[This sermon was inspired by another sermon entitled, “Anchors During Adversity” by Dr. Timothy Beougher found in the 2005 Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook. I preached this sermon Sunday evening, July 22nd, 2018 at Newton Springs Full Gospel Church.]
Text: Romans 5:1-11
Dr. Thomas Lambie was a missionary to Ethiopia. He had to ford a lot of streams and rivers while he was over there, and there was a lot of danger in doing that because you could get swept off of your feet in the current and get carried down the river and possibly drown because you can’t get back up or even get thrown into some sharp rocks.
Well, Dr. Lambie learned from the locals that the best way to make such a dangerous crossing was carry a large stone on your shoulders while you were crossing. The larger, the better. Because if you were carrying something heavy across the river, it would act as a “ballast.” The extra weight of the stone would kept your feet solid on the bed of the stream allowing you to safely cross without being swept away.
In Romans 5:1-11, I think we need to see the love of God as a ballast that keeps us grounded in times of trial. Everything in your life can be going downhill, but knowing that God loves you in spite of your failures can make all the difference in the world.
The first thing we need to do is realize our present position.
We Need to Realize Our Present Position (v. 1-2a)
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand…”
– Romans 5:1-2a, KJV
Verse 1 starts with a therefore. Whenever you see a “therefore” in Scripture, the author is making a logical connection. He’s saying that because what we just said was true, what we’re about to say is also true.
When I taught the young adults Sunday School class at another church, I always to used to tell my class that when you see a therefore in the Bible, you’ve got to go back and see what it’s there for. And that’s what we’re because this points us back to the first four chapters of Romans.
- Chapter 1 – In Romans 1:16, Paul points out that he is not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because it’s the power of God unto salvation, and then verse 17, Paul says that because of the Gospel, because of the good news of Jesus we who are just shall live by faith, and then in the rest of chapter 1, Paul talks about how God pours His wrath out on those who blinded to the glory of God by their own sin even though the evidence is all around them. They would rather worship the creation rather than the creator.
- Chapter 2 – In chapter 2, just to make sure that all of his audience is getting the message Paul says, “You’re just as inexcusable as they are, and every time you judge them for their sin, you condemn yourself.” But in Romans 2, Paul talks about the righteous judgement of God, and the Jews relationship to the law.
- Chapter 3 – In Romans 3, Paul uses Psalm 14 as a proof text to say that no one is righteous. It doesn’t matter: Jew or Gentile. You’re all law breakers, you’re all unrighteous, none of you seek after God. However, Paul goes on to say that the righteousness of God is available in Christ, and you receive it by faith alone, apart from works.
- That’s why the cry of the Christian faith for the last 500 years has been that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
- Chapter 4 – In chapter 4, Paul uses the illustration of the faith of Abraham, and he said that he received the sign of circumcision by faith. He believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. All you have to do is believe what God says about Himself, and what His Word says that Jesus has done on your behalf, and your belief is counted to you for righteousness.
And all of that brings us to where we are in chapter 5 where Paul says that because all of this is true, we are justified by faith, and we have peace with God. That’s our present position, and Paul says, if all of that is true, then “we glory in tribulations also knowing that tribulation worketh patience.”
So, we need to realize our present position, but we also need reflect on our future hope.
We Need to Reflect on Our Future Hope (v. 3-4)
“…we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope:” – Romans 5:3-4, KJV
I think it’s good to think about Romans 5:3-4 in these terms: every time we go through trials in life, God always uses those trials to produce in us patience for the present, experience to look back on, and hope for the future.
- Have you ever had those times in life where it just looked like it was one bad thing after another. You come through one trial just to go through another one.
You get over one sickness just to get sick again. One of your cars breaks down, you get it fixed, and then your other car breaks down. You’re always having to spend money that you really don’t have on something that you need, and then there’s a big bill that comes out of nowhere.
Every time you go through something like that God is working patience in you. You don’t always feel patient, but that’s what it is.
A man in Los Angeles, California was arrested for negligent discharge of a weapon after shooting his toilet bowl five times with a 38 caliber handgun. He claims that he just got upset. He couldn’t take it any longer. His daughter had flushed a hairbrush earlier in the day and clogged the pipes. So he shot the offending toilet. I have no word on the toilet’s condition, but the man’s patience was long gone.
- Now. the problem is that expressing patience always requires you to be annoyed first, but when you’re patient, it pays off because patience is a form of sacrifice. You’re sacrifice what you want now for something better later. You’re sacrificing your time for a reward later. And it seems like people with the most contentment are people that have learned to sacrifice well over the years whether that’s time, energy, or money.
Not only does God use trials to develop patience in us for the present, but also experience to look back on.
For my Pastor and Public Worship class I have to read “From Memory to Imagination” by C. Randall Bradley, and in that book Bradley notes that a lot of our faith is based on memory.
- “Memory is an important spiritual exercise because so much of our faith is informed by memory. Memory is reliving our experiences. Memory can be active storytelling, individual reflection, or shared silence surrounding mutual encounters… God’s plan for humankind was to create a memory for us on which we can hang everything. From the beginning, God designed a covenant with his creation through which we were able to remember God’s love and actions on our behalf. This covenant of assurance was designed to launch us on our journey to fulfill God’s plan. Throughout the Old Testament, God continually called his followers to remember, to allow their memory of God to inform all that they did.” – C. Randall Bradley
So, every time God brings you through a trial that’s another testimony that you have to God’s faithfulness. That’s a memory you can look back on and see God at work.
So, this is what Paul means when he says, that tribulation worketh experience, patience, and hope.
If we have patience in the present, if we have past experiences we can look back on, then we can have hope for the future.
This is isn’t an uncertain kind of hope. The way we talk about hope isn’t the same way the Bible talks about hope. We say, “Well, I hope it all works out.” But Paul says that the hope of our salvation is an anchor for the soul in Hebrews 6:19.
Paul says that hope doesn’t make us ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost so there’s no chance that our hope in God can fail. Failure is not an option when hope is involved.
Once we realize our present position, and reflect on our future hope, then we need to recall the love of God.
Recalling the Love of God (v. 6-8)
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:6-8, KJV
We might be willing to die for a friend or a family member, but for an enemy?
I know we’ve heard this all of our lives that we should love our enemies, but do we really do it? I mean, think about it. When you think about your enemies, you know there’s some people in your life that if they were on fire and you have a glass of water, you would drink it, but did you know you were an enemy of God?
In Ephesians 2:12, Paul tells us to remember that at one time we were apart from Christ without hope and without God in the world.
God’s love is revolutionary because He doesn’t just smite His enemies, He dies in their place. God the Son accepted the wrath of God the Father on our behalf. Jesus died on our behalf. We didn’t deserve it, we didn’t earn it, but it was freely given to us.
Christ’s death on the cross was an actual event in the past. He went to the cross knowing all of your sin, your faults, your failures, your hangups, and habits, and He took that punishment that you deserve for those things. He went to the cross knowing that the Apostle Paul was going to not do the things he wanted to do, and do the things he didn’t want to do. Jesus went to the cross knowing that you life would be hard, and that you would struggle.
And you know what? When Jesus died, your sin died with Him, and when He rose, your sin didn’t rise with Him. If you’re saved, then your sin is a dead issue, and you are clothed with His righteousness.
You’re gonna suffer. Jesus said you would, but He said that we should take heart because He has overcome the world.
So, far, Romans 5 has taught us to realize our present position, reflect on our future hope, recall God’s love, and now finally we need to rejoice in God’s Work in Christ.
Rejoice in God’s Work in Christ (v. 9-11)
“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” – Romans 5:9-11, KJV
You have to think about who Paul’s audience is. He’s writing to the church in Rome that’s made up Jews who became believers, but there’s also Gentiles there who were Pagans.
These people who used to be Pagans heard a lot of stories of the Roman and Greek gods of the pantheon, and all of this talk about God reconciling the world to Himself through the death of His Son was completely new to them.
“Greeks spoke about reconciliation between persons in conflict, but did not think of deities initiating reconciliation with mortals who had offended them. The idea that God would do so at the cost of his own Son would be shocking.”
– NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
This is the revolutionary love of God at work on our behalf.
And not only was His death for us, but so was His life. That’s what Paul says at the end of verse 10, “much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
For a long time I didn’t understand that. I always knew that His death was for me, but what does it mean that His life was for me? I think the author of Hebrews explains it well in Hebrews 4:14-16.
“Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:14-16, NRSV
Jesus lived a perfect life that we couldn’t live. He had no sin, and we’re born into a world of sin with a sinful nature.
Jesus endured all the same temptations that we’ve been tempted with and He succeeded. He didn’t just go through those temptations and endure for us, but all the saints of the Old Testament too.
Where Adam failed to obey God, Jesus obeyed God perfectly. That’s why the Apostle Paul calls him the second Adam in 1 Corinthians 15.
And it’s by Jesus Christ, the second Adam, that we’ve received atonement.
All atonement really means is at-one-ment. We are at one with God because of Jesus’ work on the cross on our behalf.
So, tonight, trust Jesus. I know you’ve probably all at one time trusted Jesus, but do you need to renew your trust? Do you need to be called back to a place of repentance?
When Martin Luther first started getting a congregation together after he’d been booted from the Catholic Church, he would serve communion every week, and he would explain the death and resurrection of Jesus every week. And one of his congregants asked him, “Brother Martin, why do you preach the Gospel every week?” And he said, “Because you forget it every week.” And we’re not better.
A lot of you had to pour out blood, sweat, and tears for everything you earned, and your work ethic is commendable, but sometimes we translate that over into our faith.
We think we have to make up for all the bad stuff we’ve done, so we better pray extra hard, we better read more this week. We better really show God we’re sorry. Listen, Jesus already paid your debt on the cross. All you have to trust Him.
In the book of Acts, the call of the Gospel was simple. Repent, and believe the Gospel.
So, tonight, I’m going to pray for us, and these altars are opened. If you want to come and pray, that’s fine. If you want to pray in your seat, that’s fine too, but I’m going to pray for us, and we’re going to have one more song.
Heavenly Father, You sent Your Son to be a sacrifice for our sin, and we thank you. We thank you that you’ve placed all the sins of those who believe upon Him. We thank you that by His stripes we are healed, and our sins are forgiven. Lord, we ask that if there’s anyone here who doesn’t know You that You would draw them to Yourself with irresistible grace. In the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
 Bradley, C. Randall. From Memory to Imagination: Reforming the Church’s Music. Eerdmans, 2012.