We are justified by faith because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. But how can we be sure that we are justified? Does God want us to be sure? And if so, how is that possible? Our passage today begins with “since we have been justified by faith” (Romans 5:1), and it ends with “more than that we also rejoice in God” (Romans 5:11). These verses chart the course from having faith to having joy.
Imagine a business partnership in which you constantly had to call your partner and ask if he or she still wanted to work with you. Or imagine a marriage in which you didn’t know for sure that your spouse loved you. Either relationship may be endured; neither could be enjoyed.
God wants you to enjoy your relationship with Him, and that means that He wants you to be secure in it. But there are three joy-killing questions that often arise in the mind of a Christian. If you are to enjoy your relationship with God, you need to know how to answer them. And the answers are all found in Romans 5.
The Bible tells me that I have peace with God, but if that is true, then why do I have so much trouble in my life? When you face a health issue, a family problem, or some other disappointment in life, you may wonder why God would allow such a thing to happen to you.
God will use the hardest things in your life to achieve something of great value: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3–4). God can use what is painful in your life to make you more like Jesus.
God has never promised a trouble-free life. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation [trouble]. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Trouble in your life does not mean that God is against you. God is for us in Christ: “He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
Knowing this will enable you to persevere even through the hardest days of your life. You may look up to God through your tears, but you will be able to do so with hope. And your hope will not be disappointed.
Paul tells us that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). But how does the death of Jesus show the love of God?
There are many things that God could give us that might seem like a better expression of His love. If the Bible said, “God shows His love for us in this, that He gave us a cure for cancer,” we would recognize that as an expression of His love. But how is Jesus dying on a cross a demonstration of God’s love?
Imagine a couple sitting in a car on a moonlit night near Niagara Falls. He puts his arm around her shoulder and whispers in her ear, “I love you.”
She looks at him suspiciously. “Do you really? I sometimes wonder.”
“All right,” he says, “I’ll prove it.” And with that, he gets out of the car, walks to the edge, and with one huge leap, throws himself over the side. As he falls into the abyss, he screams out, “I love you…” This may be an unforgettable experience, but it is not a demonstration of love. The man’s death achieves nothing for the woman.
The death of Jesus is an expression of love because it achieves something of infinite value for us: through the death of Jesus, the debt of our sin was paid and the wrath of God was propitiated.
God has demonstrated His love for us in giving the greatest gift at the point of our greatest need. So when you are tempted to wonder if God really loves you, don’t look at the circumstances of your life, look at the cross and take in what Jesus has accomplished for you.
Imagine that you have planned the trip of a lifetime. The tickets are booked, your passport is checked, and the reservations have been made. All you need to do is get to the airport, but there are many things that could still go wrong! You could get sick the night before you leave. You could break your leg as you come down the stairs. It doesn’t take much imagination to multiply the scenarios that could occur.
When we are justified, we have peace with God. But what if we mess up? Perhaps you know what it’s like to say to yourself: “I’m not sure if I can keep this Christian life up! What if the temptations I face are too strong for me? What if something blows my faith out of the water?”
The answer to these questions is that “we have now been justified by his blood” (Romans 5:9). God justifies us through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. Peace with God is not based on anything in you at all. It is grounded in something entirely outside of you—the blood of Jesus. This is the basis of your security, and if you can grasp its meaning, it will help you to rejoice in God.
If you were asked how you know that you will be in heaven on the Last Day, how would you answer? Here are three common but inadequate answers.
Question: How do you know that you will be in heaven on the Last Day?
Answer: I love Jesus.
That’s great. But the test of loving Jesus is that we keep His commandments (John 14:15), and the fact that we don’t obey His commandments fully shows that we don’t fully love Him either. Our love for Christ is real, but it is mixed up with a great deal of love for ourselves. While it is true that we love Christ, our love for Him is hardly a ground for confidence when we stand in His presence on the Last Day!
Answer: I have made a commitment.
That’s wonderful. But what happens if your commitment to serving Christ wavers? What happens if in ten years’ time your enthusiasm wanes? Does that mean that your chances of entering heaven will diminish too?
People who think that their activity or enthusiasm for Christ is the basis for entering heaven soon find themselves under a great burden. Whatever you do, your level of commitment could always be higher, and believers who depend on their own commitment are on a path to spiritual burnout.
Answer: I have faith.
That’s marvelous. But how strong is your faith? Are there not times when you struggle with doubt? Don’t fall into the error of putting faith in your own faith, rather than faith in Christ. No one’s faith is free from questions, anxieties, doubts, or fears. If you are trusting in your faith, you will never be sure that your faith is enough.
Did you notice the one common factor in these three inadequate answers? They all begin with the fatal little word I. I love Jesus. I am committed. I have faith. And the problem with anything that begins with I is that it is never complete, never what it might be, and never what it should be.
God’s work in us is begun, but it is not yet complete. So while it is wonderfully true that we love Jesus, are committed to serve Jesus, and have faith in Jesus, none of these things is what they might be or what, one day, they will be. Our faith, service, and love for Christ are still a work in progress.
None of us are yet what we will be, and that is why we can never find confidence before God through anything in ourselves. There is only one solid ground of assurance: We are “justified by his blood” (Romans 5:9).
After our first Christmas in this country, our family took a trip to Wisconsin. We found our way up to Fond du Lac, where we stopped by the lake to look around. We had never been so cold.
Our boys, who were just ten and eight at the time, said, “Dad, can we go on the ice?” Parents know that when you are not thinking you give your default answer. In Britain, it gets cold but not that cold, and so where there is ice, it is often thin. So, I said, “Yes, but go carefully.”
Imagine us venturing out onto the ice, feeling our way, nervously inching forward, when suddenly there was the roar of an engine, and a vehicle carrying at least six high school students came screaming out over the lake. I don’t think I have ever felt so foolish.
Inching out onto the ice, we had very little confidence, but we were completely safe. The ice on which we stood was rock solid. And our safety rested not on the strength of our “faith,” but on the strength of the ice on which we were standing.
We are not saved by the strength of our faith, but by the strength of our Savior.
If you want to cultivate assurance and joy in God, the question you should be asking is not “How strong is my faith?” but “How strong is my Savior?” Is the blood of Jesus Christ rich enough and strong enough to wash away my every sin and to cover my every weakness, failure, and inadequacy from this point until the day I arrive in the presence of God? The answer to that question is “Yes. Absolutely. Without question.”
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.
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