Romans 5:1&2 “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.”
The first four chapters of Romans deal with the plight of man in his fallenness and rebellion, and how God has dealt with that by the life and death of his Son. The first four chapters begin with the personal pronoun ‘I’ – Paul greets them as the author of the letter, and he tells them, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Then quickly he moves on to describe the plight of man, and to do this he uses the pronoun ‘they’ “they have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Then at the end of chapter four and here in chapter five and on and on to the end of the letter Paul speaks about ‘us’ and ‘we’. He stands in solidarity with his readers, “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God.” Henceforth he is talking predominantly about the privileges and blessings that every child of God enjoys.
In our text the apostle has told us that the primary blessing of the Christian’s life is peace with God. God’s indignation at our sins, and his consequent alienation from us have now totally vanished. They no longer exist. Our sins no longer modify or control our fellowship with God. There now exists a state of perfect peace with God that is the privilege of every true Christian without exception, and all that is due to the achievements of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our place, condemned by both man and God, our dear Saviour hung on the cross, sealing our pardon with his blood. God now acknowledges himself to be our loving, heavenly Father and that we are his children. The condemnation that our sins merited was laid on the Lamb of God on Golgotha. Our punishment was taken by him on the cross. God now freely, daily, constantly and eternally expresses his love for us. We enjoy the privilege of peace with God through God the Son. But there are more blessings to come. Several are mentioned in the next verses, and the first is this . . .
- THROUGH CHRIST WE HAVE GAINED ACCESS TO GOD.
‘Access’ is a huge word today. There are fathers who are being denied access to their children. There has been a divorce and the courts have given the custody of their children to their wives, and the husbands feel the injustice of this and organize protests to draw the attention of the public to their lack of access to their kids. Again, millions of refugees have been driven out of their homes and they live in vast camps, sleeping in tents. They can no longer access their homes. Again, visiting rights are restricted for people in prison. Their wives and families can’t turn up at any time they choose, knock on the prison door and demand an opportunity of chatting with them. They are forbidden access except at stipulated times. Again, army camps are guarded and the public are forbidden access. Again, a whole street in London has gates built across it and armed police guard the entry to the street. No one is allowed access to number 10 Downing Street without being given the authority to do so. Access to the President of the USA in the White House, Washington is granted only to those vetted and given an invitation to see him. Again, access to your doctor depends on the receptionist and her computer and his availability. She protects him. Again, access to some countries depends on a visa. Without one you are forbidden to enter that nation. You cannot get into a university without attaining certain grades. Lacking them you are denied access. We lock our doors and windows at night and refuse access to criminals. We guard with our password or our code of four numbers access to our bank account. We will not allow thieves the right to take from us what is not theirs.
Access is for those with the authority to do so. They and they alone have the right to enter that privileged place. Yet everyone in the world thinks that they can have access to the Almighty Creator at any time they choose. All they have to do, they think, is toss him a few words of request and instantly he will respond. “God bless this lottery number and make me a millionaire!” Who are you speaking to? Paul lays it out before us as a fundamental principle of true religion that it is by the Lord Jesus alone that we have access to God and his grace. The reason for this is that we are sinners, and we need pardon and reconciliation with an offended God for our sins of deepest dye. That pardon has been sealed in one place by one person alone, by the Son of God on Calvary. Every other way to God is a cul-de-sac. Before every other suggested way to God are the words NO ENTRY. We are talking to ourselves when we fail to pray to God through Jesus Christ.
So consider this word ‘access’. In many ways that translation is accurate, but it is not quite strong enough. As Dr. Lloyd-Jones points out, “This is a word that is only found three times in the whole of the New Testament. It is here in this Epistle to the Romans, and it is also found twice in the Epistle to the Ephesians. It is in Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 18 where we read that ‘through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father’. The other place is Ephesians chapter 3 and verse 12, where again you have this same idea, this entry into the presence of God – ‘In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him’. What exactly does this represent? It is generally agreed, and I am certainly in full agreement, that a better word here would be the word, ‘introduction’. It is roughly the same idea as we have in the word which we use about people being ‘presented’ at Court. That helps to explain the access. You have no access to the Queen as you are. Certain formalities and procedures are essential before that becomes possible. There is a way whereby you can be presented at Court, you can have an introduction. That is the picture here.
“There was a time when we were in sin, when we had no right of entry, no entry into the presence of God, no access. Seraphim with flaming swords guarded the way to God. We had no introduction, we had not been presented, and we could not come into his presence. But now, he says, as the result of this justification by faith, and through the Lord Jesus Christ, we have our introduction, we are introduced into ‘this grace wherein we stand’.
“The value of giving that additional weight and meaning to the word which has been translated as ‘access’ becomes clear at once. Nothing is more wonderful when we look at it in this way. What our Lord Jesus Christ does is to introduce us to God. We can’t go to him as we are. We are sinful and vile and polluted. Our very righteousnesses are as ‘filthy rags’, says the Scripture. We have nothing to commend us, our clothing is unworthy and unsuitable, and we have no right in our own name to be allowed to enter in. But, see, here comes one who has a right of access and entry himself. He has dealt with our sins and he can take us and present us to God the Father. He introduces us. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who does it all – ‘By whom also . . .’ The peace we have is through him; and this introduction, this access, is also entirely and only in him. He clothes us with his righteousness; he takes us by the hand. He is the great High Priest who is at God’s right-hand. He is our advocate. All these terms are simply explanations and elaborations, if you like, of this term used here concerning the ‘introduction into this grace wherein we stand’” (Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans 5, Assurance, Banner of Truth, 1971, p.32).
Let me illustrate this by reminding you of the Old Testament story of Esther. It has been well told by Ray Steadman and also by James Montgomery Boice. “Esther was a young Jewish woman living in the days following the fall of Jerusalem, as a result of which the majority of the Jewish people had been carried off to Babylon. At the time of her story, the king was Xerxes and he was ruling in Susa. Xerxes sought a bride to replace his deposed Queen Vashti and he found one in Esther. She became his queen after being taken from the home of her cousin and guardian, Mordecai, to live in Xerxes’ palace. A great enemy of the Jews named Haman was also living in the palace. Haman had hatched a plot against the Jews in which Xerxes unwittingly signed a decree that would result in death for all the Jews in Persia. Mordecai got a message to Esther, telling her about the plot and saying that she must go to the king and tell him what was about to happen and prevent it.
“Alas, explained Esther, there was a problem. It was a law of the Persians that no one was granted access to the king without permission. If a person approached the king in the inner court without being summoned, there was only one result: death – unless the king held out his golden sceptre to that person and thus spared his or her life. Although Queen Esther had not been summoned to the king for thirty days, even she did not have automatic access to Xerxes. If she tried she faced death. Mordecai explained to Esther that she had undoubtedly been brought to her royal position ‘for such a time as this’ and that there was no one else who could intervene to save her people. Esther agreed to go to the king. She spent three days in prayer and fasting, asking the Jews through Mordecai also to fast and pray with her. Then, at the end of her period of preparation, she put on her most royal robes and stepped into the king’s vestibule. The king was sitting on his throne, facing the entrance. When he saw Esther he was so pleased with her beauty that he stretched out his sceptre and he accepted her. So Esther had access to the king, and through her action the Jews were eventually spared.” (James Montgomery Boice, Romans Volume 2, p.515).
This incident is an illustration of the way of access to God through Jesus Christ. No man can see God and live. God dwells in light unapproachable whom no man can see or has seen. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, and he is angry with the wicked every day. But God has sent his Son to this world and his Son says to us, “I am the way.” Joined to him, one with him, our beautiful Saviour, the altogether lovely one, the sinless Lamb of God, we offensive sinners are welcomed to God, forgiven by God through Christ, loved by God through Christ and we have access into his banqueting house and his banner over us is love. The writer to the Hebrews put is like this, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebs. 10:19-22). So what are we told here?
i] We have direct access to God. People speak about ‘Jesus’ and pray exclusively to ‘Jesus’ and sing abut ‘Jesus,’ and while none of that is wrong it is certainly wrong to ignore our heavenly Father. Imagine you had been given the enormous privilege of access to a very great man but you took that for granted. For you what was great was that you could meet the man’s son. You talked only of him. But in the Bible the Son has given us access to his Father and he wants to introduce us to him! He is saying to us, “Behold your God!” He is urging us to go to him, and speak to him, and rest in him and know his love. There is no other mediator we have to speak up for us in order that we can have this tremendous privilege. Go in the name of the Lord Jesus to God and adore him and confess your sins to him and thank him for his great salvation. Worship him directly.
ii] We have effective access to God. You can speak with him freely and with certainty. There is nothing too little to bring to him; there is nothing too great for him to cope with. The mighty Creator will listen to you as if you were the only one speaking to him. Who ever went to the Lord while he was here on earth and beseeched him for something and then went away empty handed with no explanation of why he got nothing? No one. Not one person. God hears and answers our prayers. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much! We have effective access to God.
iii] We have an intimate, loving access to God. Jesus told us when we prayed to say to God, “Our Father which art in heaven.” There is holy familiarity. A child comes running up to his father and says, “Dad . . .” and pours out his concerns and discoveries to him, because he is his father, his dear father, his loving father, his kind, all providing father. If anything happened to his son his father would break his heart because he loves his son and still loves him when he is prodigal. You do not have to make God loving towards you. You have to seek to flood that cold heart of yours with his love.
2. THROUGH CHRIST WE’RE STANDING IN THE GRACE OF GOD.
Now Paul has moved on; he’s not talking about an occasional visit you can make to someone great and important, someone to whom you have been given access, and have periodic audiences with that person. Now he is speaking of living in a close relationship with this same person day by day. “By God’s grace we are now standing firmly and strongly in our relationship with the Lord.” Prince Charles comes close to his mother, the Queen, on formal state occasions, but he is also her son and he can go to Buckingham Palace whenever he chooses to meet his mother. He has access to her and he can be with her whenever she is free. They sit and have a cup of tea together and they talk lovingly to one another. They are and ever will be parent and child.
Dr Lloyd-Jones asks us, “Have you ever been enraptured, I wonder, by the peculiar way in which he describes our being in this state? “through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Why does he describe it as ‘standing?’ Why didn’t he say, ‘Through whom we’ve had our introduction into this grace in which we are’. That would be quite true. But he didn’t say that: he says that we ‘stand’ in it.
Once more we must be careful to give the full weight and meaning to that word. What does this word ‘stand’ mean? The real meaning of the word – and this is not my idea, not my theory, you’ll find it in all the best commentaries – all are agreed is, ‘stand ‘fast’, ‘stand whole’. ‘We’ve had our introduction into this grace in which we stand fast’, or ‘in which we stand firm or firmly’. This fuller meaning shows that the apostle is primarily concerned in these verses to emphasize the certainty, the finality, the absolute assurance of faith; so he is careful to remind us that we are not only in this grace, but that we are firmly set in it, that we stand in it.
“We can bring this out by means of a negative. There is nothing uncertain about this. Not only are we admitted or introduced into this grace, but we are confirmed in it; if you like, we are planted in it, we are set in it, we are established in it. The word implies stability and security. It means, therefore, continuance and establishment. It is a very strong word. Paul is anxious to say not merely that we are in this grace, but that we are secure in it. In other words our position is not that we are just allowed to stand for a few hours in this grace and then find ourselves again out on the street. No! We stand in it, we are secure in it, we are certain in it. There is no falling from grace. What an utter contradiction of the teaching of the whole of Scripture that notion is!
“This is so important that I must prove that it is a vital part of the apostle’s teaching in all his letters. Take, for instance, the way in which he says it as he winds up his mighty argument at the end of the eighth chapter. “For I am persuaded” which means “I am absolutely certain that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you are in grace, you are in, and you will never be out. But take again 1 Corinthians chapter 15 and the first verse, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also you have received and in which you stand.” Paul is obviously very fond of this idea of ‘standing’. Look at it again in 2 Corinthians 1:24, “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith you stand.” Then there is a great classic statement of it in the Epistle to the Ephesians, in chapter 6 beginning at verse 11: “Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand” – keep on standing – “against the wiles of the devil.” God has enabled you to stand, and given you standing; and if you use what he provides you will be able to continue standing against the wiles of the devil. He repeats it again in verse 13: “Therefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done a1l, to stand.” And yet again in verse 14, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness”, etc.
Dr. Lloyd-Jones tells us why he is emphasizing this ‘standing fast’ so much: “I have an increasing conviction that this explains one of the great sources of our weakness and trouble at this present time. The masses of people are outside the Christian church because we who are Christian people are representing the Christian life so badly. We are living like spiritual paupers, whereas we are meant to be princes and children of the heavenly King. We have got to realize that we are standing in this grace, that this is our living constant relationship. We must act upon it, and go to God with confidence and assurance and certainty. We have had our access, our introduction, and we are in. We have been brought into the banqueting house. It is a state and a condition. You do not go in and out of this. You are either in, or you are not in. You are either under law or you are under grace. You cannot be half way. You cannot be sometimes one and sometimes the other. If God has pronounced that you are just and righteous, then you are under grace. You are in the realm of grace. You are in the kingdom in which God deals graciously with all his children.” (op cit, p.38).
What of the man who is so conscious of his very sinful past and he asks, “How can I possibly go into the presence of God with boldness?” This is the reply of the Doctor; “If you do not go in with boldness you do not enter in by faith. Realize that you go there in the hands of Christ, that his righteousness is upon you and that he leads you in. You should hold up your head with boldness. You stand in grace; you do not slink into it; you do not creep into it; you do not crawl into it! God declares us righteous and we walk into this grace, and we stand in it” (op cit. p. 41).
Lloyd-Jones concludes, “There is nothing more wonderful than this, to be introduced into this grace by Christ, to be set there by him, to be established there by him, to be made to stand in it by him, and to know that we are eternally secure. May God by his Spirit enable us to understand this! We must never be apologetic Christians again; we must never be doubtful and hesitant and uncertain. We must look to him, and make our boast in him, and declare that in him we are standing in his grace. We must go to God with confidence, knowing that he is our loving heavenly Father who now delights to see us, and to receive us, in a way beyond our highest imagination. He is the ‘God of grace.’ Never forget ‘the exceeding riches of his grace.’ Remember that there is no end to his grace. What right have we to be so poor, and to live so much as paupers in the spiritual realm, while the truth about us is that we are standing in grace? (op cit, p.43).
3. THROUGH CHRIST WE REJOICE IN HOPE OF THE GLORY OF GOD.
That is the third mark of having peace with God. First is the fact of our constant access to the Lord, and second, there is our standing in the grace of God, and finally the effect of justification on our affections, that we are the most happy and contented men and women in all of God’s creation, rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God. You understand that this is not an exhortation. It is not a command to us to rejoice. It is a description of the normal life of every justified Christian who has peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a blessed man; he is a joyful man. He rejoices particularly in hope as his life takes him to the grace, because he knows that when he sees the Saviour he will be like him, that for him there is no condemnation now or then, and all his sins have been forgiven through Jesus Christ his Lord and Saviour. The Christian rejoices at such hope.
But, someone says, how can we rejoice on those bad days when we don’t feel like rejoicing? How can we control our feelings? This raises the question of the relationship of our affections to grace and to our Christian life as a whole. As Christians, unless we refuse to allow our feelings to dominate us we are in trouble because, although they may revive us, they can also drive us to misery. There are days when we are confronted by problems in the family, or in the congregation, or in our place or work, and if we are being led by our feelings we’d simply dream of flying away from it all.
Jesus didn’t run away. Remember that the Lord Jesus had that battle in the garden of Gethsemane; he was weighed down when he said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me and give me another cup to drink, not this; nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” Instead of giving in to his feelings, he bowed to his Father’s will. What conviction enabled him to do that? It’s the same as Paul tells us here, the hope of the glory of God – “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame.”
If we all gave in to our feelings there’d be chaos; we couldn’t live together. There would be no restraint in society. Would we be prepared to accept a burglar or a murderer or a rapist saying in his defense, ‘I just felt like doing it’? No one would defend that attitude; everybody would condemn it. “Control your feelings laddie!” Of course our feelings are part of our personalities and in many ways we must thank God for them; life would be terrible without true affections. It is important to see in these opening words of Romans 5 that one of the great purposes of God in justifying us is to begin to restore and renew our affections. How does God do this? By justification and pardon for our sins – oh the bliss of this glorious thought! And by giving us the hope of the glory of God. But more than the teaching; God gives us the strength of the indwelling Spirit every day to rejoice in that hope. So what is it that governs us day by day? Not our feelings but the covenant promises of God, what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, not our whims or emotions. They overtake us and sometimes overwhelm us in so many different ways and at different times. There are Christian duties which we find irksome, but there is always this wonderful counterpoise of rejoicing about our blessed futures. We are called upon to be people who are obviously enjoying life in Christ. We are not meant to be murmurers, complainers or constant grumblers. We are supposed to be rejoicing in the hope of glory; we cannot rejoice too much.
To rejoice is not only a delight which God wants us to enjoy, but it is also an example to others. When people see us in all kinds of adverse circumstances and difficulties, and yet we have a joy and peace and a rejoicing of spirit, they want to know the source of this happiness. From whence does it come? Our lives are attractive lives to a bored and sullen world. This contentment and hope is a crucial way of witnessing for the Lord Jesus Christ. its absence is one of the reasons why we as Christians do not have as much influence in this world as we could. Too often we seem somber and worried, without any peace in our lives. The Bible tells us, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Everyday our God is blessed and at peace with himself, full of joy, and from the fulness of his joy we can rejoice and we become active, keen and full of zest for God and the things of God. As Spurgeon said, ‘Holy joy will oil the wheels of your life’s machine.’ Rejoicing is an integral part of the fruit of being justified by faith through the grace of Christ.
There are various ways of stirring up our feelings. Some of those psychological techniques are well known. But that is not what this text is talking about. This rejoicing stems entirely from justification by faith, the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life. There were no natural means of stirring up the feelings of Paul when he was in prison awaiting execution, yet he was full of joy, “rejoicing in the Lord”. The apostle was saying that our joy stems entirely from our union with the Lord Jesus Christ; it is his joy which possesses our spirits. If we look for happiness we’ll never find it; if we keep searching for joy we’ll never attain it; but when we know that we are justified by faith and have peace with God then there will be joy and peace in him.
We will find that the Lord Jesus himself is the source of our joy. We’ll increasingly relate to him because of what he has done for us. More and more we’ll
begin to understand that he loves us with a depth of love which is indescribable. It can only be brought home to us by the realization of what his death on the cross means to each of us – dearly, dearly has he loved, and we must love him too. It is through his death that he has given us his new life in our hearts. And behind the Lamb of God there is our loving and faithful heavenly Father who “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” What is more he took the initiative and chose us to be his people. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him”
(Eph. 1:3-4).And more than that the Spirit of God indwells. He brings his life into our lives; he renews our affections and elevates and purifies our joy. He makes the hope of eternal life real and conforms to the image of Jesus Christ. These are the basic grounds for our rejoicing and the devil himself can never take our rejoicing from us. They are the spiritual and eternal truths, the great unchangeables. As much as a branch is in the vine, so each one of us is in Christ. He has told us that as much as a bridegroom loves his bride, so Christ loves us, and there is not a closer union than this.
Then there is the eternal, the everlasting and the almighty God who has broken into our lives in time. He has dealt with our past and forgiven our sin because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. He has brought us into a relationship with himself which is ever-present so that we can always call God our Father. He has made us citizens of his kingdom, and the secret of belonging to that kingdom lies in belonging to him. When we look into the future, he says that he will always be our Father, and when the end of life comes he will take us to be with himself eternally. “I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil.1:6. There is no question about it; we are his and we shall be his for ever. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
2nd November 2014 GEOFF THOMAS