Below is the manuscript/transcript of the message I preached this past Sunday at two churches, one service at 9:30 and the other at 11:00. I use the words manuscript/transcript interchangeably. Since I follow my manuscript so closely, it also becomes the transcript! Audio link is HERE. It is 20 minutes. Feedback welcome.
Are you standing in grace? Romans 5:1-11
The passage begins with therefore.
Whenever you are reading your Bible, and come to the word therefore, it is a good time to pause and review. Therefore is a summary word. Because of the previous points made, something is now going to follow – a result or consequence. Paul briefly reviews what the previous point was: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith.” This is the great doctrine of justification, and we need to review it.
Justification is not a word we use in everyday conversation, but derivatives of it are. We may say that we were justified in doing something, meaning we had a right reason for it. We might say that a court decision was just, meaning that justice was done. This moves us a little in the direction of biblical justification.
Paul, in the book of Romans in particular, emphasizes the doctrine of justification. The person who comes to Christ in faith is declared righteous in the sight of God. We are justified.
It is not mere forgiveness. Forgiveness is “negative” in that it removes something from us. We are still guilty but our punishment has been waved. The burden of our sin was transferred to the cross of Christ. Jesus, who was without sin, bore the penalty for our sin. Truly, we have been forgiven in Christ, and this is great news!
But justification goes beyond this. Justification is “positive” in that it adds something to us. An astonishing exchange takes place – not only did Christ bear our sin, but we gain his righteousness. Romans 3: 22-24 states: “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
– Wonderful words. Amazing words. Did you hear them?
Given, freely, grace. All we must do is believe, and we are credited with the righteousness of Christ.
Grace is the undeserved kindness of God. We cannot earn it. We cannot deserve it. Our attempts to be righteous will always fall short, therefore we must trust in the righteousness of Christ.
Romans 5:1-11, our passage today, affirms the benefits we possess since we have been justified by faith. Justification answers the “what” question. What do we have? Justification.
But now we look at the “so what.” What does this mean as we live our Christian life, day to day?
Romans 5:2 says that through Jesus Christ, “we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Are you standing in grace? We begin our Christian life by grace through faith, but we are to continue forward in the same way. We will see in this passage that we have a salvation that takes care of the past, the present, and the future. It is grace upon grace the entire journey.
Verse 2 continues “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” And to jump ahead to verse 11 it says that “we boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Any boasting we do should be in Christ alone, and in what Christ has done for us.
We have a natural tendency (it is our sinful nature) to gravitate towards self: self-centeredness, self-reliance, self-righteousness. And we need to remind ourselves of grace, every day.
Unfortunately, Christians can sometimes have a reputation as being judgmental and holier-than-thou. A statement I have always appreciated from GK Chesterton is: “What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism.” – That would be the definition of hypocrisy, right?
We note the sin of others but fail to see our own sin.
We are no longer standing in grace, when that happens.
But if we keep standing in grace, in God’s undeserved favor towards us…this should keep us humble, better enable us to see our own sin, and better enable us to extend grace to others.
Sin matters, and sometimes hard truths must be spoken. But we don’t want to point out the speck of sawdust in another’s eye while failing to see the giant log in our own eye – as Jesus worded it in Matthew 7.
If you read the Matthew 7 passage carefully, it is not saying that there is never a time to judge. That’s a mis-interpretation of that passage. Rather, it is about the wrong type of judgment, and our underlying attitudes. But that would be another sermon. To keep moving…
Verse 3 says that we also glory in our sufferings. What? You mean we have to suffer? Remember that this passage is sharing the benefits we possess because of our justification.
Yes, we have to suffer, and it’s a benefit to us. Our salvation is not an escape from the trials of life. Note in the wording of the verses:
that it presents suffering as a given. It is not if you suffer, the assumption is that you will suffer.
There are types of Christianity that teach that God wants us to prosper in all things. It is sometimes called the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. And the Christian life is turned into a gospel of success. These teachings do not line up with the Scripture. Now, that does not mean that God wants us to fail, but we need to remind ourselves of 2 things:
- We live after the first-coming of Christ – after the cross and resurrection. But we live before the second coming of Christ when God’s redemptive plan for the world will be brought to completion. We wait for that day of final judgment and justice, when Jesus will usher in righteousness and peace for all eternity. What a glorious day that will be.
- We need to remind ourselves that in the New Testament affliction is viewed as the normal experience of the Christian life. The apostles warned their converts in Acts 14:22 that “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” – This is not always a popular truth today.
Verses 3 and 4 of Romans 5 say that we should glory in our sufferings “because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
For the Christian, our sufferings work for us, not against us. Remember that we are standing in grace, even as we suffer.
Romans 8 contains a well-known passage about God’s love, and it reminds us that nothing can separate a Christian from the Lord. I’ll read it, in part:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” – No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
We are conquerors even as we suffer. Our sufferings produce perseverance, character, and hope. HOPE.
Verse 5 says “hope does not put us to shame.” – another way of wording that is that hope does not disappoint.
In everyday language, we often use the word hope in a non-hopeful way. Hope can be like “wishful thinking.” – That is NOT biblical hope.
My favorite definition of biblical hope is “a confident expectation of the future we have in Christ.”
Perhaps a synonym for biblical hope would be the word assurance. Our future is secure in Christ. And a realization of that can help us persevere through the troubles of life. Keep standing in grace.
In verses 6-7, Paul reverts to how we began the Christian life – in order to remind us that our future is secure in Christ.
Verses 6-8 are wonderful verses:
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
These verses should bring us tremendous comfort and relief, knowing that God’s love for us is totally realistic and based upon knowing the worst about us. Grace: it is undeserved kindness.
Being mindful of our sin isn’t meant to disempower us, but to motivate us to be less self-centered and more Christ-centered. * To prevent us from drifting into self-righteousness.
You may or may not be familiar with Thomas Oden. He was a United Methodist biblical scholar and theologian who died in 2016. Oden was passionate about the doctrine of justification.
In response to this question: Why do we resist the good news of justification? – Thomas Oden answered: “The message of justification is difficult to accept because it seems too good to be true. It says: stop trying to justify yourself. You do not need to. There is no way to buy or deserve God’s love or acceptance. You are already being offered God’s love on the cross without having to jump hoops or pass tests.”
On why the doctrine of justification is a blessing: Oden said:
“Your life is not trapped in the deceit that comes from defensive self-justification.”
Be set free. Look to Christ. You can’t justify yourself. Jesus did it for you.
But perhaps you are wondering about sin again. Does this mean we can live however we want? – The apostle Paul addresses this very concern in the next chapter. Romans 6 begins: “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” — That would be another sermon,
But we have failed to understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us if we think lightly of sin in that way.
Thomas Oden continues: “But how can God remain holy if sin is easily dismissed? That is just the point: it is not an easy dismissal. It required a cross, a death, a burial. The cross is a sacrificial offering that substitutes Christ’s goodness for our sin.”
To keep moving, I will read verses 9 -10. Listen for a phrase repeated twice. “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
“HOW MUCH MORE” – the phrase was used twice.
The best is yet to be. The logic is this: If God has already done the difficult thing – He justified us when we were powerless, ungodly, sinful, and an enemy of God – we can trust him to do the comparatively easy thing of completing the task!
Remember that hope does not put us to shame. We have confidence – that having begun a good work in us – God will see it through to completion.
Maybe someone you know has walked away from faith and you are concerned for them. If they at some point in the past had a genuine conversion to Christ, I believe God will eventually draw them back. Don’t give up on them. Pray for God to complete the work he began.
Verse 11 brings us to a conclusion, reminding us of grace: “Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
No matter where we are in our Christian journey, our only boast is in Christ. Are you standing in grace? In God’s undeserved favor?
Grace saves us. Grace should humble us. Grace helps us face our sin. Grace helps us endure trials. Grace points us to Christ.
Grace will bring our faith to its glorious completion.
The 3rd stanza of the famous song Amazing Grace says:
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come:
’tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.
Perhaps someone here today has never begun their Christian journey. Maybe you’ve been in church for years but have somehow missed the point. You’ve been trying to justify yourself. That happens. It is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Are you confident that God has justified you – declared you righteous in his sight? Have you been reconciled to God through Christ?
There is no such thing as being partly justified or partly reconciled.
Jesus said in John 5:24, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
Have you crossed over from death to life? There is no middle ground. You are on one side or the other. If you are uncertain about this, please talk to Pastor Renee when she is back in town.
* From this book: Making Marriage Beautiful.
John Stott’s commentary on Romans also very helpful with this sermon.
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