.
I’ve also heard stories, and maybe you have, too, where people have demon-assisted, out-of-the-body experiences. Stories of those who claim to have gone to heaven, or hell, and back, are wildly popular. And how many of us have ever asked, “Where is the power of God today? I don’t see miracles like I read about in the gospels or the book of Acts.” And to add just a bit more to the mix, how did Jesus define eternal life? Knowing the invisible God in an ongoing, right now relationship.
So what is it in us that longs for a sense of mystery, hope, and fear as it has sometimes been described? This desire to have a mystical connection with God? We’ve all heard: “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”. Since the days of Adam and Eve, mankind has always had a longing to get back to the Garden. That’s how religions are created.
Today, we’re going to see in these first 11 verses of Romans 5 some fantastic things about true life in the here and now, and the hereafter. And we will see that a mystical experience with God is not only possible, but is the norm for the true Christian. Obviously it’s by faith, but what did Paul tell us? We walk by faith and not by sight.
So again, Romans 5:1-11. In vv. 1-5 we’re going to talk about God’s hope He’s given to us. In vv 6-8 we’re going to see the indescribable love of God, as Paul attempts to describe it. Finally, in vv 9-11, we’ll take a look at the absolute assurance we can have in God’s salvation.
So let’s read Romans 5:1-5: “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.”
“Therefore” . . . what? To set the stage we need to go back into chapter 4 before we move on to these verses in Romans 5. It was all about Father Abraham having many sons and daughters. Sons and daughters by faith— because he believed the God of the impossible. Now, when I say that, I’m referring to the impossible promises that He made to Abraham. And because Abraham believed the God of the impossible promise, God credited it to Abraham as righteousness.
It’s the same with us. Remember how in the first several chapters of this letter Paul, in painful, awful detail told us who we all were before a good and holy God. He told us that because of our sin we were storing up wrath for the day of wrath. He told us that no one is righteous. No one naturally seeks after God.
But we tell ourselves and each other a big lie, don’t we? That we are good people. And to say anything else is an insult. For example, every political season automatically carries with it the biggest complaint by us the voters: attack ads—where one candidate calls his or her opponent all kinds of bad names. They are so mean to each other! And we don’t like it.
So, what makes the gospel such good news? Because the news is not all good. But it is real news. The gospel begins with bad news. It tells us that we are wicked. Ungodly. The God who loves us is holy. And we are evil. And He is committed to take care of evil wherever He finds it. Of course, many down through the years, and even here today have agreed with God’s assessment of ourselves. And we have come to the conclusion that it’s impossible for anybody to be naturally righteous before God. We realize how helpless we are, that we need to be rescued from sin because we can’t save ourselves. That’s the set up, for it’s then and only then we’re ready to hear God’s remedy, which is truly good news.
For in Christ, the impossible becomes reality. In Christ, the ungodly is made godly. Wicked people are made holy. Those who deserve to die forever are pardoned forever. And when a person puts their faith in the God of the impossible promise, and repents from their sin, they are given an impossible status—being made right before the holy God of the universe! And that impossible status is called justification. We are justified by faith.
Now we need to remind ourselves about what faith is. Because we are not allowed to use this word any way we’d like, but we must use it the way the Scripture intends for it to be used. Romans 3:21–22: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” Then skip down 4 verses to 26. In declaring how God can be righteous to justify the sinner we find these words: “It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” In both of these passages we don’t see faith in faith. We don’t see faith in God in a general way. But what do we see? Faith. In. Jesus.
Back to Romans 5:1. Having been made righteous by faith—let’s supply the object—in Jesus, we have peace with God. And this peace is exclusive, just like justification. Do you realize that God’s peace isn’t available to everybody? God’s peace, according to this Scripture, is only given to those who have been made right with Him, who have been justified. A little later in this passage Paul will remind us that we were enemies of God—like every other person on the planet. But many of us here understood our condition before Him, and as one person put it, we laid down our arms and ran to His. And wonder of wonders, there’s now peace between God and us.
The rest of v. 1 and 2 are packed with incredible truth! Besides receiving His peace, there are two other realities that are true of us whom God has justified. The first is that we have access by faith—again, in Jesus—into a literal ongoing experience of His grace in which we are now standing and will continue to stand.
At the beginning of the message I mentioned our universal desire for a mystical union with God. Our continual standing in grace is the satisfaction of that longing. If you’ve ever wanted a direct, spiritual connection to God, standing in His grace is it! Because God made us right with Him by faith in Christ, what’s true of us is a continual spiritual connection with Him. “What about miracles?” we ask. “What about signs and wonders or raising people from the dead?” Let’s talk about that. Miracles: God has accepted us and will not reject us. Signs and wonders: We have the spirit of God living inside us: Leading us. Guiding us. Convicting us. Teaching us. Making us more like Jesus. What about rising from the dead? God says we are more alive now than ever! God Himself, in resurrection power is permanently living in us.
But what about doing miracles? Think about someone who truly wrongs you and you forgive like Jesus does. I’m not talking about a superficial forgiveness, but forgiveness of the costly kind. Coming from God’s divine, supernatural source. Like what our persecuted brothers and sisters in Pakistan do. The Christians there are only about 2.5 percent of the total population. Pastor Munawar, a Christian leader in the city of Peshawar, describes how he and his congregation lives forgiveness: Though their fellow Pakistanis show much overt hatred toward them, they are not bitter. Instead, they work for better relationships with their Muslim neighbors. They view their persecution as an opportunity to display Christ's love to others, even al-Qaeda members. Pastor Munawar summarized how his church responds to persecution: "We clean the wounds of those who hate us and those who would kill us." Is that not a miracle, brought about by the God of the universe living in them?
We just talked about the first reality of those whom God justified, the experience of standing in His grace. The second reality is something even more incredible: We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Hope here is not a “hope so” as in “I’m not sure”, but a settled, absolute confidence that something is true and will happen. In this case, hope is the glory of God. We rejoice, with a settled, absolute confidence that we are going to share in the glory of God. Take it to the bank. Full stop.
But wait a minute. Scripture says that we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. The glory of God? But how can that be? Because of our faith in Jesus, because God has made us right with Him, we have absolute assurance that when we leave this life we will be where God is in all of His glory. “But it’s impossible to be so sure!” says every post-modern. For them, the only absolute certainty they have is that there are no absolutes. Really? No absolutes? Then what about their assertion that there are no absolutes?
On this very point I ashamedly admit that I compromised this truth. In the not too distant past I was telling someone I knew rather well about Jesus and how certain I was about being with Him after this life is over. He emphatically told me, “there’s no way you can be sure.” Long story short. I actually told him that he was right. I revamped my statement and instead of saying, “I will be with God one day”, I said, “I believe I will be with God one day.”
But I’ve since repented. This is now my position. Because of what God has done for me, my conviction is that when I pass on from this life, I will be with my Lord Jesus.
That’s spiritual reality. These are spiritual facts of life. We are justified by faith in Christ. We have peace with God through Christ. We have access to and continually stand in God’s freely given grace. We have a conviction that we will be with the Lord after we leave here and cross the threshold of eternal life.
And this spiritual reality sets things up for the rest of this section: Just as we rejoice in our conviction that we will be with the Lord one day, we also rejoice in the pains, sufferings, trials, and tribulations of this life. Rejoice in trials? Are you kidding? What are we to be, masochists, who love pain? Nothing can be further from the truth. For the son or daughter of God, there is no pointless suffering. Paul tells us that in our difficulties is a spiritual progression, like stepping stones where sufferings are leading us to a place that really matters. Let’s take a look: Suffering produces endurance. Endurance produces character. Character produces hope. There’s that word again. The confident expectation that something is going to happen. So, what is the hope Paul is referring to here?
It’s what Paul just talked about. The settled conviction that we will be with the Lord when this life is over.
Now look at the next part of verse 5: Hope does not disappoint. Why? Because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Because we are justified by faith in Jesus, what has He done to our hearts, the very core of our being? Poured His love into them! The moment we entered the Kingdom, the Holy Spirit entered our lives, and with Him, came the love of God. The love that prompted Him to create you and me. The love that overflowed from the Triune Godhead, seeking to draw into His fellowship creatures made in His image, was poured into our hearts to overflowing. And it’s that love that He’s given to us that seeks an outlet to give to others.
For example, what is it that causes even impoverished Christians to give their stuff to those less fortunate than themselves? The love that God put into their hearts through the Holy Spirit. See, God’s love enables us to let go of what we have to give to those in need. Talk about a miracle! For, what is the way of the world? Get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can! The love of God replaces our desire and commitment to serve mammon with a desire and commitment to serve others in the name of Jesus with the same self-giving love and care with which God loved us. As we know, the love of God is not squishy. It’s not Polly annish. No, it’s tough. Sacrificing. Always asking: “How can I help?” “What can I give?” And the more we give, the more we will understand Jesus’ words communicated through Paul, “It’s more blessed to give than receive.”
That’s the first five verses of this passage: God’s hope given to us. In the short time we have left, let’s very briefly look at the rest of this passage. In vv 6-8 let’s read about God’s description of love: “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.” Notice the incredible lengths God went through to demonstrate His love to us—God offered His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. The sinless one took the place of sinners. God isn’t willing for anybody to perish. But His required payment for sin is death. As we’ll see when we get to Romans 6, the wages of sin is death-as in our death. Here, we read that the payment for sin is death as well-the death of the Lord Jesus.
We’ve all heard stories of Marines falling on grenades to save the lives of their fellow Marines. We hear the words of Jesus in our mind’s ear: “Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.” But why did it take the death of Christ for God to show His love? We get it that love means giving. But why the Son of God? Hebrews 10:12: “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.” He sat down because His work was done! Jesus was the Lamb of God. He did what no one else was able to do: take away the sin of the world!
Let me quote for you the powerful words of the third verse of the hymn, “The Love of God” as we try to understand something so precious, but we so often take for granted: “Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade; to write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry; nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.” To sum up, mere words are inadequate to speak and write about so precious a thing as His love.
Finally, let’s look at verses 9-11, where we find absolute assurance in God’s salvation. “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, shall we 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.”
How powerful are these words! And notice the word Paul uses, yet again: Justification. Because we’ve been made right with God through the death of Christ, and include in the “white space” of our repenting of sin and believing the gospel, what does God do? He saves us from His wrath. Here we’re reminded that God’s justice doesn’t sleep forever. He will deal with all sin. One day, everything will be the way He wants it.
And gloriously, it gets personal for those He has justified. See, when God justifies us He makes us legally right. As the judge at the Bar of God, He declares us to be right because Jesus took our place on the cross. But reconciliation gives us the idea of a personal relationship. Reconciliation means not only that God has acquitted us, He also delights to be around us, since there’s nothing to separate our fellowship with Him. We are now children of God and friends of God! And it’s all because of Jesus! And what does God reconciling us to Himself produce in us? Absolute rejoicing in God through our Lord Jesus Christ for giving us reconciliation!
So what are we to make of all this? First: everything hinges on your relationship, or lack thereof with Jesus. Do you know Him? Have you repented from your sin? Have you flung yourself at His feet for mercy? Jesus is God’s place of mercy that we find when we come to Him. Remember Jesus’ comforting words: “Whoever comes to Me I will never cast out.”
If you have staked your life on Jesus, then you are justified: made right with God. If you’re right with Him, you have peace with God, which leads directly to hope: the conviction that you will be with the Lord forever.
If you’re in the Kingdom, then you’re standing in a mystical relationship with Him: one that’s ongoing, forever and strong. Because of what Christ has done, we can now approach the very throne of God, and as Hebrews tells us, we can find grace right there to help us in our time of need.
Standing in grace also means that you don’t have to worry about your status before God. The beautiful thing is that we can rely on God’s revelation of Himself to Moses. Here’s what He said in Exodus: 34:6–7: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.” We don’t have to be afraid that God will ultimately cast aside those He has justified. Pour all of your heart out to Him. He’s big enough to handle you.
Lastly, let me proclaim, again, that the idea we can be so heavenly minded we’re no earthly good is a lie. The more we are “spoiled” for this life by the hope of the glory of God, the more we can withstand our trials, knowing that they will only strengthen our hope. And the stronger our hope, the less tightly will we grip mammon, and the less of a hold will mammon have on us. Instead of mammon being our master, it now becomes our servant, and we can use it to serve others in need. So in reality, the more heavenly minded we are the more earthly good we become.
So, are you alive today? Have you experienced the direct connection between you and the holy God who loves you? If you haven’t, do business with the Lord! If you have, then cultivate the awareness of His good presence! Live fully in His world, in the here and now, and the hereafter!