“How Being Justified Changes Your Life” (Romans 5:1-8)

Third Sunday in Lent
March 15, 2020

“How Being Justified Changes Your Life” (Romans 5:1-8)

How has this coronavirus thing changed your life? Has it? Maybe it hasn’t. But for lots of people, it has. Let me count the ways. No baseball, that’s the main thing. No hockey either. No March Madness. Universities have shut down. K-12 schools have shut down. No toilet paper to be found on the shelves. Travel plans are being disrupted. The economy is being hurt. The stock market is down big-time. I know for myself I’ve lost about $5,000 on my investments so far this year, almost all of that in the last few weeks. Cancellations, closures, and precautions like crazy. I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life. Lots of negative impacts, lots of bad effects, all rippling out from this one virus. One thing leads to another, and the dominoes begin to fall. People’s lives are being negatively affected by this epidemic and the reaction to it.

The coronavirus is an example of how one thing can change your life in many ways. In this case, most all of the effects are negative. But how about an example on the positive side? Is there anything that can change your life for the better, with the effects rippling out in many ways? I think there is. In fact, I know there is. God’s word tells us about it today. In our Epistle reading for today, we hear about “How Being Justified Changes Your Life.”

“Being justified”: That means you have been pronounced righteous before God, your sins have been forgiven, on account of Christ. St. Paul has told us about that in chapters 3 and 4 of Romans. Now in chapter 5, he tells us some of the results, the effects, of our being justified, and what that means for our life. For your life. And it’s a whole new ballgame.

“One Thing Leads to Another,” you might call this passage. Paul moves from the great fact of justification to one great effect after another. “Therefore,” Paul begins, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

One thing leads to another. The word “therefore” is our tip-off. Whenever you see the word “therefore” in the New Testament, you should ask yourself, “What is the ‘therefore’ there for?” Answer: It’s there to make a connection between what precedes and what follows. In this case, what precedes is the doctrine of justification in chapters 3 and 4. What follows is Paul’s description of the life of the justified, the results of justification, starting here in chapter 5 and running really through the end of chapter 8. The “therefore” makes the link.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith.” Here Paul is linking back to his section on justification that went from the middle of chapter 3 to the end of chapter 4. “Justification by faith” is what that section was about. You and I, though guilty under God’s law, have been declared not guilty, righteous, on account of Christ. The law convicts us, condemns us, as sinners deserving death. But Christ, the righteous one, steps forward and takes our death sentence for us. Thus justice is served, and God is being a just judge when he declares us not guilty for the sake of Christ. We are justified by faith in Christ, that is, by trusting in his works, not our own. Justification is God’s act of declaring us righteous on account of Christ.

So, what difference does this make in our lives? What are the effects? This is what Paul gets at now. He wants us to know what we Christians have now as a result of justification, all the blessings that are ours, so that we can live in this new reality. He writes: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Peace has broken out! Peace between God and us! The war is over, peace has been declared. No more conflict, no more wrath or hostility. God is at peace with us now through our Lord Jesus Christ. And this peace is even more than the absence of war. More than the absence of a negative, it is the presence of a positive. The word “peace” in the Greek is “eirene.” In Hebrew, it’s the word “shalom.” “Shalom,” wholeness, health, rest, well-being–all of these blessings are wrapped up in the biblical concept of “peace.”

This is where we are now with God, because we have been justified. We are at peace. Things are good. God’s face is smiling on you. As Aaron told the Israelites, and as you’ll hear later when that same benediction is placed on you: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

So peace with God is the first benefit listed because of justification. And notice the key phrase, “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” All of these good things come to us through Christ. He is our mediator, our go-between. He is the reason for our justification, he is our righteousness, he is our peace. All good things come to us only “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” His person and work–his person as the Son of God come in the flesh, his work of dying for our sins and rising from the dead–Jesus Christ is the one who makes it all happen.

“Through him,” Paul goes on, “we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” One thing leads to another: Justification, then peace, now grace. “Access into this grace in which we now stand.” Having been justified, we now have open access into the presence of God, into his throne room. And there we are surrounded by grace. We stand in it, grace all around us. As I’ve said before, one way to remember what grace is, is this: Grace, “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” God is kindly disposed toward us because of what Christ has done. God is gracious. He gives us his gifts freely for the sake of Christ. This means we can come before our Father with all our needs, and he will hear us. He will give us what is best for us in that situation. “Let us then,” as Hebrews says, “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Back to Romans. The chain of blessings continues: Through Christ we have access into this grace in which we stand, and “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Justification, peace, grace–now joy and hope. One thing leads to another. “We rejoice in hope.” We have something to look forward to, and that gives us joy. We have something to look forward to, again, because of justification. Christ has opened up our future for us. Death and damnation were the roadblock standing in front of us. But Jesus has broken through that obstacle by his righteousness and resurrection. Eternal life, glorified bodies, a new creation, no more sin, fully knowing and loving God, being in loving community with all of God’s people–all of this, and more, is the glorious future we have to look forward to. This is the “hope of the glory of God,” as Paul says. And we have the hope of that glory to come even in the here and now. This gives us something to hold on to, something we can be sure of, a sure and solid hope.

Having this hope gives us great joy. “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” We exult in it. I’m really pumped about the glorious future we have in Christ! How about you? I look forward to it, and I don’t mind telling people about it. It’s pretty excellent! It’s kind of a big deal, to put it mildly. You know, with the NCAA basketball tournament being canceled this year, there are no teams heading to the Final Four. Well, even in spite of the coronavirus, you and I–we are heading to the Final Forever! And that’s something to rejoice in!

Even more so–and here is where being justified has some truly surprising effects–Paul goes on to say: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.” “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” OK, that I can understand. But to say, “We rejoice in our sufferings”? What are you, crazy, Paul? How can you rejoice in sufferings? Suffering is what brings people down! That’s what we want to avoid! But Paul is not saying that we’re supposed to go out looking for suffering. It’s just that when it happens, in the midst of our sufferings, we still have cause for joy. We know that our heavenly Father is watching over us. No ill can befall us except by permission of his fatherly hand. And we know that in and through the sufferings, God is doing something good for us and in us.

Here again, this is where one thing leads to another: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Suffering, by definition, is bad stuff, things we don’t like to experience. But God will work something good out of it for us. It does teach us endurance, perseverance, the ability to bear up under duress. That’s a good thing, good for us and good for others who look to us for help or for an example. Endurance is a good thing, and it in turn leads to character. Endurance under suffering produces character, that tested quality of having been put through the fire and been proven genuine. Your faith in Christ is the real deal when it comes through the ordeal and passes the test. Suffering leads to endurance, and endurance produces character. One thing leads to another. The fact that you can rejoice in suffering, as you’re going through it–this is a gift from God.

Suffering, endurance, character–but it doesn’t stop there: “And character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” As your character acquires that tested quality, and as the Holy Spirit keeps you in the Christian faith through those troubles, your hope is strengthened. The Holy Spirit brings you back, time and time again, to the love that God has for us in his Son. The Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts and renews our hope. And this hope will not put us to shame. It will not disappoint. We know that the substance of our hope, the thing we’re looking forward to–namely, the return of Christ, when he will put everything right–this is on the way. It’s a sure thing.

One thing leads to another. It starts with justification. Christ died for our sins, and God pronounces us righteous for his sake. Therefore, since we have been justified, we now have peace with God. We have access into his grace. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. We even rejoice in our suffering, knowing that it will produce in us endurance, character, and an even stronger hope. And we have the Holy Spirit, pouring God’s love into our hearts. All of this is through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Dear friends, these are the wonderful ripple effects, these are the results, of our being justified. You might say that justification has gone viral–in a good way! Because it changes our life for the better, in so many ways, now and forever. And that’s what the “therefore” is there for.

Published in: on March 14, 2020 at 11:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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