Paul has been discussing the bold faith of Abraham. Abraham was justified by faith, not through circumcision or other works of the law. Abraham did not weaken in his faith when he was told that he would be the father of many nations. He considered his own body, recognizing it to be as good as dead in terms of bearing a child, and the same was true for Sarah. No distrust caused Abraham to waver in God’s promise. Instead he grew stronger in his faith, as seen in his faith to offer Isaac as God directed. Abraham had this faith because he glorified God and was fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised. Paul is going to make the promise to Abraham more real to us.
23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25; ESV)
This was not an isolated incident for Abraham alone. Rather, this is a pattern for all people. Yes, Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness. Abraham was declared right and acquitted by his faith in God. Our faith in Jesus will also be counted to us as righteousness. We become the offspring of Abraham and are recipients of God’s promise by having faith in God who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. What great hope and consolation! It was counted to him was not for Abraham alone. These things were written for our sake also.
God is able to count us righteous because of Jesus who was delivered for our trespasses and raised for our justification. This is an important statement. Until this point the emphasis has been on the faithful life of Jesus. God’s righteousness has been revealed through the faithful life that Jesus lived so that by having faith in Jesus we can be pronounced righteous. But now Paul brings in two other aspects that we are to consider when thinking about the faithful life of Jesus. First, Jesus was delivered up. This is a vague reference to Jesus’ death, a point more clearly stated in Romans 5:8. Jesus was handed over and delivered up to death for our trespasses. Paul uses the word “trespass” which carries the same force as “sin” but is just a different image. The word “trespass” means “a false step” (NAS Greek). Jesus was delivered to death because of our missteps. Second, Jesus was raised from the dead for our justification. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead plays a vital role in our justification. We need the faithful life of Jesus. But we also need his death to pay the price for our sins. In chapter 6 the apostle Paul will explain more about why the resurrection of Jesus is important. But I want us to see that the faithfulness of Jesus includes his death and resurrection. Further, notice that Paul implies that this was all part of God’s plan and not an accident. Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses, not as an accident. Jesus was raised for our justification, not because Israel ruined God’s intentions.
Jesus our Lord did this for us. The promises made to Abraham have become a reality through Jesus. Justification of the world has been accomplished in the faithful life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The promise that the world would be blessed has been accomplished in Jesus. Now the apostle Paul is going to reveal what else we have in Jesus.
5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 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. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 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. (Romans 5:1-5; ESV)
The first thing that we have since we have been justified by faith is peace with God. Do not fail to see that without Jesus we are enemies with God (Romans 5:10). Without Jesus we are not on good terms with God. We are separated from God because of our sins. While Paul has focused on God’s graciousness to overlook our sins and not give us what we deserve, we cannot forget that the wrath of God has been revealed against all ungodliness (Romans 1:18). But when we are justified by faith, we are no longer the focal point of God’s wrath. The Judge is able to acquit us because we have accessed the blood of Jesus. Peace has been forged with God. We are no longer at war with God. We are no longer separated from God. We are no longer enemies with God. We cannot appreciate this justification in Jesus fully when we fail to recognize where we stand before God without Jesus. Now there is no hostility between us and God. We have peace with God through Jesus.
Second, we have obtained access into this grace in which we stand. Not only has God declared us not guilty, but he has drawn us close to himself. We have now entered into a place of undeserved privilege. Now we have a place to stand — in God’s grace. This is a great picture revealed to us by the apostle Paul. We have access into God’s grace where we are able to stand. Previously we could not stand before God because of our sins. This is such a powerful thought: because of Jesus we are able to stand in God’s grace. Paul pictures grace in a similar way that the writer of Hebrews does: like a room that can be entered, where we can confidently stand before God because we have peace with him. We stand in fellowship with God, no longer crippled by sin, but forgiven of sin. I love this picture. Paul does not depict us crawling into this grace. We are standing in the grace of God. Therefore we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. We celebrate in the hope we have. Jesus has accomplished what the law could not: provide confidence in being God’s people. We have received the acquittal sentence and therefore we rejoice in the glory of God. We do not rejoice in ourselves because this is not about us. This justification is all about God and the glory he deserves and worship he deserves because he had made it possible through Jesus to stand in this grace. A life of faith of the mark that reveals us to be God’s covenant people.
Not only these great and marvelous things, but there is more that we have that we are to celebrate. Further, we celebrate our sufferings. Doesn’t this one feel odd and out of place? Paul has told us that we have peace with God and we have access to God’s grace in which we stand. Not only this, we rejoice in our sufferings. This is a startling turn! But let’s look at what Paul is trying to show us.
Paul teaches that we rejoice in sufferings because our sufferings produce hope. Jump to the end of verse 4 and the beginning of verse 5 and you will see that this is how the point ends. So how can our sufferings give us hope? Paul uses a chain of reasoning to explain. First, suffering produces endurance. Suffering makes us tough to be able to withstand life’s storms. Suffering helps become stronger to be able to conquer the difficulties of life. Second, Paul says that endurance produces tested character. There is a strength of character that is developed from suffering. When we endure through our sufferings, our character becomes molded and our character is strengthened in a way that was not present before. Testing shows the metal is real and authentic. Testing proves us. Finally, that tested character produces hope. Our transformation is evidence of God changing us through sufferings.
We don’t like it, but suffering changes us the most. My suffering has helped me rely on God and appreciate the peace that I have with God. Peace with God helps us overcome and endure the lack of peace in our lives that comes from difficulties and suffering. Suffering turns us into the people God wants us to be. Suffering produces hope because we know that we are being transformed into the character of people that God demands. In our suffering, our hope will not be let down or disappointed.
Our hope is not abandoned “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” What does this mean? In our next lesson we will talk about what Paul means for God’s love to be poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. But here is just a little taste of the answer to come. We know God’s love because the Holy Spirit has revealed God’s love to us and that knowledge must sink down into our hearts. We need to let the truth of God’s grace sink down into our hearts. Look at what the Holy Spirit has revealed to us! God is justifying the ungodly through Jesus! Because of this, we have peace with God, we have access to grace where we can stand, and we can rejoice in our sufferings. We are able to endure sufferings because we keep our minds on and let our hearts be filled by the knowledge of what Jesus has done for us. We cling to this status of acquitted in the teeth of our suffering.
- God counts us righteous through faith just as he did Abraham.
- We have peace with God.
- We have access to stand in God’s grace.
- We rejoice in our sufferings because it builds proven character pleasing to God.
- God’s love is what brings us through those times of suffering.