For obvious reasons, I’ve always loved Romans 5. The Apostle’s words are so wonderfully chosen to enrich our understanding of justification. He moves easily from the technical legality of it, to us standing in the results of it. He calls it, “this grace in which we stand.” What a great picture. Justification leaves us standing in grace, having been introduced to it by our faith in the Lord Jesus and made possible through the work of the Lord Jesus.
Romans 5:2 (NAS): 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
Yet like so many I have stood gazing, mesmerized by the love of God for us that while we were yet sinners Christ would die for us; so taken by the picture that I missed the greater beauty of the passage. If we are not too taken by that beautiful piece of the puzzle and we follow the Apostle as he adeptly fits it into the greater picture, then the real beauty he intends for us to see emerges, and it’s much more than you’ve ever imagined.
The next ten verse are framed by the three things that we celebrate as a result of standing in grace. They are not commands we must do to show appreciation. No, they’re simply appropriate responses to the wonderful place we find ourselves standing.
The first thing we celebrate is the hope of the glory of God, found in verse 2. We celebrate that we will be around to see that hope fully realized. The last thing we celebrate is God himself, found in verse 11. And nothing’s more appropriate than that. It was, after all, for His demonstration of love that Christ died for us.
Those two celebrations are covered relatively briefly in contrast to the second thing we celebrate. Verses 3 through 10 expounds on the celebration in our tribulations. But it’s the one celebration that needs expounding, for who in their right mind celebrates in their trouble.
Love Poured Out
Romans 5:5 (NAS): 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
If it is true that authors spill the most ink on what’s important, then the important part of Paul’s argument is that we celebrate in tribulation, knowing it brings about a hope that we will be fully satisfied with; a hope that will not disappoint. We are assured of this hope because of the love of God that is poured out in our hearts.
The Apostle’s point is subtle, but critical to the beauty of the passage. The capacity to not only endure tribulations, but even to celebrate in them, is tied to our heart’s conviction that we are loved by God. And God has not been stingy with His love for us. He has poured it out generously.
Much More Then
In order to make the glory of this passage visible, Paul set up a contrast of two beautiful things with the hope, that taken together, the beauty of the first would point to the surpassing beauty of the second.
Romans 5:8 (NAS): 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
The verse above is the beauty we usually see in Romans 5. Though exceedingly beautiful in its own right, this is not the beauty of justification to which the Apostle is pointing. Yet in a strange way we have been blinded by this beauty so that we have missed the “much more then” that follows.
Romans 5:9 (NAS): 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
The Apostle takes a step up from the beauty of verse 8 with the words, “much more then.” This is the point of the passage. This is it’s true beauty. If before we were justified, before we were standing in grace, while we were yet sinners, God would demonstrate His love for us by the death of His Son, how much more then are we assured, given where we currently stand, that we will be saved from the wrath of God that is to come.
Romans 5:10 (NAS): 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
If we were reconciled to God by His gift of love when we were at our worst, then how much more confidence should we have that we will live in His love now that we have been reconciled. When we were enemies He gave His best, how much more will we receive now that we are friends; now that we are His children.
The difficulties of life converge often with the awareness of the sin that remains in us and causes us to doubt our Father’s love and even to lose hope. Yet despite the tribulations, God still means good for us in the future. And the heart soaked in God’s love for us, the love demonstrated in the death of His Son, keeps us from believing that the tribulations are somehow an indication of His displeasure. If who we were didn’t keep us from being reconciled, then who we are will not keep us from being saved. It just doesn’t get more beautiful than that.
So in that love, poured out in our hearts, we celebrate; in hope; in God; and yes, even in tribulations. For nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. In this our hearts take comfort. And so we celebrate, even in tribulation.