Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | May 30, 2010

Sermon on Romans 5:1-5

Downloadable Version

The Triune God’s Truth Opens the Door

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

There’s nothing like knowing a guy and having access, right?  Back in Michigan, I knew a couple mechanics who always managed to work out good deals for called workers and their families.  I know a guy.  I’ve got access.  Here in Duncanville, I managed to find the eye doctor who gives discounts to clergymen.  I know a guy.  I’ve got access.  Not only are the discounts nice, but it’s great having a good relationship with people doing such important work in your life.  It makes you feel confident and comfortable.  It leaves you at peace.

Unlike when you don’t know a guy or have access, right?  Most of us think most mechanics are trying to squeeze every last dollar out of us they can.  And so when we’re at an unfamiliar garage, we’re on pins and needles until the estimate comes.  And even then, we’re pretty sure they’ll find something else that needs immediate attention (and $500!).  We feel that way about our elected representatives.  Even though they’re supposed to serve us, we’re convinced that they’re looking out for themselves more than for us.  Unless we know them and have access, right?  Then, maybe we see things differently.

Though Scripture tells us that by faith our relationship with God is the former, that is, we know Him and have access, so often, we’re convinced it’s the latter.  We aren’t always convinced that He’s on our side and working for us.  Sometimes, we’re even convinced He’s not working at all, for or against us.  To put an end to such confusion Paul writes the words before us today in Romans 5.  He highlights the active nature of God’s work on behalf of those who have faith in Christ.  And, appropriately for Trinity Sunday, He highlights all three Persons of the Trinity.  He reminds us that the Father is the One who sent His Son into the world and the Holy Spirit into our hearts.  He reminds us that the Son gave us peace with the Father and access to the Father’s grace and presence, so that we can rejoice in our heavenly future even in the midst of trials.  And, He reminds us that the Holy Spirit gives Himself to us, working in our hearts, so that we are never left disappointed.  The key word is access.  The door between you and God now stands open.  THE TRIUNE GOD’S TRUTH OPENS THE DOOR.  JUSTIFIED BY FAITH IN JESUS THROUGH THE SPIRIT, YOU’RE IN THE ROOM.  SO THAT YOU CAN ENDURE ALL THINGS.

Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God.  You might argue that this is the most beautiful sentence in the Bible. Paul draws this conclusion based on the first chapters of his letter.  Writing to Christians who need to understand the doctrine of justification, Paul lays it out.  God reveals a righteousness that is from first to last by faith in Christ, God’s power for the salvation of all.  And we need this because we’re godless and wicked.  The proof is in our behavior.  We turn our backs on God for all sorts of other gods – sex, money, fame, family, jobs, even actual idols like Buddha, Mary, the saints.

And we’re all in the same boat.  If we’re Jews who have the Law of Moses – we haven’t kept it and have earned God’s wrath.  If we’re Gentiles, who never received the laws of Moses, yet still in our hearts knew right and wrong – we haven’t done what’s right.  We’re all under God’s wrath.  Because all that laws and rules show us is that we haven’t kept them.  Including, and especially, God’s.  We’re guilty.  We’re unrighteous, in need of righteousness.  Then Paul says,  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. All alike are guilty.  All alike are the objects of Christ’s justifying death and resurrection.  He came to be sin so that we can be righteous.

But this only comes to you through faith.  God justifies – declares not guilty – those who have faith in Jesus. We hold that a man is justified by faith alone in Christ, not by any works or merit in him.  It’s how things worked for Abraham.  Paul writes:  Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,  being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone,  but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

Here’s the basis of Paul’s conclusion:  [t]herefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God. The Father said it.  He said, “I’ll send my Son.  I sent my Son.  He paid the price.  I credit that to you.  We’re at peace.”  Where once there was hostility and anger, a turning away from God, that pins and needles feeling of painful expectation, now there is the love of a Father for a son.  Because the Son did it.  We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. All our singing, all our praising, all our boasting is in the hope given us by God’s glory revealed in Christ.  Think back to the whiter-than-white light of the Transfiguration, the tomb-rending and curtain-tearing power of the crucifixion, the glorified body of the resurrected Jesus’, the magnificent Ascension.  Here’s why I rejoice.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth. And through him we have access.  Access to God’s undeserved love.  Access to the Father.  By the Spirit.  We heard Jesus promise it today:  When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. The Spirit guides you into all truth, the Spirit given to you by the Father, the Spirit who does His speaking quietly, but powerfully, bearing witness to Christ in the Gospel, allowing us to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God…. And hope does not disappoint us.

There’s no need to secretly be afraid that your hope will disappoint you in the end.  I know you’ve put faith in candidates, in countries, in treatments, in medicines, in people, in philosophies, in education, in family, maybe even in other religions.  They’ve let you down.  What makes this different?  Christ, of course!  Note Paul’s words, Therefore, since we HAVE BEEN justified through faith, we HAVE PEACE with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we HAVE GAINED access by faith into this grace in which we NOW stand. Or, as Jesus said of Himself, Whoever believes in Him is not condemned.

While these are some of the most beautiful of all Scriptures’ words, they’re followed by what seems to be some of the strangest.  Not only so – that is, not only do we rejoice in our peace with God – but we also rejoice in our sufferings. We rejoice in our sufferings?  Rejoice?  In sufferings?  Yes.  I’m reminded of my favorite comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes.  Calvin, the eternally disobedient son, would find himself in situations of suffering – eating vegetables, doing chores, taking a bath.  And his dad would note that such suffering serves one purpose, “It builds character.”  Calvin didn’t believe his father.  Believe yours.  [B]ecause we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Because we have such peace with God, we rejoice in our current and future glory.  And also in trouble.  Faith in Christ changes our perspective.  We now know the faith-shaping character of affliction:  it drives us ever and always back to the peace of our faith-gained justification.  Here’s your new reality:  pressing troubles are a cause for rejoicing, because they bring patience about.  They cause us to endure.  The tribulations press us down, but in faith and in hope we push back like a weight-lifter!  We endure!  The Christian who knows he’s justified understands that there are and will be dark nights of the soul, but that these are opportunities to exercise our faith…and also that they are fleeting.  God does not give us more than we can bear.

And such patience, such perseverance produces character.  There’s Calvin’s boogey-man.  Character is tested-ness, proven-ness, worth.  And this suffering-earned character brings forth hope.  This is Paul’s cycle.  Paul started this little excursus with hope, we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Because we can have hope, we can endure troubles, troubles which are, in the end, helpful, because they train us in patience, build our character, and finally, allow us, in the end, to have hope.  Real hope.  Because, as always, they drive us back to one truth:  we have been justified through faith in Christ.

What we must fight against is our inability to view troubles from the Trinity’s perspective – as increasing our hope, the hope in which we rejoice, because we stand in the Father’s grace having access to Him.  We must reject the premise that suffering is God saying, “I don’t like you,” or turning His back on you, or extinguishing and ridiculing your hope.  They certainly weren’t that for Christ.  His hope never disappeared or disappointed.  Hebrews says:  During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Hope in your Triune God never disappoints or leaves you open to ridicule.  Rather, it will usher you through the doors of heaven to the eternal access you’ll be granted with the Father.  Because the Son is the source of your eternal salvation.  Made yours by the Spirit who pours the love of God into your heart.  This Trinity Sunday realize this.  You know a guy.  You have access.  Since you have been justified by faith, you have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. The Triune God’s truth opens the door for you.  To heaven.  Amen!

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