people live spiritual lives that are filled with uncertainty. Does God accept
me, or doesn’t He? Has God forgiven my sins, or hasn’t He? Will God
keep all His promises to me, or does God’s faithfulness depend on my performance?
For people who live with this uncertainty, the spiritual life is a topsy turvy
roller coaster. In these verses from Romans, Paul presents us with four assurances
that help us live Christian lives that are confident and assured.
of Our Future (5:1-2)
starts by describing how our future looks in light of our experience of “justification”
in Christ. These verses are full of important terms that must be carefully defined.
But chief among these terms are the words “justification” and “grace.”
Romans Paul has been building his case that we are “justified (“set
right”) with God based on what God has done through Jesus’ death and
resurrection. Thus our “justification” with God does not come as a result
of human effort, merit, race, or social status. It comes as a result of God’s
free favor, God’s grace. This merely restates what Paul has been teaching
up to this point in Romans.
now Paul speaks of “gaining access” to grace. This realm of grace opens
the door to a whole new reality. This word translated “gained access”
was used by the ancient Greeks to describe sailors who had been at sea for months,
yearning to see land again.1 Back then, before radios, cell
phones, and GPS soft-ware, sailors relied on maps and luck to find their way home.
This phrase “gained access” was used in that context to describe what
happened when sailors finally found dry land and were able to stand on solid ground
once again. What a graphic picture of how the Christian now “stands”
on the solid ground of God’s grace.
standing enables us to rejoice in God’s glory. The word “hope”
sets our sights to the future. When we’re right with God, we receive assurance
that our future is secure.
in Our Problems (5:3-4)
Paul doesn’t linger too long on the future, because he knows that the present
can be very difficult. Often painful problems threaten to crush our hope. Circumstances
like broken relationships, financial ruin, terminal illness, and life changing
failures can shatter our hopes. So Paul shows us the way to find joy, even in
the midst of our present problems. In the midst of painful problems, we have assurance
that God is still working.
produces perseverance. Perseverance is like the distance runner who keeps running
despite the cramps until she gets her second wind; it’s the medical student
who retakes the class after she’s failed; it’s the entrepreneur who
starts another business even though his previous business went bankrupt.
perseverance results in a tried and true character. And this tried and true character
results in more hope, an even greater sense of confidence that God is restoring
us to the glory he made us for.
we’re right with God we not only have assurance that our future is secure,
but we also have assurance that God is working in the midst of our problems.
as an antique table probably doesn’t like being stripped of the old varnish
and sanded, we recoil from the pain that comes our way. Yet it’s this very
process that evidences the fact that our restoration has already begun. God is
already stripping away the old stuff, sanding down the rough edges, and applying
new coats of varnish to restore us to our divine purpose.
of God’s Love (5:5-8)
Paul zeros in on our experience of God’s love. He focuses on both the subjective
and objective components of God’s love. Subjectively we experience God’s
love because, through the Spirit, God has drenched our heart with his love. Objectively
we look at the cross, and there we see the evidence for God’s love. The objective
evidence of God’s love in the cross of Christ anchors our experience of that
love in reality.
those moments when we doubt God’s love or our experience of God’s love
fades, the cross of Christ stands as an ever present reminder. In addition
to receiving assurance about our future and assurance that God is working in our
problems, we see here that when we’re right with God we receive the assurance
that God loves us no matter what.
of God’s Friendship (5:9-11)
this final section, Paul uses the language of “reconciliation” to describe
our new relationship with God. While “justification” was a legal term
to describe a person being “set right”, the term “reconciliation”
is a relationship term that describes former enemies being brought together in
“reconciliation” comes from the realm of friendship, most religious
people of Paul’s day didn’t use this term to describe people’s
relationship with God because it was considered too arrogant and boastful to think
of God being our friend.2 Yet here we find our relationship
with God described as nothing less than a reconciled friendship.
we’re right with God we receive assurance of God’s friendship.
sing a worship song called “Redeemer, Savior, Friend.”3
I can understand God as my redeemer. I can understand God as my Savior. But to
view God as my friend seems too audacious, too amazing. Yet it’s true.
the midst of life’s many uncertainties, Paul provides us with four assurances:
Assurance of a secure future, assurance that God is working in our problems, assurance
of God’s love, and assurance of God’s friendship. These assurances enable
us to face any circumstance with hope and confidence.
James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1-8. Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 38 A (Dallas.
Word Books, 1988), p. 248.
2 Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans,
New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans,
1996), p. 311.
3 “Redeemer, Savior, Friend” words and music
by Darrell Evans and Chris Springer. © 1999 Integrity’s Hosanna!/Integrity’s
brief provided by: Tim Peck, Pastor of Life Bible Fellowship
Church in Upland, CA.