''Winging It' with Stan Smith
Originally posted on 02/20/2019
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 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. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:1-6)
This is an amazing passage. First, Paul alludes to the fact that we are not justified by works, but by faith. That flies in the face of every other religion wherein you get to heaven (or whatever) by being good and in Christianity alone we are justified by faith.
Second, this justification results in peace with God. I don't suppose that this would be particularly exciting if you didn't know that the original condition was wrath (Romans 1:18). Given our universal rejection of God and His glory (Romans 3:23), there can be no peace between us and God. Once that is realized, the suggestion that we can have peace with God is astounding. On that basis -- on the basis of the grace in which we stand -- we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, the very glory we've fallen short of.
And then it gets really bizarre. Paul argues the ridiculous position that "we rejoice in our sufferings." How can he say such a thing? On what possible basis could we rejoice in our sufferings? Here's why. We know that "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." Now, this is truly stunning. First, what is the process that you have to do in this list that causes it to occur? If you notice, there is nothing. "Suffering," Paul says, "produces endurance." Not "If you do X, then suffering will produce endurance." "Endurance produces character." Not something you do; something that happens. "Character produces hope." And again, the natural product of A (character) is B (hope). You simply experience the suffering; that's your job. You can rejoice in it because of what it is producing. Second, "suffering produces." In the production process, you gain endurance, patience, steadfastness, fortitude, the ability to keep on going. In the production process you gain character. The word, in fact, indicates "provencharacter." You have been tested and proven and you are, in that, of greater value. And in the production process you gain hope. If you weren't paying attention, that's exactly where you started. "We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2). Full circle, then, but to an elevated condition with added endurance, character, and hope. A hope that does not disappoint "because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). From bizarre to magnificent.
Are you a sinner without hope of "arriving," of earning heaven? Good news! We are justified by faith, not works. Are you aware of the wrath that you've earned from God? Good news! We can have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ and we can have hope. Are you suffering? Good news! That suffering produces qualities you need -- endurance and character -- that improve your value to God and enhance your hope. Are you convinced that you can just sit there, a believer going nowhere, doing nothing? Oh, trust me, that can't happen. Suffering will come and you willbe changed and it's all the work of God. So rejoice! Not rejoicing in your sufferings? Well, that's just silly. You must not be aware of the vast benefits. Step up to the Good News!