The example of the life and ministry of apostle Paul challenges us greatly on becoming zealous for the Lord. Before his encounter with Christ, he was a fierce persecutor of the church; a zealot who was determined to destroy any perceived aggression against Judaism, the faith of his ancestors. But the Damascus road experience radically changed his life and purpose once and for all. Significantly, his conversion made him realize that he was blind, ignorant, and wrong. He came into terms with the fact that his zeal was devoid of knowledge and truth.
As was the case, he had been fighting truth all along; but in the words of St. Augustine, he realized that truth is not an abstract concept but a Person. In the past Paul was zealous to bring death to those who threatened the integrity of the Judaism. But God delivered him from that kind of a zeal and gave him a new zeal of bringing life to those who are living in sin. Upon conversion, Paul became even exceedingly zealous for the Lord and for the gospel truth. He endeavored to preach the gospel where it has not been preached. He became passionate about the things that God is passionate about, like bringing salvation to all men. He became passionate about knowing the truth and letting others know and experience freedom in Jesus.
In chapter 1-3 of Romans Paul highlights the depraved human condition and God’s initiative in bringing about salvation. The pagan Gentiles, moralists, self-confident Jewish people and all humanity is guilty and stands condemned before God, the righteous Judge. He admits, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Rom. 3:10). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).
BUT NOW, he says “a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known… this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Rom. 3:21-22).
In chapter 4 and 5, Paul explains justification by faith as the form of righteousness that God has revealed apart from the law. Justification is a forensic term that means to be “declared righteous.” Were people saved in the OT based on keeping the law or through sacrifices they offered? Paul, in chapter 4, establishes the fact that that justification has all along been purely by faith. God has not changed the way he saves! He uses Abraham and David to correct/illustrate justification by faith in the past.
I. Justification by faith –How Abraham was saved?
A. Abraham was not justified by works (4:1-8)- Otherwise justification by works would have made him boast; but “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” A quote from Genesis 15: 6. David commends this righteousness that is apart from the law.
B. Abraham was not justified by rites or rituals (4:9-12)– His justification occurred about 13yrs before circumcision. So, the circumcision was only a seal of Abraham being declared righteous because of his faith.
C. Abraham was not justified by law (4:13-17)- His justification preceded the law by about four centuries.
D. Abraham was justified by Faith (18-22)– “Against all hope” Abraham believed. He exercised faith on God’s promises even when situation looked unpromising. He was a pagan/Gentile who believed in God (others: Rahab, Ruth, …) and was justified by faith. By implication, Jews and Gentiles are all spiritual children of Abraham. There is one salvation for all humanity- Jews and Gentiles.
Those who come to Christ by faith, even today, are declared righteous. Justification is not earned but is a gift from God. Believing in God today can also change your life… The Lord never turn away a repentant sinner.
Chapter 5 highlights the benefits/blessings of our status as justified persons in the sight of God. Being declared righteous is an incredible blessing that we enjoy here and now.
II. Blessings of Justification (5:1-11) –Since we have been justified,we have:
- Peace (v1-2a)- “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” A Greek variant reading of some credible manuscripts have the subjunctive form of the indicative verb ἔχομεν; which can be rendered “let us have peace” (subjunctive). But the context supports ‘we have peace’.
Formerly, believers were enemies with God because of sin and rebellion (Rom. 5:10, 8:7). Perhaps being an enemy with men can be treated as a nonissue; but being an enemy of God, the might Warrior, is a big problem. Previously, hostility and alienation characterized this relationship.
But now, because of the reconciling work of Christ on the cross, believers have peace with God. We have peace with God because our sins have been forgiven and our guilt removed. We’re no longer objects of God’s wrath that is to be revealed upon the ungodly. We are sons of God, restored and redeemed.
The Greek word for peace eirene is shallow in meaning (it expresses absence/cessation of war) but the Hebrew concept of shalom is more profound in meaning, “well-being including social harmony, communal well-doing. God’s peace brings to our hearts some inner sense of security and serenity (Isa. 32:17-8).
Do you have this peace? If not what has robbed your precious peace with God? Remember, Jesus is our peace (Eph. 2:14, 15, 17), and He gives peace to his loved ones (Num. 6:26) … ask him….
Peace is God’s gift even amidst cares and sorrows, the “peace of God” (Phil. 4:7). People who search for peace never find it until they find fulfillment in God. For those who posses it, it is our duty to keep having peace with God.
Importantly, having peace with God also brings with it the access into grace (v.2a)- Through Jesus we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. We have received favor and acceptance. Believers experience the richness of his grace; the abounding grace, that is new every morning.
2. Joy (v.2b)- We rejoice (or boast) in the hope of glory of God (v.2b.). A Greek variant also has “let us rejoice” (indicative and subjunctive). He is the “hope of glory.”
The glory of God is the end for which he created mankind. We rejoice that our sins have been forgiven. We rejoice even when the circumstances around us does not allow. Our God-given inner joy does not depend on happenings. This joy delights in the fact that God is at work in and through us. Outwardly, things may not look good, but we should rejoice in Christ always. Because we know that something good will eventually come out. Let not concerns of our lives rob us the God-given joy.
3. Hope (3a-5a)– We rejoice in our suffering because suffering produces perseverance-character-hope (a hope that does not disappoint/put one to shame). Paul knows that suffering is something we must deal with in life. Suffering is inevitable because we are in an evil world, with evil people, Satan, and with evil nature. This is enough to cause us trouble.
Jesus warned, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). The apostles knew, “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
In suffering, we are supposed to be joyful, hopeful, and determined. Suffering refines or strengthens our faith; it shapes our character to produce hope. God uses suffering to build our lives, he can turn evil intended against us for our own good. Suffering is not our destination but a temporary valley we go through. So, the testing of your faith should not destroy your zeal for the Lord rather strengthen it.
Working or studying in AIU may be an opportunity to serve/make a living or further intellectual pursuits respectively. But remember that it is also an opportunity for God to refine your faith and test its genuineness. How do we respond to these moments? God is achieving in us something of greater worth…our character is developed, and our hope grounded more.
Is hope alive in you today? In a hopeless world it is easy to maintain hope. There is hope even when hope is lost because God promises to give us hope (Jer. 29:11).
4. Love (5b-11)– God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
God showed his love to us “at just the right time”- at the fullness of time. This love was lavished upon us when we were weak/powerless, ungodly, and enemies. This love was demonstrated in the death of Christ for sinners; and in adopting us to be sons in his family. (see also Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 3:1-2; 1 Jn. 4:16). This is a love that embraces unconditionally (1 Cor. 13).
He loved us so that we can proclaim this love to others.
Finally, God’s salvation has always been purely through justification by faith. This is the same salvation message to all humanity. The new status of believers as justified not only brings with it some blessings but also some implication of living a godly life in anticipation of God’s final verdict and deliverance from the wrath of God on the day of judgment. #Baraka