A new righteousness, a new hope, a new boast
A NEW RIGHTEOUSNESS, A NEW HOPE, A NEW BOAST (ROM 5:1-5)
This morning we continue our study through the letter to the Romans by looking into Rom 5:1-5. So turn in your bibles to Romans 5:1-5.
I’ve called this message: A new righteousness, a new hope, a new boast. I can’t think of a better passage to minister to you in our present context than this one. This is God’s truth for your need, the perspective God needs you to have for today.
A NEW RIGHTEOUSNESS (5:1)
We have a new, right standing with God…
The first word in Rom 5 in the Greek text is the word justified…. “Dikaiow” which means to be righteous, or just, or justified. It can refer to a person’s character, or to someone’s standing before God. The Jews believed that by righteous behaviour, by godly character, one came to have a right standing before God, so that is how they connected the two. You earned righteousness or were rewarded with a right standing before God by virtue of your righteousness or performance according to the Law. In Rom 1-4 Paul has been showing and proving that that form of righteousness only gains wrath.
REVIEW OF ROM 1-4
· Rom 1 God’s wrath is being poured out on all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness
· Rom 3: None is righteousness, no not one (Rom 3:10). By the works of the law, no human being will be justified in his sight (Rom 3:20). But part 2 of the chapter – God has provided another way of righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Rom 3:21-22)
· Rom 4 has explained this way of righteousness – from the divine and the human perspective. It’s God’s gift to us, as God considers/counts/reckons Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us. It’s ours by faith as we turn from trusting in our own righteousness and trust in Christ’s righteousness for us. We trust in God’s gracious and unmerited gift rather than anything we could earn or deserve by our performance – as 5:1 puts it, it is a “by faith” righteousness, which comes “through Jesus Christ”
So then, having been justified….. what results, what flows from, what is the fruit, what is the reward and result that flows from this justification?
So Rom 5 marks a transition in the book. Rom 1-4 he has been explaining our need for justification and the way God has provided for us to be justified. Rom 5-8 is going to unpack all the implications of our justification. What results from having been justified.
Right with the king = peace with god
To understand this transition, we need to enter into the Bible’s own worldview.
· In the Bible’s view, the world is not governed by impartial forces toward random ends. The world is governed by a Supreme Being, who created everything and rules over everything and directs everyone to accomplish His plans and purposes.
· God is the King of Kings and the world is His kingdom. To have any measure of peace and security and fruitfulness in His realm – you have to be rightly related to the king. The make yourself an enemy of the king is to invite ruin and destruction and banishment. To become a friend of the king is to enter into His blessings and protection, to become part of His plans and purposes.
Because we have been justified, we have peace with God. Those who were once God’s enemies, have become His friends. Those who were objects of wrath have become recipients of blessing.
· The language of vs 2, “we have obtained access by faith,” is used of someone who has been granted access to the king, someone who has been ushered into the presence of the king.
· In ancient contexts, that could be a terrifying thing unless you were assured of the king’s favour. So vs 2 is telling us that we have been personally ushered into the presence of the king with the certain pledge of His favour...
· And we continue to have this access, to stand in this gracious position, to enjoy this favour.
The reward of the righteous
· To move from being God’s enemies to being God’s friends and allies – has massive implications. Listen to just a smattering of what the OT affirms about that who have a right standing with God.
o I have been young, and now I am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Or his descendants begging bread – Psalm 37:25
o Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds – Is. 3 : 10
o The path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day – Proverbs 4:18
o The seed of the righteous shall be delivered – Proverbs 11:21
o Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death – Proverbs 11:4
o Whoever pursues righteousness and love, finds life, prosperity and honor – Proverbs 21:21
o For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers
o The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all – Psalm 34:19
o The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree – Psalm 92:12
o The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it and is safe – Proverbs 18:10
o Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people – Proverbs 14:34
o A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness has a sure reward – Proverbs 11:18
o For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield – Psalm 5 : 12
o The righteous cry and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles – Psalm 34:17
o Adversity pursues sinners, But the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity – Proverbs 13:21
o For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again – Proverbs 24:16
o Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever – Psalm 112:6.
I could go on and on – but I think you get the point don’t you?....To be righteous in God’s sight, is to become the recipient of all His favour and promises. It is to enter into His purposes and be assured of His blessings.
Those who through faith in Christ have been justified or declared righteous, are no less righteousness than Jesus Christ. Therefore all the promises and purposes which find their fulfilment in Jesus Christ become our inheritance. In Christ we are fully and finally righteous and all that is promised to the righteous becomes ours.
TALIBAN TO US CITIZEN
Imagine you were Osama Ben Laden, a member of the Taliban, a terrorist responsible for the death and destruction of 9/11 and on US the wanted list. All of American intelligence and military power would be bent on finding and destroying you. Then imagine you were not only granted clemency, but actually made a U.S citizen….What, you might wonder, would ever convince the US government to grant someone like Osama Ben Laden clemency, and more than that – US citizenship? Our justification is a much greater miracle, granting us clemency for much greater crimes committed against a much greater, holier and more powerful ruler. But it also ushers us into all the rights and privileges of citizenship, of God’s favour and protection. In a moment, all the intelligence and power and goodness of the ruler of the universe is bent on doing us good.
That’s what it means to have a new righteousness.
A new righteousness = a new right standing before God, a new hope.
A new hope (2)
If you took all the gifts, all the results, all the promises that are now ours as a result of our right standing with God and you put them into a very large bucket – that bucket would contain our new hope.
Hope in the Bible is more than wishful thinking – its certain confidence, its assurance of future blessing. We have the hope, the assurance, the certainty of glory according to 5:2.
Hope is the key theme of 5-8. It’s the term that summarizes the confidence, the assurance we have because of our justification.
Breakdown of Romans
Some people divide up Romans 1-5 justification; Rom 6-8 sanctification. But really Rom 5, as we have seen is the turning point. The term righteousness occurs 9 time in the first 4 chapters of Romans, only 3 time in the remaining chapters. So what we have is Rom 1-4 justification Rom 5-8 Hope. The hope that is ours as a result of our justification by grace through faith in Christ.
· The term hope occurs 13 times in the book of Romans, more than twice the number of occurrences than any other book in the N.T. So Romans is the book of Hope.
· The word occurs 3 times here in these opening verses of chapter 5 and twice again in Rom 8 forming a kind of book end for this whole section of Romans. This section is all about hope.
· It forms part of the doxology in Rom 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” God is described as the God who is the author and founder of hope and the Christian life is described as one which, by the power of the Spirit, is characterized by the joy and peace that comes from a certain hope.
Hope despite present circumstances
In other words, justification by faith is designed by God to usher us into a new hope, the certainty of glory with God in this life and the life to come. Whatever else happens, whatever else we might experience, whatever our feelings or circumstances might be saying to the contrary – we always have cause for hope and this becomes our anchor, our foundation, our joy and our praise.
Hope in the Bible implies struggle and difficulty. It implies that things are not going very well here, or at least that they are not going as well here and now as they will be going in the future. Hope implies dreams unfulfilled, promises deferred, blessings not yet realized.
Read Rom 8:18-25. This is what bookends this section of Romans – hope in the midst of struggle, joy in the midst of groaning, perseverance in the midst of set back, after set back, after set back.
Hope in the Christian life is not focused on present rewards, present success, present relief, present restoration – but the certainty of God’s glory in the future, and God’s sustaining grace in the present.
There are only 2 other books in the Bible that emphasize hope as much as Romans. Can you think which books those are?....
· Psalms: In all of life, in all of its many realites, we can praise God because we have hope.
· What’s the other?
· Job – Job 13:15 “Though God slay me, yet I will hope in Him” Hope is what sustained Job in the midst of all the many afflictions he faced, in the absence of any blessing or comfort or answers from God – yet he held onto His certain hope – that God will restore Him and confirm His love.
Illustration – counseling
I’ve done a fair amount of counseling over the years dealing with people whose lives have been ripped apart and left in tatters because of sin, or just because of life in a fallen world.
One of the first things any and every biblical counselor has to do with those who need God’s help – is to give them hope. To give them hope that God has not abandoned them, that they are not beyond His reach. To give them hope that though their circumstances may never change, though their spouse may never change, or their health may never improve, or their loved one may never return – they can still know God’s peace, God’s presence, God’s joy, and God’s power. They can still live victoriously and accomplish God’s purposes for their life.
Without hope, people cannot be helped. Or put it another way, the first and greatest help you can give any person, is to give them hope in the present context. Not false hope, not wishful thinking – but certain hope is the basis of present victory.
Brokenness and weakness is difficult, but hopelessness is death to the soul. Hopelessness is the essence of spiritual death and hope is the essence of the abundant life – that is why, as we come to the section of Romans that unpacks the fruit or result of our justification – the key note that is struck over and over again – is hope, a hope which does not disspoint.
A new righteousness, a new hope, finally – a new boast
A new boast (3-5)
ESV translates vs 2+3 “we rejoice in the …..we rejoice in our sufferings”
In my mind, that is an unfortunate translation because it obscures the connection between this verse and what Paul has been saying in 1-4.
· 2:23 “You who boast in the law dishonour God by breaking the law” The law gives you no reason to boast before God.
· 3:19 The law shows that everyone is rightly condemned, it stops every mouth and puts an end to all boasting before God.
· 3:27-28 What has become of our boasting? It is excluded by God’s way of righteousness
· 4:4:1-2 even Abraham had nothing to boast of before God because God’s way of righteousness leaves us no reason to boast in ourselves and our goodness and our performance.
Justification gives us no reason to boast in ourselves, but it doesn’t leave us with no reason to boast. 5:2 through justification we become those who can and should boast in the glory of God – same word that Paul has been using throughout. The Christian is boasting in something else now, in the certainty of glory that God has given us through faith in Christ despite present circumstances. This gives us joy, peace and praise that is not dependent upon or diminished by our present struggles.
In fact, what Paul goes on to say is even more shocking and surprising than that. Justification allows us to boast, not only in future glory, but in present suffering! Same Greek word…..
Not prosperity gospel
At this point our mind is whirling, or at least it should be. I thought justification gained God’s favour, secured God’s blessing, promised us health and wealth and prosperity?
Think back to all those verses I read about the blessing and inheritance of the righteous…Can you sense the paradigm shift that vs 3 is providing.
Our boast is now the certainty of participating in all of God’s glory, all of God’s riches, all of God’s wisdom and power and goodness – that makes perfect sense – but that is not the end of the statement. And what follows seems like a contradiction.
Vs 3 turns the prosperity gospel that is being preached all over Africa, on its head….
The biblical gospel says. The Christian doesn’t boast in health, wealth and prosperity – the Christian boasts in suffering and weakness and adversity.
Proven character secures our hope
We boast in those things that we are proud of, that we regard as valuable, we boast in what we love and cherish. The world boasts in power and wealth and prestige and honour and fame – the glory of man. Justification causes the Christian to boast in the glory of God and in suffering…..Are you sensing how ridiculously contradictory this statement really is?
Why would we find joy in suffering? Is a Christian some kind of masochist that we just like suffering? Like some psychologically disturbed people, we find pleasure in pain?
How can this make sense? How can this be the climax and fruit of our justification?
Paul goes on to explain. We can rejoice in suffering, we can rejoice despite suffering because we know this….that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope – a hope which will certainly not fail us.
· So he describes this logical chain, this sequence of cause and effect, this row of dominoes where the one feeds into the other and produces an effect.
· The end of this chain is certain hope, absolute confidence, the sure knowledge that glory is ours, and that all of Gods promises will soon be realized despite the reality of present suffering.
Value of hope
Now hope we understand, is priceless. Even the world out there understands how valuable hope is. Even worldly people will defer present pleasure for the hope of something better. They will ensure sleepless nights and rigorous training and loss of income and the multiplication of pain and suffering for the hope of – a promotion, or a medal, or a fancy car or a nice house, or fame and recognition. People literally take their lives when they lose hope because life without hope loses all meaning and significance.
So vs 2 tells us that we have what the world most desperately desires as a gift or fruit of our justification – the hope of eternal, divine glory. But how can we be sure that this hope is not misplaced, that is not just pie in the sky wishful thinking?
How hope is formed
Vs 3 tells us how we bring our future hope to bear on the present. How our future hope becomes our present boast. Paul’s chain here is meant to show us the cause and effect relationship. Those who have a certain hope in the present are those who have proven Christ-like character. Those who, over time, have had the dross of sin repeatedly removed, who have had the remnants of the flesh repeatedly scraped off and in whom the character of Christ has been formed and begins to shine out.
How we come to have hope?
How does his happen? What is the mechanism God uses? Christian character is formed over time in the furnace of affliction and from that furnace rises incorruptible hope – a hope which will not fail us. – that’s a paraphrase of vs 4. Repeat….
Here’s what we must understand…. As Christians, we don’t get to dig into this great bucket of blessings that is ours in Christ, at least we don’t get to enjoy it to its full extent this side of heaven. We will not taste and see and experience the realization of all of God’s promises in this life. Like Abraham, we will have to live much of our life by faith, believing that God is faithful and every promise He has made will ultimately prove true. Ultimately! But not necessarily here, now, according to our timetable and plans.
So here’s the question….What is the most tangible, visible, experiential evidence that God is real and our faith is not misplaced, that it’s more than wishful thinking or clever philosophy or motivational speech? How can we know that what we believe is really true?
That confidence is not found on the mountain tops of God’s blessing, its not found in the beautiful pastures of abundance and ease, its not found in refreshing rain and fruitfulness – its found in the valleys, in the deserts, in the wilderness, when we have nothing and no-one to hold on to but God. It’s found when there is no physical, tangible reason to hold on to God – yet we find ourselves holding on anyway.
Christian character is formed in the furnace of affliction and from that furnace rises incorruptible hope – a hope which will not fail us. It’s not found in any other place and it’s not formed in any other way – which is why God continues to afflict us, and why, with Paul, we can say – if this process confirms that I belong to God and that the hope of glory is indeed mine – then bring it on….
Ignatius, a bishop in Antioch, wrote these words in a letter to the Roman church in the early second century. He had been arrested for being a Christian and knew that a grisly death probably lay before him. Yet he looked forward to it almost joyfully. Why?
"Come fire, cross, battling with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs, crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil—only let me get to Jesus Christ!"
The gospel brings every true believer to boast in suffering because our suffering forms Christ’s character in us and gives us the certainty that God’s glory is mine and will soon be realized.
An old brick of gold
The picture I have is of us being given this old dirty brick with layers and layers of paint and grime and dirt caked on it. Slowly we begin to wipe away the dirt and chip off the paint and this thing begins to shine more and more. Then we begin to get excited as it dawns on us that this may be no ordinary brick after all and we call on a few friends to help us chip and sand away at this thing because we start to sense that there might have been given something really, really valuable. At some point we get our some really corrosive chemicals and we even apply heat using one of those paint strippers because we must know – is this thing really what we think it is….and finally, we see it start to emerge in the bottom corner, faintly at first but then with undeniable clarity and everything else we are seeing confirms the signature – 9 charat gold…..
That is what the church is….a place where we are being built together and shone up so that the gold of our justification can shine forth to the glory of God.
Christian suffering results in supernatural endurance which produces Christ like character which gives us certain hope.
But how do we know we will endure, how do we know we won’t be crushed by these trials – it certainly feels like we will…..We will pick up on that next time.
“Now, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Rom 15:13