© 2011, John W. (Jack) Carter. All
If there is one thing that characterizes the life of all people who have not come to faith in God, it is their search for peace. Life is full of events and circumstances that fill our days with stress. Apart from God, an additional and unending stressor is that conflict that comes from oneís deliberate stand against God and His purposes. It is probably an understatement to mention that man is quite impotent when locked in conflict with God, and yet we continue to reject Him, we speak and act in ways that are blasphemous to His Holy Name and wonder why we cannot find peace. It is this battle that Paul describes in the first two chapters of his epistle to the Romans, a battle that is evident by the choice man makes to live a depraved life, apart from any desire for a faith relationship with God. Paul describes the lost state of a soul as one who is immersed in the depravity of a self-centered and sinful lifestyle, and yet one that is also responsible for their rejection of an evident, holy, and righteous God.
Is it possible to find peace? Is it possible to end the battle between the sin that vexes us and the righteousness that God demands? From the creation of Adam, man has been embroiled by the conflict. The battle lines were drawn in the narrative of Adam and Eve who were cast from the garden because of their sin, and demonstrated in the lives of their first two sons. Their son Cain killed their other son, the faithful Abel, as an expression of his own rebellion against God. All through history we see mankind's rejection of God demonstrated in turmoil, violence, conflict, depravity, and sin. Those who are lost have no true and confident hope for heaven. Some are convinced of the lies and blasphemies of the world religions that take people away from faith in God. Many people think they will attain heaven because they are, for the most part, good people or have completed some set of works that their man-made religion has prescribed. These do not recognize that as good as they may be, they are still not without sin, and that sin problem leaves them in need of forgiveness: in need of salvation from an eternity separated from God, an eternity given the name of hell. True peace will never be found by those who remain at enmity with God because of their sin and their rejection of His purpose and plan for mankind.
It is also quite possible for Christians to live lives that do not fully experience or realize the peace that God offers. Many can remember that seminal moment when they made the decision to place their faith and trust in God, accepting forgiveness for their unrighteousness that is provided only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord. Still, it is probably axiomatic that most Christians fail to fully dedicate themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The quiet prompting of the Holy Spirit is overwhelmed by personal choices that encumber the growth of their faith. Lordship of Jesus Christ is usurped by their own desire for control, and when freed from God's intervention in their life they begin to find a restoration of the chaos that they knew prior to their salvation. If you are a Christian, and you feel as though your life is in chaos, lacking the peace and joy that you know that God offers, we may find some guidance in Paul's words.
Romans 5:1a. Therefore being justified by faith,
What is "justification"? In the first four chapters of this epistle, Paul has described the sinful state of man, and his need for salvation. Paul states that all people have a sin nature, and that unrighteousness condemns us to an eternity of separation from God. When we come to God in faith through Jesus Christ, a miracle of salvation occurs. This is the miracle of God's grace that is a fruit of His love for mankind: He forgives us of our sin. Then God provides the eternal seal of salvation when they have placed their faith in God, accepting forgiveness of their sins on the basis of what Jesus did for them, and who Jesus is, and the Holy Spirit then indwells their life. There is no work of man that will draw the Holy Spirit into oneís heart. There is no work of man that makes him "good" enough for God. There is nothing anyone can do to find forgiveness, except turn to Jesus Christ in faith.
Some might be questioning whether we turn to God in faith, or if we turn to Jesus Christ in faith. After all, is there not only one God? Sometimes we might not understand that Jesus, the man, is the incarnation of the LORD God: YAHWEH coming to dwell with us in the form of a man, born of the virgin Mary. The Gospel of John contains one of the clearest descriptions of the deity of Christ in the first chapter when the writer describes the Word as the Creator, and the Messiah, and then describes how The Word, the Messiah, came and dwelt among us in Jesus Christ. Understanding and accepting the true nature and character of the Messiah, Jesus, is a fundamental and inviolable part of the work of faith. To reject the deity of Christ, Jesus as the Messiah, is to reject God and His plan for salvation. To reject Jesus is to remain unsaved because Jesus, and God, are one. To reject Jesus is to reject the forgiveness that God offers. Christians do not worship three Gods as some critics would hold, but rather, Christians worship one God who has revealed Himself to mankind as the Father, as the Messiah Jesus, and we see His work through the power of the Holy Spirit. To speak to or of either of these persons of God is to speak to or of God, Himself. Though such a concept may be difficult to reconcile in human logic: such reconciliation is moot when we realize our own limitations of wisdom and understanding, and simply accept God and His Word by faith.
Once one has turned to God in faith, the state of that new Christian life changes. The Christian is no longer condemned to eternal separation from God because of their sin because Jesus paid the price for that sin on the Cross for all who place their faith and trust in Him. Justification may be understood by the statement, "Just as if I" never sinned. Christians are responsible for their actions, and John's Revelation describes the judgment that will be brought to all people for their attitudes and deeds, but that judgment will not condemn one who has placed their faith in God to eternal separation from Him. The only condemnation comes to those who went to their grave having never turned to God in faith through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1b. we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
The Christian is justified, or made righteous, by the shed blood of Jesus Christ alone. Though the struggle with sin never ends this side of death, the battle with God ends with His forgiveness of oneís sin. The termination of that battle brings the greatest change in oneís life that they can or will ever experience. The Christian never has to wonder if they are secure in their salvation. Justification was an act of God's grace, not a work of man. Cessation of sin did not bring one to salvation, and consequently, sin cannot cause one to lose that salvation. Christians will still suffer the consequences of their sinful attitudes and actions in their daily lives, and will be responsible for them. However, they will not be condemned to an eternal hell because of what God did at the point of their salvation. The Christian can be confident in knowing that their salvation is secure.
When one turns their life over to the LORD, Jesus, true and permanent peace can finally be found; the battle with God for dominance in our lives has ended. Certainly our lives are full of events that may bring conflict and turmoil, but there is an ultimate peace in knowing that these are merely circumstances of this world that God will use to bring us closer to Him, and the closer our relationship with God, the better prepared we will be to face the continued issues of this world.
Christians who are not finding the peace that God gives often cover it with self-reliance or self-will. When we lose our dependence upon God, we lose the resource that He provides for us to get through the tough times, and we lose our perspective on life's greatest priorities. That peace can be recaptured when we submit to His Lordship in our hearts and give to Him the stress that we cannot handle.
Romans 5:2a. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand,
Religion is an attempt by man to gain access to the throne of God, and hence, find that lasting peace they search for. Most world religions prescribe a set of behaviors and actions that promises to make a man worthy of God's acceptance. The truth is that our universal and innate unrighteousness makes all of us unworthy of God's grace. However, the justification that Christians received upon their profession of faith in Him also grants another miraculous privilege: direct access to God Himself. Faith in God results in a relationship with God. If there is no relationship, there is no faith. If there is no relationship, there is no salvation. The relationship of faith grants all Christians unlimited and unfettered access to God through prayer, and through the presence of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. It is not necessary to go to God through an intercessor. Christians do not need to pray "through" saints, or "through" Mary, or through any other intercessor. Every Christian is a priest before God, one who is given full access to His throne, and given the task of sharing His love with others.
Our access to God is not predicated upon anything that we have done. God simply created mankind to have fellowship with Him, and it is through His grace that He opens the doors of heaven to those who place their faith and trust in Him.
Romans 5:2b. and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Those who are lost, those who have not placed their faith in God, have no true hope for eternal salvation. Those who love the Lord are given more than hope: faith gives to hope a property of substance. Through faith, hope for heaven becomes a confident knowledge in its surety because of God's faithfulness to His promises. The result of such hope is a joy that goes beyond short-term happiness. We can rejoice in the knowledge that we have been saved from the eternal condemnation that we deserve, and that we will never be separated from God's love. Never.
Romans 5:3-4. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
The peace and joy that comes with the gift of salvation does not insulate us from the consequences of our sin or the sins of others. Man's inhumanity to man will continue to characterize this sin-filled earth. The Revelation of John reveals that such ungodliness will increase until the persecution on the church is asymptotic to unbearable immediately prior to Jesusí return.
However, when one is safe in salvation's harbor, one's response to tribulation changes. Both Paul and the writer of the book of James clearly teach that tribulation, the experiencing the difficulties of living in this sinful age, serve to strengthen the faithful much like hard exercise strengthens the muscles. When Christians experience difficulties and turn to God for strength and guidance, the awareness of His presence strengthens faith. A stronger faith results in greater patience that comes from a lessened fear of adversity. A stronger faith provides greater endurance as one no longer faces difficulties alone. Looking back upon those times of tribulation that were faced in faith often reveals both Godís presence and purpose as lessons are learned and as He is glorified through the experience. Fear of the unknown is replaced by the hope that comes from knowing that there is nothing unknown to God. We do not need to be anxious for our how we will face difficulty when we know that God will get us through it.
Romans 5:5. 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.
The words, "maketh not unashamed" translates a single Greek word that may be more accurately rendered "does not bring disappointment" in modern English. One does not find disappointment, even in tribulation, when one fully senses and appreciates God's presence. The hope and joy that come from that relationship with God grow out of the knowledge of God's unfathomable love for us. Apart from God, one is wholly alone. When one has a relationship with God, not only is His love for us evident, but also His Holy Spirit indwells the heart, ready to speak gently to us of God's plan and purpose if we will only quiet down and listen. The Holy Spirit is that person of God through which all His work is done. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is both a gift of God to those who place their faith and trust in Him, and is an ever-present evidence of His love for us.
Romans 5:6. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
God demonstrated his love to us that, while we were all still immersed in our own sin and rebellion against Him, God paid the penalty for that sin. He, the Messiah, the Creator and Judge, humbled Himself to the hatred of unrighteous men, and became the final sacrifice for the remission of sins as He suffered and died on the cross of Calvary. Man did not become righteous so that God would be accepting of him. In fact, man showed the deepest depths of sin and ugliness when they nailed Jesus to the Cross. God provided a way of righteousness for us when we could not do so by ourselves.
Romans 5:7-8. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Paul describes this in a ascending level of sacrifice. One might not be surprised when one gives his life for another when the one in peril is a good and loved person. One might be then surprised to hear of one giving his life for a stranger. However, would one give his life for a stranger who is knowingly perceived as a blatant sinner? Would you give your life for one who you sincerely believe does not deserve to live? Could you walk onto death row in a State prison and exchange your life for an inmate who is about to be executed for committing a heinous crime? This is exactly what God has done. God came to us in our sin because we simply cannot attain any form of righteousness on our own. Those who ascribe to religions that declare a set of works that make one righteous will always be frustrated by the knowledge that they cannot be free of the sin in their hearts. God must come to us and take upon Himself the penalty for our sin, and that is exactly what He did.
Romans 5:9. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
How did we receive this gift of justification? Did we obtain it solely as a result of our vocalized profession of faith? If this were true, we could lose our salvation by a similar act of our own sin. We could simply "jump out" of the safety of God's hand by rejecting Him all over again. Some teach this doctrine in an attempt to maintain control over those Christians who do not clearly understand the nature of salvation.
We are not saved by our profession of faith: we are saved by the shed blood of Christ, a one-time event that paid the penalty for all sins, past, present, and future, for those who place their trust in Him. Our profession of faith is the public announcement of an acceptance of the Lordship of Christ in our sin-filled lives, the seminal decision to receive the justification that God has already offered. Christians will continue to sin after their profession of faith in Him, but their relationship with God both convicts them of that sin making it more distasteful, and provides continual assurance that they are still saved from the wrath to come: they will not be condemned to eternal separation from God because of their sin. That is the sin that Jesus died for. It may be useful to repeat: one is not saved through the cessation of sin: sin continues. Godís grace removes the power of sin to nullify Godís work of salvation, for if it could, there would be hope for none.
Some refer to this doctrine as "once saved, always saved," a declaration that one cannot lose their salvation based upon sinful works. Though this statement may be an oversimplification of Godís work of grace, this is the doctrine that is presented throughout scripture in all of the teachings related to it. God lifts us out of the mire of our own sin, saving us from its ultimate penalty: eternal separation from Him. God does not throw us back into the mire when we sin again. If this were God's plan, nobody could be saved because we will never be sinless on our own. This constant cycle of being thrown in the mire would negate Godís purpose of peace. Paul teaches that those who place their trust in God are given His righteousness as a gift of His grace and love, and that righteousness, evident by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, will be the ever-present seal of our salvation. No Christian will ever experience God's wrath: no Christian will be condemned to eternal separation from God.
Some argue that true salvation is obtained when one rises to a point of sinless perfection as they grow in Christian maturity. These argue that it is not until one attains this elevated state of ďholinessĒ is one truly saved. However, there is no biblical basis for declaring that a person ever reaches a state where they sin no longer. To even try to live a life of sinless perfection is absurd when even a single impure thought is an expression of sin. Speaking as a Christian to a body of Christians, the Apostle John stated, ďIf we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.Ē Any doctrine that that teaches that Christians no longer sin is a dangerous and false doctrine.
Romans 5:10-11. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
Paul gives yet another illustration that clarifies what God has done for us. It took Jesus' death on the cross to provide a means for the salvation of mankind. However, after Jesus died, experiencing separation from God that death defines (in what seems a logical impossibility when Jesus is also the eternal Messiah), Jesus was resurrected by the power of God to return to His position in glory. Paul draws a comparison for the Christian that even human logic can follow. When we were enemies of God, His love for us was shown by His own act of sacrifice, His own submission to death on the cross. When one comes to faith in God, he/she comes into a relationship with a living God, not a crucified man. God's love for us has not changed. If we consider the tremendous price that God paid in order to reconcile us to Him, it takes little understanding to realize that He will not throw away that reconciliation. Paul stated this in yet another way when he wrote:
2 Timothy 1:12. For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
When one comes to God through faith in Jesus Christ, one can be assured that the sin debt is paid, and paid in full. The Christian is set free from the penalty and condemnation of sin, and the bondage that such sin holds on the unrighteous. No person ever did anything worthy of salvation, and there is nothing anyone can do to become righteous on their own. It was God's act of grace that saves us. The Christian is freed from the condemnation that is the one fruit of sin. That condemnation and guilt is replaced by the hope, peace, and joy that come from experiencing the depths of God's love.
Why would someone reject such a gift, and take their rebellion against God to the grave, and into eternal separation from God? God offers the gift of righteousness and the peace and joy that His love brings, to all who would place their faith and trust in Him. Those who have not done so are invited by the Holy Spirit to do so now. Those who have placed their trust in Him are free of sin's burden, and can set it down at God's throne of grace. God will replace that burden with His love and His promise of eternal security. The peace and hope that come from the knowledge of that security are available to all, simply for the asking. It may be time to ask.