1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 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. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 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. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and it was good. Everything God created was good. The Lord God created two special trees in Paradise and they were good. Each tree served God’s holy purpose, but they were used in different ways. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was to be avoided under penalty of death. The tree of life, on the other hand, was to be enjoyed by Adam and Eve as often as they liked. As long as they continued to obey God, they were at peace with God and with each other.
We unfortunately are far removed from the holy state of God’s original creation and we might question God for putting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden. But Adam and his wife were not naïve when they rejoiced in God’s handiwork. Because they were made in God’s image, they understood the value of both trees. Their thoughts were in complete harmony and peace with God’s thoughts.
II. Unholy discord
That was until they disobeyed God then that wonderful peace broken. In their bent reasoning, they rejected God’s directive and ate from the forbidden tree. So afterwards they fled in terror from God’s presence. They were ashamed. Their rebellion brought them under the yoke of slavery to Satan. With the curse came pain in childbirth, the rebellion of children against parents, and marital strife. Peace disappeared from the workplace as well. Man would be the breadwinner only by the sweat of his brow. He would till the ground but the ground would bring forth thorns and thistles. Since then there has been no shortage of strife between management and labor, between worker and fellow worker and sometimes even between husband and wife.
This hellish strife is only a prelude to what awaits some in all of eternity!
That’s why God drove Adam and Eve from the garden and posted fiery cherubim and a flaming sword at the entrance to Eden. He didn’t want man to eat from the tree of life and live forever in this spiritual condition.
But God couldn’t merely overlook the sin of His creation. Justice was required! For that, He led us to a strange, new tree of life, the Cross of the Crucified Son of God. We are not ashamed of the cross, because the blessed fruit of that tree is peace and life.
III. The blessed fruit of the new tree of life: peace
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We shouldn’t think of peace as the world does. It only knows temporary, worldly peace. Politically speaking peace is nothing more than the lack of national conflict. On personal terms, it often means compromising our values and morals lest we face conflict. This type of peace only lasts until next conflict. At best this peace only for a season.
But the peace that is spoken of here is eternal. It’s a peace between sinful man and a Holy God. Jesus’ cross removed the great wall of sin that separated us from God. Jesus paid the price on the cross for our transgression. So we are free of an evil conscience; free of the terror of eternal punishment; free from being controlled by Satan; free from the flesh; free to live for God here and hereafter!
Being at peace with God also means we are at war with those against God and those who serve the prince of this perishing world. They only care for the carnal peace.
This helps us understand the apparent dilemma in the Bible where Jesus is called the Prince of Peace and yet Jesus himself asserts, “I [do] not come to bring peace, but the sword” (Mt 10:34). By His Holy Spirit working through the means of grace, Jesus creates in us peace that the confidence of his cross will deliver us from God’s wrath. But all who consider themselves their own gods; turn on the true Master as well as His servants.
If you have remained in the true faith, I know that you’ve experienced this peace and the strife that sometimes comes because of it. Maybe you’ve tried to help someone deal with sin or tried to share the gospel with them. But no matter how lovingly you’ve spoken, that person has thanked you only with hostility. As much as it hurts to have your kindness repaid with anger, you can still lay your head on your pillow at night and know that all is well with your soul. Even if you don’t have peace with the world, you have the peace that surpasses all human understanding, you have peace with God. And that’s better than worldly peace anytime.
Luther wrote these words about those who live by the spirit and those who live for the flesh: “A righteous man has peace with God but distress in the world because he lives in the spirit. An unrighteous man has peace with the world but distress and tribulation with God, because he lives in the flesh. But just as the Spirit is eternal, so the peace of the righteous and the tribulation of the unrighteous will be eternal. And just as the flesh is temporal, so the tribulation of the righteous and the peace of the unrighteous will be temporal.” (Lectures on Romans, chapter 4)
We preach Christ crucified. Through His cross “. . . we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” We know that no sinner can stand in God’s holy presence and live. How then can we sinners have the hope of escaping hell and entering heaven? Only through the blood of the innocent Lamb of God! The Lamb who paid the price for our sins and for our peace. Does that mean we have no suffering? Not at all!
Romans 5:3 says: “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings.” Those who are not spiritually minded cannot fathom what good can come from their suffering. By nature we avoid things that are unpleasant, especially if they are prompted by faith. In that way our inner struggle is not so unlike that of Peter, who with firm resolve to go to prison and death with Jesus denied our Lord three times, on the night He was betrayed, so Peter could save his own neck.
Whole churches and theologies are built on the idea that when you begin to follow God with your whole heart, your relationships will improve, your wallet will grow fat, you will be healthy, the sun will rise every morning for you, the wind will blow gently on your back, the waters will part allowing you to walk through. They see their reward here on earth. That’s a theology of glory, not theology of the cross or of the Christ. That’s the theology of man, a theology from below (man) not above (God).
But that’s not what the inspired apostle says here. He tells you that if you are a Christian, you will suffer. And if you don’t suffer, you not a Christian walking in faith.
Since the peace of God rules our hearts, we don’t look at our suffering as a sign of God’s displeasure. Here it says that “we also rejoice in our sufferings” because they drive us to God’s promises and increase our hope. If He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t care. He would let us play on the devil’s freeway. He would give us a pocket full of cash, and tell us, “Here, kid, get lost. Go downtown and stuff your face with French fries or your drug of choice.” But a loving God allows His children to suffer affliction so that they cling, all the tighter, to His promise of grace. For He does not want them to become lost, this patience produces character and character produces hope. Romans 5:5 says: “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
IV. A peace born of heavenly love
All this came from the love of God that is unlike any love we’ve experienced on this side of eternity. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Did you ever notice how God likes to arrive when the situation seems beyond all hope? When Abraham was 100 and his wife, Sarah, was 90, well past their childbearing years, then came the son of the covenant. When the Israelites had their backs against the Red Sea and the Egyptian army was upon them God opened up a door of escape through the Red Sea and let them walk through. We ought to get used to this pattern!
When Jesus was arrested without a fight, when He gave His cheek to the ones who struck it, when He had an airtight case but made no reply to His accusers, when His blessed body hung lifeless on the cross, when all seemed lost to the world, and even Jesus disciples, saw nothing but disaster. It was precisely at this time—just the right time—when God declared His victory, when Satan’s head was crushed and peace was made between God and the ungodly.
What wondrous love is this! “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man.” When Charles and Ann Lindbergh’s infant son was kidnapped, a 70-year-old man volunteered to meet with the kidnapper at night. Lindbergh told him not to put his life at risk like that. But the man was so enamored by the airman’s brave accomplishments and noble character that he ignored the advice and met with the kidnapper anyway—at the gate of a graveyard—not once but twice. He took an uncommon risk—even for a “righteous” man.
“. . . though for a good man [or perhaps ‘a good cause’] someone might possibly dare to die.” When a U.S. marine threw himself into the path of machine gun fire, he did it in the hope that if he must lose his life, he might contribute in some small way to the protection and freedom of an otherwise defenseless people. We have known many such men and women since the founding of our nation. But who would die in order to save a confirmed and arrogant enemy? In no other religion do we hear a petition for forgiveness drop from the lips of a Holy God for a corrupt people: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. . . . When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of his Son.”
The angel guards the gate of Eden no more. A flashing sword no longer prohibits our access to the tree of life. We preach Christ Crucified for where God, our brother, is sacrificed for our sins, there is the tree of life, the new paradise guaranteed, together with the blessed fruit of unbroken peace with God. A peace paid by the blood of the Lamb on wooden cross on Calvary, there (T) is our Tree of Eternal life. There (T) you’ll find your salvation in Jesus.
In Jesus Name, and for Jesus sake, Amen and amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, AMEN.