Three Realities of Our Justification
When Jesus saves us, what changes? We know our sins have been forgiven and we’ll go to heaven when we die. But it doesn’t take 27 books and 260 chapters (The New Testament) to tell us that. What else changes when we believe the gospel?
In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul argues that our justification breaks in with three new realities. He explains them in chapter 5.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. —Romans 5:1–5
First, we have unbreakable PEACE with God: This is not a subjective feeling. It’s an objective fact. We’re no longer tormented by the question of our relationship to God. That’s settled. Our relationship fundamentally changed. God is no longer our judge and we are no longer his enemies. We’re his children and he’s our Father.
If you are avoiding someone, it’s probably because you are either angry or afraid. Conflict and hostility are presence, but peace is missing.
We’ve seen a lot of terrible wars in the world. Whenever they end, huge, elaborate celebrations begin. People who barely talked before suddenly dance in the streets, hugging, kissing, crying. Why? Because peace is beautiful—and elusive.
Paul is writing about the end of the worst of all possible wars. Sinners and God are reconciled through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
That is why the central theme of the gospel in the New Testament is reconciliation. What is a necessary condition for reconciliation? Estrangement. Jesus came into a hostile world estranged from God. He brings the estranged parties together. He is the Prince of Peace, who came to end the warfare.
The gospel message announces peace and says the war is over. Being justified, we have peace with God. We sing about this every Christmas whether we realize it or not:
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
But this means much more than you and God are on speaking terms again. To say the war is over is only half the good news. There’s much, much more.
Second, we have unlimited ACCESS to God: Most Bibles translate this word access, but the noun means an introduction. The idea is that of introduction to the presence- chamber of a monarch. We did not come in our own strength or merits.
Jesus secured our access. That is, unlimited. No restrictions of any kind. God’s not going to change his mind—EVER! We stand in this grace.
Not only are we granted pardon. The traitor is forgiven, brought in for supper, and given the family name. To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater. That’s what access is. We belong here.
God is not tired of us coming back to him over and over and over again. He welcomes us back. That’s the kind of access Paul is talking about.
What did Adam and Eve enjoy most in the garden? Petting tigers; walking around in their birthday suit; human relationships without any conflict or sin; harmony with the planet? No! Experiencing unrestricted access to and fellowship with God topped it all.
Jesus paid for it, so we can enter that presence with boldness and confidence. We have VIP backstage passes. No waiting line. No hidden fees. Jesus paid it all.
Because of their sin, Adam and Eve lost that access. Angels were stationed at the entrance of Eden, guarding access to their maker. Flaming swords. Threat of death.
Because of our rebellion, we have to reckon with an offended God of justice. It’s what we’ve earned for ourselves. So if you want to enter God’s presence again, someone is going to get slaughtered. The flaming, holy, divine sword of justice is barring entrance.
Third, we have unassailable JOY in suffering: Joy and Suffering. Can they mix? Yes! Christian joy is not based on circumstances. Therefore it’s unassailable. How does our joy get hijacked? We attach it to things that suffering can get at. Our bank account. Our beauty. Our health. Success. A lover. A friendship—all things that fade and pass away.
What we normally put our hopes in for joy crumble and betray us. And we crash hard. It’s devastating. Name something you are hoping in and finding joy in apart from God and I’ll make you a promise. Heartache is coming. Count on it.
But Paul argues that Christians rejoice in suffering and hope in the glory of God. What comes to mind when you think of glory? Is it weighty? Can it weather storms?
Our glory usually doesn’t survive earthly pleasures and worldly securities. They captivate us but disappoint us. They betray us. They’re too light. We need anchors.
In the Bible, glory means heavy. It’s not light, fluff, petty, or insignificant. That’s why true hope in the Bible is compared to an anchor. It brings security and stability. It holds us.
This kind of hope is the pearl of great price. If you don’t believe me, listen for what people hope in: a good retirement; that cat-scan showing everything is normal; that Christmas bonus; kids turning out okay; getting married; staying married? Those are risky hopes. Suffering can destroy them all.
The peace, joy, and access we enjoy are the benefits we gain through Christ. We stand in them. How can that be? Jesus walked through God’s flaming sword of justice and was slaughtered for us, his enemies. He made peace. He granted us access. Jesus suffered alienation from God on our behalf while on the Cross. He was banished from God’s presence.
The angel’s sword of flame has been doused with the blood of Christ, and God welcomes us back into his presence. Because of that, we have unassailable hope in God and joy in suffering. We have an identity and meaning that can’t be moved.
Self-created meaning can always be destroyed by suffering. But when we accept the new identity Jesus gives to us, suffering can’t touch it. Indeed, suffering only deepens our dependence and appreciation. Jesus built his church to withstand opposition—and to thrive in suffering. Because of our justification through Jesus, we can face suffering.