HOW TO HAVE PEACE WITH GOD (1 of 2)
God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 24
Romans 5:1-2 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
A number of years ago our insurance company informed us that they were discontinuing their business with us due to an internal restructuring of the company. Always thinking ahead, my wife began looking into several reputable insurance companies. We began to examine and compare the prices and benefits of this company versus that company and so on. It was soon obvious that it would be the same thing no matter where you looked – minimal benefits for maximum prices.
Paul begins Romans 5 looking at the benefits of justification by faith alone in Christ. There is a sense of indescribable ecstatic joy in his words. Martin Luther wrote,“In the whole Bible there is hardly another chapter which can equal this triumphant text.” The reason flows from chapters three and four. Paul makes it abundantly clear that salvation comes on the basis of God’s grace through our faith alone in His Son Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with our efforts, but everything to do with God’s. We can’t work for it. We don’t deserve it. We can’t pay enough for it. It is entirely a free work of God. No different than the thief on the cross, we have nothing to offer God but our brokenness. And like the thief on the cross, all we have to do is simply accept God’s offer of forgiveness. When we accept it, we are instantly justified “declared righteous.” That’s the great theme of Romans. Justification is more than forgiveness. It is the permanent gift of God’s righteousness. It is permanent undeserved forgiveness. Let me be clear, it is not a pardon. A criminal will always be a criminal; there will always be a record of his crime. Nor does God place you on parole. Mess up once and you lose God’s favor. Not so with those who believe in Jesus Christ and ask for His forgiveness. Your record of failure forever is wiped clean: past, present, and future. Jesus took it all to the cross (2 Cor. 5:21). Nor is this a new idea, Paul says. Abraham gained God’s favor by faith and so do we (Rom. 4:23-25).
Now, Paul moves on in chapter five to look at the benefits or the results of having this new relationship with God. (Read Romans 5:1-5). When I read this passage, I can’t help but get excited! This is a passage of serious joy! If you’re feeling more pessimistic than optimistic lately; if you’re spiritual gas tank of joy is running on fumes, you need to hear what God is telling us in this passage! Unlike most insurance policies that require high premiums, alarming deductibles, limited coverage, lifetime spending limits, and little real security, God only requires faith in His Son that securely lasts for all eternity. God’s plan lasts forever, is eternally secure, has zero deductibles. Covers all pre-existing conditions, any future conditions, and has no ceiling on the amount of coverage you can receive. Visits are free, access is unlimited. You cannot help but examine what God offers and not get excited!
Though we may say we believe this, it is not where many are at. Many have a hard time accepting it. We doubt our relationship with God. How secure is it? Can I lose it? Some think our salvation is only as secure as our faithfulness. We gained our salvation by God’s work, but now we must maintain it by our work. Paul asks the Galatians, Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?(Galatians 3:3). Are you trying to finish in your own power what Christ has already finished for you in His power? There is no security at all in that. It is, in fact, a recipe for insecurity, fear, and perpetual immaturity. You will not live beyond what you believe.
What if a child grew up in a home where his parents continually reminded him that if he did not behave properly, he would be rejected by his parents? How secure would that child grow up to be? He would live in perpetual fear of every relationship he would ever have. The most insecure people I know are insecure about their relationship with God. The most secure people in life I know are those who are secure in their relationship with God.
Paul is going to give us five benefits that are like links in an unbreakable chain that eternally and securely fasten us to God. We’re only going to look at three today. Three Assurances of Our Peace with God
- We have peace with God. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). We have peace with God. There is more overwhelming joy wrapped up in those five words than any other. More than hearing “You just won a twenty-million-dollar lottery.” More than hearing “You are free” for a death-row inmate. More than hearing “You’re cured” for a cancer patient. Why? Because being at peace with God means I am no longer in danger of His eternal wrath. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him(John 3:36). Jesus says they do not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life (John 5:24). He (Jesus) is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment (I Thessalonians 1:10, NLT).
The peace with God that Paul is talking about here is an objective fact (ἔχομεν, present, active, indicative, mood of simple fact). It is not a subjective feeling. It is peace with God (fact), not peace of God (feeling) (Phil. 4:7). Apart from our salvation through Jesus Christ, the Bible says that every single human being is at enmity with God. All of us at one time or another were spiritually at war with God regardless of how we felt. Many unbelievers do not think of themselves as at war God. They’re not conscious of any feelings of hatred toward Him. They’re not actively opposing His work or necessarily against His Word, the Bible. If anything they are indifferent toward God and the things of God. That is, they are neutral. This war with God becomes evident in every single person who does not know Christ when it comes to doing God’s will with their lives. Romans 8: 7 makes this very clear. the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so (Romans 8:7). The mind of the person who is at enmity with God has as their focus the flesh, the things this fallen world. This mind-set on the flesh is hostile toward God because it refuses to surrender to God nor is able to do so. A person who says that there is nothing wrong between him and God is as far from the truth as the prime minister of China claiming that the goals and values of Chinese communism are peaceful toward America. Only Jesus can rescue us from the terrors of God’s coming judgment.
In saying we have peace with God, Paul is also saying we can experientially know the peace of God as well (John 14:27; Phil. 4:7). We will never know true peace until we come to know the Prince of Peace, Jesus, who satisfied our debt of sin and rescued us from God’s wrath.
This was certainly true for me. One day in my late teens, I experienced God’s peace. Convicted of my sins and my complete unworthiness of His forgiveness, I asked Him to forgive me and surrendered my life to Christ. The moment I did, God’s peace flooded my life. It was unlike any other peace I’d known. The war that raged in my heart and mind suddenly gave way to overwhelming joy and peace. A great weight was taken from my shoulders. Do you have God’s peace? Or are you at war with Him? The first benefit of believing is we have peace with God.
- We have access to God. through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand (Romans 5:2a). Paul is saying because of God’s grace in Christ, we have obtained a confident and permanent access to God. JB Phillips captures the sense of Paul’s words well. Through Him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand... I like that. Because of Christ we have confidently entered into a new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand. Paul is pointing out two huge truths here: One, divine grace gives us access to God and two, divine grace guards our access to God.
Divine grace gives us access to God. Our faith is necessary to be saved, but it is not our faith that has the power to save us. Only God’s grace through Christ has the power to save us and give us access to God. Years ago while I served in the Naval Seabees, I spent a brief time in Twenty-Nine Palms, CA on a bombing range managed by the Marines. While standing watch one night I got into a conversation with another Seabee about our access to God. He shared with me there was nothing I could say to him that would change his mind about praying to his saints. I said that was fine, but would he be willing to hear what God’s Word, the Bible has to say about the subject? Opening my Bible, I took him to 1 Timothy 2 and read, For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:5-6). He was stunned. But God opened his eyes to see the only way he could have access to God was through his faith in Christ. That night he surrendered his life to Christ. He learned the only way we have access to God is by His divine grace through Christ. Not a saint. The Bible is clear there is only one Mediator, one High Priest between man and God, Jesus Christ who gives us access to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:15-16). We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus alone (Heb. 10:19).
Divine grace guards our access to God. In other words, we’re not saved by divine grace and then preserved by own efforts. Even though we are forgiven, we still sin. But our sin is not more powerful than God’s grace (Rom. 5:20). I like the way Pastor John McArthur puts it: If no sin a person commits before salvation is too great for Christ’s atoning death to cover, surely no sin he commits after salvation is too great to be covered(McArthur, p. 277). Divine grace gives us confident access to God and guards our access to God. This of course is not implying we because we are saved, we have a license to sin. Christ came to free us from sin, not free us to sin. If someone who says he or she is a believer has no problem with continuing to sin, then it proves they are not truly believers but still at war with God. The second benefit of God’s assuring grace is we have confident and permanent access to His throne of grace.
- We have hope to live by. we exult in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2b). The hope Paul is talking about here refers to something that is so absolutely certain we can fully count on it. What is this hope? The certainty of where we are going after this life – Heaven! The word exult, which literally means to boast, captures the sense of what having this certain hope does for us, it causes us to shout for joy! To stand tall and shout God’s praise! We’re so absolutely certain of the future God has promised us, our lives overflow with an uncontainable gratitude toward God. Where we once fell short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), we now rejoice in the hope His glory! I hope you hear this. God is saying you have no reason to fear the future, but to rejoice in it because He has secured your destiny in His glory.
When we enter this new relationship of grace in Christ, we don’t have to live with the uneasy concern that our good deeds will not be good enough or our bad deeds will keep us out. Why? Because God’s grace saved me, and God’s grace will keep me to the end! For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus(Philippians 1:6). Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy(Jude 24). I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day (2 Timothy 1:12). William Newell spoke of this confidence this way. “Alas, how few believers have the courage of faith! When some saint here or there does begin to believe the facts and walk in shouting liberty, we say (perhaps secretly), he must be an especially holy, consecrated man. No, he is just a poor sinner like you, who is believing in the abundance of grace!”
Let me close with this. The great reformer Martin Luther spent much of his early life trying to appease God’s wrath through a number of good deeds described by the Roman Catholic Church. But Luther did not find any relief. He found instead the more he worked the more he grew frustrated and fatigued. Luther shares about this time in his life saying, “Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a Sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteousness of God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said,: “as if indeed it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the 10 commandments, without having God add pain to pain by the Gospel and also by the Gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!’ Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately (persistently) upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what Saint Paul wanted [in his letter to the Romans]”.
At this time in his life, Martin Luther was at war with God, and he knew it. He did not know or understand the peace of God that we can have through Jesus Christ. He was trying to earn is way out of debt to God. In fact, when you put your trust in your good deeds you will live in a constant state of uncertainty, if not terror, knowing that only death will solve the mystery of your eternal fate. Luther was trying to pay his debt with God and end his war with Him on his terms. It didn’t work nor will it ever work. We cannot dictate our own terms of a peace treaty with God. God is God and we’re not. He alone says here are the terms: I sent My Son to pay the debt for your sins and put an end to war between us. My terms are terms of grace. I chose to offer you My forgiveness and peace only through faith in My Son.
Luther would later write, “By the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “in it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, he who through faith is righteous shall live [Romans 1:17]. There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “he who threw faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”
I appreciate Luther’s refreshing honesty as well as his persistence to know God. Only by trusting in the finished work and Person of Jesus Christ can we know what it means to have peace with God and to know the peace of God. When we do, God gives us three assurances: 1) We have peace with God. 2) We have access to God. 3) We have hope to live by.