Romans Part 4 – Grace and Glory - Hope 103.2

Romans Part 4 – Grace and Glory

A four-part series by Simon Manchester of Hope 103.2's Christian Growth podcast, and pastor at All Saints in Woollahra, Sydney.

By Simon ManchesterSunday 6 Feb 2022Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute

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Open prayer

Our gracious God, thank you for giving to us a sure and certain word. We pray that you’d help us this morning as we consider these very precious verses and we pray that you would plant them in our hearts and help us to bring forth fruit to your praises. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Well, dear friends, we are following the masterpiece of the Apostle Paul, the letter of Paul to the Romans in the New Testament. When you consider all the words that spill out in this world, unhelpful words, angry words, forgettable words, it is a great, great thing that we’ve been given this letter of Paul to the Romans, which only takes about 20 minutes to read and has been changing lives for 2,000 years. This letter, however, is not designed to flatter us. It exposes our very real opposition to God, our deep and profound opposition to God, our resistance to God.

It tells us in chapter three verse 23 that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. We will not naturally arrive safely in heaven. But we’re also told in chapter six that the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. Now, you may feel that these truths in Romans have very little connection to your life and to the path that you’re walking. These verses, of course, do deal with a lot of invisible things and a lot of future things.

And we are very sensitive in the church, aren’t we? To people who accuse us of just teaching pie in the sky. But these truths can penetrate our minds and our hearts very deeply and they can answer very deep questions that we have, very deep fears, very deep doubts, because truth, whether it comes from a doctor or a teacher or it comes from a parent, can have a very big impact on us and it can be very liberating. Now, the verses that we come to today, Romans chapter five, that we’ve just had read for us, one to five, these tell us the benefits of being a Christian right now, today, in the present, immediately.

I’ve always liked that old hymn that says in one of its verses, “Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine, plus 10,000 beside!” And there is a writer grasping the very present benefits of being a believer in Jesus and there is immediate help that comes to us from God. Now, of course the future is bigger and it’s better than the present, but these truths should help us today to realize what we have received today.

The security that comes from God will help us stop trying to get our security from someone else or from somewhere else, which can never really provide it, where Paul has been explaining that the human race sits in a pit of its own making. There are no ladders that we can create that will get us out of the pit. But we discover in the gospel, which Paul boasts of in chapter one, that somebody, Jesus Christ, has come down into the pit and is able to lift us out, calling on us to our very real sins and to receive his saving help. The benefits from that decision are immediate and wonderful.

I’m going to consider our five verses, Romans 5:1-5, under two brief headings this morning. The first is present benefits and then briefly some pastoral application. First of all, present benefits, Romans chapter five verse one. “Therefore,” says Paul, “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here’s the first present benefit from God, peace with God. This is what somebody has called the wonder of restored relationship.

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Now, I don’t think you ever really appreciate this wonder of restored relationship until you realize that we contributed to the ruined relationship with God. You know what it’s like to have a broken relationship, I’m sure, and the sadness that comes with it and the grief and the helplessness. And of course, the closer the bond, and some of you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about, the more painful the break. Now, imagine if we are to blame for the breakdown in the relationship and we don’t know what to do. We’ve got no power whatsoever to fix things up.

How special it is when the other person initiates reconciliation. They come with the olive branch to fix things. I wonder whether you’ve ever experienced that very great joy. No wonder the Apostle Paul in these early chapters of Romans helps us to grasp our problem, our depravity, that we have been wrong towards God, not just neglectful, but resistant and hostile. And because we’ve been hostile to God with no good reason, Paul tells us that God has been hostile to us with good reason. He has had cause to be angry. We, of course, have cause to be ashamed.

And into this mess, Christ came. So God, you see, is not just the very fine judge who makes a way for us to be pardoned for our sins, but in some remarkable way, he wants to enter into friendship to have peace, to have a real relationship. Jim Packer used to say that there’s one thing that’s more wonderful than justification, having your sins pardoned or acquitted, and that is suddenly finding yourselves adopted by the Father, the heavenly Father. If you think this is impossible for you, notice in chapter five verse one that Paul says that this is we who experience this.

He’s writing to Romans, believers. He doesn’t really know them. He’s writing to everybody who will read this letter, which is all believers down through the centuries. And he says, “We have this peace with God.” God has turned his anger away to his son and he’s turned his affection towards all believers. And we begin with his affection coming down to us steadily and perfectly to have a kind of a new and fumbling affection back for him. But our security is his love for us slowly producing a new love for him.

Now, friends, I’m not pretending this is easy to grasp. The human race of course really wants to be loved and it assumes often that love from God is just a pipe dream. So we try to get love from people by being more pretty, more popular or more powerful or whatever it is. But God says you need to have peace with him, with your maker, and it comes by receiving Christ. So the first present benefit is the great reality of peace with God.

Now, second benefit in verse two is access to God, the privilege, the ability to approach God without any fear, without any uncertainty today in your prayers and on the last day when you meet him and to do that with good reason. Some years ago when I was preaching in my former church, a man collapsed in the pew. We always thought it was a very safe place to collapse in the church because there were so many doctors and nurses who quickly hurried around. And this man was quickly looked after and an ambulance was called and off he went in the middle of the service.

I remember in the afternoon I went to visit him and I turned up at this hospital that I didn’t really know very well. As you know, a hospital is a very big and complex system with doors and lifts and buildings and places all over the place. Suddenly, a friend walked past, one of the professors at the hospital, and I said to him, “I’m trying to get to this particular point.” And he said, “I’ll take you.” I walked with him. He had the magic card and all the lifts seemed to open at the right time and all the doors opened at the right time and he took me right to the point.

I was able to get from the front door to this very bed within about 60 seconds because my friend had the access. Now, Jesus Christ provides the access for the believer to the presence of a holy and a mighty God. We foolishly, of course, think that we’ve got every right to approach him anytime we like and he’ll be lucky to have us come and speak to him. But read the Old Testament and you’ll discover that there were massive precautions put in place because God was so holy and perfect. The Bible describes him as unapproachable left to ourselves.

We could no more walk up to God than we could fly to the sun in a rocket made of tissue paper. It’s Jesus who came, opened the curtain, you remember, as he died and made it possible for us to have access with of God. Therefore, God listens to us when we pray and therefore God will welcome the believer when he eventually comes face to face. “We stand,” says Paul in verse two, “in grace.” One day in glory. We are not in guilt, we’re in grace. We’re not in danger, we’re in God’s favour.

You may have seen that old, black and white photograph taken many years ago of JFK, the president of the United States, sitting on the telephone leaning back at his desk in the White House and underneath the desk is this little boy, his son, playing peacefully, happily with some toy train or truck or something like this. So it is the believer access to the very presence of God because of Christ. Well, this is surprising because we’re told in 3:23 that we’ve fallen short of the glory, but here we are told that we are able to stand in his grace and we will arrive in glory. And we do this because Christ died.

Now, friends, we may forget this, we may lose our sense of privilege, but it remains a very, very valuable and present benefit that God has underwritten our access and our security. Now, if this seems a bit of a fairy tale to you, let me remind you that we are not dealing with fiction, we are dealing with nonfiction. It was Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien, the great author, Lord of the Rings, who pointed out that fairy tales have a great longing for a happy ending. But he said it’s the gospel which gives the reason for a happy ending, which is the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.

So peace with God in the present, access in the present. Thirdly, verse three, and this is a strange one, we boast in our sufferings. In other words, the Apostle Paul says we’ve been given a window into what sufferings are for. Paul says we even boast in our sufferings. And the word he uses for suffering is the word for being squeezed, pressured, like Jesus, surrounded by crowds, squeezed. This idea of boasting in our sufferings needs very careful explanation, because it’s not as though we are boasting in the sufferings, that is, we like the sufferings.

We’re not meant to be stupid. We’re not masochistic. The keyword is that we know God has let us into the effect of the outcome. Just like a coach who’s getting somebody ready for the Olympics or for a football team, the pains are not random, they’re not sadistic, they’re going somewhere. And Paul tells us in verse three, these sufferings produce perseverance, they develop spiritual muscle. And verse three, this brings character, or we might say fitness, like somebody who’s being proven or tested or trustworthy for a particular role.

And so, verse three, our hope increases because we learn to look up and we learn to look forward. I think I’ve found, and it’s surely your experience as well, that certain sufferings that come to us get us out of some dangerous zones to do with sin and they focus our mind more sharply on what is important and what is eternal. They chasten us and they clarify they’re purposeful. We’re not likely, are we? To be fit, ready for great support or usefulness if everything is soft and easy all the time. But God measures out some pressure to make us safe, to make us mature, to make us hopeful.

So we don’t face our sufferings as Christians like a stoic, the very brave person, although that’s very impressive. We don’t face our sufferings just by being angry or sad or complaining, although that comes to us very naturally. But we are told to know that a good, wise, and sovereign God is at work. A German pastor called Helmut Thielicke who ministered during World War II under the rule of Adolph Hitler, and was a very faithful man, he wrote these words.

“One day, perhaps, when we look back from God’s throne, on the last day, we shall say with amazement and surprise, ‘If I had ever dreamed when I stood at the grave of loved ones and everything seemed to be ended, when I saw the war creeping upon us, when I faced the fate of imprisonment or malignant disease, if I had dreamed that God was only carrying out his design and plan through these wars, and that in the midst of my cares and troubles, his harvest was ripening and everything was pressing towards his day, I would’ve been more confident, more cheerful, more composed.'”

Paul is not saying that we are superhuman in the face of our sufferings. He’s not saying that our sufferings become easy. He’s simply saying that they do not fall outside the plan of God. Now, the fourth benefit in verse five, the present benefit, is that God’s love has been poured into our hearts. The love of Christ, we read in verse eight, has been proved at the cross, but his love is poured, verse five, into our hearts. It’s proved by the work of Christ, it’s poured by the work of the Spirit. And this love is a fixed love, but it’s often felt.

It’s a fixed love, it’s steadfast, but it’s often felt, where there are four very present benefits of being a Christian; peace with God, access to God, assurance from God, and the love of God. Now, some pastoral application. My second point, much more briefly this morning, some pastoral application. First of all, on the matter of peace with God, I do want you to remember that this is a fact more than a feeling. God has written to tell us that things are 100% well between him and us.

You can doubt this if you want to, you can stay nervous if you want to, you can try and create peace with God if you want to, but you do not need to. The person who’s turned to Christ has peace with God. There is something called the peace of God, but it comes when we enjoy or consider or meditate on what Christ has done for us. The Holy Spirit brings fresh appreciation for the peace we have with God by giving us the peace of God. So the peace of God is a great experience, but peace with God is a great fact. Keep preaching this to yourself. The war is over between God and us, the peace has begun.

On the matter of access to God, there’s only one prayer which God has promised to hear of the unbeliever, and that’s the prayer for mercy. The believer could pray other prayers, could pray, for example, for health or safety or family or some kind of deliverance and God may be pleased to hear that prayer. But he’s promised to hear the prayer for mercy. But contrast that with the promise of God to the believer.

God has promised to the believer that his ear is always attentive, his door is always open, his children are always welcome, to be able to approach him, him with all the barriers swept away, to be able to lift up a sentence to him at any time through the day, to thank him for something, to ask his help for something, to bring a person to him in prayer. We’re standing in grace, we’re ready for glory. This is a gift beyond measure. Not of course that we pray to dictate things to God. That would be a terrifying prospect if everything we prayed he had to do.

No, thankfully, he’s a much wiser father than we are his children. But our prayers always reach him and then he knows what to do with them. On the matter of our sufferings, remember that there are voices which depress us in the face of suffering. There’ll be the little voice that says, “Why has this happened? This is a punishment. Somebody is out to get me.” The devil, of course, prowls around and always finds ways to discourage us. Our sins loom large and they claim that we are disqualified or something like that.

People can add to our fears by accusing us or undermining us. That’s why we need to see our sufferings, as Paul says, through the lens of his love for us and his purposes for us. John Newton wrote to a suffering friend, “I hope” he said, “this is a short season of trouble.” Difficulties, remember, are nothing to God. If he speaks, it is gone. But having bought us with his blood, he will not lay upon us what he endured for us and he can make amends and soon all tears will be gone. That’s a great perspective.

Sometimes, of course, God tests us through suffering to remove false faith. When we find ourselves drifting into empty belief or self-confidence or we become unteachable or dull or foolish, he may bring something to wake us and bring us back. But just remember that it doesn’t matter how keen and faithful you are, as he raises his children, he’s going to do that with a great deal of love and some tests and some challenges as well because he loves us.

Finally, the love that has been poured into our hearts. The Holy Spirit, we are told in the New Testament, is God’s present presence. He’s our present presence of God, the down payment, the Holy Spirit. The moment we believe in Christ, he occupies our heart and he begins like a diver taking chlorine into a swamp to stir up in us appreciation for God’s love for us and to stir up in us some love back to God. So we become conscious every now and again, not just of what Christ has proved, but this pouring of the Holy Spirit, appreciating more and more the love of God. These are the present benefits.

Now, let me just finish by telling you that my hero of the church is probably a man called Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon’s last student, probably in about 1890, was a man called Frank Boreham. Terrible name for a preacher. Frank Boreham came out to New Zealand to minister and then he came to Hobart and he worked on the bay of the Hobart Harbour. On one occasion, he was standing in the bay and he was looking out into the water and there was a sailor nearby. Boreham said to him, “Are you a Christian?”

And the sailor said to Boreham, “Do you see all those boats out there? Those boats could not carry the sins of my life. The sins of my life would swamp the boats that are in this harbour.” And Boreham said to him, “Do you see the ocean that is out there? The ocean is like the mercy of Christ and your sins can be drowned and done away with in the mercy and the love of Christ.” That’s what the Apostle Paul is trying to drive home to us in these very wonderful verses, present blessings to be received, to be believed, to be preached, to be rejoiced in. Let’s pray.

Closing prayer

Father, we thank you for these precious things. We pray that you would drive away unbelief and that you would bring home understanding, conviction, gratitude, faithfulness, and joy. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.