I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Justification Changes Everything
Berit Kjos, in his book A Wardrobe from the King gave an illustration of true peace. He wrote:
Long ago a man sought the perfect picture of peace. Not finding one that satisfied, he announced a contest to produce this masterpiece. The challenge stirred the imagination of artists everywhere, and paintings arrived from far and wide. Finally the great day of revelation arrived. The judges uncovered one peaceful scene after another, while the viewers clapped and cheered.
The tensions grew. Only two pictures remained veiled.
As a judge pulled the cover from one, a hush fell over the crowd.
A mirror-smooth lake reflected lacy, green birches under the soft blush of the evening sky. Along the grassy shore, a flock of sheep grazed undisturbed. Surely this was the winner.
The man with the vision uncovered the second painting himself, and the crowd gasped in surprise. Could this be peace?
A tumultuous waterfall cascaded down a rocky precipice; the crowd could almost feel its cold, penetrating spray. Stormy-gray clouds threatened to explode with lightning, wind and rain. In the midst of the thundering noises and bitter chill, a spindly tree clung to the rocks at the edge of the falls. One of its branches reached out in front of the torrential waters as if foolishly seeking to experience its full power.
A little bird had built a nest in the elbow of that branch. Content and undisturbed in her stormy surroundings, she rested on her eggs. With her eyes closed and her wings ready to cover her little ones, she manifested peace that transcends all earthly turmoil.
A Christian has this kind of peace. It begins with the real peace that comes with a true relationship with God though faith in Jesus Christ. By peace we do not imply that we are taken out of life's troubles and storms. However, we can rest contently, like that bird, knowing that we are right with the Lord of the Universe and therefore don't have to worry about anything. He has our lives in His hands, and He loves us. Furthermore, He doesn't wish us ultimate harm. Our God wants the best for us and we know that He has the power to bring it about.
In chapter 5 of Romans, we begin a section which might be rightfully titled: "The Benefits of Justification by Faith Alone."
Justification is the act whereby God declares the sinner as righteous, not by his own merits but because of what Jesus Christ has done on his behalf. By sin, we mean any act that goes against the will of a Holy God.
Justification includes Jesus taking our sins upon Himself on the cross of Calvary. And it also involves Jesus Christ giving to us His righteousness, so that when God the Father sees us, He no longer sees our sin, but He sees someone who is totally righteous before Him (II Corinthians 5;19-21).
One of the chief benefits of this justification is peace with the God whose wrath against sin is coming upon mankind. In order for us to completely understand Romans 5, we need to first summarize what the writer of this epistle, the Apostle Paul, has been saying the the previous 4 chapters.
I. A Summary of Paul's Argument (Romans 1-4)
Romans is Paul's great letter telling us about the Gospel of Christ. His summary verses are found in 1:16-17. He states:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes; to the Jew first, but also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, 'the just shall live by faith."
The word "gospel" means good news, and it implies that there is some bad news that we all must know about. And just what is that bad news? The first three chapters of Romans tell us.
The Apostle tells us that man knew God from the beginning but didn't glorify Him as their creator. Instead men made idols that resembled animals and creatures rather than the creator. So now God's wrath is against sinful mankind (1:18-32).
God's wrath is coming upon all of us and we need to realize this. The entire world is condemned as sinful before a holy God (Romans 3:23). Those who think that they are morally superior aren't any better and must prepare for the wrath to come. Israel, is included in this. The Law that was given to them was given in order to show how sinful we all really are (2-3).
Good works will not help us avoid God's coming judgment upon sin. The only thing that can and will save us is faith in what Jesus Christ did for mankind on the cross. Righteousness comes only through faith in his finished work at Calvary. Christ's death was the propitiation or appeasement for the offended holiness and wrath of God (3:21-24).
In chapter 4 of Romans Paul uses the illustration of the life of Abraham and he uses the words of King David to illustrate the fact that man has never been saved by works but has always been justified by faith. Abraham didn't know all that we know about Jesus Christ but God justified him on the basis of the revelation that he had received up until that point. A major verse in this chapter is Romans 4:3 which states:
"For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness."
To summarize the summary of the first 4 chapters we can say that righteousness and salvation come by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. With this in mind, we are now ready for chapter 5 of this great book. There are at least 5 major benefits from our faith in Christ that we see in the first 11 verses.
II. Peace with God (5:1)
I was looking on a sermon illustration website and saw this from an unknown source. It says:
"A former president of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and historians from England, Egypt, Germany, and India have come up with some startling information: Since 3600 B.C. the world has known only 292 years of peace! During this period there have been 14,351 wars, large and small, in which 3.64 billion people have been killed. The value of the property destroyed would pay for a golden belt around the world 97.2 miles wide and 33 feet thick. Since 650 B.C. there have also been 1656 arms races, only 16 of which have not ended in war. The remainder ended in the economic collapse of the countries involved."
Apparently these statistics must have been recorded before the end of the Cold War between the United States and the former U.S.S.R. That arms race ended with the collapse of the U.S.S.R. Thankfully, the United States was able to get through that major period in history and is still alive financially.
Sadly, with every passing year, the statistics only get worse for this world. Peace is something man cannot muster on his own. World War I was supposedly the War to end all wars. And we all know how that went.
However, the greatest peace that man needs is not between his fellow human beings. It is peace with God. Man's sin is cosmic treason against the One who created and sustains life. He is in rebellion against his Maker.
But thanks be to our Lord, as we noted earlier, Paul tells us that God Himself has provided peace through our faith in Jesus Christ. And all those who accept Christ as their Savior can know that peace of God, both now and in eternity.
III. Access to Grace in Which We Stand (5:2a)
Not only do we have peace with God but we also have access to the grace in which we stand.
An account is told of a little boy who wanted to meet the Queen. He went up to a palace guard and said: "I want to see the Queen. Can I go in to talk with her? The palace guard told him very gruffly: "No one is allowed to see the Queen without permission. You may not see her!" The gruffness of the guard startled the child and made him cry. Fortunately for the young lad, Prince Charles happened to be walking past him at the time and asked the young man: "Do you want to see the Queen?" The boy replied rather sheepishly: "Yes." "Then lets go!" , said the prince. With that he took the child by the hand and ushered him into the presence of Queen Elizabeth. As her son, no one stopped him from doing this.
That's what Jesus, our Savior, has done for us. Before he came, no one could come into the presence of God the Father except the High Priest. And he could only do it once a year to make a sacrifice for his own sins and then for the sins of the people of Israel.
Now Jesus, the Son, has entered into the Holy of Holies, Heaven itself. And He provided the perfect offering for sin when he shed his own blood on the cross. That offering makes us complete forever before God.(Hebrews 10:14) By all of this he has also provided access for all who are His to come boldly before the Throne of Grace. We may not be able to see the Queen or the President of the United States. However, we can see a higher authority. We have access to the very God of the universe.
IV. Rejoicing in Hope: Even in the Midst of Tribulations (5:2b-4)
And further, besides having peace with God and have full access to his presence now, but that access will continue into eternity. We can rejoice in the hope of eternal life in Heaven. Scriptural hope is not uncertainty. It is something that is certain but not yet realized. We have a certainty of one day standing in the presence of the God who saved us because Christ Himself secures it.
Even our tribulations, i.e. those problems and pressures of life, are used by God to prepare us for our heavenly home. Paul says:
"And not only this, but we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance proven character, and proven character hope..." (3-4).
All these things serve to conform us to the image of Christ and make us closer to what He wants us to be. He doesn't abandon us in the problems of life. He rather forms us into a vessel of honor, fit for our eternal home.
V. God's Love in Our Hearts (5:5-8).
Another benefit of being justified by faith is that God's love is poured out in our hearts. This is internal evidence that our hope of eternal life won't disappoint us but will surely take place. God has given us His Spirit who imparts to us a love for the God who first loved and saved us.
The love that God had for us, surprisingly, took place while we were yet in our sins. We were enemies of His and subject to His wrath. Paul states that most wouldn't even die for a righteous man. Yes, some might die for a good man. But who would die for an evildoer who hates them? Who would give their life for someone committing cosmic treason against them? The answer: God would and did! He demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (5:8).
It is that self-sacrificing, other-serving love that God has placed in our hearts for Him and for those whom He died for as well.
VI. Salvation from God's Wrath (5:9-11)
We have already talked a little about the final benefit of Justification by faith. We are saved from the wrath of God against our sins. When we think about the Lord's wrath, we are not talking about a human passion that is evil and sinful. Albert Barnes defines it this way:
"God's wrath is the opposition of the divine character against sin; and the determination of the divine mind to express that opposition in a proper way, by excluding the offender from the favors which He bestows on the righteous. We admire the character of a father who is opposed to disorder, vice, and disobedience in his family, and who expresses his opposition in a proper way. We admire the character of a ruler who is opposed to all crime in the community, and who expresses those feelings in the law. Why shall we not be equally pleased with God, who is opposed to all crime in all parts of the universe, and who determines to express His opposition in the proper way for the sake of preserving order and promoting peace?"
Indeed it would be unjust of God not to exercise wrath against all those who oppose Him. But Jesus took that Divine wrath upon Himself. He's like the judge who pronounced sentence, then took off His robes and took the place of the criminal, paying the sinners debt. Through Jesus we have been justified, or pronounced righteous. We will now be saved saved by His life just as we were reconciled by His death. This should cause us all to rejoice! What a glorious salvation! What a wonderful Savior!
A number of years ago Newsweek Magazine carried the story of a memorial service held for Senator Hubert Humphrey, former Vice President of the United States under Lyndon Johnson. There were hundreds of people who came to say goodbye to their old friend and colleague.
Sadly, there was one person there who was shunned by nearly everyone in attendance. Former President Richard Nixon had recently undergone the shame and infamy brought to him by his resignation from office due to the Watergate affair. This was his first time back in Washington since he had left office.
Then a very special thing took place. Perhaps the only thing that could have made a difference for Mr. Nixon. President Jimmy Carter, who was in office at the time, saw him over against the wall seated by himself. And before Carter sat down, he walked over. And, as though he were greeting a family member, he stuck out his hand to the former President and smiled broadly. To the utter shock of everyone there, the two embraced and Carter told Nixon: "Welcome home, Mr. President! Welcome home!" Commenting on what happened that night, the writer for Newsweek Magazine stated this:
"If there was a turning point in Nixon's long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion."
Our justification by faith is similar to that, in that we were enemies and outcasts from God and his mercy. And there was nothing we could do to make amends for our sins and bring us back into the favor of a Holy God.
But by one act of love and mercy, Jesus Christ made it possible for us to have peace with Him, to have access into His presence, to have a reason to rejoice in hope, to have God's love in our hearts and to be saved from the Lord's wrath.
Because of Jesus Christ, who brought justification by faith, God now looks at each and every one of us and says: "Welcome home, son! Welcome home!"
May we never take our salvation for granted. It cost Jesus an awful price to bring about our justification. He forever deserves our praise, our worship and He deserves our service. May we praise Him for eternity for what He has done for us!
© 2019 Jeff Shirley
Jeff Shirley (author) from Kentwood, Michigan on June 24, 2019:
Thanks again Jack for stopping by. Your comments are appreciated!!
Jack Jenn from Nelson Bay NSW Australia. on June 23, 2019:
So many beautiful analogies here and all enjoyable to read and I hope will be read by many more who might stop and think...
I really like your mind Jeff.
Again my best regards,
Jeff Shirley (author) from Kentwood, Michigan on June 23, 2019:
Thanks, Bill for your critique. God bless!!
William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on June 23, 2019:
". . . the greatest peace that man needs is not between his fellow human beings. It is peace with God." If we all would get a hold of that statement, there would be no war, but here we are. Thanks, Jeff, for another job well done.