MESSAGE FOR SEPTEMBER 6, 1998 FROM ROMANS 5:2
This week we pick up where we left off last week in the fifth chapter of Romans. As we mentioned last week, after Paul has spent chapters three and four analyzing, delineating and illustrating the doctrine of justification by faith, in chapter five he celebrates it. He lays out some of the blessings which flow from God’s justifying work through Christ. Our desire is to spend some time soaking in these healing waters of grace so that we can, by God’s grace fall more and more deeply in love with the One who has saved us through the blood of His Son. This morning, we will examine another blessing of the gospel found in verse two of chapter five. To get the context, let’s read Romans 5:1-2. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”
After looking at the blessing which Paul here calls “peace with God” last week, this week we turn to verse two. Verse two has within it three time dimensions. There is a past dimension which is seen where Paul says, “we have gained access (or, introduction) by faith.” He is speaking of the fact that in time past, we have been introduced to the life of grace by faith. That is past. There is a present dimension in this verse which the NIV explicitly brings out with the words, “into this grace in which we now stand.” The word “now” is not in the original language, but the verb “stand” is present tense and Paul is clearly referring to the fact that this grace which, in times past we were introduced to, we NOW stand in that grace. What, very briefly does that mean?
We stand, we live in the context of the grace of God. That is, the way in which God relates to us is governed by grace. Grace is the over-riding context of our relationship with God. He does not relate to us on the basis of our performance. His pleasure in us is not rooted in whether we are having a good day or a bad day. His pleasure is based in what He has done for us through His Son. Think of it this way; in this physical, earthly realm, the major element is carbon--it permeates everything on earth and beyond. In the spiritual realm, the base element as it relates to the people of God is grace. We move about within a realm of grace and the pillars which support that kingdom are election, redemption, propitiation, justification, sanctification, glorification and the other gracious gifts of God. The foundation upon which those pillars rest is the blood of Christ and the essential element which permeates and comprises all those structures is grace. Everything exists because of God’s grace and for God’s glory and the sinner saved by grace is “exhibit A” of the depth and wonder of God’s grace.
In the past, we have been introduced to this grace. In the present we stand in this grace and the future element is in the next sentence in verse two. “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Another blessing of the gospel is that God’s people rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. There are three elements of this blessing--to rejoice--to have hope and the glory of God. Let’s unpack this, beginning with what it means to rejoice. First, to rejoice, or more literally to “exult” is to have “an excess of joy.” The picture is a person who is brimming over with joy. They are overflowing with joy. Second, whenever you see this beautiful word “hope,” you should immediately think-- “FUTURE oriented.” Hope always speaks of the future. Hope has been defined as a “trustful expectation, particularly with reference to the fulfillment of God’s promises.” Hope is not a sentimental wish or a vague desire as the world defines it. Hope looks forward with a settled confidence to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Finally, the glory of God is, very briefly--the manifestation or revelation of His Person--God revealing Himself.
To put those three elements of this verse together, we can now see what it means to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. To do this is to have overflowing joy which is rooted in the expectation that in the future God will fulfill his promise to manifest His glory--to reveal Himself. That is part and parcel of what believers are, by God’s grace, able to rejoice in as a blessing of the gospel. Let me ask you, are you a person who rejoices in the hope of the glory of God? The New Testament testifies that the future hope of the glory of God is a major motivator in serving the King and should be a huge part of every believer’s life. For example, when you look at the spiritual giants in Hebrews 11 and note what it was that made those people tick--what motivated them to radical obedience, it was the same thing for each person, faith--hope in the future fulfillment of the promises of God. When you read account after account of these people in Hebrews 11 (people whom God says the world was not worthy of) and you find that what made them a success in the kingdom was faith or hope in the future fulfillment of God’s promises, it has to make any sincere Christian ask the question, do I have this hope as a motivator in MY life? Without this, we will lack the spiritual energy and drive to obey God as we should.
Today, our world screams at us to find our joy, to place our hope here in this life on this fallen planet. We are easily lulled into this because, in a material sense, things are so good here for the present. If we buy into the value system which tells us that we should be deriving our greatest joy from this life and what it NOW offers, then we will not be rejoicing in the future hope of the glory of God. We will not be enjoying this blessing of the gospel because we are anchoring our hope to the here and now, we are seeking for joy in THIS life. To the degree that we are doing that, we will find this thermo-nuclear blessing of the gospel useless to us. To the degree we are looking for joy in the things of this world and what it has to offer, we are allowing perhaps the deepest joy of the Christian life to be stolen from us and this glorious blessing of the gospel to be spilled out on the ground in front of us.
Now, let’s look at what is to be the source of this hope. What is the ground of this hope which fills us with over flowing joy? What specifically was Paul thinking of here in “the glory of God” that, when we hope in it, we should be filled with overflowing joy? What is it about this future revelation of God when we meet him, is so wonderful, so excellent, that it has the power to fill us with over-flowing joy when we place our hope in it NOW? What wonderful promises are there concerning the revelation of God’s glory which will be fulfilled that they should inspire us to overflowing joy now when we place our hope in them?
Let’s look at two aspects of this glory of God promised to be revealed when we see Him which are so glorious that the hope of their fulfillment should make our joy over flow. The first joy-inspiring aspect of God’s glory promised to be revealed is: the glory of God which will be revealed when His saints are glorified. We have said repeatedly that the New Testament concept of salvation is that of a process, not just an event. The New Testament pictures the saint as one is HAS been saved, is BEING saved and WILL BE saved. The future part of our salvation is the part when the goal of our salvation will be fulfilled. Theologians call this the “glorification” of the saints. When that occurs, God will be glorified.
When Christ returns, he will be glorified by judging Satan and the evil of this world. His raw power over the dark rulers powers will be clearly revealed as he tramples them in the winepress of his wrath. That will glorify Him--it will manifest his power and his justice. But Christ will also be glorified “in His holy people.” That is when their salvation process is completed and they shine in His holiness. We see this in 2 Thessalonians 1:10 where Paul is speaking of the return of Christ when this completion of our salvation will take place. He says, “on that day he comes to be glorified [how?] in his HOLY people.” This will manifest God’s power, his capacity to transform a sinner to a completely holy saint. Let’s try to get a handle on this. When Christ comes in glory and perfects his saints, he is completing an astounding process. Think about it. When we were born into this world, we were dead in trespasses and sins and our hearts perfectly matched the description Paul has given of the sinner in chapter one and chapter three.
Just to refresh your memory as to what we were before God saved us, in Romans three, verse 13-18, we read, “Their throats are upon graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do no know. There is no fear of God in their eyes.” That’s is an accurate description of what was in our hearts up until the moment that Jesus saved us. That is what God saves--nothing more than that--rebels who have Satan as their father and who hearts consistently spit at God.
That is the raw material, so to speak--that’s what God starts with. Its so raunchy, he starts over and makes them a new creature, He gives the person a new heart. But the flesh which shares all those evil characteristics still lives within us. As we grow in faith and more of that evil flesh is put to death, more of the light of God’s character shines in and through us. We are being transformed from glory to glory. But even the most sanctified person in the world could not claim to keep the great commandment perfectly even for a few moments. That’s how deeply this curse of sin runs in us.
When we are glorified, when our salvation process is completed, here’s what we will be like. First John 3:2 says of this moment, “we know that when He appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” These people, born under the curse, living much of their lives as rebels against God become, in one moment, by the transforming power of God, glorified--like Jesus Christ. If we don’t appreciate the utterly miraculous nature of that instantaneous transformation--this manifestation of God’s glory, that doesn’t mean it wont be glorious on a cosmic scale. Listen to Romans eight. Paul says of this, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the GLORY (whose glory? GOD’S GLORY!) that will be revealed in us. Now, its one thing to say that my suffering, your suffering is not worth comparing to something in the future because we haven’t suffered that much. But this is the apostle Paul about whom Jesus makes this statement, “I will show him how much suffer for my name.”
The suffering of the apostle Paul was great even in the eyes of Jesus. This is the one had been, according to 2 Corinthians 11 “exposed to death again and again.” He was flogged five times--the kind of flogging Paul received could KILL you. He was beaten with rods three times, stoned once, (stoning was a form of execution!) He was shipwrecked and spent a night and day adrift in the open sea, he was imperiled from rivers, bandits, and the Jews. He was intimately acquainted with hunger, thirst, freezing temperatures and nakedness. To say that this man knew something about suffering would be a mammoth understatement! Yet Paul says that this moment when God’s promise to complete our salvation process is fulfilled it will be so glorious--so God honoring, that all of even HIS suffering is not worth comparing to it--it will all, in that glorious moment, by comparison, be just a blip on the screen--inconsequential.
But that’s not the only response to this moment when this promise will be fulfilled. In 8:19 he says, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” The creation, the personification of all creation, but certainly the sinless heavenly hosts and other heavenly beings are, as someone has said, “standing on tiptoes” to get a view of this sight. Just try to imagine all the heavenly host from the chief princes on down gathering around this cosmic stage in rapt amazement at the moment when God makes those who were formerly cursed, dead sinners into beings who are like Jesus Christ. When Paul says this will be the revelation of the “sons of God,” he is saying something very powerful. In Jewish understanding, the son is like the Father. That’s why the Pharisees accused Jesus of blasphemy when he claimed to be the Son of God. At this moment, God will reveal redeemed humanity for what He has always intended them to be--those who manifest HIS glory--who perfectly, though finitely radiate HIS glory--HIS character. We will never be gods as some heretically teach, but we will be like God in quality in some sense.
When God pulls back the curtain on his saints, those He has perfected by the blood of His Son, the heavenly ovation will be deafening. The applause that will accompany Maguire or Sosa’s hitting home run number 61 will be a hushed silence compared to the countless billions and billions of heavenly creatures, who seeing the completion of God’s glorious saving work, will again and again call for the Lord and Father of the universe to step out and take a bow. God will be glorified--His Name will be exalted as perhaps only a few times before in all eternity. How can we love God and not overflow with joy at the hope of this promise being fulfilled and the glory He will receive from this?! Glory to God! A second joy inspiring aspect of God’s glory which is promised to be revealed is: the glory of God which will be revealed when His saints behold Him face to face.” The promise which we have been given the privilege to place our hope in which theologians call “the beatific vision”--beholding God in person--this, to quote Tevye, “will be the sweetest thing of all.” What will it be like to behold God? What will that experience be like? What will the glory of God look like? The Scriptures are consistent in their description. Let me read just a few representative texts. Psalm 104:2, “He wraps himself in light as with a garment...” First John 1:5 says, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” We have never beheld pure light. Even laser light is not pure light because it is exists in a world darkened by sin.
First Timothy 6:16 says God is “immortal and ...lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” The light of God is unapproachable--you can’t even get near it. No one can see it. Moses could not look upon the glory of God. God showed him only his “hind quarters.” We can understand that a fallen creature like Moses could not see God’s glory and live, but Isaiah six tells us that the seraphim, whose name literally means “burning ones”--these creatures who are perpetually in the presence of God and who themselves burn with the radiance of the glory of God--even THESE creatures refuse to look upon the light of the glory of God. Isaiah describes these six winged seraphs and says, “and with one set of wings they covered their faces.” Even these sinless creatures refuse to look upon the glory of God. In Revelation chapter one, John the apostle meets the glorified Jesus and this one, who had been so intimate with Jesus, so personally close to Him, his best human friend, when he was confronted with the glory of the Son, he falls at his feet as though dead.
This is the One whom we are told will be glorified--will be exalted when somehow “we shall see him as he is.” Does this hope--this hope of the glory of God fill your soul with overflowing joy? If we want to know something of the potential power this hope has for bringing joy to a person no matter what the circumstance, all we have to do is look to Job. When we meet Job in chapter 19, he has lost everything this world says is important. His colossal wealth has bee vaporized. His children and family exterminated. Only his wife remains and she is no bargain! His so called “comforters” have, up to this point, crushed him ten times with thoughtless and cruel counsel. And yet at the end of chapter 19, as Job is bemoaning his fate, God turns a key in his heart as he considers this same hope of beholding the glory of God.
He says, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Do you hear the anticipation in that? Do you hear the incredible hope this gives to Job in the worst possible circumstances? He finds hope in the midst of suffering in the promise that one day he will see God with his own eyes. Paul says that one of the blessing of grace which flows out of being justified in Christ is “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”
Let me ask you, does this hope of God’s glory give you joy that overflows? For many people in the church today the reason this glorious hope gives them little or no hope is because their hope is rooted in the things of this world. Their joy is based in what this world can bring? Do you have over flowing joy rooted in this hope, or are you hoping in your job, your career? Are you hoping in your house, your boat? Are you hoping in your family? As nice as many of those things may be, they are dry wells and you will find no lasting joy there. If, as we have been looking at this truth about rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God, your response has been, “all this is in some way exciting, but I can’t say it fills my heart with overflowing joy,” there is something seriously wrong! The reason for the dryness here is probably because you have anchored your hope in THIS world and there is NOTHING in this world which can cause your joy to consistently overflow. Put your hope in God--in His promises. One day in the future “the things of earth will grow strangely dim, [forever!!] in the light of His glory and grace.” May this hope, by God’s grace be that which cause us to over flow with joy!
Page last modified on 12/31/2001
(c) 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 - All material is property of Duncan Ross and/or Mount of Olives Baptist Church, all commercial rights are reserved. Please feel free to use any of this material in your minstry.