The preceding chapters have just shown us that redemption is ours by faith! This is good news; this is reason to be excited! But how do righteous people live? How does it work in the nitty-gritty of life? It gives us peace with God, and there is a big difference between having peace with God and not having that peace.
This chapter shows us what it means to live by faith! It begins with, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The result of this transition from being unrighteous to being made righteous, is marked by the word therefore. It means consequently. Having been justified by faith - having been made a new creation by faith in Christ Jesus, our past is gone! By God's doing we have been put into Christ, and can now legally be proclaimed righteous!
The natural man is hostile toward God. He suppresses truth because He wants to satisfy or fulfill his own desires. He looks at God as his enemy. This is true of both pagans and religious Christians. Pagans think of God as the transcendental interferer. They are afraid of Him and think that He always needs to be appeased!
The religious world isn't any different! It thinks that if you have sin in your life, God may send a car to knock you down next time you cross the street! You are repeatedly reminded how you have missed it again! A prayer of repentance at the altar relieves the sin-consciousness for a little while, but the fear that you won't be ready at Christ's return remains. So you tremble before this miserable God who constantly upsets your plans. This wrong fear of God drives some people to alcoholism, drugs, and mental institutions. When you finally get to the end of your rocky road, you cry, "OK God, you've got me. Do your worst!" This is not an exaggeration - many really believe that! This is the idea religion gives us of God!
Fear and hostility began in the garden. As soon as Adam sinned against God he tried to hide from God. He said, "I was afraid." And that's an amazing statement! Until that time, God and Adam had enjoyed fellowship in the garden of Eden. There was harmony and no fear. The word fear was not in Adam's vocabulary. However, as soon as he had sinned, he felt an emotion that he described as fear, and he hid among the trees. Trees represent the knowledge that comes out of the earth - out of our earthy nature. Adam thought that his best friend had become his enemy. This fear comes with the sin package!
But God's mercy found him! God asked an amazing question, "Adam, where are you?" Of course, God knew where Adam was - He was where Adam was; Adam was surrounded by God. We can't run away from God and from His presence! But God was giving Adam a chance to say, "I am hiding because I blew it." Instead of humbly admitting his error, Adam was arrogant, hostile and proud. There is no record that Adam ever repented.
God knows the answer to every question He asks! His questions are not asked in order to receive information, but to bring us to repentance. "What have you done?" This was Adam's opportunity to repent. In insolence and arrogance Adam replied, "It's not my fault; it's the fault of the woman You gave me." This implied that it was God's fault. The woman God had given him, and who he had so joyfully embraced, became the culprit. No repentance! Man's war against God had begun.
Our merciful God then instituted the need to work for a living. By cursing the ground, thorns and thistles would invade it. Without work, man's depraved mind would have too much time to think up evil deeds. Again we see that God is for us, not against us! It is man who is against God! The natural mind is hostile toward God! God is our life, our all, and He is in all! If we rise up against Him in anger and hostility, we are on the losing side! His wrath is against all unrighteousness and ungodliness. God is a consuming fire, and He will eventually destroy all our hostility! His love is evidenced in Christ!
This brings us into a new relationship with God! We have to be cleansed of all our wrong thoughts about God. Many Christians feel that Jesus loves them, but that His Father is bad news! They mistakenly think that God can only love us when He sees Jesus. We have to understand that the Father in His love and grace, sent Jesus into the world because He loved us! Jesus is not the origin of grace; He is the revealer of God's grace! The enmity was not on God's side; the enmity was on man's side!
Christ Jesus has become our redemption! His righteousness has become our righteousness because we have been put into Him. "...having been justified by faith," means that it is already done. In the Greek, having been justified by faith, is in the aorist tense - the "a" meaning without + horos, meaning without limit. It is a Greek verb tense expressing simple past time without further qualification. If we are justified without limit, it means we are without sin. We don't have any sin, and we have never had any. Having been indicates that this has already happened. Our justification is complete!
But how can this be? It also says that "All have sinned". So how can I be without sin? Is this just hypothetical, or is it reality? We know that our new birth has taken us out of the Adamic man and has placed us into the new man - into Christ! Now Christ has become our life, and He has never sinned! Our union with Christ has brought us into a life in which there is no sin!
In chapter 7 Paul says that it was no longer he (the new man in Christ) who sinned, but sin which indwelt him (the old thinking). Our old thinking is against God, and when our old thinking is not overruled by the Spirit, it will bring forth sin. Paul's identification was with Christ, not with the Adamic man! So also we identify with Christ, our new life!
Since we have been justified by faith, we know this is God's will for us! We have been justified by putting our faith in something that has already happened. Nothing needs to be added to it; neither does the Lord have to deliberate whether He will justify us or not. Peace with God is a present possession! He decided to justify and redeem us long before we were born. That is His message to us; that is His will for us! It's on that foundation of faith that hope is built. This is the assurance of faith!
Notice that everything comes to us in Christ! It is all "through the Lord Jesus Christ." In His identification with humanity, He died for us, and as us! He revealed God's love to us! The justice of God was not against the sinner, demanding his condemnation, but for the sinner, guaranteeing his salvation! Christ did not die to propitiate God, but to propitiate man - to make man favorably disposed toward God. He did not only die to save us from the penalty of sin, but from sin itself. We have been reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Through His work we are taken out of the natural man and put into the spiritual man! In the revelation of Jesus Christ all the lies we formerly believed about God are removed. "We love Him because He first loved us." Love originates with God!
God loves us! He is working in love, mercy, grace, goodness, patience and long-suffering, to bring us to Himself! We now have peace with God. The revelation of His intense love has taken away all our hostility and enmity! We have received the free gift of God's righteousness, and now we have peace with God - our war against Him is over!
Perfect love casts out fear! His perfect love is reason for us to trust Him perfectly! It takes away our anxiety. He gives us peace in the midst of difficult situations! Our past is gone because it belongs to the old man in Adam. It does not belong to the new spiritual man. God has the ability, power and authority to work all things together for good. Awesome, isn't it, that He even works evil for our good!
This brings us into peace! Peace means more than the absence of fear; it means the presence of wholeness. Peace means tranquility, concord, unity; it means perfect health and prosperity of spirit and mind; it means the assurance that all needs will be met; it indicates every kind of blessing and goodness. Our blessings often come in a form that we find hard to recognize as a blessing, but as we look back we recognize them.
What a contrast to the world of chaos, strife and despair in which we used to live! Our new dimension is characterized by peace. This is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy! Isaiah said that when that day comes, "they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war." (Isa. 2:4) This happens in the kingdom of God - not in the kingdom of this world. In God's kingdom we don't learn war! There is this unbelievable peace! We now learn that plowing is necessary for a great spiritual harvest; and a pruning hook is necessary for rich, abundant, spiritual fruit!
Other prophecies in Isaiah contain descriptions of this remarkable peace! (11:6-9;65:25) It is beyond human imagination - no killing, no destruction, no vipers with poisoning ability, no lions, wolves and bears to feed on living creatures! Little children can play with them. This is the utter peace on the holy mount of God where Christ reigns! A few years ago some of us were vipers, lions and wolves. We were tearing people to pieces with our venomous words. But now we no longer poison and destroy people. Christ has changed all that and there is peace!
Ezekiel 34:25-31 describes God's covenant of peace in pictorial language. It will be like a flock of sheep on a hillside, safe from all predators! Jesus has come and He has made peace by His blood! His kingdom is characterized by peace in every way - peace with ourselves and peace with others.
Why did we not have peace with God? Because our natural mind is against God; it is anti-God and anti-Christ! "For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please." (Gal. 5:17) Conflicting desires produce conflicts. Our natural mind told us that God was angry at us, and that He did not love us. We believed the false picture of God that it presented to us, so we were in rebellion against God. Our desires were always opposed to God's desires. That is why a change in us had to take place before we could have peace with God. God never changes - He always loves us!
Now that God has made us new creations in Christ, our enmity has been removed, and we have peace with God, peace with ourselves, peace with others, peace with the past, peace with the present, and peace concerning the future. We don't dwell on past garbage - God doesn't remember it, so why should we?
Our war against God is over. He loved us while we were enemies. He was not our enemy, but we were His enemies! The enmity was on our part. In Christ we have received the revelation that God loves us, and this does away with our enmity!
This is not a man-made peace - one that we try to talk ourselves into, always looking, never finding; it is a God-given peace. It's a present possession! Our place in God is absolutely permanent! It's a sure relationship because it comes through the Lord Jesus Christ, and it's a relationship of love! We can rest in this knowledge, for it is the gospel! This brings us peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!
This peace is ours by faith in what Christ has already accomplished in the unseen spiritual realm! Since it is unseen, we have to believe what God has said! That is why it is ours by faith. "Let God be true!" Whoever disagrees with Him is a liar, for God is always true!
Peace with God means that our desires are no longer against His! This can only happen in Christ! The world cannot find this peace because it won't give up its own desires and take the peace God wants to give them. Our peace with God is fundamental to living in peace with ourselves and with others - with spouse, family, friends, classmates, etc.
Our justification and peace with God seem to be too good to be true - actually nothing is too good to be true because God is absolute goodness. The natural mind questions anything it cannot understand; it questions many scriptures because it functions in unbelief. To grow in truth, we have to accept what the scriptures say, ask God to illuminate us, and let the Holy Spirit interpret them for us. Let's not water them down to fit our experience. As we believe God, our experiences will fit in with the scriptures.
If we are not experiencing peace with God, we need to get into faith. Unbelief robs us of our peace, and it will keep us from receiving revelation knowledge. When Christ is our foundation, we will not be living in confusion. He is the truth, and truth brings discernment; it reveals the lie. It is the foundation for faith, and does away with all doubt. "`And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,' and he was called the friend of God." (James 2:23) Because we have been born of God, and the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts, we are now not only friends, but His beloved children!
"Through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God." (v.2) That's great news in English, but it's even better in Greek. Introduction to is an expression that was used when someone was ushered into the presence of royalty. If we were to be ushered into the presence of the queen, or someone of high importance, that expression would be used. It was also used in religious circles, to describe worshipers who had become aware of the presence of God, and were now suddenly standing in His immediate presence!
In commercial Greek it was used to describe a ship that was being ushered into a harbor by tugboats. It was introduced into the harbor. We were like ships that were adrift at sea in a storm of self and sin, and Jesus introduced us into the harbor of the Father's grace. We have come into the harbor of the grace of God!
In Christ, we have been ushered into God's presence, and His presence is grace! His grace has always been there, but we were not aware of it. We thought He was condemning us, so we were angry at Him and tried to justify ourselves. When we come into His presence, we are surprised by grace and righteousness! We become worshipers! We have found the incredible kindness of God through Jesus Christ!
The story about Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, David's best friend, gives us an idea of how we have had a wrong picture of God. Mephibosheth resented king David because he sat on the throne that should have been his by inheritance. Had king David acted according to custom, he would have destroyed all of Saul's descendants to make certain there would not be an uprising against him from that family. So it was very natural for Mephibosheth to believe that king David was out to get him. His fear of king David caused him to go into hiding.
But David did not want to kill him! He was looking for him in order to show kindness to him. He wanted to return his father's lands to him, and make him a prince in the royal house - but he couldn't find him! Finally he was successful and sent his chariots to fetch him. Can you imagine Mephibosheth's fear as the commander ordered him into the chariot?! Now he was in the hands of the man he feared and hated!
Just when Mephibosheth thought it was curtains for him, David said, "Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly." He had become a prince! (2 Samuel 9)
Can you see the correlation? We who feared the judgment of God, are now ushered into His presence by the Holy Spirit, and we find grace! We are made sons! How great is His kindness to us in Christ Jesus! We thought God was out to get us, but He was out to give us! That's our God!
The foundation on which we stand is grace, so works would cause that foundation to crumble! To stand means to be in place, to endure, to be permanent and established. Standing is the opposite of falling. Grace enables us to stand because grace does not depend on us - it depends on God!
Faith in what Christ has accomplished gives us admission or access into the grace of God! In fact God invites us to come to His throne of grace with confidence. There we find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need! (Heb. 4:16) We need to accept what He gives us! It takes faith to make use of it. But that is not our way of operating. We'd rather be independent and use our own resources. Once they are used up, there is always the option to try grace. But that is not God's way! He knows His ability and our inability - something we also have to learn! Everything we have in Christ comes to us by faith - justification, salvation, and ability to overcome!
If we do not have faith, we have unbelief - not believing that the Lord has forgiven us, not believing that our own efforts are useless, not believing that we have been united with Christ! Unbelief brings us into despair, misery and exhaustion. There is no life in unbelief!
Our relationship with God is one of faith - faith in His grace, mercy and love. This causes us to rejoice and exult "in the hope of the glory of God." The glory of God is the outraying of His goodness and the manifesting of all who God is - life, love, and a consuming fire! It is the very essence of His being! This is reason for rejoicing; this is reality because of the richness of God's grace! God's grace brings us exultation - an extreme joy. Man was made for the glory of God. Man was made to know God, to walk in God, to live in His glory and out of His glory.
This is who God predestined us to be! He has predestined us to live in the very nature of who He is. God has purposed that we should live in Him, and to have God's life as our life! God wants to express Himself in us and through us! This is impossible if we are living in the Adamic man, the source of sin and self-centeredness.
God has predestined us to be changed into His image. God does whatever He intends to do! Christ was the exact representation of the invisible God! In Christ we've come to the glory of God! We have received His life and have become partakers of His divine nature! Our parents gave us their nature, and God gives us His nature!
It takes faith to believe all that God says we are! Jesus said, "I am the light of the world," but He also said, "You are the light of the world." Are we exalting ourselves by believing this? Believing God is not self-exaltation, but unbelief is self-exaltation because it means that we think we know better than God! If we take the credit for what God has done, we are stealing the glory that belongs to Him.
Christ is our life! As we live in His life and light, His life and light become ours even while they remain His! They cannot be separated from Him - anything separated from Him is death! Life brings us into the participation of His glory, and we become the light of the world! We may feel like a nobody in the world, but because we have been born of His Spirit, we are alive with the life and the light and glory of God! This is the ultimate - the glory of God!
God has called us "out of darkness into His marvelous light!" (1 Pe. 2:9) There are two ways of using the word into. One is a change in geographical location. When I come into a building, I am no longer outside of it. I was in the darkness, and now I have come into His light. That's great! But there is another way of using it. For example, in children's stories we read about someone being turned into a white rabbit, or a frog being turned into a prince. That is the way it is used in 1 Peter 2:9 - we were darkness, and He turned us into His marvelous light! We became one with that light, and now shine with that light!
"We exult in hope..." Hope comes from the Greek word ELPIS, meaning a favorable and confident expectation. It is a strong expectancy, an absolute assurance. It has substance and foundation for an expectation of goodness and blessing; hopelessness is an expectation of bad. As we walk through the pressures of life we have the strong expectancy and absolute assurance that the glory of God will be made manifest in us and around us! It is not like the world's "I hope so," which is only a wishful desire.
"Christ in you the hope of glory." Christ is our hope, and therefore our hope is reality; it rests on a sure foundation! In 2 Cor. 1:10, as well as in other scriptures, the preposition on or in, shows that the hope is directed to, and centered in a person. (Vines) "...He on whom we have set our hope..." Our hope is in Christ. He is our sure foundation; He is our reality!
God does not want us to be ignorant of who He is! Knowing God's grace and peace, and knowing that God never changes, gives us the assurance and hope that there is no shortage of supply for all our present and future needs! Our hope is built on all that God is - goodness, grace, peace and truth!
There is a difference between faith and hope. Our faith is based on the very essence of who our God is, and what He has accomplished in Christ. It is a present possession. Our complete salvation has been taken care of, and we receive it by faith. Therefore we do not struggle to achieve salvation through our works, for that would be struggling to make something happen in the future. Our foundation is in the salvation Christ has already achieved for us! Nothing more is required - it is already done. Hope is based on what Christ has done, but it looks for fulfillment in the future according to our time frame. It has to have the same foundation faith has, otherwise it would only be a placebo. By faith we receive what we have hoped for. Faith brings it into the present!
For example, let's look at 1 Peter 2:24. "By His stripes you were healed." That's past tense, isn't it? That means our healing took place 2000 years ago on the cross. Our hope for healing has to be based on what Christ has accomplished. Faith brings it into the present.
Unless we know what God has accomplished in Christ, and what His will is for us, our prayers will always be prefaced with, "If it be Thy will." When we are seeking God's will in difficult situations, our obedience begins in the things God has already revealed to us. We begin by submitting to His Lordship! The scriptures give us some specifics. We are to rejoice in tribulation, give thanks in everything, pray without ceasing, be forgiving and loving, etc. These things are the will of God! Obeying Him in these areas clears away the obstacles that hinder us from hearing the Lord. If we do not obey in the things we know He wants us to do, what makes us think we would obey new orders?
"And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance." (v.3) We rejoice in hope and also in tribulation! It is not a matter of choice. Imagine what it would be like if the whole body of Christ would be rejoicing in tribulation because God was building perseverance and character into it - rejoicing because God loved them and was not giving them over to their selfish desires! What a testimony that would be! This is the will of God for us!
This does not take us out of the reality of life here and now, but it does give us a new attitude toward our tribulations! It does away with our old idea that if it feels bad, it is bad. But now, believing that tribulation brings blessing, we can rejoice in the tremendous glory that shall be revealed! This glory is so great that it cannot be worked out on a slide rule. Our present suffering pales into insignificance when compared with the coming glory!
We need the perseverance tribulation works in us. Perseverance does not lose hope; it is an attitude that overcomes the world. It is not a passive fatalism, the "Praise the Lord anyway" passive acceptance. That is not Christianity! Perseverance is aggressive; it embraces the trouble; it sees the light beyond the blackness; it sees the glory of God in us and in what is happening; it sees right through the circumstances!
Perseverance does not have a victim mentality. It does not see the devil - it sees God! The devil is not equal to God - the devil was created and is under God. He needs permission for everything he does against Christians. God has a good purpose in whatever He does!
Job is a perfect example of seeing God in adversity. After Job lost his property and his children he said, "The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD." Job did not know the reason for his sufferings, but he knew his God, and blessed the name of the Lord! Job did not blame the devil, nor the robbers, nor the lightning! He did not blame anyone! He looked beyond the tragedies and saw the Lord who is over all, and blessed Him!
People say, "The devil did it!" But in the courtroom of heaven, the Lord gave Satan permission. Job looked at the sovereign cause; he did not bother with second causes. Have we matured to the extent that we don't blame the devil, nor people? Instead we say, "It's God!" Can we see beyond the darkness and see God?
If our eyes are focused on life's circumstances, our vision will be distorted; we'll see pride or despair. If our eyes are focused on God, we'll see His glory! He is sovereign, good, all-wise, and in control! We can fully trust Him in spite of our inability to understand His goodness! So we rest in the knowledge of God's goodness - that is perseverance! Our praise flows to Him because He is worthy!
God has given us many examples of people with perseverance. Moses was wanted for murder and had to flee! That was a dark time for him. In Hebrews we read that he endured because he saw the invisible. He saw beyond the misunderstanding and pressure of his circumstances and saw the invisible God! He could trust God to bring about His purpose in his life!
Daniel was marched off as a prisoner of war to Babylon. Daniel believed in the sovereignty of God, and said that it was the Lord who had given Jehoiakim into Nebuchadnezzar's hand! (Dan. 1:2) He did not blame the devil nor people. He said, "The Lord gave" - and he was one of the captives! Nebuchadnezzar could not have touched Jerusalem without divine permission! So Daniel walked into Babylon to embrace the opportunity, and he became a blessing in the land of his captivity! God was in it!
Jesus also persevered through His dark moments of pain and agony! It says, "who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross." His perseverance resulted in our salvation!
Tribulation and afflictions produce perseverance, tenacity and persistence. When the chips are down, and you hang on, you persevere and press into God - like Jacob did when he wrestled with the angel until he got the blessing. Even though his hip was put out of joint, he would not let go until he got the blessing. Tribulation brings resistance, so our faith is exercised. We learn experientially that God is faithful and true to His word. If we are praying for our faith to be increased, what happens? Whammo, we'll get something for which to believe God!
We can only learn to be patient, longsuffering, and God- believing people through practice. So God sends us opportunity through the difficulties and tribulations that come our way. The evil that people send our way is not intended for good, but God intends it for good. He uses it to build character into us.
However, if we do not submit to the dealings of God in our lives, and reject His admonition and promises to us, it will produce bitterness in us. Perseverance is not automatic; it is produced in us as we submit to God by acting on His promises!
Perseverance produces proven character. (v.4) The Greek word DOKUMAI means that which has been put to the test and approved. We can trust the tested and the approved. A car manufacturer may claim to have made a super car, but until it is put through rigorous tests, no one knows whether his claims are true.
The expression proven character was used in the Greek language to describe metal that had passed through the fire. In the process it had lost all the dross, and came out as solid pure metal - proven character. We need to be loosed from everything that is unlike God, and difficulties have a way of pointing out the areas of weakness and strength! If we succumb to pressure, we'll remain immature - spiritual babes.
God has made certain claims about the new creation man, and the trials and testings prove these claims to be true. They are always true, even in our growth process. God has put us in Christ, and now He is forming the Christ in us!
At one time we too may have seen the devil or evil people in every hurtful situation. We were always in the need of prayer! Then we began to see God as the prime mover! When we know God is in control, we come into maturity! God is in our circumstances, so we can embrace them, thankfully praise Him, and leave them with Him!
This gives rise to hope! (v.4) Hope means looking to God with expectancy and assurance! Once we see God as the prime mover, we know that this adversity is going to bless us, because God loves us and only has good in mind for us! This knowledge gives rise to hope! It gives us confidence! When the next wave of disaster washes over us, we are not overwhelmed; we have hope - a proven, assured expectancy! Not that we enjoy the crisis, but we like the opportunity it brings. There is excitement as we wonder what facet of the glory of God will be made manifest this time! That's hope!
The idea that God should protect us from all difficulties, is a western attitude, not a biblical one. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were prosperous when they followed the Lord, and had difficulties when they did not. So many preach that we will also prosper when we follow the Lord, and that He will take all difficulties away. There is an element of truth here, but it is not the whole truth. If we follow the Lord, we will not walk in sinful ways! But we will still be affected by the mistakes and ill-will of others! Joseph obeyed his father, but he was still affected by the ill-will of his brothers, and later of his Egyptian boss. We don't have a passport to freedom from difficulties. The New Testament is full of examples of how people endured difficulties and persecution. Jesus Christ is the perfect example!
Our prosperity is a spiritual prosperity. Jesus said, "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (Jn. 16:33) In this world we have tribulation, but in Christ we overcome it! In Acts 14:22, the disciples encouraged the newborn converts, saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." They bring us into the depths of the kingdom of God!
"Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Tim. 3:12) When the world hates us because of righteousness, it is really hating Jesus. Saul (Paul) had never seen Jesus, yet Jesus said, "Saul, why do you persecute Me?" Every time Saul persecuted one of the disciples, he was persecuting Jesus. This shows us our unity and identification with Christ.
Living in the kingdom of God will bring tribulation from the world, because it hates the Christ in us. As we embrace tribulation, we will rejoice in the opportunity to reveal the glory of God by our attitude. This will work God's character into us! There will be no complaints, no fears, and no stockpiling. We will continue to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit!
Our difficulties are not confined to enduring persecution. Our big problem is maintaining a right attitude when we suffer because others have wronged us. Living in the mind of Christ instead of in our carnal mind is a real challenge! His mind is one of dependence on the Father, delighting to do His will, and living in faith, love, and forgiveness.
Although God is omnipresent, we are not always aware of His presence. Coming into His presence means coming into the awareness of His presence, into the glory of God, and into the essence of His goodness! We cannot live in His presence without being changed into His image! We are in Him and He is in us! As He expresses Himself through us, the glory of God will be outrayed!
Those who overcome will rule with Christ. To be an overcomer, we need to overcome the thoughts, imaginations, and natural ideas of spiritual realities that are in the carnal mind. By doing this we will overcome the trials and difficulties that come from the natural man. An overcomer has proven character because he has overcome!
God puts us through the fire for His eternal purposes - not only to be a showcase to the world. Though we don't enjoy the fiery furnace, we do love the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, as we recline on our easy chair! They got out of that fire and didn't even have the smell of fire on them; only their bonds were burned away! It is good to remember that when we are in the furnace.
Do we need some bonds burned away in us? Do we need to be released from legalism toward others? Have you noticed how our legalistic attitude changes when we are put in the same situation as the one whom we so ruthlessly judged? That legalistic attitude needs to be burned away so we become free to minister grace to people in need.
Proven character produces hope. Being victorious in our tribulations, means we have persevered - we have proven that God's promises are sure and can be relied on! This gives us the confidence that God's power will continue to reign in us. Again, this is not an empty hope - it rests on the very essence of who God is. His word is sure. It has been tested as we have gone through the furnace of affliction, and we have found that God is absolutely faithful! He has been with us in our fiery furnace and brought us out without the smell of smoke upon us, just like He was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego! Hope - a continual expectation of good - is being built in us!
Today we take the promises of God by faith; for tomorrow we have hope, an expectation of good things from the Lord! Emerging out of our fiery furnace without the smell of smoke upon us, means that we come out of our ordeal without any lingering resentments, unforgiveness and bitterness. Praise and worship fill our hearts because we have received a greater glimpse of God's glory, mercy and grace. We have experienced His tenderness, presence and nearness! Our expectation of good is not for material possessions, but for spiritual maturity, so that His nature is manifested in us!
"We are kept by the power of God." (1 Pe. 1:5) It is not our own power that keeps us - it is God's power! That is why we don't have to be fearful. Tomorrow the promises of God will be here again, and we can again receive them by faith! Fear and anxiety have been burned out of us! That's hope and confidence! He who trusts in the Lord will not be ashamed. God is a faithful God!
"And hope does not disappoint." (v.5) When our trust is in God and His promises, we will never be disappointed. Trusting God may seem as though we are stepping out on thin air, without any outward support or foundation, but that is a delusion. Stepping out in faith on His promises is walking on a firm foundation. This is walking on streets of gold - in the divinity of God and in His light! If we don't step out, we will continue in darkness. Our own way is darkness, filled with disappointments. It becomes darker and more difficult all the time. We won't be aware of the presence and faithfulness of God until we walk in obedience. Even when we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, but we won't be aware of it.
The beginning of a life of faith is a step out of darkness into light - a step out of sinking sand onto solid rock. But we won't discover that until we take the step. There the Lord reveals Himself and gives us assurance and hope. Our part is submission and obedience! Enjoying the glory of His presence is well worth giving up our self-will!
"...because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given us." (v.5) The depth of God's love is revealed in the giving of Jesus Christ, and is described in vv.6-10. The very essence of God's love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit is everything God is. The Holy Spirit within us is everything God is! Living a life of faith means believing that! We do not need to pray for love, because He has already poured it into our hearts by giving us the Holy Spirit. If it isn't flowing out of us, we need the barriers removed!
The most common barriers are the law and the self-love that is in the carnal mind. The law tells us that our enemies do not deserve our forgiveness and love. Our emotions agree! It is over and above these witnesses that we are called to believe what God has said! He declares that we can love our enemies with the love He has poured into our hearts! Just as God's love reconciled us to Him, so our love can bring reconciliation! God's love brought us justification and life! What a great love has been poured into our hearts!
"For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." (v.6) Christ died for us before we were born and while we were helpless. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (v.8) Even as God proved His love for us, so our love for others has to be more than words. Since Christ died for us while we were sinners and rebels, we can rest assured that He will keep on giving Himself for us now that we are His children! This gives us tremendous security!
"For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die." (v.7) To be willing to die for someone is a great act of love! There is only a remote possibility that someone might do that. But God did! What a demonstration of God's love! He gave His Son for us while we were enemies of His - before we repented and turned from our sin! God made that supreme sacrifice so that all would know that He loved them!
Notice that we were the ones who needed to be reconciled! 2 Cor. 5:19 states, "Namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation." We thought God hated us. In Christ, God revealed His love for us! And we are saved by His life! Not by His death but by His life! He takes us out of our death and puts us into His life! His life becomes our life, and it produces the fruit of the Spirit in us. It takes us out of all our darkness and unbelief!
"Much more then...we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." (v.9) 1 Thess. 1:10 and 5:9 give us the same message. "And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come...For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."
How are we saved from His wrath? The wrath of God is against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. The life of Christ does not have any ungodliness nor unrighteousness! So when His life becomes our life, there is nothing that merits the wrath of God! He does not excuse our unrighteousness, but He gives us His righteousness! His righteousness is now ours! We don't have to work for it. It is ours by faith! "By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30)
This is the foundation for our joy! "...we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation." (v.11) The Greek word for reconciliation denotes to change, exchange (especially of money); hence of persons to change from enmity to friendship - reconciliation. God's love for us is evidenced in Jesus Christ! Love and enmity cannot exist together. We can no longer doubt His love and grace! His peace floods our hearts! There is no excuse for unbelief - reconciliation has been accomplished! We now have a sure and permanent love relationship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!
In verses 12-21 we see that God's salvation is greater than Adam's sin, and more than takes care of all the consequences of sin. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned - for until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
"Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
"The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
"So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Let's look at these striking contrasting parallels - contrasting opposites! On the one hand we have Adam, the man through whom sin entered the world, and on the other hand we have Christ, through whom salvation and grace entered the world. The expression, the many, is used both for those who are in Adam and for those who are in Christ. It is a collective term and we know it includes everyone who is in Adam. If Adam includes everyone, Christ must also include everyone!
Let's first look at what happened through Adam.
1. Through one man, Adam, sin entered the world. It did not enter through Eve, because she was deceived. But Adam was not deceived; he suppressed the truth; he knowingly disobeyed God, and brought sin into the world.What an ugly picture! What a sad situation! This is the hopeless situation every man is in. Sin is reigning in death. But that is just part of the message. That is only the beginning. Isn't it wonderful that the message does not end there!
2. Through sin he brought death into the world. (v.12)
3. Death spread to all men, because all sinned. This is the law of sin and death in operation.
4. Death reigned over everyone. (v.14) Death reigned even before the law was given.
5. The transgression of one brought death to the many.(v.15)
6. Judgment arose from one transgression. (v.16)
7. The result of Adam's one transgression was condemnation to all men. (v.18)
8. Through one man's disobedience the many were made sinners. (v.19)
9. Sin reigned in death! (v.21) This is the capstone to this sad situation. A king is a reigning person. Sin reigned as a king. Sin is seen as a power beyond man - something alien to the man God formed. A ruler, a lord has come in, and he has enslaved and made man captive.
Adam is "a type of Him who was to come." The Greek word for type denotes a figure, an image, or a counterpart. Adam was a foreshadowing - a prophetic foreshadowing of Jesus.
Adam is the first man; Christ is the second man. Everyone is either in Adam or in Christ. The type is in the corporateness. What Adam did, spread to everyone; what Christ did now spreads to everyone! We have no trouble believing Adam brought sin and death into the world, and that it has spread to everyone; our trouble lies in believing that Jesus Christ's obedience is as great, and greater than Adam's disobedience.
Do we have adequate proof that the effect of Christ's obedience is greater than the effect of Adam's disobedience? Let's look at God's work in Christ - the other side of the contrasting parallel.
1. "Much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many." (v.15) By the transgression of the one the many died. God's grace and gift of Jesus Christ abounds to the same people - the many, in whom death reigned! It abounds much more - it is much greater than the transgression! It does not only negate the result of sin (death) - it brings us into life! This life is greater than the life Adam had before he sinned!
2. The free gift resulted in justification! (v.15-16) Notice the contrast! Out of Adam's one transgression, judgment and condemnation arose; but from man's many transgressions, the free gift arose through Christ, and the result was justification!
3. Life is ours through Jesus Christ! "...much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (v.17) Life now rules! The reign of life overcomes the reign of death! The reign of death cannot exist when life rules. The reign of life in Christ Jesus does away with death!
4. "...through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men." (v.18) All does not exclude anyone.
5. "Through the obedience of the One (Jesus) the many will be made righteous." (v.19) Again, notice the contrast. Through one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, and through one man's obedience the many are made righteous! Adam's sin had a worldwide effect, and sin prospered. In the same way, Christ's obedience has a worldwide effect. The Lord is not on the losing side, is He?!
6. The grace of God reigns through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (v. 21) In the same way that sin reigned in death, even so grace reigns in life! Grace and life come to us in Christ, the Son of God! Sin and death came through Adam, a mere man! How much greater and far-reaching in its effect, is the work of Christ! If Christ's work cannot more than undo Adam's disobedience, then disobedience is stronger than obedience; then Satan is stronger than God. But that is not true! God is the Creator; Satan is only a created being. God wants us to know that obedience is stronger than disobedience!
Everything from God comes to us by His grace. By grace the free gift of life came. We do not deserve it and we cannot earn it. In these verses Paul emphasizes sin and death, and the redemption of mankind collectively, by using words like all men or the many. Both come to the same group of people - to everyone!
When the truth and grandeur of this message sinks in, we may have to relinquish some of our doctrinal views. The completeness of redemption in its far-reaching result to all humanity, is awesome! Adam passed on a heritage of sin and death to his descendants; Jesus Christ passed on an inheritance of righteousness and life to His seed.
Since life is passed on to His seed, the question arises, "Are all people included in His seed?" In Romans 11:32 it says, "For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all." We readily believe that God has shut up all in disobedience, so let us also believe that God will show mercy to all. In both cases the all must refer to the same people. It also says, "Every knee will bow...and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!" (Phil. 2:10-11) Confessing Jesus Christ as Lord through clenched teeth, is not to the glory of God. Nor can we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord except by the Holy Spirit! (1 Cor. 12:3) Many scriptures affirm that all things will be subjected to Christ! Let's not dilute the scriptures by our unbelief!
Adam and Jesus are a parallel in contrasts. "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive...`The first man, Adam, became a living soul.' The last Adam became a life-giving spirit." (1 Cor. 15:22,45) Adam is the progenitor, the forefather, from whom the whole human race has come. His corrupt, spiritually dead nature has been passed down to us. We had no choice in the matter. We see the nature of Adam in babies the minute they are born. Wahhh! They are in rebellion; they are completely self-centered; they are their own gods, and the whole creation exists for feeding and caring for them! Unless we get a new nature, we retain that nature. It may later surface more subtly, and we may even try to camouflage it with good works, but it is the same nature.
In Jesus Christ, the last Adam, a new people has come into existence! To bring forth this people, the Son of Man took the sin of the human race upon Himself, and on the cross that body of sin was crucified together with Christ! The nature we had inherited from Adam was put on the cross and crucified.
In Christ the old Adam ends, and a new man comes into existence. Christ triumphed over death, rose from the dead, and poured out His Spirit into our hearts! So He became the progenitor, the initiator of a completely new race of people - a spiritual people. He is a life-giving Spirit; He transmits His life to you and me!
Just as the nature of Adam was transmitted to us by natural birth, the nature of Jesus is passed on to us by our spiritual birth. In the life of Adam there is only corruption, sin and death; in the life of Christ there is only righteousness and immortality!
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit...unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God...unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:6,3,5) Our natural birth brings us into the world of flesh, and our spiritual birth brings us into the spiritual kingdom of God. To be spiritual beings we have to be taken out of the flesh. We cannot be both!
Nicodemus understood that a new birth was needed, but he could not understand how it could take place. Jesus explained that going back into the womb wouldn't do it, because everything that comes from there is flesh. Only a spiritual birth can do it. Can you see that God had a completely new human race in mind - not a renovated or a remodelled one?! It is not only for a few chosen ones, but it is for everyone - for the complete human race! This is true whether it computes in our minds or not.
In verses 13 and 20 Paul refers to the law. The knowledge of sin came through the law. So the law revealed the basic problem. If sin hadn't entered the world, death wouldn't have entered either. As long as sin reigns, death reigns. This is the law of sin and death. The two cannot be separated.
Sin never produces life; it only produces death. The only way to do away with death is to do away with sin. But man could not identify sin; he only knew that he was dying. Even though the Lord did not impute sin to those who lived before the law was given, death still reigned from Adam to Moses! A law is needed before someone can be charged with disobedience. Sin was in the world, and it was still a problem even though the Lord was not charging them with disobedience.
Overlooking a problem does not solve it; it does not change anything. We need more than a pat on the back, and the Lord saying, "There, there, that's all right. I know you are full of sin and corruption, but I love you anyway." We need to be freed from sin! The law of sin and death has to be removed from our members. The Lord is not satisfied with removing the punishment.
Therefore He provided a way of salvation for us. He wants us to have full salvation - freedom from our natural selfish self! Christ's death and resurrection broke the power of the law of sin and death! "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death." (Rom. 8:2) The Lord has put a new law into operation - the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. The Spirit of life is stronger than death, so it does away with sin and death. That is redemption; that is salvation!
The law of Moses identified sin. It showed us that humanity cannot keep the law, because it is not in its heart to do so. People ignore the law of Moses, because they want to fulfill their own desires; they are rebellious. Paul said that the law is for the rebellious. (1 Tim. 1:9) It is not for those who are in Christ, for they are no longer rebellious. Christ has fulfilled the law, and if we have Christ dwelling within us, we have the fulfillment of the law within us!
When the law came, the transgression increased. That seems odd, doesn't it? Why did things get worse? Did the law help the Israelites to become an obedient people? History proves otherwise! They were sinners when they left Egypt, and they remained sinners after they received the law. In fact they became worse. Their transgressions increased! That's exactly what God intended to happen - the law came in so that their transgression could be identified, and they would become aware of what they were doing.
We have the false idea that laws will solve our problems. So we often hear people say, "There should be a law against that." But laws do not make people better! They may affect their behavior to some degree, but they do not change the basic nature of people. When the law says, don't, we feel like doing. It makes us feel like doing the opposite. So it is useless to add the preaching of the law to the preaching of grace. It doesn't help.
Paul addresses this in Rom. 7. People didn't know what it meant to covet, until the law said, "You shall not covet." Suddenly all manner of covetousness appeared. The law reveals what is in the heart. It just makes us see what is there. "... so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful." (Rom. 7:13) Through the commandment sin exposes its ugly head.
In order to get rid of something, we first have to know it is there. The law exposes our selfish nature and wrong thinking. Once that is brought out of its hiding place, we can see our need for deliverance. The law acts as a catalyst - a substance which accelerates a chemical reaction, but doesn't undergo any chemical change in the process. It speeds up the reaction of two substances which would otherwise react very slowly. The law of sin and death was working in humanity, but humanity didn't understand it. So the Lord put in a catalyst - the law, and it identified the problem.
After the reaction takes place, the catalyst can be totally recovered, because it is not part of the reaction. The law causes the reaction, and you explode inside, but the law is not destroyed in the process - it remains holy and good! The law is not the problem; humanity is the problem! Paul explained this in Rom. 7:9 by saying, "I was alive until the law came, and then I died." The law exposed the problem to him! But this is just the beginning of the story - not the end. Then comes the overwhelming triumph of grace!
"...but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more." (v.20) Where sin abounded, grace superabounded! The abundance of sin brought a revelation of the superabundance of God's grace! Sin cannot deplete the grace and mercy of God! This is true for the sin of the world - and that includes your sin and mine! Sin can never multiply to the extent that it exceeds the grace of God!
The greatness of God's salvation is so evident in this chapter! God's grace is so much greater than the work of the enemy! Nothing can limit God! Nothing can keep Him from doing what He wants to do! The overwhelming power of His grace causes grace to reign through righteousness to eternal life - the NASB says, "will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ."
Dare we limit God's grace? Dare we rewrite this message and say it is only for some, when the scriptures say it is for all? If we limit it to a few, we are saying that man's will can prevent God from doing His will. Then God is no longer omnipotent! Then man would be greater than God, for he can thwart the grace of God from reigning and abounding to the world, to the many, to all men. When the Lord comes in with His limitless grace, He overcomes everything that is in the way! The scriptures declare that there IS justification of life to ALL men! (v.18) Let's not argue with that!
Let's respond by receiving His abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness! It is for all, so let's receive it! No excuse can invalidate the promises of God! "That as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."