Sermon on Romans 5:1-5 – “The Benefits of Faith in Jesus Christ”
September 16, 2018 at Dillingham Presbyterian Church
In the first four chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans we learned that salvation is through faith alone—not through works, not through the sacraments, not through priests, nor any combination of these things. Salvation is by God’s grace through faith produced by the Holy Spirit in us so that no one may boast.
We previously saw also that Paul addressed challenges that would come up against his doctrine. Having so abundantly argued against the work’s righteousness of legalism, he apparently had concern that some would call him an antinomian. But this too he argued against, saying that we by no means overthrow the law, but we uphold it.
So then Paul, always ready for the next question, addresses in our passage today the “so what”—the question of why does having faith matter. Or, in our modern context the question might be, “What good does it do me to be a Christian?” (REPEAT: What good does it do me to be a Christian?”)
And so Paul now explains The Benefits of Faith in Jesus Christ. (REPEAT: The Benefits of Faith in Jesus Christ.”
We might ask, is being a Christian all pain and suffering?
— I have to wake up early on Sunday morning (of all days!) and go to church!
— My faith makes me an outsider at my school or my job.
— I’m looked upon as an imbecile for not believing the world’s latest theories of evolution, psychology, ethics, or on any number of other subjects.
Is being a Christian all pain?
What are the benefits of being a Christian? What are the benefits of having faith in Jesus Christ? That is the question Paul addresses here in Romans chapter 5. And Paul’s answer is just as valid today as it was in his own day.
In our text today, Paul gives four benefits of having faith in Jesus Christ. They are:
(1) We have peace with God. (Repeat)
(2) We stand in God’s grace. (Repeat)
(3) We rejoice in hope of the Glory of God. (Repeat)
(4) We rejoice in our sufferings. (Repeat)
This is not an exhaustive list of the benefits of faith in Jesus Christ, but Paul has certainly mentioned some central and important benefits. And it is upon these four benefits of faith that today’s sermon is structured.
Let us look first at the first benefit:
Benefit #1. We have peace with God.
When a person knows the end of their life is near, the specter of death is liable to come over him. Lying on his death bed a great fear comes over him. It is then, when he works some things out in his own mind, that the world says “HE HAS MADE PEACE WITH GOD.” (REPEAT: HE has made peace with God.)
But what presumption! What audacity! What pretension!
HE has made peace with God! HE, the person, has done so!
I don’t think so!
The wrath of God is not appeased by the wishes of man, nor by the dream that man has earned God’s mercy. The wrath of God is not appeased by ANYTHING man does, for man is sinful and the holy God is revulsed by him. God is filled with disgust when He looks at man. And He will punish those who do not believe with the eternal pains of Hell for their sins.
Peace with God is not made by sinful man.
Peace with God cannot be had in such a manner.
The Lord God is a terror against sin, a sword of judgment, with fearsome wrath against His enemies so that they are consumed like the fat of lambs in a fire.
No, man cannot make peace with God. Man cannot appease God’s wrath.
God is only appeased through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.
The Christian, usually long before he comes to his death bed, has peace with God. Not of his own making, but as a benefit of faith in Jesus Christ. We have peace with God because we have reconciliation with Him through the death of His Son.
Our peace with God is peace in the sense that the war is over. We are saved not only from our sins, but FROM the wrath of God. God is no longing warring against. Wrath and terror are replaced with love, mercy, and peace.
And we have this peace as a benefit of faith in Jesus Christ who has turned God’s wrath away from us and brought us peace.
Some have aptly said:
“God saved you FROM himself, FOR himself, and BY himself.”
We’ve certainly covered the last of these three in previous sermons. God’s salvation is BY himself. Our works do not add to God’s grace.
And we know that God does all things for His glory and so has saved us FOR himself, for His own purposes.
But what we see here in Paul’s first benefit of faith—peace with God—is that God has saved us FROM himself; from his wrath.
We now have peace with God. And that is a wonderful thing.
But—and to risk sounding like a salesman on an infomercial—that’s not all. While peace with God is a great benefit of faith. There are others.
Benefit #2.We stand in God’s grace.
Having been saved from God’s wrath we now stand in His grace! This is Paul’s second “benefit of faith.” Through faith we stand in God’s grace.
And that we have God’s grace is assured and guaranteed. It is where we stand. It is not something we are moving through; being once in God’s favor and in some future time falling out of His favor. No, we stand in God’s grace. Thus there is a certainty of salvation in faith.
But not all believers have great assurance of their salvation. Many people struggle with assurance, with certainty. This does not mean that they are without faith. In the Gospel of Mark chapter 9, a man—apparently trusting in Jesus’ power, comes to him to have his son healed. When Jesus says to him, “all things are possible to him who believes” the man responds “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” This too should be our prayer when we struggle to believe. When you are struggling with assurance, do not look inward asking whether you have strong enough faith, but look outward to God and the promises of salvation in the Scripture. The Bible assures us of the solid place in which we stand in the grace of Jesus Christ.
In the vocabulary of the Reformed church we say of this assurance that there is a “perseverance of the saints.” It is the “P” on the famous TULIP acronym. Perseverance of the saints —those whom God has granted faith have salvation in Him, and can never be plucked out of His hand. Paul says “He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it to the end.” (Phil. 1:6) Paul assures his hearers of salvation in Christ. He assures us that God finishes the works He begins. If God gives you faith, He will also give you salvation, sanctification, and glorification.
R. C. Sproul, and others, like the term “PRESERVATION of the saints” rather than “PERSEVERANCE of the saints.” While the traditional “perseverance of the saints” is fine if rightly understood, the phrase, as Sproul points out, has a dangerous possible connotation of suggesting that perseverance is something we do in and of ourselves. Sproul prefers instead “preservation of the saints” because, as he notes, “the process by which we are kept in a state of grace is something that is accomplished by God.” I might use both terms by saying God preserves us, and we persevere only because His Holy Spirit dwelling in us, leading us both to will and to do good things.
Whether we use the phrase “perseverance of the saints” of “preservation of the saints,” these are better than the relatively modern saying of “once saved always saved.” Many who use the phrase “once saved, always saved” tend to focus on some perceived ability of man to choose salvation. For example, they might teach in error that saying a sinner’s prayer when you’re a teenager at camp make you “once saved” and therefore excused from all the rest of the Christian life. They make salvation out to be a reward for men who are capable of having faith, rather than preaching the Biblical truth of salvation through faith as a gift from God, procured not by our ability to have faith, but by Jesus’ death on the cross. So one most certainly will always be saved if saved as a result of God’s great salvation, but one is never saved to begin with if they are merely trusting in their own selves for salvation.
So we STAND in God’s grace. This is a great benefit of having faith. We do not move into God’s grace and out of God’s grace, but have a solid position, standing in God’s favor through faith in Jesus Christ.
But though we’ve now listed two great benefits of faith, again … that’s not all.
Benefit #3.We rejoice in hope of the Glory of God.
Paul’s next “benefit of faith” is that through Jesus Christ we rejoice in hope of the Glory of God. [Repeat: We rejoice in the hope of the Glory of God]
Hope here is a noun, rather than a verb. So it is not “hoping” but “hope.” It refers to something we hope in.
And the Scriptural hope is not a “maybe it will happen, maybe it will not.” The Scriptural “hope” is something we can be assured of because it is a promise of the Lord. It is an expectation of what is sure. We have hope, and it is no fleeting hope.
But what is that object of hope?
It is, Paul says, the hope of the Glory of God.
The glory of God that we hope for is what is called our glorification. Glorification is an oft-overlooked element on the Ordo Salutis, the order of salvation. It is much more common to talk about Regeneration, or Adoption, Effectual Calling, Justification, or even Sanctification. But the final stage, the final goal, of God’s salvation is our glorification.
And our glorification is guaranteed in that promise of the perseverance of the saints. God will bring us through to the end, to his goal of our glorification.
In what some call the “Golden Chain of Salvation,” Paul tells us the following later in his letter to the Romans. He writes,
“And those whom he [God] predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he alsoglorified.” – Romans 8:30
There is a one-to-one-to-one-to-one correspondence. ALL who are predestined by God are effectually called to faith. And ALL who have faith are justified. And ALL who are justified are glorified. Thus it is the same CHOSEN people throughout. And God the Father (who predestines) and God the Son (who justifies us) and God the Holy Spirit (who effectual calls us) are “on the same page.”
We then have this hope of the glory of God; of glorification.
But what is glorification?
For one, It is that we will one day have resurrected, glorified bodies.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
“So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.”
But glorification is not only having glorified bodies.
Our Westminster Catechism tells us:
“The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.” A37
So glorification is not only having glorified bodies, but also that we will bask and rejoice in the glory of God. We have no glory of ourselves, but the Confession explains God “manifests His own glory in, by, and upon His creatures.”
In glorification also we are “made perfect in holiness” as our sins are finally removed and we sin no more.
Think about this benefit of faith; sinning no more. Wouldn’t that be wonderful. To sin no more. No more hurt, no more hurting anyone else, no more breaking the laws of God, no more guilt, no more shame, no more of the consequences of sin, no more disease, no more sickness. No more sin.
In this benefit of faith—in this assured and certain hope of glorification—we can certainly rejoice!
But, that’s not all.
Benefit #4. We rejoice in our sufferings.
We then move on to Paul’s fourth “benefit of faith”: we rejoice in our suffering.
Now, doesn’t that sound odd? – We REJOICE in our sufferings!?
Why would we rejoice in our sufferings?
He writes, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 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.”
I’ll try to explain what this all means.
First, we suffer in tribulation as we carry on the work of the Lord. These tribulations which Paul is referring to are not your every-day sufferings that all men everywhere suffer from. Rather, they are primarily the extra and specific tribulations—the persecutions—put upon us for the sake of being Christians.
And as we endure and persevere in these struggles they change our character. As, as we suffer, it is revealed to us how weak we are and how much we need Christ. Suffering is part of the sanctification process. We then find our hope in God’s glory rather than some glory of our own. Like the martyr’s of old, and even those today, we are not to pity ourselves, but to rejoice in our sufferings—and to glory in our tribulations—because by them the Lord grows our character and leads us to hope.
Our hope does not put us to shame. Or, in other words, what God has promised will come to pass. John Calvin says of this passage: “These evils then cannot render us miserable, which do in a manner promote our happiness.”
The Christian then rejoices EVEN in suffering. Anyone can rejoice when good things comes their way, but we can rejoice even in the worst of times. And what a great witness that makes Christians who show their joy even in tribulation.
On this my mind returns again and again to the story of the missionary Bruce Hunt. Now, for some this might be an unknown name, but for others he is quite famous and quite familiar, even thought of as “uncle Bruce.” Bruce Hunt was a presbyterian missionary to Koreans. In the early 1940s he was evangelizing a population of Koreans who lived in an area of China called Manchuria. But at that time the Japanese were in control as foreign invaders. Because Bruce Hunt would not worship the Japanese emperor, he was sent to prison. But despite his suffering for the gospel, he rejoiced in the Lord. He sang hymns in his prison cell. He wrote verses on the wall. And in all this, he didn’t even need to be in prison, for the Japanese would have let him out if only he returned to America. But he wanted to suffer with the Korean Christians who were put into jail as well for their faith. He wanted to wear the wooden number 22 badge with his fellow Christians. And he certainly did suffer. He lost a dangerous amount of weight. And when he was released on December 6th, 1941, it was only for 1 day; for the following day was a day that has lived in infamy. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the Christians in Manchuria were sent back to jail. Yet the Lord used Bruce Hunt and many other missionaries to show their joy in tribulations, and their work is not put to shame, for in time many Koreans have come to Christ, even today sending their own missionaries to foreign lands.
1. Next time that you are suffering, consider what the Lord is doing. He is not having you suffer just for no reason. It is not suffering needlessly, but suffering to build character. If we were not such stubborn sinners our sanctification process might be a lot easier.
2. These benefits of faith give us not only hope in glorification, but strong reasons to embrace live in the here and now.
When I think of the benefits of faith in Jesus Christ, it is above all else, the benefit of hope in God’s glory that I reflect on. In ages past when the minds of all people in the Western world were either believing the Christian Faith or significantly impacted by the Christian culture around them, there was almost no such thing as suicide. There was a general hope for life.
It has been my concern for some years that suicide is strongly correlated with a lack of hope. As our world falls further and further away from the teachings of Scripture, it knows not the benefits of faith in Jesus Christ. It knows not hope. And without hope many struggle for a reason to live.
As we think about the benefits of faith, knowing that we have peace with God, stand in His grace, and have hope in His glory, we find reason not only to live, but to rejoice in all things; even our suffering.
While there are many struggles in the Christian life, and while in fact we are told that we will have more hardships in being a Christian, the benefits of faith so outweigh and overpower the difficulties of the Christian life, that we are to embrace life here and now and praise God for the gift of faith and its many benefits.
PRAYER OF SUPPLICATION
Let us pray. Lord, you have heaped blessings upon blessings upon us. Not only have you given us the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, you have given us the gift of faith, and you have given us all the benefits of faith. In this we know that you truly love us. And we find assurance in knowing that in your unchanging character that you will never cease to love us but will preserve us till the end and even glorify us in eternity. For this Lord, we can in no way give adequate thanks. But praise you for all your gifts for us, and rejoice in all things, even in tribulation, as you have given us reasons for living and hope for tomorrow. Though we are undeserving, your love has conquered our sin and given us blessings and the benefits of faith. For this, and in all thing, we give thanks to you. Amen.