Sunday, September 8, 2019

Hope in the glory of God – Romans 5:1-5




“We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”  One of the ways you can know what a person thinks is supremely important is to look at what they rejoice in and what they hope in.  The Christian rejoices in hope of the glory of God.  What makes this look so odd to the world is that this is something they do not have as of yet.  The apostle doesn’t say that we rejoice in something that we presently have, but in something in which we hope.  Hope points to something yet future.  What the believer in Christ rejoices in is not something that you will find at Walmart or on Amazon.com.  It is not something you can buy or obtain in the here and now.  You will not find it in the courts of human praise.  You will not find it at the end of a bottle or in a bottle of pills.  You won’t find it in success or glory.  You can’t get it by education or leadership or entrepreneurship.  What the Christian rejoices in doesn’t exist here.
  

That is because the glory of which Paul speaks is not a created glory, but the glory that belongs to God himself.  It is glory which is eternal.  I think it was John Piper who said that God’s glory is his attributes gone public.  The glory of God encompasses all his attributes: his omnipotent power, his searing holiness, his infinite love, his unsurpassed excellence, his breathtaking majesty, his free grace.  There is nothing like it in universe.  


What about the glory of God does Paul rejoice in?  He rejoices in the fact that the glory of God is not something that God keeps to himself, but something that he shares.  Now I’m not saying of course that we become gods.  There is an infinite chasm between the creature and the Creator.  However, a king can bestow the favors and gifts that only a king can bestow without losing his sovereignty.  Even so, God bestows his glory to undeserving creatures.  Theologians make a distinction between God’s communicable and incommunicable attributes.  Of course God never in this sense shares the attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.  But he can and does share love, holiness, and grace.  If there is any glory to be tasted and seen and experienced that is worth having for an eternity, it is the glory of God.  


But even God’s incommunicable attributes are matters of rejoicing for the Christian.  We rejoice in them not because we can have them, but because we cannot have them.  We don’t typically celebrate people that are less than ourselves.  Worship belongs to those who are greater than we are.  And since God is infinitely greater that the greatest creature, the worship which God deserves and in which we delight is something which belongs to a category all by itself.


The Christian is someone who seeks for glory (Rom 2:7) - not the glory of the creature, but the glory of the immortal God (Rom. 1:23).  Sin is a falling short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and so it makes sense that salvation is being restored to the glory of God.  Paul continually describes this glory as something which the believer will experience in the age to come: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).  It is called “the glory of the children of God” (8:21), not because it emanates from them but because it is given to them by God.  God makes known “the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy” (Rom. 9:23).  It is no wonder, then, that Paul would say that he rejoices in hope of the glory of God.


But how can he rejoice in it if it is something future?  If the glory of God is something not to be found in this world, on what basis can you delight in its future enjoyment?  He could do so because the glory of God did come into this world in the person of Jesus Christ: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14).  The glory to which we are called to enjoy is embodied in the glorious person of the Son of God, who died and is risen never to die again.  This is why Paul begins verse 2 by the words, “through him,” that is, through Christ.  How is it that we come to have access into God’s grace and rejoice in God’s glory?  It is through Christ.  It is why Paul will say in another epistle, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).  It is why Paul will say later in this very epistle, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:16-17).  If you would see the glory to which you are called, look to the risen and glorified Christ.  


The hope of which the apostle speaks is not some faint wish.  As Schreiner points out, hope “means a sure confidence (cf. 4:18).  It does not mean that believers long to experience God’s glory but are not sure whether it will come to pass.  Believers are certain now that the glory Adam lost will be restored to them.”[1]  This is in fact one the main points Paul wants to get across in chapters 5-8.  The theme in these chapters is that the hope of the Christian is sure.  The Christian’s hope is certain.  We stand in the grace of God – it is not something we move in and out of (5:2).  Our hope will not put us to shame (5:5).  You could say that verses 1-5 constitute the theme of chapters 5-8.


We see this as the apostle works out his argument from this point through to the end of chapter 8.  In verses 6-11, Paul reasons from the greater to the lesser to show that we will be certainly saved.  Note the words “how much more” in verses 9 and 10.  If God has done this greatest thing and given Christ for us when we were his enemies and wicked, how much more will our salvation be realized in the age to come.  


In verses 12-21, the theme is still the surety of our salvation, this time by making a comparison between Adam and Christ, the Second Adam.  Though Adam brought sin, death, and condemnation into this world through his sin, “much more” will Christ bring righteousness, life, and justification to those who belong to him.  Just “as sin reigned in death, grace also” will “reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (5:21).


What we need to understand is that in the next two chapters (6-7), Paul has not ended this argument.  However, he stops to deal with objections to it.  The chief objection is that, if grace is sure and our hope secure, then why does it matter how we live?  (See 6:1.)  This objection has often been brought against the doctrine of the preservation of the saints.  If our salvation is secure, it is said, then we can live in sin that grace may abound.  What Paul does in chapter 6 is to show that this objection will not stand.  Even though the believer is absolutely and totally secure in Christ, it is no argument for carelessness with respect to sin.  His argument is that the death and resurrection which secures our hope, also secures our holiness.  The saved are also sanctified.  


In chapter 7, the apostle goes on to deal at length with the law of God.  Why?  He does so to contrast the security which we have in Christ with the fickleness of the law.  That does not mean the law is bad or sinful or unwise (since it was given by God), but it does mean that the law is powerless to save.  However, what the law could not do, Christ has done (cf. 8:3).  Thus the apostle ends upon the triumphant note: “Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25).


In chapter 8, Paul continues in this triumphant strain.  John Stott has noted that the apostle begins with “no condemnation” (8:1) and ends with “no separation” (8:38-39).[2]  The believer has every reason to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, because nothing can destroy or invalidate this hope.  This is not the uncertain musings of a person who is always unsure whether or not he will be saved and who has to be constantly kept in suspense lest he fall off the wagon of grace.  No, rather, it is the exultant boast of a man who knows that his salvation is secure in Christ.  No one can be successfully against the one who is in Christ (8:31).  Even in our deepest, darkest times, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (8:37).


In some sense 8:30 summarizes what Paul is doing in these chapters: “And those whom he predestined, he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”  The clear import of that verse is that everyone who is justified (the theme of chapters 1-4) will be glorified (the theme of chapters 5-8).  Paul has dealt with the gospel in terms of justification.  Now he is dealing with the implications of the gospel in terms of the certainty of our hope in the glory of God.


Let’s now look more particularly at the text.  Our focus this morning will be on 5:1-5.


The foundation of hope in the glory of God (ver. 1-2)


Paul begins, “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” (5:1-2).  It is often noted that there are three things Paul mentions here as resulting from our justification by faith.  They are peace with God, access into grace, and hope in the glory of God.  


The first thing here is peace with God.  We should not miss the significance of this.  In some sense, everyone on this planet is seeking peace.  But the peace that we all need is peace with God.  The apostle tells us that we have this if we are justified by faith in Christ.  


There are a couple of ways we could understand what it means to have peace with God.  We could understand it subjectively, so that it refers to our inner peace and the tranquility of our hearts.  “Peace with God” in that sense would be that tranquility of heart that comes from knowing that we are in a right relationship with God.  However, though we shouldn’t completely rule that out, the apostle is almost certainly referring to peace with God in an objective sense.  That is, we are at peace with God in the sense that, being justified, God is reconciled with us and the alienation that existed between us and God no longer exists.  Of course, we cannot separate these two aspects of peace with God because the experience of this peace in our hearts is only meaningful if we have this objective peace with God.  However, thank God that the reality of peace with God does not depend upon our experience of it.  On the other hand, just because you feel okay, and think you are right with God doesn’t mean that you are.  According to the apostle, that only comes to those who are actually justified through faith in Christ.


The second result of being justified by faith is access by faith into the grace of God.  A lot of ink has been spilled over exactly what Paul is referring to by “grace.”  I think since the apostle doesn’t specify it, we shouldn’t either.  All of God’s grace belongs to the believer in Christ.  God is gracious towards them and gives freely of his riches to those who belong to him through his Son.  God’s grace does not end at justification; in some sense that is just the beginning.  We have access into this grace – the doors of God’s mercy and grace are continually opened to the believer.  A good commentary on this are the words of Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  That’s the idea here – the ability to draw near to God and draw from the bank of God’s riches in Christ Jesus.  All that belongs to those who are justified by faith in Christ.


Then the apostle says that we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  We have already spent a bit of time expounding on the meaning of this, so I won’t repeat that.  


However, the main thing I want to point out in these verses is that all these things depend upon what Jesus Christ has done for us.  We have these things because we are justified.  But again, how are we justified?  We “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).  And the faith by which we are justified is faith in Christ alone, not in any work of our own.  


And then how do we have peace with God?  Is it not “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (ver. 1)?  He is our peace (Eph. 2:14).  And how do we have access into the grace of God?  Is it not “through him” (ver. 2) – that is, through Jesus Christ?  Therefore, when the apostle says that we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, we should understand that the foundation of this hope, which rests upon justification and peace with God and access into God’s grace, ultimately rests upon the work of Christ.  His substitutionary death for us on the cross, his atonement, is the foundation for our hope in the glory of God.  The foundation of our hope is not in ourselves.  It is not in our works.  It is not in our goodness or glory.  It is in Christ and what he had done for us and in our place.


It is important for us to understand this because the Christian will lose hope when he or she takes their eyes off of Christ and look only at themselves.  Now I’m not saying that sometimes it is not good to do some self-evaluation.  But if you look only at yourself, you are not going to find much to rejoice in.  Our boasting and the reason for our hope is in the grace of God for us in his Son.  If you are going to be the kind of person who rejoices in the hope of the glory of God, you must have a firm grasp of the gospel.  And to have a firm grasp of the gospel, you need to see clearly what Christ has done for you in his life and death and resurrection.


The production of hope in the glory of God (ver. 3-4)


A question that might have occurred to you by this point is, But how do I become like this person?  I mean, how many of us are really characterized by rejoicing – and more specifically, to be characterized by rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God?


But Paul’s answer to this is a little surprising.  In fact, his answer isn’t something a lot of us are going to like.  But there it is.  He says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (3-4).  He says we don’t only rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, but we also rejoice in our sufferings.  Wait a minute – we rejoice in what?  Suffering?  Why?  No one rejoices in suffering!


Now I think it’s important to note the obvious fact that Paul doesn’t say that we rejoice in spite of our suffering.  That’s what a lot of us would say, but that is not what the apostle says.  No, he says that we rejoice in our suffering.  If you want a picture of what this looks like, consider the example of the apostles in Acts 5.  We are told that they were beaten, and after they were beaten they were let go.  Then we read these words: “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41).  How do you become like that?  And why would Paul say that we rejoice in sufferings along with hope in the glory of God?


To understand the answer to this puzzle, you have to see that rejoicing in our sufferings and rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God are inextricably linked.  You can’t do one without the other.  The reason why we become the kind of person who rejoices in hope of the glory of God is partly because of the sufferings we endure in this life.  You see this at the end of verse 4.  What is at the tail end of suffering?  It is hope.  Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.  What hope is that?  It is hope in the glory of God.  The reason why we know this is because Paul goes on to say in verse 5, “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.”  This is a hope which is buoyed up by God’s love and makes us want to experience  the fullness of that love in his very presence.  So we don’t rejoice in our sufferings because we like suffering.  We rejoice in suffering because suffering makes us the kind of person who values the supremely valuable, namely, the glory of God.


Our problem is that we are people, even if we are saved, who are so easily entranced with the trinkets of this world.  We tend to value junk, things that are ultimately worthless.  I’m not talking about what you might pick up at the flea-market.  I’m talking about our investments and our successes and our earthly comforts and pleasures.  The ultimate problem is that we too often mistake God’s gifts for God and end up replacing God with his gifts.  That doesn’t necessarily make the gifts bad in themselves, but they become poisonous when we embrace them in the way that we should only embrace God.  It’s the perennial problem of idolatry.  And often the only way we end up seeing things clearly and for what they really are, is by suffering.  It’s why the psalmist wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Ps. 119:67).  And, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (Ps. 119:71).  Why?  Because “the law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (Ps. 119:72).  My friends, it was suffering that gave him that perspective. 


I think this is what the apostle means when he says that suffering produces character.  Suffering produces character in ways that few other experiences can.  It has a way of making you more godly, more humble, more patient, more kind.  Above all, it makes you more God-centered and less self-centered and therefore more focused on what is more important and valuable.


Of course it depends in some sense on how you respond to the suffering.  Sometimes people come out worse on the other end.  That is because suffering really does two things: it not only refines the saints but it also exposes the hypocrite, those whose faith is not firmly planted in Christ.  Remember what our Lord said in the Parable of the Sower?  Speaking of the rocky ground hearer, he says, “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (Mt. 13:20-21).  That doesn’t mean that it is possible to lose your salvation; it just means that if you respond this way you were never really saved to begin with.


And that leads to the second way that suffering produces hope.  It not only makes us the kind of person who values the supremely valuable, but also confirms to us that we are genuine, that we are not like this rocky ground hearer.  You never know until you are tested, do you?  Is my faith real?  Will I endure?  But when suffering comes and produces endurance, that ultimately produces hope.  We come through on the other end having experienced God’s grace holding us up and keeping us – and we know it was God because it was certainly never ourselves.  And that gives us hope.


I think a third way that suffering produces hope is that it causes us to trust in the Lord in ways that we would never do apart from such trials.  It is so easy in times of plenty and comfort to think you are trusting in the Lord when really you are leaning on the world and loving it.  But then affliction comes and takes away every support and you are left with nothing – except the Lord!  If you can trust in the Lord in that situation, then you know your faith is real and your hope is real.  It’s what the psalmist was getting at when he penned the 46 Psalm: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (1-3).  Can you trust in God in times like that, when the very earth under your feet seems to give way?  At times like that, faith responds in the words of the hymn:


His oath, His covenant, His blood, support me in the whelming flood,

When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.

The vindication of hope in the glory of God (ver. 5)


However, thank God that he does not leave us to ourselves to work it all out.  He himself comes to us and testifies in the hearts of his children that they belong to him.  Paul will expand on this in chapter 8.  Here the apostle simply explains that the reason we can know our hope is not futile and that it will not disappoint us or put us to shame is because God’s love has been shed abroad and poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.  It is the distinctive ministry of the Holy Spirit to make us aware of God’s love for us.  This may happen in different ways and in different measures by different people, but the Holy Spirit is “given” to all who are justified by faith in Christ.  If you are a Christian, then you have been given the Spirit who testifies to the love of God in your heart.


However, the main point of this verse is not the ministry of the Spirit but the fact of God’s love, which is the ultimate ground of all our hope.  How do those who having faith in Christ know that they will be finally saved?  It is because God loves them.  How do we know that we will persevere to the end?  We will do so because God loves us: he will not fail to complete the work he has begun (Phil. 1:6).  How do we know that we will not give out in the midst of suffering?  Because God loves us.  The love of God is not some fickle thing like human love.  God’s love is unchanging.  It is saving.  It is a keeping, preserving, protecting love.  As Paul will say at the end of chapter 8, nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.


Now there is a place for exhortations to perseverance.  There is a place for warning those who might fall away from the faith.  The book of Hebrews is filled with such warnings and exhortations.  But we also need to understand that the love of God which gave us his Son and which brings his elect to Christ will also keep them to the end.  They are completely secure in Christ because God loves them.  Your eternal security ultimately does not depend upon your love to God, but upon God’s love to you.  Yes, we must love God.  But if we love him, it is because he first loved us and it was his love that brought us to faith in Christ and will keep us in faith.  There is nothing more sure and steadfast than the love of God.  How often that phrase is repeated in the OT!  The “steadfast love of the LORD abides forever” (Ps. 117:2).  


May the Lord make us people who rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.



[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, (Baker, 1998), p. 255.
[2] John R. W. Stott, Romans: God’s Good News for the World (IVP, 1994), p. 217.

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