These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.
Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 50 ~ Dec. 7-13
Acts 20-26, Romans
3 Reasons to Rejoice
Paul wrote the epistle of Romans to the church at Rome while he was still in Corinth, around A.D. 56. His main purpose in writing was to instruct the Roman believers in basic Christian doctrine, beliefs, and practices, since neither Paul nor the other apostles had yet been able to instruct them in person.
Rome was a dangerous place for Christians at that time. There was persecution of the sort that, today, we can only have nightmares about. But even in the midst of that horrific situation, those who were in Christ had good reasons for hope and rejoicing. Paul shares three of them in Romans 5:1-11 to comfort and encourage the Roman church.
Reason to Rejoice #1: Our Standing (1-2)
What is our standing before God before we’re saved? We stand guilty in our sin before God. There is no way out of that sin, and no way out of its eternal consequences. There is complete uncertainty about what will happen to us after we die. For the lost, there’s no hope that, no matter how bad things get in this life, God will set all things right in Heaven. Without Christ, the best we can say about our eternity is, “I guess,” “I hope,” or “Maybe.”
Verses 1-2 remind us that because we have been justified (legally exonerated of our crimes against God) by faith in Christ, our standing has been changed. Because of Christ’s sacrifice for our sin, we now stand before God as righteous, not as guilty. And because of that standing which we now experience dimly here on earth, we have the hope of one day standing before God in all of His glory– not ashamed and cowering before Him, but loved, welcomed, and accepted. We have that certain hope, and we rejoice in it.
Reason to Rejoice #2: Our Suffering (3-5, Hebrews 12:2)
Every one of us has suffered or will suffer. Even the richest, most powerful, most popular, most famous person you can think of suffers. In this life, the question is never, “Will I suffer?” but “Will I suffer with Christ or without Him?”
I have a friend who’s a physical therapist. Physical therapy can be excruciating, but one thing my friend helps her patients to focus on is that the pain they experience is not pointless. It is “pain with a purpose.” That pain means that one day that patient will be past the injury and able to walk better. There’s a reason for it. It’s the same way with suffering.
The reason God allows lost people to suffer is to cause them to cry out to Him for salvation. Paul explains, in verses 3-5, the reason God allows saved people to suffer: it grows and matures us in Christ.
We need endurance. Most of us have many years ahead of us to live for Christ. Coming through suffering builds the endurance we need to depend on God’s strength, keep on keeping on, and finish our lives out as faithful servants who refused to give up on following Christ, no matter how hard it got.
The Greek word translated “character” here means “proof.” When gold is refined in fire, all of the impurities burn away and what comes out is the proof of what was there all along: pure gold. When we endure passing through the fire of suffering, what comes out on the other side is the proof that the “pure gold” of Christ in us is what survives the flame. And the world desperately needs to see that proof -through our endurance of suffering- that Christ is their only hope. Not only that, but that very same proof that Christ carries us through suffering gives us hope that He will continue to carry us through suffering until He carries us Home. Just as Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him (Heb.) we endure suffering for the joy of what’s waiting on the other side– another hope to rejoice in.
Reason to Rejoice #3: Our Salvation (6-11)
There are so many reasons to rejoice in our salvation, but I’ll limit myself to the ones Paul outlines here.
6-8- We don’t have to clean ourselves up before coming to Christ. (Mark 2:17, Romans 3:10)
In fact, we can’t. It’s not possible. Jesus Himself said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (and, by the way, “None is righteous, no, not one;” so that’s all of us). Before we ever drew breath, before we ever thought about getting our lives in order before we could come to Him, while we were enjoying our sin and shaking our fists at God, that’s when Christ died for us. That’s why even the worst sinner can have the hope that Christ will save him, because God’s desire to save us doesn’t hinge on who we are or what we’ve done. It hinges on Him and His love for us in spite of our sin.
9– We no longer have to fear God’s wrath. (Romans 8:1)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
None. Zero. Zip. Unsaved people should rightly fear God’s wrath being poured out on them for their sin. That fear should drive them to run to the loving arms of the merciful Savior who stands ready to welcome and forgive them. But Believers can rejoice in the fact that Christ has already absorbed God’s wrath –all of it– towards us when He endured the cross.
10-11– We are reconciled to God.
Have you ever had a big fight with your husband, your sister, your best friend, or someone else you’re really close to? Think for just a moment about how you feel during the hours or days before you and that person make things right with each other. You feel separated from that person- disconnected -maybe like there’s a huge wall between you. You don’t feel bonded with that person. You don’t feel at peace. You wake up every day feeling like something is off kilter. But then think of the peace, and joy, and reconnection you feel when you and that person make up, forgive, and move ahead in your relationship.
That’s what it’s like to be reconciled (brought back and reunited with) to God through faith in Christ. We’re no longer separated from God. That disconnect is gone. We’re not enemies with Him anymore! We can rest in Him, enjoy Him, be at peace with Him, and be in harmony with Him. “God and sinners reconciled!” Rejoice!
When I first started putting this lesson together, I thought, “Hmm…Romans 5 is a great passage, but it isn’t very Christmasy.” But if you think about it, the rejoicing in Romans 5 is the very reason we rejoice in the birth of Christ. He was born so that, through Him, we could stand before God as righteous. He was born to shine the light of the gospel -and give us hope- through our suffering. He was born to reconcile man to God. Those are reasons to rejoice at Christmas and every other day!