1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but 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. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
— Romans 5:1-11, ESV
I’ve been a Pastor now for 33 years. All of my service has been in churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. I’ve never really liked the SBC. Time after time, I have tried to get myself kicked out, but to no avail, so far.
When the Convention voted to boycott Disney World, I went, twice. While they continue to promote legalistic, prohibition-style bans against drinking alcohol and dancing, I imbibe regularly and do the funky chicken every chance I get. While they ban divorced men from serving as pastors and deacons, I ordained them and hired them, then after finding myself in an unwanted divorce and a most wonderful remarriage, I continue to serve without shame. I insist on real wine for communion, and I don’t re-baptize Christians, even paedobaptists, just to satisfy the convention's requirements and enlarge their statistics. Still, I remain a Southern Baptist.
Perhaps this present confession will finally do the trick. I love playing the lottery. Powerball is my gamble of choice. I usually wait until the jackpot is astronomical, like the odds of winning. I buy two tickets, one for me and one for Andrea, with the multiplier, of course.
After I purchase the tickets, I make a mental list of all the things I would buy with the money. Being the pious person that I am, things for God go on top. They would include a new church building, grander than Anthony Chapel. There would be funding for missions and benevolent causes galore. I would provide unlimited fried chicken at all church socials. Then there would be plenty left over for personal things, like that custom VW Bus, the 25-year-old Pappy Van Winkle, and two new knees.
Three truths, however, bring me down to earth. One, I’ll never win, not at 300 million to one. Two, I don’t need any of that stuff, except maybe the knees. And three, I’ve already won, or it has been won for me, something infinitely greater than any lottery prize, thanks to Jesus and justification by faith.
The Teaching of Justification
“Justified,” or justification, is the theme of this section (3:21-5:21). Justification is your passport to salvation, which will also bring you through sanctification and take you on to glorification. It is your declaration of righteousness and a right standing with God. It is your winning lottery ticket, so to speak, although your prize is supremely greater than any earthly jackpot.
Paul has already established that justification comes “apart from the law” (3:21), not “by works” (4:2), not by race, religion, nor ritual. It is “by faith,” and by faith alone. You cannot earn it, buy it, or bargain for it. You must simply believe, have a deep and abiding trust and transformation (which will be discussed later), in Jesus Christ. Saving faith accepts who Jesus is, what He has done, and yields to His lordship over your life.
The grounds of all of this is “grace,” God’s grace (3:24, 4:16, 5:2, 5:15, 5:16, 5:17, 5:20, 5:21), sometimes translated as “free gift” (5:15, 5:16, 5:17, 6:23). Perhaps the illustration is a bit crass, but justification by faith is just as if God freely gave you the winning lottery ticket and carried you to cash it in. The treasures you get, money cannot buy.
The Treasures of Justification
The first thing Christ has bought you with justification by faith is “peace with God.” This is not a subjective, circumstantial, “peaceful easy feeling,” like the Eagles sing about, but an objective, permanent, standing as a child of God and citizen of His kingdom. It is a trust and transformation wrought by “grace.” God will never be your enemy, you will never experience His wrath, and you will live with Him forever, if you come to Him “through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Justification buys you “hope in the glory of God.” This a confident expectation, a guaranteed reservation, of eternal life with God, the angels, and the saints in the glorious new heaven and earth. You cannot name and claim luxury in this life, but “peace with God” comes with a home in “the glory of God” when you die, or otherwise leave this world at the second coming of Christ. This home in Heaven is too wonderful for words.
But before you get there, your Christian salvation, your justification by faith, gives you the honor and help of “sufferings” (persecution). What? Why would you want to suffer? Because suffering for the cause of Christ in this life produces godly “endurance” (perseverance), “character” (assurance, passing the test), and deepens your “hope.” Faith is free that costs you everything, then rewards you exponentially.
Your are able to “rejoice” in your justification, your past peace treaty and present sufferings and future hope, because you are a recipient of “God’s love” and His personal presence in your life “through the Holy Spirit.” God’s greatest love gift to you is Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and His love enables you to love Him and love others.
Justified people are loved by God, and they love God and the things of God. Justified people are spiritual people, gravitating towards spiritual things by the pull of the Holy Spirit within them. Justified people are rich, much more than lottery winners, because what we have received will endure, forever.
The Transformation of Justification
With such riches at stake, free for the taking, don’t you want to make sure you have them? Don’t you want to know you have the ticket in your hand. Don’t you want to be sure you are justified, by faith, in Christ?
The Apostle Paul uses the first person plural in vs. 6-11 to identify himself with the elect, the saved, the justified. On the front end, his language is not flattering. We are “weak,” a euphemism for depravity or spiritual inability. We are “ungodly,” before justification declares us right with God. We are “sinners,” a word repulsive to the modern mind but in biblical truth includes everyone. Furthermore we are “enemies” of God before the reconciliation received by justification.
Those truly justified admit these things are true, sadly, personally, humbly. Those truly justified know that one person and one event transforms these things, making us strong, godly, forgiven, and friends, even children, of God. “Christ died,” Paul writes twice, so that we may be “justified by His blood.”
A Vietnam veteran expressed his frustration with that war by saying, “Certain blood was shed for uncertain reasons.” But in the gospel certain blood was shed for certain reasons for certain people. Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “My entire theology can be condensed into four words: Jesus died for me!”
To be justified is to be saved, forgiven, and transformed. We are justified by the death of Christ on the cross, and we are “saved by his life.” We believe He is resurrected, and we believe He lives, in us, through the Holy Spirit. Therefore we stand, justified. We move on to Christ-like living, sanctified. We press on to our eternal home with Christ, glorified.
I do not offer this sermon to be a spokesperson for the lottery, or any of my other sarcastic stands. I offer this sermon to take a stand for the gospel, the gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. And I stand that such justification does not leave you alone, it transforms you, into a loving and obedient child of God.
In the previous chapter of Romans, Paul used Abraham as an example of justification by faith. Here he could have easily used Moses, as did the writer of Hebrews, who said of Moses’ faith, “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (ref. Hebrews 11:26). Think about what that “greater wealth” means. Take your ticket. Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, then enjoy the joys of justification forever.