Faith, Peace, Hope, Love (Part 1)
Romans 5:1-5 (Part 1)
(Note: This is the first part of a two-part message. Click here for Part 2.)
INTRODUCTION: Today we are going to be looking at four words which appear quite frequently in Scripture. And although we are probably familiar with each of these words individually, we may never have thought of them in relation to each other. But that’s what Paul does here in these opening verses of Romans 5. He pulls all four of these words together and shows how one leads to the other. So as we read these verses this morning, be looking for the words “faith, peace, hope and love” – in that order.
Romans 5:1-5 – “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Faith, peace, hope and love – these are probably four of the most desired qualities in all the world. We often hear about the trilogy of faith, hope and love, but I believe the addition of peace here is important as well. All four of these qualities are desired by man and desperately needed in our world today.
Faith means trust, conviction or belief. Most people acknowledge that it is a basic human need to have faith in something. That’s why people who do not believe in God or the Bible place their faith someplace else, in Communism, or the environment or some other cause, perhaps in a general belief that everything will just work out. When a person “loses faith,” we mean that he or she has been disillusioned or disheartened, let down. Faith is an essential human quality.
How about peace? Probably more marches, speeches, demonstrations and hunger strikes have been launched in the name of peace than any other cause in the world. We see bumper stickers like “Visualize world peace” (or “whirled peas”), as if imagining something will bring it into existence. But the absence of peace is a real problem. We see it all around us in broken relationships, in troubled marriages, in racism and international affairs, wherever there is war — and we long and pray for peace. What we don’t often realize is that the absence of peace in human relations is just a symptom of a deeper problem, and that is humanity’s lack of peace with God. We’ll talk about that later in the message.
How about hope? Hope is critical to human survival and emotional well-being. The highest underlying cause of suicide or attempted suicide is a feeling of hopelessness. Victor Frankl was a psychotherapist who was taken prisoner at a Nazi concentration camp. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl describes how the camp officer would decide a prisoner’s fate with a flick of the finger. Many collapsed under such pressures, but others survived, and more than survived. They comforted others and gave away their own bread rations. Some became animals; others became saints. Frankl concluded that the survivors were those men and women who believed that their lives, and hence their sufferings, had ultimate meaning. Those who had hope beyond the trial were the ones who made it through. Hope is necessary to human health and well-being.
And then of course, there is love. We are told that love is the greatest thing. Paul said, “Now abide these three, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) What are most people looking for in life? Love. What do infants, young children, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged and elderly all need in their lives? Love. Love is sacred; love is holy. Love is part of what separates us from the animal kingdom. Animals may be fiercely dedicated and loyal, certain pets may provide emotional comfort or perform heroically for their owners, but animals do not give and receive love as humans do. And just as human love is so much higher than “animal love,” so divine love is infinitely higher than human love. In the long run, when a person is looking for love, they are really looking for God, because God’s love is at the heart of the universe. It is what all of us ultimately seek.
In the passage before us, Paul explores these four essential qualities of faith, peace, hope and love, and specifically, their relationship to each other. Like links in a chain or building blocks one upon the other, Paul draws an unbreakable connection between them. A full experience of God’s love grows out of hope; hope grows out of a relationship marked by peace with God; peace with God is only possible through faith.
And so these four qualities so valued by humanity are connected. They are dependent one upon the other, necessary to each other’s existence. Faith is the foundation of peace, hope and love. Peace is the result of faith and a necessary condition for hope and love. Hope grows out of peace and provides the environment where God’s love may flourish in our hearts. And love is the fulfillment of hope, the ultimate goal, the greatest thing of all. Let’s look together at this relationship, or rather this sequence of faith, peace, hope and love that Paul shares with us here.
I. Faith is the foundation of peace, hope and love.
In verse 1 Paul writes, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The “therefore” points to what Paul has already written. He has just spent four chapters writing about the doctrine of justification by faith. Now he says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace.” Peace grows out of justification. Justification is by faith. Therefore faith is the foundation of peace.
To be “justified” means “to be declared innocent.” It is the opposite of the word “condemned,” which means “to be declared guilty.” Consider the typical courtroom scene. The lawyers have completed their concluding statements, the judge has instructed the jury, the jury has deliberated, and now they are ready to deliver the verdict. The defendant will either be justified, declared innocent of the charges, or condemned, declared guilty of the charges.
Have you ever stood in a court waiting for a verdict? Or perhaps stood with a friend as they awaited a verdict? It is not a pleasant experience. Everything rides on that single word which will drop from the head juror’s lips. If they speak the word “innocent,” what freedom and relief! But if they speak the word “guilty,” what sorrow, anguish and shame.
We will all stand in God’s courtroom one day. God will be both judge and jury, for he knows all the facts, and he acts with perfect justice and righteousness in accordance with his character. When the record of your life is examined in minute detail, and God pronounces his judgment, what do you expect to hear? “Innocent of all charges?” Or, “guilty as charged.” The answer makes all the difference in the world, all the difference for all of eternity. Oh, the overwhelming importance of being justified or declared innocent by God in God’s presence. Nothing else matters in comparison.
Notice that Paul says “Since we have been justified by faith . . .” Faith means trust, assurance or belief, a deep and abiding conviction. We are justified not by works, but through faith. We can never be justified or declared innocent in God’s sight by our works for one very simple reason. We are not innocent! We are guilty, guilty as charged. If we ask God to look at our works and declare us innocent, we are in effect asking God to lie.
It’s like the person who has a terrible work record. He is always late. He is unproductive and ineffective. He has poor human relations skills. He has been caught lying to the boss and stealing from the company. And then he comes and asks his boss for a glowing recommendation to another company. Now the boss might do that just to get rid of him (“Oh yeah, he’s the greatest worker we’ve ever had. You’ll just love him!”), but if the boss has any ethics or morals at all, he can’t just write a positive reference for a poor worker. How much more so with God! When God looks at our “works” record, he sees a long line of infractions, disobedience to his laws, selfishness, rebellion — the list goes on. He cannot possibly declare us innocent on the basis of our own righteousness.
If you ever struggle with self-righteousness, this feeling that your track record is pretty good, and that God must really be quite pleased with your works — you know, “Surely he wouldn’t keep me out of heaven!” — just try the following experiment for a day. Pretend that a T.V. monitor is hooked up to your brain, and that every thought you have all day is broadcast live on the internet. That’s right. Your brain is on YouTube. Everyone can see exactly what you’re thinking, all day long. You see, some of us shape up our outward lives a bit because we know that they’re visible to others. But God says that sin belongs not just to our outward deeds, but to our thoughts and words as well. Would you like your thoughts broadcast on the internet for a day? I know I wouldn’t. How about every day?
You see, we can never be justified by God according to our own righteousness, because we are not very righteous. God sees the record of your deeds, the logbook of your words, the visual and soundtrack of your mind, all day, every day. That’s why justification must be through faith, not by works. Rather, it is by faith that we receive a righteousness from God that replaces our own unrighteousness.
And so faith comes first in the chain. Without faith, you cannot have peace. And without peace, you cannot have hope or love. Knowing God’s love in your life is the greatest thing, but along with peace and hope it rests first of all squarely on the firm foundation of faith.
II. Peace is the result of faith and a necessary condition for hope and love.
After faith, comes peace. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace is the result of faith, and the necessary condition for hope and love.
Notice that Paul says peace is a present condition. Since we have been justified, we have peace now. It is our present possession. It is not something we hope to attain in the future. As surely as we have been justified by faith, we enjoy peace with God in the present moment.
This “peace with God” is different from the “peace of God.” The “peace of God” is a subjective feeling that we experience when we obey the command, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) The peace of God is a wonderful thing and the rightful heritage of every believer, but that’s not what Paul is talking about here. “Peace with God” is not a subjective feeling, but an objective fact based on our justification. We experience the “peace of God” intermittently depending on whether or not we are bringing our requests to the Lord. But once you have been justified by faith, your “peace with God” never changes.
When someone is dying, they are often asked, “Have you made your peace with God?” They’re not being asked, “Do you feel peaceful inside, do you feel God’s peace,” but rather, “Are you in a right relationship with God? Have your sins been forgiven? Are you at peace with God?” The person who has been justified through faith enters into a new relationship with God, a relationship marked by peace and forgiveness, a relationship that remains solid and secure despite our emotional ups and downs and the state of our feelings. Peace with God means relationship with God. The walls have been torn down, the obstacles cleared out of the way, and where once there was separation, there now is relationship.
What is the obstacle that stands between us and God? There is basically one major obstacle, and that obstacle is sin. Isaiah 59:2 says, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Our sin separates us from having a relationship with a holy God. God must punish sin, and we are sinners. And so until the problem of sin is dealt with, we do not have peace with God. And how do we deal with the problem of sin? There is only one way, and that is to be justified, to be declared innocent by God through faith in his son Jesus Christ. Faith leads to peace; justification leads to relationship with God.
Why is that? We can see that there can be no relationship with God apart from justification. But why is it that justification actually leads to relationship? It doesn’t have to be that way. For one thing God did not have to justify us at all. He was under no obligation. It was out of his mercy and love that God chose to declare us righteous through our faith in Christ. That would be wonderful enough. But after justifying us, God did not necessarily have to befriend us.
Think about a human judge for a minute. A human judge feels no personal hostility towards you if he declares you guilty, and he feels no friendship towards you if he declares you innocent. He simply makes a legal declaration. It is wonderful to be declared innocent, but that doesn’t lead to automatic friendship with the judge.
In our case, God is not only your judge. He is also the offended party. You have personally offended God by your sin. And so God has every personal reason in the world to condemn you. And yet amazingly enough, instead he wants to restore you to relationship with himself. Why does justification lead to relationship? Because God wants it to. It is for the purpose of relationship that God justifies us and declares us righteous, so that the offense may be removed, our hostility disarmed, and we may find peace with God our Judge and our Savior. This is God’s whole purpose in justification. 1 Peter 3:18 puts it this way: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”
Notice that this peace with God is “through our Lord Jesus Christ.” There is no other basis. Anything else is a false peace. I think of the false prophets that Jeremiah spoke about who called out “Peace, peace where there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14, 8:11) Although God as our judge desperately wanted to declare us innocent, he could not lie. He could not fudge the facts. He could not betray justice. He could not leave the guilty unpunished. And so God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins to pay the penalty for our sins, so that God could remain just and still justify us, that he might declare us innocent on account of Christ’s death for us. That’s why Paul says we have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We achieve this state of peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. “There is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
And once we have peace with God, through Jesus Christ, Paul says, “We have access into this grace in which we now stand.” (Romans 5:2) Through Jesus Christ we have access to God. We may come before God at any time. We may approach the throne of grace with full confidence and assurance that God will never turn us away, because we are in Christ his beloved Son, clothed with his righteousness alone. God looks at us, and he sees Jesus. We stand in this grace. We stand by God’s grace alone. If we ever look to our own works we shall certainly fall. Christ has ushered us into the very presence of God where we have full and immediate access at all times. What a wonderful, encouraging truth. No wonder John Newton called it “Amazing Grace!” Praise God!
CONCLUSION: We will talk more about the next two words in the sequence, hope and love, next week. But for right now, let me just ask you the question. Do you have this peace with God that we have been talking about this morning? Are in relationship with God? You can only answer that question “yes” if you are trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Peace with God is the result of faith in Jesus Christ. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
(Note: This is the first part of a two-part message. Click here for Part 2.)
© Ray Fowler
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