This Grace In Which We Stand

June 19, 2011 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: This Grace in Which We Stand

Topic: Grace Passage: Romans 5:1–5:11

A teacher once gave her 2nd grade class an assignment: that night they were to go outside and count as many stars in the sky as they possibly could. The next day she had each student stand up and tell how many stars they had counted. The numbers varied from child to child: one said 79, another 213,110. Finally one little boy stood up and reported that he counted 10 stars. The teacher was surprised at his answer and asked him how it could be that the number of stars he counted was so much smaller than all the other children? He shrugged his shoulders and said, well, I do have a really small backyard.

This morning we are beginning a new series that we’ve titled This Grace In Which We Stand, taken from Romans 5:2 and it’s our hope that through this series we get a greater view of the grace of God for the Christian. When it comes to God’s grace, we don’t want to be like that little boy and think that from our backyard, there’s not much grace to see when the truth is God has poured out on our lives grace upon grace. And the great thing is that while a part of the glory of the stars is their distance from us, the glory of God’s grace is its nearness to us. In Christ grace has been brought near – right to where we live, right to our backyards. May the Lord help us to see with the eyes of our hearts the beauty and security and amazing hopefulness of the grace God has given to us in Christ.

In this series we will be looking at doctrines such as justification and sanctification, grace vs. legalism, as well as the relationship between humility and grace, the need for grace-infused friendships, and our hope of future grace. For some these will be familiar truths, and for others some of this might be pretty new, but for all believers these truths are foundational and precious and it is good for our souls to be reminded of them again and again.

Let’s begin this morning by reading Romans 5:1-11 and then let’s pray.

When Paul opens chapter 5 with the word, therefore we know that there is a vital connection between what he is about to say about justification and what he has already said about justification. Justification is a vitally important doctrine and we’ll spend an entire message on it soon. But I want us to see the connection that he is building his therefore on: Romans 1-4 can be summed up as an argument that dismantles the prevalent Jewish teaching that man can be justified (or counted righteous in God’s sight) by keeping the law and builds a strong biblical case that a person can only be justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

In chapter 4 he takes us back to Genesis to the example of Abraham who the scriptures say “believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.” That was not only true of Abraham, but for us as well. Look with me at 4:23-25

But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Rom. 4:23-25)

Our sins were cleansed and we were made righteous by faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection –we were justified in God’s sight by faith in Christ. That’s the connection between chapters 1-4 and chapter 5: therefore, since we have been justified by faith…

But not only is there a connection between chapter 5 and chapters 1-4, there is a transition between these chapters as well: 1-4 Paul is making an argument, chapter 5 Paul is giving an invitation. These verses aren’t filled with commands or things for us to apply to our lives or principles to follow– these verses are filled with indicatives. Things that are true. In a sense, Paul is taking us out to our backyard and is pointing us upward to look at and marvel at truths that are glorious and fixed and unchanging and he is inviting us to marvel at and celebrate the fact that these things are true.

And brothers and sisters, that’s what we want to do this morning: we want to see and rejoice in what God has given us in Christ because we have been justified by faith in Christ. The first blessing is found in verse 1:

1. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (vs 1)

Because we have been justified we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. Not some time in the future, but right now we have peace with God. This isn’t a reference a the inner peace that God gives – what Paul calls the peace of God – but the wonderful news that the war between us and God is over.

A lot of people have a hard time believing that there even is a war between us and God. The average, decent, hard-working person probably doesn’t feel like there’s any big problem between them and God, especially when things are going well. As someone said, “the problem isn’t so much getting people saved as it is getting people lost!” But the Bible tells us that because of sin we were born at war with God – not with religion or false gods we make up in our minds, but at war with the one True God.

Another word that is used is reconciliation. Our relationship with God was hopelessly broken and there was nothing we could do to repair it. We hated God and He was in fierce opposition to us and inevitably his wrath awaited us and there was nothing we could do to change that. We were at war with our Creator and would bear for eternity the damnation of our rebellion against Him.

But vs. 6 says while we were still weak and ungodly, (vs. 8) while we were still sinners, (vs. 10) while we were yet enemies of God Christ died for us. That is the basis of our peace with God – through Christ’s death on the cross all those who trust in Him have been justified (declared righteous) and because we have been justified, we have been reconciled to God. We have peace with God. What a blessing, what an unspeakable joy to know that we have peace with our God. Enjoy that, rejoice in that.

2. Grace is the place we live (vs 2a)

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand…

Paul describes grace a little differently than he usually does in this verse. Normally grace refers to the benevolent actions of God toward undeserving sinners, but here he speaks of grace as the sphere, or the realm in which we as believers live. Grace is a place – it is where we live, it’s our backyard. We live in the realm of grace through Jesus Christ. And Paul uses a perfect tense, which means that we stand in the realm of grace continuously – all of God’s dealings with us, how God views us, how God will eternally view us and deal with us – is with grace. Grace is a place – it’s where we live, it’s our address, it’s our backyard and it always will be.

When I was a kid we moved a lot. My father never seemed to settle us – there was a time where every year we’d move again. I figured out that between the time I was 7 yrs old and 11 years old we moved 5 times. Good side was it taught me to adapt. Bad side was there was no constant. I’d get used to a school, only to have to enter a brand new school the next year. I’d make a best friend, only to never see him again at the end of the year. Every year I was the new kid in class.

Through Christ our heavenly Father has moved our lives into the sphere of grace and He never moves us out. Not on our best days, not on our worst days. God’s position towards us every day of our lives is one of grace. God never deals with us as we deserve and He always deals with us as we don’t deserve. His love and favor and kindness and mercy and help are all undeserved – they are all of grace. Our address is grace, and it always will be– and Paul now points us to the eternal implications of that truth.

3. And we rejoice in hope of the glory of God (2b)

Paul is now going to shift our focus to the amazing hope we have in Christ and the theme of hope will wind its way through the rest of these verses. By faith we stand in grace and (because that is true) we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Now just a quick word about hope: When the Bible speaks of hope it doesn’t mean what we usually mean when we say we hope for something. I hope the NFL players and owners are able to come to an agreement so that there isn’t an NFL Lockout – which would mean no football in the fall. I seriously hope that doesn’t happen. But I can imagine that my wife, having just heard that there is a possibility there may not be football this fall (which she probably had no idea was even a possibility before now), is probably now hoping that there will be an NFL lockout cause that means she doesn’t lose me for hours at a time every week. See, we are both hoping, but both our hopes can’t happen. We hope for many things, knowing that hope doesn’t guarantee they will happen.

Biblical hope is different: when the Bible speaks of hope it means something that hasn’t yet happened but because of God’s promises will certainly happen in the future. Hope is being certain of and looking forward to that future certainty. And the greatest hope we have is the hope of God’s glory. Now if you are having a hard time getting worked up over the hope of God’s glory, maybe you’re even wondering, what in the world does that mean? I want you to know that at first I had a hard time getting too excited about that too.

The problem is us – we’re so tuned into trivial, unimportant, unlasting things that we get more excited about a football season than Christ’s eternal kingdom. This is where hope needs to look beyond sight and see that God’s glory and His presence and His kingdom is what we were created for. God and His glory is the thing our hearts long for but never seem to have satisfied by earthly things. God and His glory is that glimpse of what life was really meant to be that passes over our hearts and then is gone. God and His glory is the reality of the echo we feel every time we think something is going to finally fulfill us and give us the joy we long for, only in time to be disappointed again.

As we see by faith the infinite worth of God and His glory, we find joy rising up in the certainty that we will be with Him in His glory forever. Nothing could be better. So glorious is that hope that Paul goes on to say that we rejoice in our sufferings. Not because we’re masochistic, but because we know that suffering is going somewhere good in our lives and that somewhere is an even stronger hope. Suffering is linked by a chain that brings even more blessing into our lives. The first link of that chain is perseverance – suffering produces perseverance – the ability to endure or stand up during hardship and opposition. As we pull the chain further we find that perseverance produces character. The Greek word is dokime and it means the quality of a person who has been tested and has passed the test. And as we pull the chain yet again we find that tested character produces even more hope! Suffering in the end produces a stronger and a deeper hope. Suffering is on one end of the chain, hope is on the other.

Yesterday Shawnie McGahey shared her testimony with the ladies, and it is a beautiful testimony of a season of intense suffering, honestly a level of suffering that most of us can’t imagine going through, but the suffering wasn’t the end of the story, it was the beginning of the chain and on the other end it is evident from her testimony and life that Shawnie has an increased sense of hope in Christ because she has experienced grace in the fire and by the grace of God passed the test. Suffering leads to a stronger hope when we walk through it with faith in God.

But even if we hold onto our hope until the end, how do we know that our hope won’t in the end be disappointed? How do we know that when we stand before God we won’t be ashamed and our hopes dashed because He doesn’t accept us, doesn’t forgive us, doesn’t love us? Paul gives two interconnected answers:

a. Because we experience the love of God in our hearts by the Holy Spirit 

John Piper writes: Paul’s remedy for doubt about God’s love for us is not primarily an argument about it, but an experience of it.

We experience the love of God for us by the work of the Spirit. It is somewhat subjective, but it is not only subjective – it is also supernatural. It is experiencing the love of God for us deeply in our hearts, it is our affections being affected by the knowledge we are loved by God. Like all experiences of the Spirit it will have ebbs and flows – none of us experience the same level of experiencing the love of God poured out all the time. But it is real and as we spend time in our Father’s presence we can ask Him to pour out His love into our hearts by the Spirit. That’s not selfish –experiencing the love of the Father in our own lives will be one of the best motivations we can have to want to share the love of God with others.

The second answer Paul gives to the question how do we know that in the end our hope that God loves us won’t be disappointed is the foundation that undergirds his first answer. It is the focus of verses 6-11 but it’s summed up in verse 8

b. God shows (proves) His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (vs. 8)

The love of God can never be far removed from the cross of our Savior. The historical, objective, fact of Calvary proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves us. Our hope of experiencing God’s love and glory forever is built on Jesus’ death for us.

And Paul continually strengthens our hope for the future by reminding us of what Christ has already done for us:

Since therefore we have now been justified by his blood (present reality), much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God (future hope) (vs. 9)

If we’re justified now, how much more can we be confident we will be saved from His terrible wrath? That is our hope – Paul is saying, no way that hope isn’t coming true. If God justified, how much more will He save? He didn’t have to give His Son to die for us while we still hated Him, but since He did, will He now decide to damn us forever even though we love and trust in Him, maybe because we didn’t love Him perfectly or trust Him perfectly or maybe because He just changed His mind? No, Paul says, if He justified us, He will much more save us. Hope will not be disappointed.

As we close, I want you to come outside with me and look up to the amazing blessings of God we have in Christ – all by grace, all through faith in Christ. These are fixed blessings – no call to do something here, I can’t end by saying, here’s how you apply this. Just look, and marvel and celebrate and rejoice.

• We have been justified by faith

• We have peace with God

• We have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand

• God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit

• God proved His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us

• We have been justified by His blood

• We shall be saved from God’s wrath

• We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son

• We shall be saved by Christ’s life

And then realize Paul is telling us, this isn’t just distant truth, it’s our backyard – it’s where we live. Paul is including the Roman Christians, himself, and all Christians for all ages: we, us, we, us. If you are a Christian, it’s for you.

If you are not a Christian, please know that God loves you, but He can’t accept you if you come in your own righteousness. Please turn from your sin to Christ. Repent of your sin and put your faith and confidence in Christ.

 

 

 

 

More in This Grace in Which We Stand

September 4, 2011

Standing Firmly on Future Grace

August 21, 2011

Friendships Take Grace

August 14, 2011

Grace Under Fire