The Blessings of Justification by Faith Part 2 – Romans 5:3-5a
Pastor Mark Hardy May 6, 2012
While a young marine was hunkered down in a foxhole with bullets whizzing over his head and shells bursting all around him and not knowing if he would make it through the day, he decided to read a letter from his hometown for encouragement that he had received earlier and had put in his pocket. But as he opened the letter and began to read he laughed to find out that it was from a creditor who said: “Your account is way overdue. If the balance of $25.00 is not paid in seven days, you will be in serious trouble!”
We all may have different ideas about what “serious trouble” is, but one thing is sure, we all deal with troubles in our daily lives. Job said in Job 14:1, “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil.” This is because the Fall of man in the garden was literally down. We live in a fallen, sin-cursed world that we were not created for. Therefore, although life can be good and enjoyable, it is also full of difficulties, disappointment, pain, and suffering. No one is exempt from the reality of troubles, not even believers.
But why is it that two Christians can experience a similar difficulty and one of them becomes bitter and turns away from the Lord, while the other becomes better and draws closer to Him? We are going to see why in the passage we will be looking at this morning.
As we continue on in our study of Romans 5:1-11, we are looking at nine blessings given to every believer that are either a present or future reality. Thus far we have seen the first four blessings:
1) Personal peace with God (v. 1)
2) Privileged access to grace (v. 2a)
3) Continual standing in grace (v. 2b)
4) Joyful hope of glory (v. 2c)
This morning we will look at only the fifth blessing given to every believer, which is this:
V. Humble Rejoicing in Tribulation
A. Having already stated in v. 2 that those who are justified by faith “exult in hope of the glory of God,” Paul now says in v. 3: And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations… (Stop there)
1. Again the word “exult” (kauchometha) refers to joyful jubilation and rejoicing in the Lord. But this time instead of rejoicing in the hope of our ultimate Christlikeness in the future, we as believers are said to rejoice “in [or “for,” “because of”] our tribulations.”
2. What! Are you crazy Paul? Get real!
3. The word “tribulations” (thlipesin) is a strong term and literally means “to press in a vice or squash” and speaks of “intense pressure.” Some scholars limit this term to physical persecution for the sake of Christ, but I believe Leon Morris correctly states, “But this seems an unnecessary limitation and certainly one the text does not justify. Paul is including all the afflictions that come to the Christian.” (pg. 220)
4. Therefore, this is a general term that has a wide range of meanings and includes all kinds of: pressures, difficulties, distresses, afflictions, troubles, trials, sufferings, oppositions, and persecutions.
5. Paul is talking to believers here, not unbelievers, and letting them know that simply being a Christian is no escape from experiencing varying degrees of tribulations in their daily lives.
6. Even Jesus Himself, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, faced tribulation. Hebrews 2:10 says, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.”
7. Hebrews 5:8 states, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”
8. This is why Jesus told His disciples in John 15:20: “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you…”
9. In John 16:33 He said, “…In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
10. In Acts 14:22 we read where Paul was “Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
11. We are promised in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
12. James 1:2 doesn’t say “if,” but “…when you encounter various trials.” In other words, it’s guaranteed! And the word “various” (poikilois) literally means “multi-colored,” referring to the diversity of trials that can suddenly overtake us as believers.
13. And Peter proclaims in 1 Peter 4:12-13, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.”
14. Now since experiencing tribulations is a normal part of our Christian lives, how in the world do we honestly rejoice in them?
B. Look what Paul goes on to say in v. 3, “…knowing that tribulation brings about…” (Stop there)
1. It is the word “knowing” (eidotes) here that is the key to being able to rejoice in our tribulations. No matter what is happening in our lives that we wish wasn’t happening, it is knowing the truth and believing it frees our soul to humbly praise God for what He has allowed in our lives.
2. We must never forget that the truth we must know about every tribulation or trial that comes into our lives as believers is that God is providentially at work intending to use it to conform us more into the image of Christ. This doesn’t mean that God is the Author of sin (Jam. 1:13) or that He is always directly responsible for your trials, because He’s not.
3. However, since God is totally sovereign then absolutely nothing can touch our lives without His permission. Though it may not seem like it, God is behind the scenes working for our spiritual growth and Christlike maturity.
4. We especially see this in Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”
5. But in moving us toward the guaranteed end product of ultimate Christlikeness in the future, God has a sanctifying process right now that is initiated by tribulations to make us more and more like Jesus Christ. And we are responsible to be “hands on” in this process.
6. Look at this sequential process in vv. 3-4, “…tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.” There is a natural, logical connection between these four.
7. Like it or not, this sanctifying process toward Christlikeness begins with tribulation. The path toward spiritual maturity is one of suffering.
8. For it is our tribulations that “bring about” (katergazetai)—they work to accomplish or produce certain qualities in us that enable us to spiritually mature. Therefore, for us as believers tribulations work for us not against us.
9. We see this same process in James 1:2-4: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
10. Also in 1 Peter 1:6-7: In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
C. Notice here in v. 3 that first Paul says, “…tribulation brings about perseverance.”
1. Since tribulation refers to intense pressure, perseverance is the resistance of this pressure and is therefore not a passive quality. The word “perseverance” (hupomonen) means “to bear up under pressure.”
2. It is the ability to remain under a heavy weight without giving up and collapsing; it is continuing to move forward in the face of great obstacles and opposition.
3. This is why this word has been translated patience, steadfast endurance, unswerving constancy, and stick-to-itiveness. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we depend on Him.
4. Nothing is more easily taken for granted than a faith that is unchallenged, and nothing challenges our faith more than trials. There is no way to really know the depth of our spiritual character until we see how we react under pressure.
5. Therefore, trials themselves never make us what we are; they merely bring to the surface what is already there, and reveal our true heart relationship with Jesus Christ. Our response to tribulations is everything!
6. Whereas all those whom God has justified will assuredly be glorified (Rom. 8:30), whenever we are faced with a trial we choose to respond in one of two ways.
7. The first way is to choose to respond wrongly with doubt or unbelief in the Lord and what He is intending. In this response believers angrily gripe and complain at what God has allowed and often become depressed.
8. They try to escape from the pressure or pain of the trial in either denial or pursuing whatever works best to bring relief, not caring if they sin or not. But this response only moves us away from the Lord and slows down or stops the process, causing us to “waste our sorrows” instead of growing by them.
9. The second way is to choose to respond properly with faith in the Lord and what He is intending. In 1 Peter 4:19 we read, “Let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”
10. In responding properly we see our trials as an opportunity to grow closer to God and become more like Jesus. This is the only way that the maturing process will continue.
11. Just as the strong winds cause a tree to thrust its roots deeper into the ground, so tribulations result in perseverance to the believer who continues to cling to God and trust Him. Even when he doesn’t understand what God is doing.
12. Outside of Jesus Himself, the apostle Paul experienced more tribulations than any other believer (1 Cor. 4:9-13; 2 Cor. 1:4-10; 4:8-11; 6:4-10; 11:23-30; Phil. 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:11-12; 4:14-16).
13. One of these was his “thorn in the flesh” that he asked the Lord Jesus three specific times to remove. Although Jesus didn’t remove it, He promised him in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
14. To which Paul responded, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast (same word for “exult”) about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (vv. 9b-10).
15. J. Hudson Taylor once said, “Difficulties provide a platform on which the Lord can display His power.” And that’s so true!
16. God gives us the grace to endure our trials so we can remain in the process (1 Cor. 10:13). He will never allow a trial to press you so much that His all-sufficient grace will not strengthen you and toughen you up to withstand the storms of life, if you turn to Him in total dependence.
D. Next, Paul says in v. 4, “…and perseverance, proven character.”
1. The one Greek word translated “proven character” (dokimen) literally means “proof,” and refers to proven or tried Christian character. Charles Hodge calls this “tried integrity.” (pg. 135)
2. It speaks of the believer’s character having been tried and tested by fire, so that it is approved. This term was used of the testing of silver and gold to demonstrate their purity.
3. Just as a silversmith uses intense heat to melt silver and gold in order to bring the impurities or dross to the surface to be removed in order to purify the precious metals, so God uses the fiery heat of tribulations, trials, and afflictions to bring the dross of our selfishness to the surface to be removed by repentance in order to purify our lives and makes us more like Jesus Christ.
4. Job said in Job 23:10, “But He [God] knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Prov. 17:3; Isa. 1:25; Mal. 3:3; 2 Cor. 2:9; 8:2; 9:13; 13:3; Phil. 2:22)
5. And that is exactly what God is primarily about in all His children’s lives—our growth in proven Christlike character. But as a result of experiencing God’s all-sufficient grace in the midst of our trials that brings proven character and comfort to our souls, we can then minister that comfort to them.
6. For 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
7. Someone once said, “To have suffered much is like knowing many languages: It gives the sufferer access to many more people.” God uses trials to make you more like Christ, so that you can be more powerful in your ministry to others.
E. Then Paul says in v. 4, “…and proven character, hope.”
1. As we have already seen (4:18; 5:2), “hope” (elpida) doesn’t mean that we are uncertain about something and hope it will happen, but rather we have confident expectation that what God has promised will happen and so we wait patiently and trust Him for its certain fulfillment.
2. Now why does proven character spark hope? Thomas Schreiner said it well, “Because moral transformation constitutes evidence that one has really been changed by God. Thus it assures believers that the hope of future glory is not an illusion. There is a pattern of growth in the here and now, however imperfect, that indicates that we are changing. Believers, then, become assured that the process that God has begun he will complete (1 Cor. 1:8; Phil. 1:6).
3. This is what Paul said in Philippians 1:6, “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.” We too can have this very same confidence!
4. C.E.B. Cranfield says, “To have one’s faith proved by God in the fires of tribulation and sustained by Him so as to stand the test is to have one’s hope in Him and in the fulfillment of His promises, one’s hope of His glory (v. 2), strengthened and confirmed.” (pg. 261).
5. Your hope in the Lord and the promises of His Word is strengthened and confirmed, but only as you properly respond to the trials God has allowed into your life.
F. Paul then brings this process to a climax in the first part of v. 5 saying: And hope does not disappoint…” (Stop there)
1. The word “disappoint” (kataisxunei) here means “to be put to shame” because of disappointment in unfulfilled promises. But genuine biblical hope will never ever let us down!
2. It will never betray us by proving to be an illusion. David said to God in Psalm 22:4-5, “In You our fathers trusted; they trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were delivered; in You they trusted and were not disappointed.”
3. He went on to say in Psalm 25:3, “Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed…”
4. Referring to Jesus Christ, Romans 9:33 states: Just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” (Rom. 10:11; 1 Pet. 2:6)
5. And Paul declared in 2 Timothy 1:12, “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for 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.”
6. Beloved, many of your human hopes may have been dashed and disappointed through the years, but your hope in the promise of God that one day you will be perfectly like Jesus Christ will never ever be disappointed and you will be vindicated on the Day of Judgment for placing your confidence in Him.
7. Remember God’s promise! Jesus said in Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
8. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial for once he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
9. Paul said in Romans 8:17-18 that as God’s children we are “…heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
10. And in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 he states, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are seen are eternal.”
11. Knowing the truth of what God is doing in our tribulations is how you can humbly rejoice in our tribulations. Our response to our tribulations always reveals our true heart relationship with the Lord, whether He is foremost in our lives and we are living with an eternal perspective or our values and priorities are merely earthly and temporary.
12. Therefore, God’s sanctifying process that Paul has described in this passage is a circle, beginning with our hope of the glory of God or ultimate Christlikeness in v. 2 and ending with our increased hope that Christlikeness is not an illusion. Our spirit maturity is an ever-increasing reality in our lives right now and will one day in the future be a perfect reality in heaven (1 Jn. 3:2).
13. Woodrow Kroll summarizes this well saying, “Here is the cycle of life for the Christian. We begin with hope, that concrete knowledge that we are declared righteous through faith in Jesus Christ, the glory of God. From there we pass through tribulations: spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial difficulties. But, sustained by God’s grace, those difficulties only cause us to be steadfast. We find fortitude, a proven character we never would have discovered without these tribulations. And this endurance proves that we are indeed children of God, which in turn encourages us in the hope of the glory of God. What a perfect circle. Thus, having been justified by faith, we can exult in our tribulations.” (pg. 67)
In closing, we as a believers can humbly rejoice in our tribulations not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know and believe the truth that God is working out His sanctifying process in our lives through them to produce perseverance and proven Christlike character that ends up in hope that never lets us down. Praise the Lord that when we often respond wrongly and “waste our sorrows,” we can confess our sin, be forgiven, and get back on the path where we got off. For 1 John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
By God’s grace may we all see our tribulations, painful as they may be, as an opportunity to become more like Christ and cooperate with what God is doing for our good and His glory. Only then will we not “waste our sorrows” and hinder the spiritual growth God intends to bring about in our lives.