We Have Been Justified by Faith!
Dear heavenly Father, as I enter into Your presence to worship this day, give me a humble heart to confess my sins, a ready mind to hear Your Word, a joyous soul to sing Your praises, and a fervent desire to love and serve You all the days of my life! In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Balaam could not curse Israel as Balak desired. Under the influence of the Spirit of God this false prophet foretold the coming of Jesus: “A Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel.”
Jesus was pleased with the Father’s decision to reveal His truths to the simple of heart, rather than to the brilliant of mind. He invites us to come to Him with all of our burdens and to receive from Him rest for our souls!
Text: Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
In Christ Jesus, our precious Savior and Lord, dear fellow redeemed:
Recent religious surveys here in the United States reveal some rather interesting information. They tell us, for instance, that there is a greater level of interest in spiritual matters today on the part of a larger percentage of our population than at any point in the last forty years. This is encouraging, for it suggests that our country’s head-long plunge towards secularism may be slowing.
On the other hand, the surveys also tell us that a sizable majority of those who express an interest in spiritual matters are not looking to organized religion to satisfy that interest, but rather are taking an “a la carte” approach—that is, they are picking and choosing from a variety of religious sources those ideas which appeal to them. This is not so encouraging, although in some ways it is understandable. It is not encouraging, for this is exactly what the apostle Paul said would happen as the end of time draws near. He wrote: “For the time will come when they (people in this world) will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). It is understandable, however, for most Christian denominations in our day no longer believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and therefore have little to offer people other than their own opinions.
My dear friends—let us take heart in the fact that in this increasingly secularized society, more and more people are searching for spiritual answers. Let us also, as the apostle Peter encourages us, “be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). To that end, let us today review the Biblical teachings concerning our salvation and what that salvation means for each of us. The Bible teaches that WE HAVE BEEN JUSTIFIED BY FAITH!
That means, first of all, that we have peace with God! In the first four chapters of Romans Paul explains God’s plan for our salvation. We have all sinned, Paul explained, and therefore “fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). Left on our own, we would all be lost. Our futures would hold only death and eternal damnation. God, however, in view of His love for us, determined to save us by sending His own Son, Jesus, to be our Savior. Because Jesus acted as our substitute, bearing the penalty for our sins upon the cross, God has justified us, that is, He has declared us not-guilty. We receive the blessings of that verdict by faith, that is, by trusting in Jesus. “Therefore,” Paul says, “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Peace with God” is not just a mere end of hostility—a cease-fire so to speak, but rather Biblically it means “soundness, wholeness, health; where there is ‘peace,’ things are as they ought to be” [Concordia Commentary—Romans by Martin Franzmann, pp. 87-88]. Think about your own relationship with your spouse or a close friend. If you have said or done anything that causes a rift between you, it bothers you until it is resolved. You worry about it. You may well lose sleep over it. You are unsettled until you apologize and are forgiven, but when the issue is resolved—what relief that resolution brings!
So it is with our relationship with God. Sin causes barriers between us and God. Fears arise…uncertainties abound. It affects us emotionally and, at times, physically. David confessed, “When I kept silent (about my sin), my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long…my vitality was turned into the drought of summer” (Psalm 32:3,4b). But when we confess those sins and know that for Jesus’ sake they have been forgiven—that we have indeed been justified, all is well. We are truly at peace. We are light-hearted, confident, even bold in our relationship with our heavenly Father, which brings us to a second blessing of our salvation.
What does it mean that WE HAVE BEEN JUSTIFIED BY FAITH? It means, secondly, that we have access by faith to God! Paul writes, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” Access is important. In the movie classic, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her three companions could not gain access to the wizard without the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West. In the field of politics, success is ultimately tied to who has access to the ear of the Governor or the President.
Having been justified by faith, having been reconciled to God through Christ, having been adopted into the family of God—we have access to God. Oh, yes, our access is entirely a matter of grace—God’s undeserved love for us in Christ, but that very fact makes it so sure. Our access does not depend upon our merit or worthiness, but rather upon God’s unchanging mercy and loving-kindness in Christ. Consequently, the writer to the Hebrews urges us to enter God’s presence with boldness, because Jesus’ blood has cleansed us (cf. 10:19-22). The apostle James assures us that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (5:16b). We can and ought to be advocates for others—bringing to God petitions, both great and small, for the physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual health and well-being of all!
Later in his epistle Paul speaks of our access to God in terms of our Father-child relationship. He reminds us that in view of the work of Jesus Christ, we are privileged to address God in heaven above as “Abba Father” (cf. 8:15). “Abba” is the Hebrew equivalent of the English “papa” or “daddy.” God’s will is that you and I have such an intimate relationship with Him that we can go to Him with absolute confidence as a dear son or darling daughter would go to a beloved father. This is what it means when WE HAVE BEEN JUSTIFIED BY FAITH!
It means, thirdly, that we rejoice in hope of the glory of God! Paul continues, “We… rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” The result of our justification is not limited to an improved relationship with God during our lives here on this earth. Such a blessing, while certainly wonderful and meaningful, would only be temporary, for our lives in this world pass quickly. No, God’s ultimate goal in restoring our relationship with Him is to bring us into the glories of heaven. Our lives in this world, no matter how long, will prove to be but a speck in the time-line of our eternal existence. We tend to look back at times with pride upon our accomplishments, which when compared with others may be many or few. Yet, once again—in comparison with what God has planned for us, the things that we will accomplish here are so very limited in their scope.
That, of course, does not mean that what we do here is of no consequence. Paul assures us in Ephesians that having been saved by His grace through faith, we are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (2:10). Nothing that God creates is insignificant, and everything that God prepares has importance. But knowing that our lives here on this earth are but temporary helps us keep things in perspective. While knowing that our futures, in view of God’s promises, most certainly involve eternal glory gives us a reason to do everything we do with confidence. God will bless us as we do that which He has prepared for us to do, before He bestows upon us His gift of eternal glory! This, then, is but another result and part of what it means that WE HAVE BEEN JUSTIFIED BY FAITH!
It means, fourthly, that we glory in tribulations permitted by God! Satan’s chief goal is to destroy our relationship with God, and so to separate us from Him and His blessings. One of the chief methods that Satan uses is tribulation—causing severe problems to arise within our lives. His goal is to cause us to question God’s love for us and commitment to us. Keeping the fact that WE HAVE BEEN JUSTIFIED BY FAITH in mind, allows us to maintain a wonderful perspective on any suffering we may endure. Paul says, “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Having been justified by faith, we as God’s children can dismiss immediately any thought that the troubles that enter our lives are punishments from God for our sins. Jesus paid the price in full for our sins. God does not punish us. Rather, when any type of tribulation enters our lives, we can immediately approach the matter from the perspective of a loving Father seeking to help us grow in some way in order to better prepare us for our future. God’s uses troubles to help us develop the positive virtues we need to fulfill our individual callings. Paul says that “tribulation produces perseverance”—that is a quality we need in life. Satan will throw many obstacles in our paths—we need to be strong and to persevere. We need to develop patience and longsuffering. We need to experience pain in order to have compassion upon others who are enduring pain. God will not allow us to experience anything that He is not prepared to help us endure! He is our silent partner, who will strengthen us and enable us! With that knowledge, we can not only endure tribulation, but “glory” in it. Let us remember from Bible history that many of the opportunities God provided the saints of old came as they endured with faithfulness the tribulations that lay before them. Yes, WE HAVE BEEN JUSTIFIED BY FAITH! We can, therefore, glory in tribulations permitted by God!
We, finally,can be certain that we have the love of God! Paul concludes our text by saying, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promised His disciples that He would send them the Holy Spirit, whom He described repeatedly as a “Helper” (cf. John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7). The Holy Spirit is that member of the Trinity whose work is to sanctify us—to set us apart and make us holy by working faith in our hearts. This the Holy Spirit does through baptism and the preaching of the Word.
God’s gospel message is a message of love—a deep and abiding love that we do not deserve, but which God pours out upon us with abundance and that the Spirit of God pours into us when He brings us to faith. It is that love which takes our hearts, which by nature are as hard as stone and as dead as a tomb, and brings them back to life again. It is that love, which instills hope and joy and confidence in the knowledge that our sins have been forgiven, that we are right with God, that His power is present in our lives, and that consequently “all things (even our sins) will work together for good” as we love our Savior (cf. Romans 8:28).
When the Spirit of God pours His divine love into our hearts, then the blessed fruits of that love can and do become apparent. Paul spoke to the Galatian Christians of the fruits of the Spirit, the first of which was indeed “love.” Added to that virtue, however, were “joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, (and) self-control” (5:22).
My dear friends, all of this is what it means when we say that WE HAVE BEEN JUSTIFIED BY FAITH! All of this is what we have to share with those people seeking for spiritual answers. May we rejoice in our justification and be prepared to answer everyone who asks concerning the hope that we cherish within our hearts! Amen.