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In Romans 5:1-11 Paul discusses the benefits of being justified by faith.  Years ago, I memorized Romans 5:1-2 in the New International Version:  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

First of all, we are justified by faith.  I once heard someone define the term justified as “just [as] if I’d” never sinned.  Through faith, and only by faith, we are worthy to share in the benefits that Paul describes here.  They are gifts given through the grace of God to those who believe.  The NET Bible translates “justified” as “declared righteous”.  We don’t start out righteous, but we don’t have to clean ourselves up before we can be accepted by God.  All we have to do is have faith, believe.  (Romans 4:3-5)

The term peace here does not simply mean a contented feeling, but a state of peace.  It is not the peace of God, but peace with God.  We are not on opposing sides.  We can join God’s team, and the only way to get on the team is if we are justified by faith.  And this is only possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Jesus acts as a mediator for us to reconcile us to God.  As soon as we make the decision, we are at peace with God.  So, our faith plus Jesus gets us access to God’s grace.  We no longer have to worry about God’s wrath because He is surrounding us with His grace, His undeserved favour.  It was grace that allowed us to be justified by faith in the first place.

This all brings us to the hope of the glory of God.  Hope, as it is used in the New Testament, is not defined as wishful thinking but as expectation.  We expect to see the glory of God; we are looking forward to seeing the glory of God—to see God as He truly is.  We know that we will see God clearly in eternity, but we can also see glimpses of God’s glory now if we keep our spiritual eyes open.  (Titus 2:11-13, I Corinthians 13:12)

Sometimes we can get discouraged by all the things that we have to face in life, and maybe we sometimes think that God is punishing us.  He’s not.  It’s true that we may have to face the consequences of our unwise choices, but this is not punishment, because, if we are justified by faith, we are no longer under God’s wrath.   If we dwell on the promises of these two verses, perhaps our hope will be renewed.  What we are going through today is small in the light of eternity.  Even still, God is on our side.

I have come to realize that a major theme in James 1 is humility.  James 1:12 tells us that we will be rewarded if we endure the testing that we face.  What must we do to endure testing?  We need to let go of our pride and our feelings of entitlement.  How do you react when you face trials?  I have to admit that I usually try to avoid them.  I think it is quite common for people to pity themselves and want to escape the unpleasant circumstances that they are in.  But the Bible tells us that we face testing to humble us, to strengthen us and to bring good to us. (Deuteronomy 8:16, James 1:2-4)  A wise pastor once suggested that instead of lamenting our trials that we ask God what He wants us to learn from them.  Candy Hemphill Christmas, founder of The Bridge Ministry has said that she has learned something about God—“that if you ask Him a question, He will answer.  Now, you’re going to have to get ready for the answer, but He will answer.  It might not be what you want to hear, but He will answer.”  Are we willing to submit to God’s answer, to His plan?  That takes humility.

I think it is natural for people to think that trials are a punishment from God.  Job’s friends did, and so did Job’s wife.  Job, on the other hand, asked why we should expect good things from God and not accept the bad.  (Job 2:7-10).  When God answered Job, (Job 40:1-14) He reminded him that there is a God, and Job isn’t Him.  Neither are we.  We need to trust God and His love for us.  We need to trust what He tells us in Jeremiah 29:11, that His plan for our future is a good one.  The trials that we face along the way are stepping stones to that good future.  God is more interested in our character than He is in our accomplishments or wealth, and He can bring good from everything that happens to us.  (Romans 8:28)

I wonder what would happen if we thanked God for our trials and looked for the lessons in them rather than complaining about our lot in life.  Let’s try to focus on making the best of the present instead of wishing for something better in the future.  Let’s see how we can help other people instead of throwing ourselves a pity party.  Let’s trust God to bring good out of every circumstance in our lives.

Sometimes we do things we regret.  That was certainly the case for David before he wrote Psalm 86.  In II Samuel 11 we read about David’s regrets…mistakes…sins—adultery, deception and conspiracy to murder.  That’s a lot to feel bad about.  So, when in Psalm 86:11 David prays that the Lord would teach him how to live, it is an earnest prayer.  He wants to be wholeheartedly committed to God.  The King James Version uses the term “unite my heart”.   In the New International Version, David prays for an “undivided heart”.  He realizes that if his heart isn’t entirely focused on God, he will go down the wrong path, but he also sees that he needs God’s help to do it.  He knows that what is impossible for humans is possible for God.  (Luke 18:27)

His vow, in Psalm 86:12, to praise God forevermore, is also sincere.  His reason is shown in Psalm 86:13.  David knows that what he has done is deserving of death, but God in His great mercy has forgiven him.  God is deserving of our praise simply because He is God, but His love and mercy toward David provided so much more motivation.  David vowed not only to praise God, but to do it with enthusiasm, and to do it forever.

It is likely that most of the people reading this have not sinned to the same degree that David did in the case of Bathsheba and Uriah.  But even the most noble among us are dependent on God’s grace to save us.  We cannot save ourselves.  (Ephesians 2:4-9)

God wants us all to be completely devoted to Him.  He wants us to ask for His help to live the way we should.  He is ready and willing to give it, along with His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness.  He has provided His Word so that we can learn more about His ways, but it takes commitment.  We need to choose each day to put Him first, to praise Him and to give Him the glory.