Summary: Year C. The Holy Trinity Sunday June 10th, 2001 Romans 5: 1-5
Year C. The Holy Trinity Sunday June 10th, 2001
Romans 5: 1-5
Title: “Redemptive suffering.”
Paul has been making the case for his doctrine of “justification by faith.” Thus far it has been both a theological and a legal argument and rather technical. Now, he puts the same ideas into warmer, more relational language. He has laid out the scriptural basis for those saved by faith in Christ being “justified,” “acquitted” before the judgment seat of God. Now he tells us what it all means for the period before that final judgment, the here and now.
Love, joy, peace and hope, the true fruits of the Spirit dwelling now within Christians, are the qualities marking the lives of those justified by faith. The past-of sin, guilt, alienation, estrangement- is canceled; the future- of glory, union and communion with God- is assured; the present- with the indwelling Spirit, granting a state and status of grace- offers all that is needed to endure trial, resist evil, and live a life befitting an acquitted person and friend of God.
In verse one, we have peace with God, “Peace” is rich biblical term for all the blessings, advantages and fruits of salvation. Here it stresses reconciliation, renewed friendship with God as a result of Christ. It is the consequence, outcome, result of justification. It describes the change that has taken place in the relationship with God. Ultimately, peace, love, joy, salvation and Holy Spirit all express the same reality, namely, God, under different lights.
In verse two, through whom we have gained access, “Access” is a profound term. Formerly, there was a barrier, an insurmountable barrier between God and humans as a result of human sin and rebellion. Humans were on the outs with God -totally. Christ not only removed the barrier, but he led humans back to God, introduced them or re-introduced them to God as his long-lost prodigal children and as Christ’s brothers and sisters, and restored them to their place at the Father’s table and in the Father’s house. “Access” was a special term used to denote the privilege of approaching or being introduced into the presence of someone in high station, especially a royal or divine personage.
“The grace in which we stand,” this is another way of expressing “access.” It says that Christ did not merely introduce us to God again, but caused us to stay, to stand, to live in his presence once more. This is a “now” reality, even though he will quickly point out that it is not yet complete.
“And we boast,” Paul condemns the kind of boasting based on one’s own accomplishments or ego. And EGO means Edging God Our. He considers such a sham, more than mere exaggeration, empty of reality. But now he uses “boast” in the same sense as “rejoice.” One should boast in God’s accomplishments through Christ, because Christ did for us what we could never do for ourselves.
“In hope of the glory of God,” this peace with God, this standing in the state of grace is a now reality, but also a “not quite yet” one. So long as Christians exist in a mortal body, the “glory,” the revealed and manifest, experienced presence of God, remains incomplete, sort of limited by the restrictions of time, space, matter and, of course, the sinful environment. Yet, the hope is real and realizable.
In verse three, “boast of our afflictions,” Afflictions and suffering are normally considered evil, but not for Christians. While, objectively speaking, afflictions and suffering remain evil, subjectively, they are opportunities to become more aware of total reliance on God. They are really opportunities to grow spiritually. They humble the Christian and prevent him or her from having confidence in self, rather than in God. In the New Testament suffering is considered a normal experience of a Christian, a sign of God’s confidence that his grace will prevail, producing a salutary effect upon the sufferer, cultivating endurance, character and even stronger hope.
Affliction produces endurance. This does not happen by the power of the one afflicted, but by the nature of God’s grace. Endurance is not simply the ability to support and bear affliction and distress, but the attitude to look past it to see the end which it obscures, to find meaning in God and, thereby, to continue in the right despite the pain or the odds. Endurance is another way of saying “fortitude.” When one realizes that, he or she, is in eternity now and develops an eternal perspective, suffering is placed in proper perspective.
In verse four, “proven character,” the Greek word, dokime, is a rare one, formed from the verb which means “to test,” and if the test is passed, “to approve.” The basic image is of metal that is cast into the fire, suffering, not in order to be annihilated but to be purified. The fire “tests” the metal and removes the impurities to make it stronger. When it comes out of the fire, a judge will test it again, but this time not for the sake of purifying but to test whether the process worked and then to approve the metal, give it the stamp or seal of approval, verifying, testifying, witnessing, vouching for its authenticity. It is judged to be what it is supposed to be.