Teaching series from Romans

Three Benefits of Justification

Romans 5:1-5

Teaching t07939


Up to now, Paul has been pursuing an argument. Here are the central elements of that argument:

All people (both the pagans and the religious) are justly under God's judgment because of our true moral guilt (chapters 1,2).

God offers to all people the gift of justification--offered by grace alone, accomplished through Christ's death alone, and received by our faith alone (chapter 3).

This is not a New Testament innovation. The Old Testament provided pictures and predictions of Christ's death, and people were justified by faith, not by works (chapter 4).

This is the heart of the gospel, and Christians need to understand this message well enough to be able to communicate it effectively to others.

But the gospel is not just a thesis to be argued; it is also a precious, life-changing gift to be experienced and enjoyed. That's why Paul now turns from arguing to rejoicing. In this passage, he rejoices in three specific benefits of justification.

1: Peace with God

Read 5:1. The first great benefit is peace with God. The moment you put your faith in Christ, the war between you and God is permanently over. Your moral guilt before God, which created a barrier of enmity between you and God, and which sent Jesus to the cross, is removed once and for all when you receive his gift of justification. Read 5:9--God has signed the peace treaty with the blood of his own Son, and he will never renege on his word (read Col. 2:14).

Therefore, you never need worry again that God will reject you, or condemn you, or be hostile toward you. How wonderful it is to know this! When you receive Christ, you can sigh a huge sigh of relief and simply thank God that this is a settled issue.

But this peace is more than merely the absence of enmity. It is an invitation from God to come into his presence and enjoy relational closeness with him. Justification has a proper legal dimension, but its purpose is personal reconciliation (read 5:10,11). Yes, God is a holy Judge whose righteousness and justice must be satisfied. But he is also a loving Father who wants to have close personal fellowship with you.

Paul uses a beautiful picture to describe this benefit in 5:2a (read). The "introduction" is a technical term referring to royal protocol. It refers to what people needed in the ancient world in order to come into the presence of a royal ruler. You couldn’t just waltz into a king's presence. To do this would invite death. You had to have an introduction--a signal from the king that he desired to see you.

The story of Esther in the Old Testament contains a beautiful illustration of this idea. Esther desires to plead with King Ahasuerus for the safety of her Jewish countrymen. But she knows what can happen if she goes into his presence without an introduction (read Esther 4:11). Esther risked her life by doing this, not knowing beforehand whether Ahasuerus would grant her an "introduction." Fortunately for her, he granted her grace.

This is probably what Paul is alluding to in Rom. 5:2a. God is a far greater King than Ahasuerus, because he is perfect and holy. The gap between us and him is far greater, because we are sinful and guilty. He has already warned us that to waltz into his presence without an introduction is to invite death (Jer. 20:31). But because of what Jesus Christ has done, we each receive a standing invitation to come into his presence at any time and bask in his grace. You can draw near with confidence that God will receive you gladly--not because you've been good lately, but because Jesus is your introduction (read Heb. 10:19-22).

What would be the proof that you really believe this? That you continue to draw near to God even (and especially) when you feel unworthy. Most of us have no problem coming into God's presence when we've been doing well following him. But what about after you've had a nice fit of road rage, or pornographic lust, or a drunk? When this happens, don’t you feel like you need to at least put some time between that and your next conversation with God? Isn't it easier to believe that God wants some penance than to believe that he is just as delighted to talk you as he was after you had a good day? If so, doesn't this mean you're basing your acceptability with God on your works and worthiness? We are never qualified to enter into God's presence by our own good works--but we're always qualified to do so by Christ's finished work.

"If you believe and teach that, people will take God for granted and sin all over the place." That has certainly not been my experience, either in my own life or in working with others. If you relate to God based on your own worthiness, you either stay honest about your sin and avoid God more and more--or you start to lie to yourself about how good you are and become a self-righteous hypocrite. But when you choose to draw near to God by faith in his grace, you become more honest with yourself and God and you become more motivated by his love and empowered by his Spirit to follow him.

2: A guaranteed glorious future

As cool as this benefit is, Paul adds another one. We not only have peace with God in the present; we also have the guarantee of a glorious future with him (read 5:2b).

"The glory of God" refers to the majesty and greatness of God's presence. Even in our most intimate moments with him in this life, we experience only small fragment of this. Those who experience even his reflected glory by coming into contact with one of his angels are completely undone. But the day is coming (when Jesus returns) when we will experience the glory of God to the fullest measure possible. Scripture speaks of three different ways we will experience the glory of God:

We will see God in all his glory (Rev. 22:4,5).

We will be transformed to reflect his glory (Col. 3:4).

We will live in a world filled with God's glory (Rom. 8:21).

Why do I say we have a guarantee of this? Because "hope" does not mean a fond wish or a good probability. It means a confident expectation, a certainty. This day is certainly coming because the God who has fulfilled all the promises he makes through scripture has promised this as well. And if you've received Christ, you can be certain that you'll get in on this because Jesus Christ fully paid your ticket. You may make many mistakes between now and then that cost you some joy and fruitfulness in this life--but nothing will cancel your admission to the big show!

3: Productive suffering

Here is a third great benefit (read 5:3a)--the ability to rejoice in the midst of our sufferings. Even if Paul stopped here, we could understand how this is true because of the two benefits he has already described.

Personal access to God is a tremendous source of comfort during personal suffering. To be able to draw near to God in times of trouble and experience his peace guarding my heart and mind (Phil. 4:6,7) is more wonderful than words can describe.

Realizing that one day all this suffering will be ended and replaced with the glory of God's perfection has a wonderfully fortifying effect (VACATION PRINCIPLE).

But Paul means more than this. The reason why we can rejoice in the midst of our tribulations is not just that God fortifies us in the midst of them, or that he will one day remove them--but that he somehow makes these suffering productive (read 5:3-5). When you receive Christ, God doesn't remove you from all suffering in this life. In fact, he warns you that you will have more suffering in this life (ME NOW). But he promises to work through those very sufferings to shape and mold and strengthen and mature you. He doesn't cause the sufferings, but he somehow customizes them to develop your character. Paul mentions three character results that God brings about uniquely through suffering.

He will produce perseverance--literally, the ability to "hang in there." This is the ability to keep going in spite of the pain, not deviating from the path, fulfilling your responsibility no matter what the cost. It's what Tom Hanks had in "Saving Private Ryan" that was so inspiring to me that I wept both times I saw it. This is the opposite of being soft, overwhelmed by suffering so that you cave in and quit and adopt the miserable goal of just avoiding pain. If you know Christ, God is like a STRENGTH COACH--overseeing every suffering that comes into your life to build perseverance.

He will produce proven character. This is the word used to describe gold after it had been smelted until the dross had been burned away. This is spiritual depth, spiritual reality that comes through unmistakably and deeply impacts people for Christ. When they talk about Christ and following him, you sense they are not spouting memorized platitudes--but that they know what it means. They have the ability to inspire you to give your life to Christ. Do you know what I have discovered about these people? They have suffered deeply, and this suffering has produced this depth and reality. If you are committed to avoiding pain as your first priority, you won’t really succeed--but you will succeed in remaining a superficial person.

He will produce hope. This "hope" is different from the hope mentioned in 5:2. It refers to confidence in God's goodness and faithfulness in this life. It is the opposite of being fearful and doubtful and cynical about whether God will really take care of you. This is one of the great benefits of walking with God over a period of years. You accumulate your own precious track-record of God's faithfulness, and this builds an increasing confidence that God will come through and enable you to handle and grow through whatever life throws at you.

This is why one of the most amazing things you hear walking Christians saying is that they are actually glad that God permitted them to suffer in certain ways, because the value of these results so far outweigh the pain they have experienced. Let's look at a real-life example of how God does this (VIDEO) . . . 

GOSPEL: If you have never asked Christ to come into your life, I appeal to you to do so now. What good reason do you have for rejecting his offer to give you peace with God, a guaranteed future, and productive suffering? Why not tell him you are ready to receive this gift?

Copyright 1999 Gary DeLashmutt