Jesus, Our Path of Rejoicing
“Jesus Our Path of Rejoicing”
What would you say is the greatest need of mankind in the world today? Perhaps you would say poverty, racism, world hunger, persecution or the like. Perhaps with this pandemic in full swing, we can become desensitized, exhausted, fearful, and for some, even hopeless. It would seem that the greatest need of mankind is for a cure for this virus. In a plague-like way it has taken over the world, taken thousands of lives and threatens more. It seems unstoppable and our hearts grow discouraged by the day. Here it is, Resurrection Sunday and churches are empty while we are to be celebrating the resurrected Christ, we shelter in our homes fearing the next wave of bad news. Although this season is unprecedented and while it seems that the greatest need of man right now is to be rid of this virus, something far more dangerous is amongst us in fact, in us permeating every fiber of our being. It infects every person on the planet and has always infected every person on the planet who has ever lived. It is more deadly than the worst plague and even more powerful than Satan. What I am speaking of is sin. Yes, the greatest need of man is not physical health and well being amidst this virus pandemic, our greatest need is to be justified before God from whom we are separated because of our sin. We have offended our Creator who is Holy and will not share His glory with another. This my friends is the greatest pandemic, sin. While this is true, this is not the whole story, there is hope. Let’s look at this text in four simple points:
- Christ loves us to death (5:5-8)
- Christ saves us from the wrath of God (5:9,10)
- Christ saves us by His life (5:10)
- Christ is our joy (5:11)
- Christ loves us to death (5:6-8)
For the sake of the context of Romans chapter 5 Paul the apostle is encouraging the Romans with the great scriptural truth of justification. His starting point in verse one of chapter 5 is because we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And because of this, we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. You see, Paul’s hope and his encouragement to the Roman Christians was that they could rejoice that God will be glorified and is glorified in what His Son accomplished at the cross. But in verse three he also mentions that as Christians we glory in tribulations knowing that it produces something in us. Clearly verse 4 and 5 tells us that tribulation produces perseverance, character and hope. So it is in this context that Paul gives us the foundation of true hope. He says, “no, hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.“Think about that for a moment. We are all guilty, rebellious, and haters of God by nature, we were all destined for eternal damnation. And so the question here is not why God would allow people to go to hell even though Paul seems to answer that In chapter 9 starting in verse 22 using hyperbole: “ what if God, wanting to show his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only, but also the Gentiles?” But the more appropriate question is why would he pluck any brands out of the fire? Why would he save any of us, and so the glory of the gospel is that He has revealed His justifying work through the death and resurrection of Christ. The promise of Genesis 3:15 fulfilled! Christ was bruised but He has crushed the Serpent’s head!
Verse six says “for when we were still without strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly.“ This word “for” is used six times in verses 6-8. This is significant because the word “for“ is a function word communicating purpose and used later here for an exchange. So starting in verse 6, “ for when we were still without strength at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Who are the ungodly? It’s mankind. This is Paul’s point without the justifying work of Jesus Christ on the cross we are still in our sin. He died “for” the ungodly. There is none righteous, no not one”. Isaiah says that the righteousness of man is as filthy rags. So, all are guilty before God and this is the case Paul builds in Chapters 1-3. So, He died “for” the ungodly. This is a substitution, this is where we get that Christ died in our place, we are the guilty ones, without hope. This is the great exchange, His life for ours, His righteousness in place of our wickedness! What good news!
This speaks to our great need before God, to be justified but it also speaks of the right timing as far as God’s timetable for human history. This moment was set before the foundation of the world as the books of Ephesians and Revelation tell us. But notice at the end of verse six he didn’t die for good people or righteous people, he died for the ungodly. Look at verse 7: “ for scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet perhaps for a good man someone wouldn’t even dare to die. Again for is a function word. Under normal circumstances, people do not lay down their lives for their enemies, let alone wicked people. And so verse 8 puts the attention wholly upon the person of God. Notice what He does. (being different from mankind) “But God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” You see, our position prior to the cross of Christ is that we were dead in our trespasses and sins and not merely the sins that we commit but that we are born sinners. God doesn’t separate sin from the sinner here. They are one and the same, and this again shows the horrific truth of sin… we need a savior! (pause) Christ died in our place. Do you believe that? Do you believe that you are a sinner deserving of God‘s judgment and further do you believe that God‘s love has been communicated to you in the sending of his Son? How then does this great exchange happen? By faith. Faith is the conduit by which this transaction takes place. As the scripture says, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” You see, it is not an idea, a prayer, or even shedding tears over our sin that is needed. It is Faith in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is your salvation. Just as sin and the sinner are inextricably tied together so our Lord Jesus and His salvation are inextricably tied. The person of Christ saves us! There is no name given among men by which you must be saved! He saves us from what you may ask? Well let’s look at our second point:
2. Christ saves us from the wrath of God (5:9,10)
“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
So we see here this word “ justified” is a legal term which means “to be declared innocent, or cleared of all charges.” So, if we take the illustration of a courtroom, God is the judge in this case, mankind the guilty, and yet Christ substitutes Himself “for” us. The penal substitute, for where we get the word penalty. So, then what does that save us from? Look at the end of verse 9: “We shall be saved by Him from the wrath of God.” Do we remember why He was angry? Turn on with me back to chapter 1 verse 18:
“for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” God hates sin, and because sin is inextricably tied to the sinner He hates the sinner as well. But as we just looked at a conflict has occurred because as we have seen in chapter 5:8 it is because of his great love that Christ died for us. So it is not either or, it is both and. God hates the sinner, but He has also shown His love to the sinner. Truly this is where John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 connects. The only way that this conflict is settled is in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ! Someone must die. Sin demands death. Really this is twofold. God’s wrath and Divine justice is satisfied in the death of His Son and mankind can be satisfied through Christ and reconciled to the Father. How is this possible? Because Jesus Christ is both man and God! His humanity and His divinity displayed at the climax of the scriptures, His death and resurrection! So the greatest need of man before God is swallowed up By His life! Which leads us to our third point:
3. Christ saves us by His life (5:10)
“ 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.”
Notice Paul’s building this case one step at a time, sinners in need of a savior, Christ the substitute reconciles us to the God who was angry and now is subsided through the death of His Son, and now that we are reconciled we shall be saved by His life. What does this mean? Well if His death saves us from the wrath of God or the penalty of sin, His resurrection life saves us from the power of sin. Just as we could not save ourselves from the penalty of sin and therefore needed a penal substitute, so now we need His life. As Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Gal. 2:20. So you see we are one with Him in His death, but also one with Him in His resurrection! So while yes there is hope for us beyond the grave, eternal life is not just “after you die you go to heaven instead of hell”. It is a relationship with the living God! Not just a mere transaction! It’s a covenant, with a person! Sure this transaction happened but for a purpose. John 17:3 says it this way: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Truly reconciliation involves restored relationship. We can now approach God fully. We can come to Him in our moment by moment need for Him, but the truth here is that we shall be saved by His life. It is no longer we that live, but Christ! He is the One doing the work! Paul explains this to the Colossians in chapter 1:24-29: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
What does he mean “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body.” It is not that Christ’s death was somehow insufficient to save in some way but that His salvific work continues through His church, through Paul, through us all and this mystery is who? Christ in them! Then in verse 29 he tells them that it is Christ who is working in and through him. And so it is from Him, through Him and to Him. How important it is that we understand this because another result of our being reconciled back into a relationship with God is that He has given us a Helper, The Holy Spirit. We are not left on our own to obey the Lord. Look back to Romans 5:5 “how has the love of God been poured out in our hearts? By the Holy Spirit who was given to us. How often we forget that while the Resurrected Christ sits at the Father’s right hand, the Holy Spirit indwells us. He gives us power from on High, this is how He defeats the power of sin, daily, moment by moment trusting Him to accomplish His sanctifying work in us.
Romans 6:5-14 “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
Christ has loved us to the death, saved us from the wrath of God, saved us by His resurrection life, and now our 4th point:
4. Christ is our joy (5:11)
Verse 11- “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
“More than that we also rejoice…” this connects us back to the context of Chapter 5. Paul is explaining his and their rejoicing. Verse 2 He says we “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, followed by verse 3 that we glory in tribulations, and then, after explaining how Christ saves us he returns here in verse 11 to rejoicing in God through the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Have you ever recognized that rejoicing is something purchased for us at the cross? We know longer cower under God’s anger but we now rejoice in the Father’s love for us, for we have been reconciled! Further however, notice that we rejoice through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Christ is our path of rejoicing. This rejoicing is not something we work up, is not based on our human circumstances (although the circumstance before God is our reconciliation) it is not based on our happiness currently, our health, our retirement that has taken a hit the last month, no our rejoicing is in and through the person of Jesus Christ! If He is our hope and yet He died and yet rose again, our hope is eternal in the heavens at the right hand of the throne of God! And what makes heaven heaven is that Christ is there! And what makes hell hell is that He is not there! Church, Christ is our joy.
John Piper says it this way, “Nothing is more foundational for the joy of undeserving people in the cross of Jesus Christ. The fight for Joy as a fight to grasp and marvel at what happened in the death of Christ and what it reveals about her suffering Savior. If it were not for the death of Jesus in our place, the only possible Joy would be The joy of delusion like the joy on the titanic just before it hit the iceberg. Without the cross, joy could be sustained only by denying consciously or subconsciously the inevitability of divine judgment. In fact, that’s the kind of joy the drives most of the world a joy that preserves the power of its pleasure is by being oblivious to the perill just ahead. If the passengers were suddenly made aware that most of them with drown in the icy ocean, all their merrymaking would cease. Their joy depends on their ignorance. However, if the passengers knew that the ocean liner would sink, and that their hope was in dependable ships and sailors already on the way and would arrive and save everyone who follow their instructions, something very different would happen. Be sure the lighthearted merrymaking would cease, and a great seriousness would spread over the Titanic; but there would be a different kind of joy a deep sense of gratitude for the rescuers, and a deep sense of hope that, much so much would be lost, while all would be saved. Some may panic and unbelief, doubting the promise of rescue. But others would rise in the strength of hope and do employ themselves in preparation for the coming destruction.”
Is your hope and joy dependent on this life and how good it is going? Well, that will come to an end and a Just God lies at the end of your life to whom you must give account. On the other hand, there is a hope offered in the Gospel of Jesus as we have looked at today. While we were yet sinners justly deserving His wrath, Christ died for us, He died to save us from the wrath of God, to exchange His righteousness for our sin, to give us life through His resurrection, a helper God the Holy Spirit and lastly this should result in our great joy! Will you turn to Him in repentance and faith and be saved from this pandemic of sin? He is your only hope. Lets pray.
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