Summary: Four assurances God gives us when we discover His grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
The last twelve days have remarkable. Like you I’ve been fascinated at how closely contested our presidential election has been. Can you imagine what the last twelve days have been like for vice-president Gore and governor Bush? On election day the networks first called Florida for Gore, then they said it was too close to call, then they called it for Bush, and then they said it was too close to call again. If there’s anything vice-president Gore and governor Bush haven’t experienced the last twelve days it’s a sense of assurance. Neither of them has been sure of much of anything.
Can you imagine what it would be like if our relationship with God was like that? Imagine if being right with God was based on some sort of voting system, perhaps our bad actions counting as "no" votes and our good deeds counting as "yes" votes. Imagine never knowing whether we’re going to make it or whether it’s too close to call. Imagine when we die and the angels meet us at the gates of heaven, some of the angels demand a recount, so suddenly all of heaven is mobilized for a hand recount of our good deeds and bad deeds. Will we make it? Well it’s still too close to call!
A lot of people think the spiritual life is like that. Because of this many people live under the constant uncertainty of whether they’ll make it or not. And like our two presidential candidates, these people experience no sense of assurance, no security.
I’m sure glad the Christian faith isn’t like our electoral process. Instead God offers people a sense of assurance about how they stand before him, and it’s that assurance I want to talk about today. We’ve been in a series since September through the New Testament book of Romans called GOOD NEWS FOR OUR TIMES. So far we’ve looked at Romans chapters 1 through 4, as we’ve explored the good news about God’s integrity. We’ve seen that the entire human race has joined in rebellion against our creator. We’ve seen that we can’t earn restoration with God; we can’t rely on being religious or rituals or ceremonies, but God invites us to come as undeserving people who find restoration with God on the basis of what Jesus did, not the basis of what we’ve done. Today we reach a major transition in Romans, as we move from the good news about God’s integrity to the good news about God’s love. This new section covers chapter five of Romans to chapter eight, and the theme of these chapters is how God’s love enables us to live the way we were made to live.
Today, in Romans 5:1-11 we’re going to find FOUR ASSURANCES GOD GIVES US WHEN WE DISCOVER HIS GRACE. We’re going to talk about these four assurances, and then we’re going to experience them together by worshipping and celebrating communion together. But let me give one warning about this section of Romans: We have a tendency to read these verses as individuals, as though Paul were only talking about my personal relationship with God. As 21st century Americans, we have a tendency to envision the spiritual life as a solitary life consisting of me and Jesus. This is part of the effect of the 18th century Enlightenment on American culture, and it’s shaped how we understand the Bible more than we realize. But the emphasis in the verses we look at today is on us as a community who follow Jesus together, not on me or you as individuals. In fact the singular pronoun "me" doesn’t occur once in this section, but the plural pronoun "we" and "our" occurs 24 times in the 11 verses we’re going to look at today. So the emphasis here is on the assurance we experience as a community as we worship together and follow Jesus together as a congregation.
1. Assurance Of Our Future (Romans 5:1-2)
The first two verses are a transition from chapters 1-4 into this new section about God’s love. The phrase "we have been justified by faith" (v. 1) sums up everything Paul’s said so far in Romans. Remember "justification" in Romans doesn’t mean making excuses or setting the margins on your computer word processor, but it’s a legal word that means to be acquitted or made right with someone. The human race’s alienation from our creator has been answered, and this answer is justification, where we as guilty criminals who have broken God’s holy laws are acquitted of our crimes.
Because we’ve been made right with God through Jesus, we now have peace with God. This isn’t talking about having peaceful feelings or tranquility, but an objective state of peace (Fitzmyer 395). Before trusting in Christ, we were at war with our creator, constantly asserting our independence from God with our words and actions. But when we’re justified, the result is a restoration of a relationship, a relationship of peace.