Thought for the Week 13 - Sunday 14th June 2020 by Rev Peter Baxandall

(13) – 14th June Romans 5:1-11      Justification

On the whole, I don’t like to be a slave to the Lectionary, but over the past few weeks the various themes have presented themselves because of the unfolding story of Easter through to Pentecost.

When I tell you that the Bible passage that we focus on this week is taken from Romans 5:1-11 some of you might think, ‘there he goes again talking about Justification by faith’

However, while it is one of my favourite passages to quote, as it happens. It is one of the set Lectionary readings for this week and I was not going to miss an opportunity like that.

We will look at that passage in a short while, but, as is our custom, we start with a prayer and then a hymn as we seek God together in this ‘Thought for the week’

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, we pray for our Parish, especially at this difficult time, and for all the individuals who are the ‘church’ in this place.

During this time of ‘lockdown’ we pray that You will encourage and sustain us in our daily walk with You.

Help us as we share the ‘Thought for the week’ and in our prayerful concern for our fellow believers.

We pray that today You will speak to us from Your word and help us to understand the great blessing that You count us righteous because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross.

We pause for a moment to think of those church members known to us who, like ourselves, will spend time with this ‘Thought for the week’ and we lift them before the Father.

Teach us, guide us and strengthen us even through these difficult days.

Help us to encourage each other in whatever way we can. We pray these things in Jesus Name, Amen

 

And so now we turn to our Hymn together as we praise God today for who He is

 

Holy, holy, holy, holy,

Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!

And we lift our hearts before You

As a token of our love:

Holy, holy, holy, holy.

 

 

Gracious Father, gracious Father,

We’re so glad to be Your children,

      gracious Father;

And we lift our heads before You

As a token of our love,

Gracious Father, gracious Father.

 

Precious Jesus, precious Jesus,

We’re so glad that You’ve redeemed us,

      precious Jesus;

And we lift our hands before You

As a token of our love,

Precious Jesus, precious Jesus,

 

Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit,

Come and fill our hearts anew, Holy Spirit.

And we lift our voice before You

As a token of our love,

Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit.

 

Hallelujah, hallelujah,

Hallelujah, hallelujah –

And we lift our hearts before You

As a token of our love,

Hallelujah, hallelujah.

 

And so we begin our ‘Thought for the week’ and turn to consider together our passage for today from Romans 5:1-11.

I constantly feel a great sense of sadness that so many church goers lack any understanding of the reality of the total assurance of eternal life that is available to us.

All too often we hear people say, ‘I hope to have done enough to earn my place in heaven when that day comes’

The sad truth is that if we are basing our desire for salvation on good works we do not have any chance of achieving it.

There is no way that we can appeal to God on the basis of our church attendance, our observation of rituals and good works and expect anything except disappointment.

However, on the other hand, assurance of eternal life can be ours, and we read in 1 John 5:13, ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life’

In Ephesians 2:8-9 we read, ‘for it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast’.

The whole subject of ‘Justification by faith’ is that we can know that we have ‘peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’

In all his writing Paul has explained that God’s way of salvation has always been “by grace, through faith”, and he has used Abraham as his illustration.

And so we turn to look at the passage from Romans 5 and the whole subject of being ‘Justified by faith’.

The word ‘justified’ in this context means, ‘Just as if I’d never sinned’.

In other words, it is by faith that I can be pronounced ‘just as if I’d never sinned’ because of what Jesus has already done for me on the cross.

As we look at this passage from Romans 5 I well remember that while at college, one of our tutors would say, “in Scripture, when you see the word ‘therefore’ you need to ask yourself ‘what is it there for”.

Since Romans is a book of logic, it is a book where the word ‘therefore’ is used on a number of occasions – and here are just some of them.

We have the “therefore” of

  • condemnation in Romans 3:20,
  • the promise of faith in Romans 4:16
  • justification in Romans 5:1,
  • no condemnation in Romans 8:1, and
  • dedication in Romans 12:1.

With this in mind, today, from Romans 5, we consider the ‘therefore’ of Justification by faith.

In presenting his case up to this point in his letter, Paul has proved that the whole world is guilty before God, and that no one can be saved by religious deeds, such as keeping the Law, or by good deeds or by our observance of our Sunday rituals.

If a reader of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans stopped at the end of today’s reading, he or she would know for sure that they needed to be saved and that they could be saved.

But the question is, ‘what will they do about it?’

There is much more the sinner needs to know about salvation and justification by faith.

Can he be sure that it will last?

How is it possible for God to save a sinner through the death of Christ on the cross?

The ‘therefore’ of Romans 5 is Paul’s explanation of the last two words in Romans 4:25 which says, ‘He was delivered over to death for our sins, and was raised to life for our justification’.

He explained two basic truths: (a) the blessings of our justification (Rom. 5:1–11), and (b) the basis for our justification (Rom. 5:12–21).

In listing these blessings, Paul accomplished two purposes.

First, he told how wonderful it is to be a Christian.

Our justification is not simply a guarantee of heaven, as thrilling as that is, but it is also the source of tremendous blessings that we enjoy here and now.

In other words, it is not just ‘pie in the sky when you die’ as some opponents might claim, but it is also ‘cake on the plate while you wait’.

His second purpose was to assure his readers that justification is a lasting thing.

His Jewish readers in particular would ask, “Can this spiritual experience last if it does not require obedience to the Law?

What about the trials and sufferings of life?

When God declared us righteous in Jesus Christ, He gave to us seven spiritual blessings that assure us that we cannot be lost.

1    Peace with God (v. 1).

The unsaved person is at “enmity with God” (Rom. 5:10; 8:7) because he cannot obey God’s Law or fulfil God’s will.

A verse from Isaiah make the matter clear: “There is no peace for the wicked, says the Lord,” (Isa. 48:22);.

Condemnation means that without Christ God declares us sinners.

Justification means that God declares us righteous, which is a declaration of peace, made possible by Christ’s death on the cross.

“Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Ps. 85:10).

“Because the Law works wrath” (Rom. 4:15), nobody who is condemned by the Law can enjoy peace with God.

But when you are justified by faith, you are declared righteous, and the Law cannot condemn you or declare war!

2    Access to God (v. 2a).

The Jew was kept from God’s presence by the veil in the temple; and the Gentile was kept out by a wall in the temple with a warning on it that any Gentile who went beyond would be killed.

But when Jesus died, He tore the veil (Luke 23:45) and broke down the wall (Eph. 2:14).

In Christ, believing Jews and Gentiles have access to God (Eph. 2:18); and they can draw on the inexhaustible riches of the grace of God (Eph. 1:7; 2:4; 3:8).

In Christ we stand “in grace” and not “in Law.”

Justification has to do with our standing; sanctification has to do with our state.

The child of a king can enter his father’s presence no matter how the child looks.

The word “access” here means “entrance to the king through the favour of another.”

3    Glorious hope (v. 2b).

“Peace with God” takes care of the past: He will no longer hold our sins against us.

“Access to God” takes care of the present: we can come to Him at any time for the help we need.

“Hope of the glory of God” takes care of the future: one day we shall share in His glory!

The word “rejoice” can be translated “boast,” not only in Romans 5:2, but also in Romans 5:3 and 11 (“joy”).

When we were sinners, there was nothing to boast about (Rom. 3:27), because we fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).

But in Christ, we boast in His righteousness and glory! Paul will amplify this in Romans 8:18-30.

4    Christian character (vv. 3–4).

Justification is no escape from the trials of life.

In John 16:33 we read, ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world’

But for the believer, trials work for them and not against them.

No amount of suffering can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:35–39); instead, trials bring us closer to the Lord and make us more like the Lord.

Suffering builds Christian character.

The word “experience” in Romans 5:4 means “character that has been proved.”

The sequence is: trouble – patience - proven character - hope.

As we go through the difficulties that come to us in our life, and depend on God’s grace, the trials only purify us and help to get rid of the chaff.

5    God’s love within (vv. 5–8).

As we wait for this hope to be fulfilled, the love of God is “poured out into our hearts” (literal translation).

In Galatians 5:22 we read of the ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ and we can note how the first three of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ are experienced here in this passage: love (Rom. 5:5), joy (Rom. 5:2), and peace (Rom. 5:1).

Before we were saved, God proved His love by sending Christ to die for us. (Romans 5:8)

Now that we are His children, He will show us that love all the more.

It is the inner experience of this love through the Spirit that sustains us as we go through difficulties

Faith (Rom. 5:1), hope (Rom. 5:2), and love (Rom. 5:5) all combine to give the believer patience in the trials of life.

And patience makes it possible for the believer to grow in character and become a mature child of God (James 1:1–4).

6    Salvation from future wrath (vv. 9–10).

Paul argued from the lesser to the greater.

If God saved us when we were enemies, how much more will  He keep us in that salvation now that we are His children.

Because God is a ‘Holy’ God he cannot abide sin, and as a result, for those without Christ there is the wrath of a Holy God that must be faced.

However, no true believer will experience it because Jesus has already taken the penalty for us.

As we sang in the song ‘the power of the cross’, “Christ became sin for us, took the blame, bore the wrath. We stand forgiven at the cross”.

Paul further argued that if Christ’s death accomplished so much for us, how much more will He do for us in His life as He intercedes for us in heaven!

Because He lives, we are eternally saved (Heb. 7:23–25).

Jesus Christ made a ‘blood covenant’ with His followers and that covenant was as if He wrote us into His will.

As we read in the record of the Last Supper, Jesus said, ’This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you’ (Luke 22:20).

He died so that the Will would be in force; but then He arose from the dead and returned to heaven that He might enforce the will Himself and distribute the inheritance.

Thus, we are “saved by His life.”

7    Reconciliation with God (v. 11).

In Romans 5:10-11 we find the word atonement or ‘reconciliation’ and to be reconciled means to be ‘brought back into fellowship with God’.

In Romans 1:18–32, Paul explained how the human race declared war on God and, because of this, deserved to be condemned eternally.

But God did not declare war on man.

Instead, He sent His Son as the Peacemaker (Eph. 2:11–18) that men and women might be reconciled to God.

And so, as we look back in review of these seven blessings of justification, we find that they show how certain our salvation is in Christ.

Totally apart from Law, and purely by God’s rich grace, we have a salvation that takes care of the past, the present, and the future.

Christ died for us; Christ lives for us; Christ is coming for us! Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

We turn now to a time to pray, and then we will conclude with our second Hymn for today – so let’s pray together:

Prayer

Almighty God, we ask you guide your Church as we continue in ‘lockdown’ but as we see glimmers of hope that the time is coming when we can move on.

Give us patience and wisdom as we eventually re-open our church buildings, both for individual private prayer and also for our worship together.

(Short Silence)

Lord in your Mercy: Hear our prayer

We pray for what it will mean for us as Your church here in Hopton, Corton and Gunton as we move beyond the first tentative steps of ‘return’ and look to ‘rebuild’ and ‘renew’ what it means to be Your church in this place.

(Short Silence)

Lord in your Mercy: Hear our prayer

Creator God, help us to walk humbly with you at our side and when we come to the crossroads and have to choose which way to go lead us down the path whilst steering us away from the road that leads to selfishness and sin.

Take from us any hard words and the cynical look.  Let us be to others as we would wish them to be to us and, when we fail, forgive us and heal us.

(Short Silence)

Lord in your Mercy: Hear our prayer

Caring God, we pray for all those who are afflicted by physical, emotional or mental illness especially the problems caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Help them to keep their eyes fixed on you, and give them the courage to face the trials and temptations that may come.

We ask you to continue to have your hand upon our doctors, nurses and all care staff as they stand at the front line of seeking to bring healing and health to all.

(Short Silence)

Lord in your Mercy: Hear our prayer

Holy God, your love reaches beyond the grave. At the end of our days on earth be with us and with those we love and with those whom we love and have gone before us.   We pray now for those who have recently died both Corona related and from other causes and for those bereaved by their passing.

(Short Silence)

Lord in your Mercy: Hear our prayer

Gracious God, we thank you for hearing our prayers and as we move into the coming week help us to remember our Saviour’s words as he sent his disciples out into the world “As you go, proclaim the good news, the Kingdom of Heaven has come near”.

Merciful Father: Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

Hymn

Christ Triumphant, ever reigning,

Saviour, Master, King,

Lord of heaven, our lives sustaining,

Hear us as we sing:

   Yours the glory and the crown,

   The high renown, the eternal name.

 

Word incarnate, truth revealing,

Son of Man on earth!

Power and majesty concealing

By your humble birth:

   Chorus

 

Suffering Servant, scorned, ill-treated,

Victim crucified!

Death is through the cross defeated,

Sinners justified:

   Chorus

 

Priestly King, enthroned forever

High in heaven above!

Sin and death and hell shall never

Stifle hymns of love:

   Chorus

 

So, our hearts and voices raising

Through the ages long,

Ceaselessly upon You gazing,

This shall be our song:

   Chorus

 


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