Romans 5:1-11 (NETFull)
1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of Godʼs glory. 3 Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance, character, and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from Godʼs wrath. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? 11 Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation.
Introduction: Shalom – peace in our boards, possibilities in our
To the ancient Jews shalom had a very deep meaning linked to safety and security. In a nomadic age one could only prosper if there were no enemies warring with you or stealing from your flock or resources. Imagine the picture of you and your extended family placing your tents in a valley close by water, green grass and some trees for shelter. It is decided that the area will care for you and your needs for that season, 12 months.
Each family group raises their tents placing the Patriarch in the middle so he could make decisions and be a stabling influence for all there. Imagine seeing say 10 tents, and in each tent you had a family of mum and dad, kids and grandparents sharing the area as their home.
Imagine all the animals feeding close by with the young men standing guard around them to make sure no wild animals might take them as food. Each evening they would bring them close to the tents where fires were lit to cook food and scare wild animals away. They would collect thorn bushes and gather them into a circle to make a temporary fence line to place the animals in at night, hopefully to keep them safe.
There would be babies being born, children playing and being taught skills to sustain the next generation.
Women would gather food and look after their families; men would hunt for what they could find for shared meals. Each evening they would gather together and maybe sing, tell stories or discuss important issues.
This is the picture of Shalom – not that there were no issues, or need to take care and do work, but rather that there was peace at the border and the family could enjoy their lives growing and expanding, eating and growing. People died naturally and families could celebrate and grieve the normal cycles of life.
The potential for community, food, shelter, family, marriage and life was not interrupted by war or internal strife – this is shalom.
To the ancients Shalom was not merely the freedom from war, though this was a part of it. It was the conditions associated with this freedom from war and unrest which allowed a family to enjoy life, prosper in their labors and build a good safe community using the resources available to them in the land they enjoyed.
Christian peace is living in the boarders of God’s righteousness free from God’s wrath and the consequences of sin upon us eternally. It is knowing the towards-ness of God, and rejoicing in all God has for us now, and when his perfect kingdom comes.
Point 1: Gods “towards”-ness to us.
We have peace with God, the condition required to enjoy and develop our faith and our community because He is towards us – His grace is always towards humanity, not as a tyrant demanding blind loyalty as Allah demands in submission, but as a loving God who leans towards us in spite of our sin and disengagement from him.
We learn from the early chapters of Romans that humanity has no way back to Eden through rule, ritual, morality, religion or effort – we are left outside paradise like a people knocking on an eternally secured door with no ability to turn the door handle of justification, or event the right to demand entrance. In this condition we are hopeless unless the other side of the equation gets involved and leans towards us.
Paul recognizes the essential need for God to lean our way and pour out his kindness towards us in this section:
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus coming to humanity is the greatest act of self sacrifice known to all creation in the now and in eternity. Consider how God, who gave us the ability to choose how we would live, might seek after us after we rejected him and told him that we have no need for him.
Let me put it this way: In Eden humanity said they would choose to be their own gods and decide what rules they would live by no matter the cost. Paul calls this state “helpless” and being “ungodly”. These words paint a sorry state humanity finds itself outside of God’s goodness; these are words of an enemy of hostility and rejection:
ἀσθενής – asthenes.
This word is the picture of a feeble, weak, impotent and incompetent state. While we were feeble before God, weakened by our lust and rebellion, impotent to do what pleases God and incompetent to move towards Him, yet God moved towards us.
Paul speaks of us as also:
ἀσεβής - asebes
He speaks of us being disrespectful towards God, not interested in Him or His ways – ungodly is to reject God and all that is important to Him. It is the rebellion within that says I want what I want and God has no rights over me and my life.
Think about it. While we acted against God and rejected Him and His ways, while we made ourselves to be His enemies and rebelling against His law, God acted towards us – He sent His son to die for us.
And what would drive the eternal, holy, all powerful divine one towards us, why would He possibly act in our good favor?
This towards-ness is inspired by Love – a simple word that would move eternity towards a hateful, spiteful and rebellious humanity. God would become vulnerable through the death of his son – Jesus Christ. The story of the incarnation is the passion of God towards an unloving creation - the “otherness” of God in the “Towards-ness” of His grace.
Point 2: The love of God in His “much more”.
And this love is more than we deserve more than humanity ought to even have towards it. This is a love beyond logic and holy justice. We ought to have the eternal courtroom of God simply lock the cell door, live our lives without any of the good things of God and die going then to oblivion and eternal separation. Yet, this is not the place we find ourselves.
9 Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from Godʼs wrath. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life?
The towards-ness of His love for humanity is expressed with the “much more” of Gods goodness. And this is a great way of understanding grace as it is the “much more” of God’s goodness towards us when we deserve His wrath. In all the courtrooms of both man and God, if the true account of humanities law breaking was exposed truthfully and without bias, every judge would be forced to declare our guilt in our dealings with God.
Instead we are “much more’ declared right before God because of His love focused towards us in Jesus death and atonement. This incarnation, this God becoming man 2000 years ago, speaks about much more love towards us, much more patience than we deserve, much more forgiveness than we ought to expect.
This much more means we have shalom with God for there is no longer any wrath or judgment from God towards all who are in Jesus, who have been imputed or credited Jesus’ righteousness. We are at peace with God in the boarder of His imputed righteousness – in His grace that forgives us for all our sin and rebellion.
God’s “toward”-ness to us because of His love grants us “much more” forgiveness than we ought to have or to hope for, and yet we have received it.
Point 3: Waiting, yet rejoicing.
In this forgiveness we have shalom with God, and the conditions required to grow and become all He calls us to be. But what we do not have here or yet is the final concrete Kingdom of God here and now – we must live in this imperfect reality with others who yet refuse to lean towards God, who still chooses to rebel and worship themselves. Paul reminds us that we wait in a reality that exposes us to suffering:
1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of Godʼs glory. 3 Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance, character, and character, hope... 11 Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation.
We live in an impatient age demanding heaven on earth now. We expect God to give us ease and good times, to prosper us in this world here and now. We want Eden here today; we declare “Now is our time!!!”
We have evil teachers telling us that God wants us to prosper in everything here and now, that we ought to not suffer but live in the Kingdom of God here and now. They call us to live beyond suffering, beyond hard times and ill health – but ignore Paul’s words that here and now we suffer, we hope and we wait.
Paul understands that though we have all God’s toward-ness yet we live in a reality that most seek self-toward-ness. This reality is not yet ready for the Kingdom of God to appear in its real concrete form, at this time the kingdom is within. We hope and ache for when the Kingdom will spill out on the street in a concrete form, but it is not yet Revelations 21.
Paul understands this when he speaks of living well in a broken reality that disappoints us at every turn – we must hope for what is promised, suffer for what we ache for and endure with growth and character till it arrives. The kingdom is promised in the concrete form, but not yet and not till God brings it in His good time. until then we endure, we grow up and we ache waiting for the hope He has promised us, taking little steps of right living improving the world we inhabit.
Point 4: His “towards”-ness and “much more” seen through his
This toward-ness of God is our current inspiration. In the here and now where our expectations don’t necessarily meet the reality of a broken world, God still is towards us and still working out His plan in His church.
5 And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
In spite of all that we must endure and mature through, we have this reality that God loves us, and He has promised to work through our lives by His Holy Spirit.
God’s gift of His own Spirit within our inner person is inspiring for this Spirit of God is the mystery that sets us aside dedicated and promised to God – this is the power of God that seals us, and establishes us in God’s peace for in the Spirit we live in His family and therefore in His boarders.
God’s Spirit that breaths in us causes us to lean towards God in this life and seals us eternally for the next. His Spirit causes us to become a people fixed on what is eternal and not here today and gone tomorrow.
God’s “toward”-ness and God’s Holy Spirit unite in us so we might now lean towards God in waiting for the Kingdom that is yet to be fully tangible in our reality – such love has God for us that He seals us, He pours himself into us through this mysterious union of His Spirit, seen in our leaning towards each other, a love union that starts here and now, but remains eternal.
Conclusion: The ethical response of grace expressed towards us.
So what does this all mean?
Nothing is you are not moved by this towards-ness of God.
All this is pointless if we are not inspired by the love of God towards a rebellious creation that seeks after its own interests and elevates itself to be god.
All Paul’s words are useless unless if we are not moved with rejoicing and gratitude for all God has done for us, all His love actively working out His salvation towards sinful humanity. If we understood how much more God has done towards us, for us and in spite of us we will not find the rejoicing Paul speaks of.
And this rejoicing is our ethical responsibility for all the love God has towards us. The Greek dictionaries talk about this word meaning we are so appreciative of how wonderful all this love God has towards us that it spills out into the streets in our boasting about it and joy of having it. We are captivated by appreciation we live better lives.
Ethically, Gods “toward”-ness to us must inspire our “toward”-ness to God’s community and the sharing of His gospel to the society we live in. This gratefulness spills from our beliefs to the street and through our relationships.
As Jesus put it:
John 13:34-35 (NETFull)
34 “I give you a new commandment - to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples - if you have love for one another.”
God leaning towards us in His love requires of us to lean towards others reflecting the glory of God’s care and concern to humanity.
As people move towards God are we willing to move towards them just as Jesus set the example in His moving towards humanity much more than we deserve?