(From a message given September 30, 2006, at Berean Grace Church in Genoa City, Wisconsin)
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
“By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1,2).
In 1888, a poem appeared in the San Francisco Examiner that soon swept the nation. It was a ballad about the then relatively young sport of baseball, and was entitled, “Casey at the Bat.” The last line of this epic poem reads: “But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.”
What a telling example of how the world about us views the subject of joy. When things are good, and their team has won, there is joy! But when things go bad, and their team has lost, their joy is lost. And so it must always be for the unbeliever, or even for the believer who knows no better than to find the basis for his joy in his circumstances. How much better is the joy that God offers to those who understand what His Word teaches on this important subject! Our text says that we can rejoice in hope of the glory of God. The word rejoice is the verb form of the word joy. If you are rejoicing, you have joy, and if you have joy, it means that you are rejoicing.
The Bible study principle known as The Law of 1st Mention says that the first mention of a word in Scripture often defines the word, or sets the tone for its use throughout Scripture. And while Romans 5:2 is not the first mention of joy in the Bible, it is the first mention of joy in Paul’s epistles. Since Paul is the apostle of the present dispensation, we can conclude that the basis for all of our joy as members of the Body of Christ is found here in these verses.
The primary source of the believer’s joy here is knowing that we have been “justified by faith.” What does it mean to be justified? It means to be made righteous. We have no English word righteous-fied, and so if you are justified, it means that you have been made righteous, and if you have been made righteous, it means that you are justified. But what does it mean to be made righteous?
Many years ago, if a man in England shot and killed a man who was raping his wife, it was considered “justifiable homicide.” This means that not only was the husband not guilty of any wrong-doing in shooting the rapist, he was actually considered to have done the right thing. Similarly, when we get saved, God gives us so much more than just forgiveness. We are actually justified, “made the righteousness of God” in Christ (II Cor. 5:21). The very righteousness of God is imputed to us in Christ.
But how is God able to impute such righteousness to sinful men? The answer to this question is important, for it differs greatly from the justification offered by Greek mythology.
Has the reader ever wondered why the “gods” of the Greeks were frequently portrayed as lying, cheating, stealing, and lusting after human beings and other gods? Why would men fabricate gods who behaved so poorly? Ah, to justify their own behavior! After all, if their gods conducted themselves so sinfully, it was easy to rationalize and justify such iniquity amongst themselves.
How different is the justification offered by God in His Word. God justifies us not by lowering Himself to our level, but rather by raising us to His! He did not lower His standards of absolute righteousness so as to allow sinful men to be justified. He rather sent His Son to live a life that fully met His perfect standard, who then died a sacrificial death on our behalf. This explains how God could be “just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). God then is able to impute His righteousness to us when we believe the gospel, and thus as our text says we are “justified by faith.” The word “faith” is the noun form of the word believe. If you believe, you have faith, and if you have faith, that means that you have believed.
But what is it that we must believe in order to be justified? Well, our text begins with the word “therefore.” Students of the Bible know that when we see a “therefore” in Scripture, we must look to see what it’s there for! In this instance, if we back up one verse, we learn what it is that we must believe in order to be justified. Speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ in Romans 4:24, Verse 25 says:
“Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”
The most important word in this verse is one of the smallest words, as is often the case in Scripture. It is the word “for.” Believing that Christ died and rose again is not enough to save anyone, for these are merely well-documented facts of history. It is only when we believe that Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification that God can impute His righteousness to us. What a wonderful source of joy!
Additional grounds for the believer’s joy can be found in our text when Paul speaks of our “peace with God.” The peace that God makes with us is unlike the peace men make with one another, which is only temporary in nature. When we hear the announcement of a “cease-fire” in the Middle East, we know it will only last until the next shot is fired! Similarly, Hitler made “peace” with Stalin, but it wasn’t long before the German panzers were rolling eastward into Russia. Contrariwise, the peace that God offers is irrevocable! The believer in Christ will never again be the enemy of God that he was before salvation (Rom. 5:10).
If you stop and think about it, justification and peace with God are the only things we should rejoice in, for they are the only things we have that cannot be taken away! Many a man rejoices in his house, his car, his riches or his health, but all of these are things that can be lost. When husbands rejoice in their job, and wives rejoice in their children, these things are certainly more noble things in which to rejoice, but these too are things that can be taken away from us. When Christians rejoice in their church or in their pastor, this appears even more virtuous, and yet these too are things that can be lost. The only safe things in which to base our joy are immutable truths like our justification and our peace with the Almighty.
Further joy can be found in our text in the “access” we have “into this grace wherein we stand.” Our personal computers contain many files, and they are our files, but we must be able to access them for them to be of any use to us. Similarly, the believer in Christ has grace, but we must be able to access this grace for it to be of any functional value in our spiritual lives.
But of what grace does the apostle speak when he uses the phrase “this grace”? When he writes of “this grace” in II Corinthians 8:7, the context tells us that he speaks of the grace of giving. But here the context determines that the phrase “this grace” speaks of the grace of our justification and our peace with God.
But if we “stand” before God justified and at peace with Him, why do we need to “access” this grace? The answer lies in the difference between our standing as believers and our state. Sometimes expressed in other terms, such as the difference between our position and our practice, this Bible study principle points out the difference between the perfect standing that believers have before God in Christ, and the outworking of that position in our daily lives (Phil. 2:12). Ideally the two should be the same, but even the best of us falls short of the absolute perfection we have in Christ.
Likewise our text tells us that we stand fully justified and at peace with God. However, when we sin, it is natural to fear that we have provoked God. Likewise when we get sick, or suffer an accident or experience some other adversity, we are prone to think that God is angry with us. When these things happen, we must access the grace that tells us we stand before Him justified and at peace.
How do we access this grace? Paul says that we do so “by faith,” and faith comes by hearing the Word (Rom. 10:17). Thus when your conscience whispers that God is angry with you, or when some preacher on TV suggests that God is judging you for your sin, you must by faith access His Word, and remind yourself that God says you have irrevocable peace with Him. Our joy is based in our peace with God, but we must access this grace by faith if we are to have the joy that God wants us to enjoy.
Next, Paul says that we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Here we know that Paul is speaking of the Rapture, because the words “hope” and “glory” remind us of how Paul describes the Rapture as “that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing” of the Lord Jesus (Titus 2:13).
But has the reader ever wondered what the glory of God is, specifically? We needn’t speculate. When Moses asked God to show him His “glory,” the Lord replied that He would do so by showing him His “goodness” (Ex. 33:18,19). God’s glory is His goodness. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” The glory of God is that He is so good that He has never sinned, and we have all fallen short of this. This is why the natural reaction of men to the glory of God is fear (Luke 2:9). It is natural for unholy men to fear the absolute holiness of God.
How then can Paul say that we “rejoice” in hope of the glory of God? Ah, it is because at the Rapture, God’s glory will not just be revealed to us, as it was revealed to the frightened shepherds at our Lord’s birth, it will be revealed “in” us (Rom. 8:18). And so we needn’t fear God’s glory, we can rather rejoice in it, because in that day we will share it!
Imagine sharing the glory of God! People pay big bucks to buy JFK’s golf clubs, or a dress worn by Princess Diana, but these purchases can hardly enable the buyer to share the glory of these celebrities. Yet the God of all creation, who declared He would not give His glory to another (Isa. 42:8; 48:11), has given this glory to the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:5), and will someday give it to us through Him. Surely this is grace to rejoice in!
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulations worketh patience;
“And patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Rom. 5:3,4).
The Greek word for “glory” in Verse 3 is the same as that translated “rejoice” in Verse 2. Coupled with the word “also” here, Paul is saying that we glory in tribulations as much as we rejoice in the Rapture! To which most of us would reply—“We do? How can Paul say such a thing!”
The key is in the word “knowing.” The key to glorying in tribulation is convincing ourselves that God is correct when He says tribulation works patience. As adults we endure going to the dentist, working out in the gym, etc., because we know that these things work physical good in us. Likewise as sons of God, we should be able to endure anything if we truly believe that it is working spiritual good in us.
If the reader wonders if tribulation really works patience, just imagine a Christian who was born wealthy and whose parents shielded him from all tribulation in life. Such a man is likely to be very impatient, and so we can prove by reverse reasoning that the Bible is as right about this as it is about all other things. But as tribulations begin to work patience in our shielded wealthy friend, his “experience” with tribulation will begin to work “hope” in him. A believer who experiences no tribulation in life is unlikely to be hoping for the Rapture.
But can we ever get to the point where we actually rejoice in tribulations? Perhaps the reader has heard of Ivan Pavlov, the Russian scientist who rang a bell when he fed his dog, then noticed that his pet would salivate even before being presented with food. In a lesser-known experiment, Pavlov administered an electric shock to the dog, who understandably growled at him. He then began to administer shocks to the dog followed by a treat, and soon his pet ceased growling after receiving a shock. Eventually the animal actually began to wag his tail upon receipt of the unpleasant jolt, joyfully realizing that a treat would follow.
In like manner, the believer in Christ can also learn to stop growling when we are on the receiving end of the many shocks and traumas of life, and actually learn to rejoice in tribulations. This is high spiritual ground indeed, but it is a level that Paul was able to attain in II Corinthians 7:4, where he said, “I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.”
Of course in Scripture, “glory” is the opposite of “shame” (Psa. 4:2; Prov. 3:35; Isa. 22:18; Hos. 4:7; Hab. 2:16; Phil. 3:19). And so if as a believer you have not yet attained to the level of spirituality needed to actually rejoice in tribulations, you can at least know that tribulation in our lives is nothing of which to be ashamed.
This is different than under the Law. In Jeremiah 14:1-4, the farmers in Israel were “ashamed” when they experienced the tribulation of a drought. Why would a farmer be embarrassed about a lack of rain? In the dispensation of grace, such a dearth is in no way the farmer’s fault. But under the Law, the people of Israel brought drought upon themselves. The terms of their covenant with God stated that if they were disobedient, God would chasten them by withholding precipitation (Lev. 26:19). And so to experience a drought under the Law was a cause of shame and embarrassment, for it meant that they had been disobedient to God. Now it is possible that the farmers’ shame in Jeremiah 14 was also due to embarrassment caused by calling in vain upon false gods for rain (cf. Jer. 2:26,27), but the fact remains that tribulation under the Law was a cause for shame, not glory.
How different things are under Grace! What a blessing it has been over the years for this Grace pastor to be able to visit God’s people in the hospital and not have to suggest that perhaps they were hospitalized because of some secret sin! If the reader of this page is currently going through some tribulation in life, you needn’t be ashamed in such circumstances as people were under the Law.
One more thing about experience. As we all know, experience is a great teacher, and our experience with tribulation teaches us that we are not under Law (Rom. 6:14,15). When we sin, we sometimes experience tribulation afterward—and sometimes not. Sometimes when we experience tribulation, we can think back to a particular sin that we have committed—and sometimes we can’t. In other words, our experience with tribulation teaches us that our tribulations have nothing to do with our conduct! For the believer today, tribulations are just a result of living with the results of Adam’s fall. We do experience trouble as a result of reaping what we sow (Gal. 6:7), but that is quite different than tribulation sent from God under the Law as a result of disobedience.
“And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5).
At the risk of sounding irreverent, I would suggest to you that without the blessed hope of the Rapture, you should be ashamed of God! In the dispensation of grace, are you guaranteed prosperity, as was the experience of Abraham and Lot (Gen. 13:2,5,6), Job (1:3) and others? Should you be pursued by men intent on doing you harm, and you find yourself cornered at a large body of water, will God part the waters to facilitate your escape? When you are hungry, does He provide manna for you as He did for Israel?
These things and more might cause us to be ashamed and embarrassed to name such a God as our own. Ah, but “hope maketh not ashamed”! The blessed hope of living eternally with God in heaven takes away all “shame” of worshipping a God who does not defy nature to meet our needs and deliver us from tribulation in life. Paul was right when he said that “if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (I Cor. 15:19). Thank God, we have hope in Christ in the next life as well!
God’s love may not be shed abroad in our health or our wealth, but “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts“ (Rom. 5:5). The word “shed” in Scripture is almost always used in conjunction with the shedding of blood, and so the Apostle uses this word here to remind us that “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Of course, while the Lord’s blood was shed at Calvary, the love of God that was manifest in the Cross is only shed abroad “in our hearts” when we believe.
We must always remember to measure the love of God by the love expressed at Calvary. We have ways of measuring just about everything, including the amount of electricity and natural gas that comes into our homes. But in order to get a correct measure of things, we must use the proper measuring device. Every cook knows that if the recipe calls for a dry measure and you employ a liquid measuring cup, you are going to come up with a faulty measure! Every electrician knows that you can’t measure amps with an ohmmeter, or ohms with a voltmeter. And every Christian should know that we cannot measure the love of God in our lives by the amount of tribulation in our lives. The only accurate standard by which to measure the love of God is the Cross of Christ.
The story is told of a young man in ancient times who was convicted of adultery, a crime punishable in those days by the putting out of the two eyes of the perpetrator. But after he levied the sentence, the judge revealed that he was the young man’s father. He then announced that he would execute the sentence by putting out just one of his son’s eyes, and one of his own. In this way the justice of the law was satisfied, but the judge’s son would be spared total blindness.
While this story is a touching one indeed, it cannot begin to illustrate the love that God showed to us at the Cross. For there the Lord Jesus did not just volunteer to “go halves” with us in satisfying the just demands of the Law. He rather bore all the punishment that was justly due to us, as He “bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (I Pet. 2:24). When the trials of life seem almost too great too bear, what joy can be ours as we access by faith this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God!