God's love poured in our hearts. 5:1-5
In 5:1-5, Paul draws out the first consequence of a believer's right-standing before God, namely, peace with God. Since we stand in a new relationship with God through the instrument of faith, on the basis of Christ's sacrifice on our behalf, apart from works of the law, we find ourselves at peace with God, ie. reconciled to God, v1; under His favour, v2; and assured of His love, v3-5.
v1. Those who are justified find themselves in an objective state of peace with God, rather than a state of war, such that they are no longer enemies of God. God's justification of sinners involves reconciliation; it involves peace with God, an eternal friendship with God. So, God's declaration of our eternal right standing in his sight, our justification, includes the gift of his eternal friendship. All this is gained through Jesus' life, death and resurrection, ie. our reconciliation with God is a gift of God grounded on the faithfulness of Christ.
v2a. "This grace", this kindness on God's part of freely gifting us with his eternal friendship, is ours through faith in the faithfulness of Christ on our behalf.
v2b. We rejoice in a confident anticipation ("hope") of the coming glory when our whole being will be radiated with God's divine character. This is our true destiny, but it was lost through sin and now is restored by Christ to a degree far beyond the original gift. Such is ours in the day of Christ's coming, then as now. So, because we stand in God's favour through Christ, we can rejoice in the hope of sharing God's glory.
v3-4. We also rejoice in our sufferings - for the proving (testing, strengthening) of our faith under pressure. Troubles drive us to rely more on the Lord and so produce perseverance - the strengthening of our character and the strengthening of our hope in the fulfillment of God's promises. So, we rejoice in suffering, knowing that our sufferings produce endurance, which in turn produces character (integrity - like a precious metal with the dross removed by fire). This in turn produces hope - a confident anticipation of eternal glory, of abiding with the divine for eternity.
v5. So, the hope we have is anything but illusionary; it is real and made more real to us as we daily rely on God's love through the rough and tumble of life. In Christ we have received the abundance of God's loving mercy; we are washed with it, cleansed by it. The reality of God's love for us in Christ is driven into our psyche through the ministry of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. The Spirit takes God's Word and drives it into our very being. So, hope is no illusion to those in Christ.
Breaking the anxiety barrier|
I was talking with a fellow clergyman recently who spoke of his life as if it were clouded by a constant mild depression. The cause was simple enough; the stress and anxiety of ministry was slowly undermining his psychological health. Sadly, the goal-posts have shifted in ministry and so clergy now face a whole range of different and often false expectations. Ministers were once employed as stewards of gospel truth, preachers and teachers of God's word, yet now they have to be managers, group dynamic experts, social workers and marketing gurus. Pity help the minister who doesn't "grow" their congregation! Unending stress is the daily cross of the professional minister.
We mere mortals spend half our life struggling with the stress, anxiety and depression associated with modern living. How then do we best handle life's cares?
When Joe Cocker sang "troubles lift us up where we belong", he was touching on a Biblical idea. Paul actually says that we can celebrate life's troubles. The word "celebrate" may be a touch strong; some translations use the word "boast", while the NIV has "rejoice". In our passage for study Paul points to a way by which can move above life's troubles, and so rather than become psychological cripples, embittered by life's difficulties, find our character strengthened, battle hardened. So, in the face of the storm how do we endure?
It's all got to do with how we look at life. Let's call it "thinking christianly." We can focus on our troubles, or we can focus on the big picture, and let us never forget, a believer's big picture is very big. Paul calls it our "hope". It is the hope of glory, the confident anticipation that the day is fast approaching when we will stand in the presence of the living God as his friend for eternity, at peace with him, reconciled to him.
The amazing thing about this hope is that it is not a forlorn hope. A believer's hope finds its authentication in the love of God, in God's compassion toward us. To those who believe, Christ's death and resurrection has already gained for us peace with God. God is no longer our enemy; he is our friend. The Holy Spirit takes this profound Biblical truth and drives it into our psyche such that our hope is no illusion.
So, think christianly about the daily grind; lift your eyes above it
1. In what sense do we have peace with God?
2. What is the Christian hope?
3. Why is it that Christians can rejoice in their sufferings?
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