Monday, January 16, 2023

2023.01.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 5:3–5

Read Romans 5:3–5

Questions from the Scripture text: In what else do we glory/rejoice (Romans 5:3)?What does tribulation produce? What does endurance/perseverance produce (Romans 5:4)? What does character produce? What doesn’t hope do (Romans 5:5)? Whose love has been outpoured? Where? By Whom? How did we obtain Him? 

In what do they glory, who have been counted righteous in Christ’s righteousness and being conformed to righteousness by Christ’s strength? Romans 5:3–5 looks forward to the sermon in this week’s midweek meeting. In these three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that those who are justified through faith in Christ glory not only in the hope of God’s glory but even in their current tribulations.

One who has been genuinely brought to faith in Jesus Christ is not only counted righteous (justified) only by Christ’s own righteousness (Romans 5:1), but also is now being conformed to Christ by Christ’s own strength (Romans 5:2a). We know that means that in the future, we shall surely be perfectly holy so that the everlasting experience of God’s glory will be perfectly happy for us (verse 2b). But what is the experience in this life of those who have been brought into the status of justification and the condition of standing by grace? Tribulations! (plural)! This is the circumstance of those believers in this life who are genuinely adopted children of God (cf. Hebrews 12:1–9). 

Glory in Christ’s giving us endurance. Perseverance (endurance) is not something that we can grow in without intense pain, or prolonged pain, or both. In His humanity, even our Lord Jesus grew in His capacities. His endurance grew in the wilderness, resulting in His counting the joy of His Father’s Word as better than the joy of bread (cf. Matthew 4:1–4), and His greatest endurance was at the cross, where He counted the joy of the praise of God’s glory and the securing of our glorification as weightier than His own shame or suffering (cf. Hebrews 12:2). 

Now, He grows us in endurance by giving us things to endure. We need endurance to run against sin (cf. Hebrews 12:1). We need endurance to be conformed to Christ, who endured (cf. Hebrews 12:2). And since it is tribulation through which endurance comes (Romans 5:3b), He gives us whatever tribulations we need (cf. Hebrews 12:5–8). The experience is painful (cf. Hebrews 12:11a), but since the end bears the fruit over which we rejoice in Romans 5:2 (cf. Hebrews 12:11b, Hebrews 12:14), we rejoice even over the experience and its pain. “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance.”

Glory in our glorification-in-progress. As we grow in perseverance, something marvelous happens to a believer. He is not what he used to be. Yes, it grieves him that he is not yet what he ought to be. And, sometimes, even the knowledge of what he will one day be brings him not only glad reflection upon his future self but sober and painful reflection upon his present self. But though he is not what he ought to be, and not what he will be, still he is not what he was. He has been changed by Christ. And He is being changed by Christ. Perseverance produces the proven character, the demonstration that he is not what he previously was. A believer might not yet be fit for glory, but he has been brought to count it as weightier to himself than present comfort or present discomfort. As we endure what is necessary for being rid of our sin, we rejoice over the fact that what Jesus does for those whom He justifies, Jesus has begun to do in our own soul. “perseverance [produces proven] character”!

Glory in the source of this progress: the eternal, electing, everlasting love of God. What is this new character that the Christian sees in his life? He was dead in his transgressions. He did not seek God. He did not do good. No one did. No not one. So what is it, and where did it come from?

What is it? It is a partial fulfillment of the thing hoped for. It is an aspect of his character that will continue to remain when all of his former fleshliness has been eradicated. It is a piece of heaven. The pure ore of the new creation. It is him being in Christ. Even better, it is evidence of Christ being in him! When Romans 5:4 says “character [produces] hope,” it does not mean that it gives us hope. We already have that hope, and that hope is already sure. Rather, the word ‘hope’ refers to the thing hoped for—to the obtaining of that hope. And this (very!) little of what we shall be will not disappoint. It will not fizzle and fade and fail. When we see what (very!) little of our proven character there is, we are yet seeing something infinitely great, and something that will everlastingly endure. “Now hope does not disappoint”!

Where did it come from? The Holy Spirit makes sure that we know. It came from God’s love for us. The Holy Spirit Himself is a gift to us. “by the Holy Spirit Who was given to us”! And He was given to us for (in part) this reason: to pour out the love of God in our hearts. The older translation, “shed abroad,” may be better here. This is the abundance and completion of pouring over the insufficiency of some other application. The heart is pictured as a surface or a region that is entirely covered and smothered by a substance. And what a substance it is: God’s love for the justified sinner!

There no place anywhere in the believer’s thinking for the idea that something has not come to him from the love of God. Even when he sins and grieves and displeases his Father. Even when the Father hates what he has done. Even when the Father chastens him painfully and severely. Why has Father done this? By the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s heart, one sure part of that answer is always, “because He loves me!”

I know that He loves me, because He gave Christ for me (Romans 5:1a). I know that He loves me, because Christ secured peace for me (verse 1b). I know that He loves me, because He gave me (end of Romans 5:5) His Spirit to teach my heart that He loves me. I know that He loves me, because His eternal, electing love is determined to make me like Christ (Romans 8:29). I know that He loves me, because He has begun the process of glorifying one whom He has justified (Romans 8:30). And how has He advanced this process? Was it through character-proving, endurance-producing, tribulation? Then I know that He troubled me because He loves me!

And if my tribulation is a palpable expression of my Father’s love, by which He is bringing me to enjoy perfectly that love, then how shall I feel about it? I will glory in it!

What tribulations are you enduring? For what sort of life should you hope, if you hope to see that you are a legitimately adopted child? What is God building in you, and what should you be aiming to build, if He brings you tribulation as His child? When you see small progress in grace, how should you feel about that progress, regardless of its smallness? What is it, and where did it come from?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for counting us righteous entirely on account of Christ’s righteousness. And we thank You for having begun to conform us to Christ and His righteousness. And we thank You that You will finish conforming us to Him. Give us to rejoice over whatever tribulations You deem necessary, and grant that Your Spirit would continually shed abroad in our hearts the knowledge of Your eternal, electing, everlasting love for us, we ask in the Name of the Only-Begotten Son, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace” 

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