Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1365
September 9, 2018 Romans 5:1-11
Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
“I’ve Got The Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy!”
What God Has Done
I have selected Romans 5 as one of our ten passages to know and cherish mostly because of verse 8, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It is a summation of the gospel in one line. It is a tremendous expression of love on par with that of John 3:16. Around this verse are the wonders of what God has done for us because of His love and Christ’s death on the cross. So I’m just going to list a few of the things God has done for us from this passage in Romans.
Justified – Christ died for us means that we are justified. Justified means we are set in a right relationship with God. Jesus has taken the shame and guilt of sin upon Himself on that cross. By His faith and obedience the justice of God is satisfied, the penalty of our sins is paid in full, and we are reconciled to a right relationship in and through Jesus. By His blood we are washed clean of sin and no longer estranged from God. This is why Paul is able to declare in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are free, clean, forgiven, and loved by our Creator.
Christ died for us – God has sent His Son to die for the ungodly. There was and is nothing we can do to make ourselves right with God. It is only through Christ that we are set free from all that binds us. And the amazing thing is that Christ came and comes when we are at our weakest and most vulnerable point, sinners in need of salvation. It is amazing. While we were rebellious sinners, while we were at our worst, God still loved us so deeply that he gave his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that he might die on our behalf. This is love. God could have shown nothing but wrath because of our sinfulness. He would have been completely justified in wrath. But he chose a different way, a different expression of love in giving his Son and showing his grace and mercy. You might remember the sermon or at least the passage of Exodus 34 when the text gives the description of the God merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. I called that option A where God shows great love and grace. Option B was the latter part of that passage where God does not clear the guilty but their iniquity would be visited on future generations. Romans 5 is the expression of option A. Christ’s death for us is the greatest expression of God’s mercy and grace and love.
God loves us – There is no greater love than that of God’s love for His people. John 3:16 expresses this love, and as I have been harping on for several weeks now, God’s steadfast love has been in operation all through the Bible. God is love and the good news is that God loved us and loves us today even to the point of sending Jesus for us.
What We Have Received
Out of what God has done, we have received blessing upon blessing, benefit upon benefit, I don’t think we could begin to count all that we have received in Christ. Romans 5 gives us a few things received:
Peace – The first verse says we have peace. Peace is far more than just the absence of strife, but in theological terms it is wholeness of body and spirit and soul. Peace is something that occurs within our being that is even more than we can understand. Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Peace is a gift as well. Jesus gives us His peace, not a shallow peace that the world might promise, but a peace that Jesus Himself possessed: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). This is a peace that brings us comfort and calmness in the midst of any and all troubles of life.
Access to faith by grace – I think Paul is expressing the gift of faith given us by the grace of God. Even our very faith is a gift. As Paul would say in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” You might remember the story in the gospel about the man who prayed for Jesus to help his unbelief (Mark 9:14-29). When I struggle with faith I think about that as a prayer, Lord, give me more of the gift of faith. I think this way because of Paul’s word in Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” This measure of faith is mentioned here in the context of gifts given to the church, but I also think of it as a measure of faith like that of the man in Mark 9 who desired more faith. Lord, help our unbelief with a greater measure of faith.
Now there are many things in Romans 5 that we have received because of what God has done, and to speak of them in detail would take a lot longer than we might want to stay, so let me list a few more and then highlight one more in three ways. We have received:
Hope; Salvation; God’s love; The gift of Jesus Christ and all that comes with what Christ has done; Reconciliation.
The last one I want to highlight is joy. We have joy in our hope, joy in suffering, and joy in God.
Joy in Hope
I have chosen to use the term rejoice given us in the ESV for verses 2, 3, and 11. Various translations use different terms in these verses. The ESV uses rejoice three times. The NRSV uses boast. The KJV uses rejoice in verse 2, glory in verse 3, and joy in verse 11. Other versions use similar terms. The Greek word literally means to vaunt, to boast or praise. The reason different versions use different words is due to the context of the passage and the determination of the translator(s). All of the words used are fine. To boast in hope, suffering, and God is just as viable a translation as rejoice in hope, suffering, and God. I tend to favor rejoice because I believe Paul had joy in mind. We might define it further as “rejoicing confidence”. I think also that boasting is fine when boasting about things that are joyful, but boasting can also have a negative effect if our boasting becomes prideful and arrogant. We certainly tend to boast about the things that bring us joy – our accomplishments, our children and grandchildren, our football teams when they are winning. But we also know how easy it can become to boast in the self or others in ways that are detrimental. That’s one reason I like to use rejoice in this case, because we are rejoicing in hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:2).
What does it mean to rejoice in hope of the glory of God? This fascinates me about hope and also faith. Romans 8:24-25 says, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Hebrews 11:1 about faith, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hope and faith deal with things unseen. We hope in the God we cannot see. We set our hope in the promises of what is not yet seen. Our faith is also in things unseen. This is perhaps what many people wonder about Christians, how we can have such strong conviction and belief about what we cannot see.
But this is the power of the Holy Spirit within. Our hope and faith is not blind in the sense that we perceive nothing, but it is blind faith backed by testimony of Scripture, inner strength of faith, the Holy Spirit convicting our hearts and nourishing our hearts toward an ever greater hope and greater faith. We rejoice in all of this. This is an extremely positive attitude and hope and faith. It is something that lifts our spirits and encourages us that there is more to this life than what is seen and more to this life after death.
Paul goes on to note that we not only rejoice in the positives, but we also are able to rejoice in negatives like suffering and that is precisely because we have hope.
Joy in Suffering
Why would we boast or rejoice in suffering? Because we know the outcome. It is kind of like our boasting in Good Friday. We rejoice in Good Friday because we know the outcome. We know that Christ on the cross has multiple benefits to those who believe. We know that the cross is not the end but leading to the resurrection. We know the whole story so that we can rejoice in the suffering of Christ which leads to life and even our own suffering which leads to endurance and character and hope. The joy in suffering is linked to the joy of hope because our suffering eventually leads to hope. What we might consider a negative event in life leads to a positive hope and thus to rejoicing. We may not rejoice in suffering initially, but when we have time to reflect or time to look back, we rejoice that the suffering led to endurance and character and finally to hope.
Now there are various kinds of suffering: for the faith – because of Christ; health – body, mind, soul; loss – death, work, possessions, status; sacrifice – self imposed, imposed from circumstance beyond our control. We might consider all kinds of suffering in our lives. But I suspect Paul mostly had suffering for the faith in mind. This is common in the Bible to speak about suffering for the cause of Christ. Jesus speaks about the world hating us because it hates Jesus. Paul and the apostles suffered for their belief in and proclamation of Jesus. While I do think that was the thought of Paul, I also think we can grow in hope through any type of suffering. Because we are in Christ, all suffering may lead us to even greater hope.
Joy in God
In the end it is all about the joy of the Lord and joy in the Lord. In the last verse of our reading, verse 11, we read, “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” We rejoice in God because everything that we have is because of God and what God has done. What God has done, what we have received, the joy in hope and suffering are all pointing us to life because we have been reconciled with God through Jesus. We have a relationship with God that was impossible without Jesus. This is why Romans 5 is so important to our knowledge and should be treasured. "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly."(5-6). And verse 8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The witness of God's love and the reason we rejoice in God is found in the death of Jesus Christ. While we were still weak, while we still were sinners, Christ died for us so that we may be justified by faith, have peace with God, and rejoice or boast in what God has done for us. God's love has been poured into our hearts. Christ suffered and died for us.
You all probably remember the old song “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” This is why that kind of song was written and sung as well as the songs we have sung today about the joy we have in God and all that God has done and given. This is the joy that goes deeper than simple happiness. It is a joy that nothing else and no one else can offer or provide. This is the joy of the Lord. Let us rejoice today and everyday as we grow in hope and faith and knowledge of what God has done and continues to do.