The Hope that does not disappoint!

Romans 5 

“In the whole Bible there is hardly another chapter which can equal this triumphant text.”  Martin Luther 

As soon as I ran across this statement I knew that Romans 5 would have some exciting things to give us.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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.” (Romans 5:1-2 ESV) 

The faith we have in Jesus is what brings us peace. That faith is also what allows us to live in His grace and to rejoice in His Hope. 

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 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.” (Romans 5:3-5) 

There it is, one of those times that Paul is telling us to “rejoice in our sufferings”. Kind of like James with “count it all joy” I must admit there is discomfort when I first read passages like this. How can I rejoice in my sufferings? How is it that I can count things joyful when things seem so messed up. Whether it be in my personal life, or in the world at large. Doesn’t it seem crazy to count it joy and to rejoice when suffering comes. Let’s take our children. We would love for them to grow up and never know suffering and to never have a bad day and to always succeed at everything. To always get the trophy so to speak. But we learn and they learn through hardship and through not always winning and through some amount of suffering. Suffering produces endurance. When you suffer at something, when you have to work a little harder at something it produces endurance. You have to keep at it, you have to have discipline. That endurance and the discipline it takes to endure, produces character. Someone’s character is who they are at their core. Wouldn’t it be nice if God just gave us those things without us having to work at them. But God cares more about who we are down deep, our character than to do that and He knows that some of us have to learn these lessons the hard way and some even harder than others. But it produces Hope in us when we do learn the lessons of suffering, endurance and character. God’s Hope, not just a fly by night I hope things turn out okay. When bad things happen and I can look back at the way God has answered past hardships that I have endured I can hope all the more in the present day trials. 

Hope in Jesus does not put us to shame. Some translations say does not disappoint. When we accept Jesus we have the love of God poured into us through the Holy Spirit. We just have to cling to that hope and that love. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. Jesus came to fulfill the law because there was no way that we, in our human flesh, could ever keep the law to the point of staying in relationship with God. We do not have to get it all right in order to become a Christian. He died for sinners. He died for us. We are reconciled to God by the death of Jesus. And in that we do not have to endure the wrath of God. We are saved by Jesus. We have Hope in Jesus that will not disappoint us.

Paul goes on explaining how sin came into the world through Adam, through one man. Not through the law. Again, the law was a measure of sin. Death reigned before God ever gave Moses the law. Adam brought sin into the world. However, Jesus and His death on the cross is what justifies us and reconciles us and gives us the gift of peace and the gift of hope and grace!

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)

The victory of this chapter is in the last few verses. One man, Adam brought sin into the world. We are sinful by nature, babies are born sinful. Sin is something that reigns in our life until we accept Jesus. The Holy Spirit will work in a nonbelievers life to draw them to a saving relationship with Jesus. But once the sinful man is justified through Christ, they can have victory over their sinful nature. 

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:18-21)

Jesus thank you for giving your life for us! Thank you for your Peace! Thank you for your Grace! Thank you for your Hope! 

Hope against hope!

Romans 4

The Jews of those days revered Abraham as the Father of Faith. Therefore Paul used Abraham in his writing to clarify to the Romans his thoughts on faith and works. He brings up Abraham in the first verse of this chapter. 

“What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” (Romans 4:1-2 ESV)

In other words, he is telling them think about Abraham. If you know of anyone who can be justified with God because of his works it would be Abraham. He worked for God, he did what God said to do. So he can boast to God about what he did for God, right? Wrong! No one can boast to God about their works. 

“For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’”(Romans 4:3)

Abraham is the father of the faith because Abraham believed God. Plain and simple. Not because of his works but simply because he believed God. 

Paul also goes on in this chapter to explain to the christians in Rome that Abraham is the father of faith to all, not just to the Jewish people. 

He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:11-12) 

Circumcision was a seal for the Jewish people. It signified that they were a Jew that they were one of God’s chosen people. What Paul is pointing out here is that Abraham was given the seal of his circumcision because of his faith, not so that he would have faith. Therefore he became the father of faith before the circumcision even occurred. Therefore he is a father of all who have faith in God. 

“as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’-in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be’” (Romans 4:17-18)

This phrase jumped out at me today “In hope he believed against hope”. What do you have today that you are hoping for, believing for, against hope. When Abraham was told that he would be the father of many nations, he and Sarah were childless, and because of their age it was not likely that they would conceive and/or that Sarah would be able to carry a child. Yet when God told Abraham he would be the father of many nations, he believed him. Do you have something that you are believing God for? That you are hoping for against all hope. Friends you can hope in God. You can believe God. Place your hope in him against any and all hope that you may have otherwise. Abraham grew stronger in his faith as he gave glory to God. 

“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness’”.  (Romans 20-21)

Abraham chose to believe God when he told him he would be the father of many nations. He may not have known exactly how it would come about, because in his mind, he and Sarah were too old to have children. However, he was fully convinced that God could do what he promised. Grab hold of that, choose to believe God for your circumstances, lay it at the foot of the cross whatever is on your heart today. I can’t promise how God will work it out. But I can tell you that the things in my life that I have laid at his cross and begged him to work out for me, he has done it. It may not always work out like I thought it would before but it works out better than I could have ever thought or imagined. We get to have this faith, that Abraham had also. 

“But the words, ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans 4:23-25

Lord help us as we hope against hope to believe in your promises. Help us Lord to know that you have our best interests at heart and that when we lay those things at your feet that we may have lost hope for that we have this hope in Jesus because of what He did for us on the cross. Lord work those things out for us for your glory and for your good. Amen

Justified by Grace

Romans 3

Paul has sent this letter to Rome to encourage the Romans. In this chapter of the letter he anticipates some of the questions that they may have been asking based on the first 2 chapters. It seems to me that he realizes that some of what he has said may be going over their heads so to speak or confusing them. The Jewish people knew they were God’s chosen people. They were the ones who had been given the law and the rituals to keep and had handed down for generations these practices and rituals. They had some beautiful traditions that in their minds justified them and made them feel closer to God. Paul is preaching to the Jews as well as to the Gentiles and in so doing some of the Jewish people may have been feeling a little torn. Because they were used to the traditions and they were used to the rituals but is Paul saying that none of that is important anymore. “By no means!” Paul points out that the faithfulness of God is not based on our faithfulness nor our faithlessness. 

“By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar…” Romans 3:4

This is such a comfort to me. God is true whether I am living in my faith or struggling in my faith. No matter what is going on in the world or around me. No matter if there is a Coronavirus, or people who do right or don’t do right. God is true! 

Paul also seems to be pointing out that when unrighteousness abounds that God’s righteousness is magnified. However he also addresses in this that there are some people who might actually try to use that as a means to excuse their own unrighteousness. They, in their thinking may be saying God would be unrighteous to inflict His wrath on us since our unrighteousness shows His righteousness. Again, 

“By no means! For then how could God judge the world?” Romans 3:6

We talked a bit about God’s judgment yesterday and I mentioned that I would much rather fall under God’s judgment than mans. God judges rightly and He is always compassionate, fair and true. One day we will all fall under God’s judgment. We must always be careful not to twist the grace that God gives so freely as a license to sin or to remain the same. Yes God’s righteousness and God’s grace is a free gift to us but the point is to make us better, not to justify us because “I am who I am”. 

The second part of this chapter points out to us that “None are righteous”. What I think and what I glean from reading in several translations and commentary is this. The law was given to the Jewish people and they thought that their possession of the law is what justified them. Paul is pointing out that they are not righteous because of the law, nor are the Gentiles righteous because they don’t have the law (nor the traditions) as their gauge. The law was given to point out sins. It is a measure to use. Verses 10 – 17 show man’s depravity and the many ways that man sins against God. But it is all men, not just the Jew, not just the Gentile, but all men! But also just being a good person and keeping the law will not justify you. 

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20

We can’t keep enough rules and regulations to make us right in Him. But there is good news here in the latter part of this chapter. 

God gave us the law and He gave us the prophets in order to bear witness to sin. But God gave us His righteousness through Jesus that through our faith in Him there is no distinction anymore. 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)

I have known verse 23 for years and have had it memorized and have quoted it, but why oh why have have I not been quoting the whole thought? Yes we all sin and yes we all fall short of his glory but oh how exciting that we are justified by his grace. If you believe in Jesus He has redeemed you! Already! Jesus came to be the propitiation of our sin, by his blood. That word, propitiation just means substitute sacrifice. He was our sacrifice, through His blood on the cross we can have faith. This was to show God’s righteousness and it is to be our justifier if we have faith in Jesus. God is the God of Jews and the God of Gentiles. 

“since God is one – who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary we uphold the law. (Romans 3:30-31)

Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you for sending Jesus to be my substitute sacrifice for my sins. Thank you Lord for your grace. Lord, help me to uphold the law through the faith I have in you and by the grace you have so freely given.