Living in the Grace of God through the Justification of the Son, Empowered by the Holy Spirit for the Glory of God
“Let another praise you, and not your mouth; a stranger, and not your lips.”1 So speaks the wisdom of Proverbs as it reminds us that the best praise for ourselves is not that which comes out of our lips but that which always comes unsolicited from the mouth of another. It is the fine line between confidence and overkill because the truth is none of us like a boaster! We can admire spirit; sometimes acknowledge even overconfidence (if we think it is justified), but no one likes a boast. The Bible has much to say about boasting, and it often comes down to this: That boasting is the ultimate picture of the human condition before God – sin.
What is sin? That which separates us from God, yet sin is more than just doing wrong things; it is a disordering of design. In Genesis, we see one thing made clear in the creation narrative – that Human beings were made to worship the Triune God: to live with Him and for Him. That is what it means to bear the image of God in the world. Then what happened? But the serpent came and convinced Adam and Eve that they needed more than God; they needed what the Tree of Good and Evil could offer them, and so even though God told it them was the one thing they could not have, they found themselves faced with a choice: Trust God or not? That choice is the most basic instinct of Sin: it is a choice between trusting God or in something else, something created. Sin then is when we look to other things for the things that only God can give us. Timothy Keller puts it perfectly when he writes:
“Instead of living for God, we began living for ourselves, our work, or material goods. We reversed the originally intended order.”2
Sin is when we do something wrong in life before God, or to think of it another way; it is when we trust anything other than God. When we believe the whispers of lies that come from created things as they tell us to trust what they are offering us instead of God. That trust given to made things means we begin to worship them instead of God “And when we began to worship and serve created things, paradoxically, the created things came to rule over us.”3 So then is idolatry when we give our trust and worship to something other than the created thing in the belief that it can offer us something that God cannot. Those idols are often good things (family, career, experiences, sports, academia) that have become god-things in our lives as we give them everything, and they give us nothing in return. Timothy Keller sums it up perfectly again when he writes:
“The Bible, then, does not consider idolatry one sin among many. Rather, all our failures to trust God wholly or to live rightly are, at root, idolatry—something we make more important than God. There is always a reason for sin. Under our sins are idolatrous desires.”4
Why does any of this matter? Well, simply put, boasting is the pinnacle of trust: what we boast about is what we find our identity in, and we want people to know about it. If we brag about our career, family, and academic success, then we find our ultimate purpose and identity in those things – they are what our hearts worship. Thus “the boaster” is the perfect picture of the sinful person because they are declaring to the world that they trust/worship something other than God. It’s why James, the brother of Jesus, wrote: “As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”5 To boast is to trust in something other for our ultimate purpose, existence, and salvation other than the Grace of God through faith in his Son, a road that leads nowhere.
In the fourth chapter of Romans, Paul compares those who trust the law over faith. Those who trust in the law misunderstand its purpose because they see it as steps toward achieving something rather than something impossible, which means that our only hope is beyond ourselves (Trust in God). The law became something which people boasted about as they tried to earn their status before God – the law became a means of work-based righteousness and a method of achievement for those who found themselves being “successful” in it. Sinful people thought their effort before the law would be enough to please God; they never grasped that the law existed to highlight the impossibility of our situation and our need for something beyond ourselves – Grace. In contrast to the Boaster who would trust in their effort and strength to earn salvation before God stood the person of Abraham, who knew why the law existed – to show our sin – and that there was only one place humanity could hope in: God. Abraham stands as the counter to the boastful person because he knew that we had nothing to boast about nor expect outside of God. Abraham trusted God for everything, and his heart found joy in his relationship with God: Abraham worshipped God because he knew that God was good and could be charged with all created things. Hence, because of this: “For we say, Faith was credited to Abraham for righteousness.”6 It was not because of his bloodline, knowledge, wealth or work ethic that Abraham was able to stand before God; it was because of his faith in God that he received Grace that allowed him to commune with God today and knew that he would enjoy the fullness of life with God to come. Such was Abrahams’s faith in God that he trusted the work of God even when logic would suggest otherwise. When God told him he would be the father of nations, what did Abraham do (even though he was an older man with no children)? He trusted: “He believed, hoping against hope so that he might become the father of many nations according to what had been spoken.” (4:18). Paul was saying what made Abraham great was no notion of our world’s understanding of greatness; no, what made Abraham great was that he trusted in God as good and his word as true and worshipped him above all else. Such was the strength of Abrahams’s faith that it did not weaken when he considered his own body nor the reality of his wife’s womb; no! Those earthly realities strengthened his faith in God because he knew “God had the power to do what he had promised”, and this is why “it was credited to him as righteousness” (4:21-23). It is a wonderful testimony to the power of faith over sin for the one who is ready to humble himself before God rather than boast in created things; hence, more beautifully, Paul writes that “it was credited to him as righteousness” was written not just for Abraham! No, these words were written and counted as true for all who “believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” It is humble who will be lifted because of their faith in God and the work of God; specifically, Christ was a believer over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. The law revealed all the peril of the human situation, and Christ told all hope against hope as he died to pay the price for our Sin and was raised again for our justification. This means that for all who turn to Christ through faith, the Ressurection was proof that God has accepted his sacrificial work and, through it, Credit to all through faith Righetouness – being made right in his sight. This is the beauty of the Good news of Jesus Christ; it is in this that we have our confidence and hope. Additionally, this summary of truth forms the basis of the five verses we read this morning.
Passage: Romans 5:1-5 NIV
” Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, 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.”
Through Christ Alone (1-2)
Some words carry extra significance in the bible; when we read them, we are meant to stop and think about the context or situation. “Therefore” is one of those words that call us to stop and consider what has been said just before the verses we are reading because what is being revealed to us now is built upon what has already been explained. Hence, Paul here is saying that because the words “it was credited to him as righteousness” were not written for the sake of Abraham alone “but ours also” for those who believe in the saving work of Christ (his dying and rising) which is our justification before God. Thus, verse one introduces a new thought based on the whole corpus of this section of Pauls’s letter to the Romans: because of the justifying work of Christ on the Cross and the righteousness given to the believer through faith, it is not just that God no longer sees our sin (because Christ has dealt with it) it is more beautiful still – because of the justification that we receive through faith we are both forgiven and at peace with God. It is not simply that God tolerates us because of the work of Jesus. Instead, he welcomes us into his presence because we are at peace with God through the justification of the Cross. It is a beautiful declaration of the Gospel in contrast to the way of the world: where the world will try to earn salvation by its might and effort, the believer receives the peace that God himself has established through Christ for his Glory. Here as Paul lays out the benefits that believers receive through the justified work of Jesus, there is no more beautiful a picture than that of our peace with God. As one author puts it: “In justification, we receive this forgiveness and thus, peace. Moreover, this peace is an eternal peace that can never be taken away”7
What a beautiful thing to dwell on this morning, that we find peace with God through faith and not our efforts. Thus, if we have not earned it, we cannot lose it! This is the beauty of Living with Jesus that as he works in us and through us, he imparts to our benefits of his reality: forgiveness for sin, life eternal, peace eternal with God, and more beautifully still, that is not all as Paul goes on to show a further benefit from our Justification: not only are we at peace with the creator of the universe, we have access to him! Wow! Imagine you were in London over the Jubilee weekend and walked up to the gates of Buckingham Palace and told them you wanted to see the queen, the guards looking at you as if you had smoked something before “politely” asking you to move on. Frustrated, you ignore them and explain that you and the Queen go way back and to show them you video call her and explain your situation before she tells the guards to escort you in. Imagine how those around the jubilee events would feel as they marvelled at the privilege of our access, that you had the Queen of the Commonwealth and could access here whenever you want. If that is a privilege, what words would even begin to describe the majesty, awe and honour of having access to the King of Kings, the Sovereign who rules over the universes? Through faith, we have access or are introduced to God the Father. Imagine if your mind can comprehend entering the throne room of Heaven with God the Father in all His splendour and glory and approaching that throne with Jesus the son who introduces you as one of his own. It is not access to God to come, no like the peace we receive it is now!
All of this is ours now through faith in the Son because of “the grace in which we now stand.” This is not something to come, but the beautiful reality of all who humble themselves and turn to Jesus through faith that we will have both eternal peace and access with God. The peace which passes all understanding; that nothing can take from us; peace that rests on the solid foundation of the goodness of God and his sovereign rule: and access, like a prince entering the throne room, we can approach the Creator of the universe through the Grace he grants to us by his son as we commune with Him in prayer and his word. So what do we do? We Boast in the hope of the Glory of God. As believers, we do not boast (trust) in the things of this world for our identity, purpose or eternity; instead, we trust in God and worship him, and then, with humility and confidence, we tell the world! As JB puts it in his translation, the Grace of God is where “we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things He has for us in the future.”
The Fruits of Faith (3-5)
Peace with God and access to him are beautiful things made available to us through Grace. They are realities that we enjoy now yet will not know fully until the day Christ comes again. One thing we must be careful about within our thinking is the notion that this peace and privileged access might remove from us the effects of living in a fallen world. This is what Paul is moving to in the second half of our passage as he remarks “not only that but we rejoice in our sufferings…” What Paul means is that Christians are those who know fully the reality of living in a fallen world as they await their saviour, we too will face the up’s and downs of life, yet, how we face them is counter-culturally different to the world. Where the world might long for a difficult season to be over, the Christian, as they endure, does so with rejoicing because they trust that even in that suffering, God is at work! The world does all it can to avoid the realities of life: The Christian rejoices and rests in the eternal peace of God in every situation, trusting that God is at work in them and through them. We reframe how we live and see the world in the expectant knowledge of God’s rule in our life because we know that which we have through Grace: Peace and Access can never be taken from us. We know that God uses everything for his good and glory.
While we might be going through a hard time and longing for it to be over equally, we trust and know that God is creating an endurance to wait for him in our waiting and praying. As our endurance increases and we depend less on our strength or effort and depend more on God – living out and in our access to him – we know that the increasing dependency on God begins to bear fruit in who we are and how we live; we are changed into the likeness of Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit. The endurance God works in our waiting produces in us the character of Christ. Regardless of the situation, in joy or suffering, as we Depend on God and less on ourselves through the work of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit works in us to make us more like Jesus (the fulfilment of the Imago Dei). Thus, we rejoice in the trials and difficulties of life not because we love pain nor find them pleasant, but because we know through them Grace becomes effectual and transformation in our lives as we are moved from trusting ourselves towards complete dependency on God.
The saints who endure with God in the cause of the Gospel to his Glory are living testimonies of the transformational power of the Gospel and the effects of Grace. As we live for God and endure whatever season we are in our lives display the very grace that helps us survive. In our living, people see God! Hence what Paul means when he says character produces hope in the climax of the production list that begins with suffering. What is hope? That we will share in the Glory of God. The outline from verse one was that through faith, we have peace, access and grace and hope to share in the Glory of God; thus, in the same way, from suffering will come sharing. That sharing is the fulfilment of what humankind was made for. To Worship God is to glorify Him, and to share in his glory is fulfilling our worship and purpose. Thus, Paul assures us that God begins in us through faith; he will make real in us no matter what road we have to walk. Hence we boast in God. Additionally, this hope is not wishful thinking on behalf of the believer because it is joined with the love of God that is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us as the assurance of God’s Grace and the effecter of Gods peace and the one who is effecting grace in our lives to make us into the image of the Son.
The Holy Spirit is given to us as the assurance that God is always with us through faith and as an effecter concerning future aspects of our salvation. Pauls outworks some of this further in Romans eight as he teaches about life in the Spirit. Here it is enough to say that we see something special about the Holy Spirits’ role in the life of the believer and the church because it is through Him that God’s love is poured into our lives. This pouring is not stingy but boldly declares the inexhaustible abundance and overflow of God’s love for his children as made known through the most incredible display of his Glory – the Cross. That love is made each day in our lives by the presence of the Holy Spirit regardless of how we have been living out our faith or what context or season we find ourselves in. It is the Holy Spirit who reminds us that God loves us and makes real love in our lives as all the blessings of Jesus are given to God by his Holy Spirit.
Conclusion: As We Boast in Christ: We Live in the Spirit for the Glory of God
There is so much in these five verses that you could spend weeks picking through the beauty of the truth they teach and how they might apply to our lives. This trinity Sunday, we are reminded about the beauty of Salvation that is received through faith and not effort, that we earn the ultimate purpose of human existence not by striving and stepping over one another but by humbling ourselves before God and admitting our need for saving. Then, because of his love, God makes what we seek through faith genuine in us. How? Through the work of his Son Jesus on the Cross, where he died for our sin and was raised for our justification, all of which grants us access to the Glorious presence of God the Father; all of this is made real by the work of Holy Spirit who pours God’s love into our hearts. Salvation is a gift of Grace through faith made real and effectual by each person of our triune God and by no effort of ours – and it is in this hope we boast and take our stand! Where the world will trust in created things and shout of their worth: we will trust in God because we know our worthlessness in light of eternity. It is in the Grace of God that we will take our stand, and through the grace of God, we will weather whatever life will bring, knowing that God will use all contexts and circumstances to work in us the cause and character of Christ through the Holy Spirit to the Glory of the Kingdom.
So we close with two things to ponder. Firstly, what is it your life is boasting in? If you belong to Jesus through faith, then your life displays it. Is it clear that Grace is where you take your stand as the love of God is poured out in your heart and through your Living by the Holy Spirit, or if we are being honest, might our lives still be boasting of other things? Career, family, sport, Academics? Today let us make sure we know where we stand with Jesus. Then if we are where we stand, let us ponder how we live in the Grace in which we stand. Are we taking advantage of our peace through faith to live out the kingdom in word and deed boldly? Additionally, do we live in our access to God? Chose to commune with him and seek his direction through a dynamic relationship and engagement with his Word and prayer. As Billy Graham put it:
“Remember: He WANTS your fellowship, and He has done everything possible to make it a reality. He has forgiven your sins at the cost of His own dear Son. He has given you His Word and the priceless privilege of prayer and worship.”
Finally, let us ponder the season we find ourselves in as individuals and a church and ask how God might be using them to produce in us endurance, character and hope and as we take our stand in his Grace, live for the cause of his Gospel and rest in his peace. Let us ask ourselves how might God be using these situations to work in us and through us, and how might we use these situations to live out the Kingdom of God and make know the love that is being poured into our hearts by word and deed? This Trinity Sunday, let us be those who abide in the peace of God, make use of our access to God, take our stand in the Grace of Gospel as we boast in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Glorify of the Father; as the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts the love of God and transforms us into the Character and image of Christ. Let us be those who boast in nothing but the hope and Glory of God as we take our stand in his Grace.
- Proverbs 27:2 ↩
- https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-to-talk-sin-in-postmodern-age/ ↩
- IBID ↩
- Timothy Keller, Idib ↩
- James 4:!6 ↩
- Romans 4:9 CSB ↩
- https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/peace-with-god ↩