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DEVOTIONS FROM ROMANS

ROMANS -- ABUNDANT LIFE IN CHRIST (11)

An Overview of the Blessings of Justification/Sanctification

Romans 5:1-8 (NKJV)

Dr. Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute

Introduction

Paul has fully explained the marvel of justification, a new permanent standing for the believer who has been declared as righteous as Christ his savior, forgiven of all his sins and restored to a full inheritance in Christ, "heir of God and joint heir with Christ." All this comes to the believer from the grace of God on the basis of the shed blood of Christ and by simple faith or trust in God's infallible promise. Implicit in the truth of justification is sanctification or Christ likeness. We must not isolate justification from its expression in our daily walk. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder!

Before Paul expounds on the MUCH MORE of Christ likeness or sanctification in Rom. 5:12-21, he pauses to look backward and forward; he does it in a masterful fashion in Romans 5:1-8.  In these verses we see the wonder of God's grace extended to the "sinner who believes." Remember that all this inheritance comes to us gratis without works or merit of any kind, neither merit nor demerit. Neither Christian service nor years of ministry add to the full enjoyment of salvation's blessings. God's grace abounds to us.

An Overwhelming Overview of the Seven Fold Blessing of the Justified.  Rom. 5:1-6

It is important to grasp the first word of Rom. 5:1, "Therefore" which returns us to the  previous statement:  "Who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification"  (Rom 4:25).  The last phrase is very interesting. God had so determined to accept his Son's death as full payment for sin that on that basis alone-- his death-- we were declared righteous; resurrection would follow that fact. 

Here Paul introduces a thought seldom grasped that the resurrection opens up to us in full reality the new chapter in the life of the justified --"we shall be saved by his life" (5:9). Paul will develop this fully later in Romans 6-8, but here we see the complementary value of the resurrection. Generally the resurrection has been seen only as God ratifying and accepting his Son's death.  It surely is that, but it opens a new chapter for Christian living --"not I but Christ" (Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:3; Phil 1:21).

 A Backward and Present Look - a Seven fold Blessing  Romans 5: 1, 2

Paul introduces the first blessing by using a past (aorist) passive participle "being justified" as an act finished and completed (4:24, 25).  Nothing is pending and on the basis of that great fact, we enjoy peace with God. Some translate it: Let us have peace with God. This does not weaken the fact, but only makes it more urgent and available to be fully taken advantage of. Whether we take the statement as a past fact or an exhortatory request to live it to the full, the glorious fact remains, peace with God has been declared and once for all. Let that settle the issue of our sins, guilt, destiny and God's full favor.

A second blessing follows; we have (had) access (5: 1). That acceptance grants us full entrance into his favor.  What a contrast from the Mosaic law that prefaced the Day of Atonement with a word to Moses: "Tell Aaron your brother not to come at simply any time into the Holy Pace inside the veil" (Lev. 16:2). Unlimited access is now ours. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:21). Do we avail ourselves of this choice privilege of access any time?  A third blessing results: we stand in this expression of pure grace (5:2). A fourth blessing follows: we rejoice in hope of the glory of God --a forward looking assurance of an eternal destiny. The past is gone, the future is secured, but what remains for us in the present? How does he present it?

The fifth blessing calls for a living faith in the present! "And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations" (3) but Paul does not stop abruptly here. He adds a shortened version of Rom. 8:28. Tribulations are producing in us in the present God's greater purposes of holiness. I recall waiting two weeks after having been given a sentence of death, possible cancer of the throat. I was thirty and had just started to teach in Spanish in RGBI; life was before me. The human options were not good: cancer, loss of my vocal cords, and maybe I would never see the daughter my wife was carrying. The growth turned out to be benign, and I would have my voice, earlier afflicted by polio. I look back on those two weeks and the fifty years that followed knowing that God produced in me perseverance, character and hope. I now view those days with gratitude.

The sixth blessing is the love of God poured out in our hearts. Now for the very first time Paul in Romans explains the over whelming role of love. Until now it has been God's wrath, but only now can we appreciate his love so graciously explained in Rom 5:6-8, verses we often share with the unbeliever. But now that love is ours to enjoy.  The seventh blessing is the capstone of grace, the Holy Spirit that one already given to us. Paul began Rom. 5:1 with a past (aorist) participle, peace with God in the moment of justification and concludes the paragraph with the identical construction. He assures us that at that very moment we are given the third person of the Trinity, not to be sought after but to experience his life-giving ministry in us.  

What an overwhelming survey of the past and future with the present guaranteed by the love of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. What more can we ask for?

Power truths to be grasped in faith by the believer

  1. God's justifying grace leads inevitably in his purpose to sanctifying grace. This is the unitary work of the God's grace as witnessed at the Cross,
  2. As we received the first aspect of the Cross so we must receive the second one. Paul's statement is clear: "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him" Col. 2: 6. Saved by faith and sanctified by faith, not by works.
  3. While God has forgiven our past and assures us of the future, he designs to work most deeply in our present life in Him. He has made the fullest of provision in the outpouring of his love and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  4. God produces true holiness in the crucible of suffering and tribulation. We learn to depend on him and walk by faith and not by sight. Rom. 5:3, 4.
  5. In this overview of the Christian life you may notice the absence of our doing. It is rather His doing and our believing; we have, stand, hope, know. He loves and enables us.
  6. We have made the Christian life our doing, reading, praying, tithing, witnessing. The results have been meager, if not absent. The Christian life is Christ in us the hope of glory. We return to the emphasis of the cross, our death and our risen life in Christ.

Gordon E. Johnson

Rio Grande Bible Institute

April 30, 2008