Summary: God promises many gifts of grace to sustain hope while we struggle with suffering and sin.
God’s people often worry whether they remain safe and secure in his favor. When you first came to Jesus, you probably knew only confidence. Your experience of grace was overwhelmingly positive and you wondered that anything could dim the dazzle of his beauty. As a result, progress in the faith was everyday evident.
But like last week’s birthday balloons, we now lie limp. Instead of a buoyant, contagious faith, sin and suffering leave us defeated and dispirited. Sin deflates us by piercing a hole in our faithfulness to God; suffering, pricks a hole in God’s faithfulness to us. But God is not defeated, and these two disparate difficulties merge for one grand solution in Romans 5 which preaches to our souls: we can believe in grace! [Read Romans 5.1-11. Pray.]
Dr. Bryan Chapell, President of Covenant Seminary, tells of a local news story in St. Louis a few years ago: In the yard (of a home in the city) was a sign with these words on it: “Mom On Strike.” Her name was Michelle, and she was tired of the whining, the back talk, and the lack of cooperation from her family. So she stuck the sign in the ground, “moved” into the tree house in the backyard, and vowed she was not coming down until things changed.
A local television station asked her husband what he planned to do. He said, “I’ve told the kids to cool it with the back talk. I’ve told them to do their chores again. We’re doing everything we can to get her to come down.” (Holiness by Grace, 17-18). His solution makes perfect sense. When we offend someone, when we do something wrong, we try to “make up for it.” Better words and actions atone for past wrongs. Isn’t that what we believe? Better words and actions atone for past wrongs.
But what if God goes on strike? If God abandoned us for a “tree house” in the sky, how shall we bring him down? When we fail or frustrate him, what spiritual discipline or sacrifice will “make it up”? I want his blessings, but how do I get God down when his standards are so high? Is there any hope?
The answer is that the grace which saves also sustains our relationship with God. God does not flee from our problems. Instead, he supplies grace upon grace, that we might continue and increase in joy and obedience, even as fallen people in a fallen world. God does not want you defeated or deflated. He want us full of the Spirit, full of confidence, filled with hope—believing that, “If God is for us, none can stand against us.” Five promises are given in Romans 5 to fill us with sustaining grace.
1. Buoyant Faith Believes that Justification Includes Peace With God (Romans 5.1)
Two truths especially to note. First, be aware that the following promises are for Christians. Paul begins: “since we have been justified by faith….” There is always a danger, when reading the extravagant promises of God, that some will presume upon his favor who have no claim to it. Christianity is not a universal religion because God is not a universalist. Not everyone enters heaven.
R. C. Sproul, The Truth of the Cross, “The prevailing doctrine of justification today is not justification by faith alone. It’s not even justification by good works or by a combination of faith and works. The prevailing notion of justification in Western culture today is justification by death. It’s assumed that all one has to do to be received into everlasting arms of God is to die.”
It is likely that some here today are not right with God. You assume either that God will save you because you are good (at least better than others), or that a loving God would not consign anyone to destruction and damnation. Neither is true. Instead, the Bible reveals that all are already condemned, guilty both by the failure of our first representative (Adam), and by our own lack of conformity to God’s law. Only Jesus’ righteousness makes one acceptable to God.
In fact, Paul writes later in Romans that the Jews are not saved, precisely because they insist on coming to God with their goodness. Sin separates us from God, but good works keep us from him — for “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10.4). If your hope of acceptance is based on anything other than faith in Jesus, then it is misplaced and you need to become a Christian.
The second truth is the promise of peace between God and his people.
I would hate to have the job of someone like Dr. Condoleezza Rice. She is obviously a brilliant woman, an able diplomat, and a sincere and diligent worker. Yet she is trying to negotiate peace in the Middle East. What a hopeless task. As soon as a moment of stability is obtained, all “walk on egg shells,” hoping to “preserve the peace.” Of course, fighting soon resumes.