SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
The Glorious Benefits of Being Justified by Faith
Romans 5:1-11, 18-21
Key Verse: Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:1
On occasions I have lost my temper and spoken angrily to my wife. The sad result of my ugly behavior was alienation. We stopped speaking to each other. Our oneness was ripped apart. This estrangement robbed us of the peace we had previously enjoyed. As my anger subsided, deep pain stabbed my heart because of our ruptured relationship.
During those agonizing times I realized how important that peace was to me. I wanted it back, but realized I could never regain it unless my wife forgave me. When she did forgive me, my heart leaped with joy because I knew I did not deserve her forgiveness.
Today I realize that our marriage was saved more than once by the unmerited love my wife gave me. In truth our marriage was saved by grace. Only the grace of God could enable an offended, hurting wife to practice what Paul said to the Ephesians, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (4:32).
Forgiven, I felt alive again. Having our oneness restored was like a gift from heaven. All of the world’s toys or treasures are nothing compared to the affectionate embrace of the woman who loves me despite my sins.
Yet peace with God is even more precious. That peace also is available to me only through undeserved forgiveness, only this time it must come from God, the One my sins have offended. King David found that peace only after he was able to admit, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4).
My sins against God create a barrier that I cannot break through in my own strength. I cannot rescue myself. I am “dead” in my sins, without hope for eternity. Yet God in his mercy rescues me from what Paul calls “the dominion of darkness.” He does this by sending his Son to die for me. The very name “Jesus” means “God to the rescue.” That is why so many of the old gospel songs include phrases like “I was lost in sin but Jesus took me in.”
That a fellow human being would forgive me is surprising. That the eternal God, Creator of heaven and earth, would forgive me is almost unbelievable. So hard is it to conceive such love that we call it amazing, thus “Amazing Grace.” Clarence Jordan expressed it uniquely in his “Cotton Patch” translation of our Romans passage:
“For God has given us a love transfusion by the Holy Spirit he provided for us. While we were real sick, in the nick of time Christ died for people who couldn’t care less for a loving God. Hardly anyone will die for an ordinary person, and it’s impossible that someone might screw up enough courage to give his life for a truly good person. But God convinces us of his love, because while we were still sinful trash Christ gave his life for us.”
Paul calls this “justification.” It means that in the Mighty Act of letting his Son die for our sins, God restored the oneness our sins had ruptured. We are no longer alienated from God. He removed the estrangement and made us one with Himself, thus the word “atonement.” Christ’s sacrifice offers us the joyous privilege of being “at one” with God. We have only to accept it! We can never earn it or deserve it. And we accept it by faith, trusting the saving work of Christ, and Christ alone, for salvation.
The apostle speaks of three magnificent results of our being “justified by faith.” One is the gift of peace, God’s peace. The second is hope. The third is the assurance that God uses our suffering to make us stronger Christians.
Who can describe the peace of God? No wonder Paul called it the peace that “passes understanding.” Whatever else this peace does, it puts the believer at ease about his eternal destiny. We shall not perish but “have everlasting life.” Glory to God for such a blessed reality!
Hope is so wonderful that life cannot be lived well without it. What it means to share the glory of God, who can tell? It is enough to know that we shall be with Him whom our soul loves, the One who has satisfied our thirst for living water.
Our sufferings seem so unnecessary from a logical human perspective. But Paul offers us God’s perspective. Seen though God’s eyes, our suffering has purpose. Thank God! Not only is He with us when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but He is using our pain to produce character and hope in us.
Think of suffering as an abrasive tool in the hands of God. The carpenter uses sandpaper to produce a beautiful finish on his wood. If the wood could talk, it would tell us the sandpaper hurts. Yet it is necessary to accomplish the finished product.
When my knife is dull, I “hurt” it with an Arkansas stone and a Course Diamond stone. If I withhold the hurting, my knife blade loses its sharpness. The painful sharpening is necessary for the knife to fulfill its purpose.
What blessings are ours as children of God! In verse 21 Paul speaks of the “dominion” of grace. As followers of Jesus we live in a Kingdom where grace is king. Clarence Jordan saw that and translated verses 18-21 in his own quaint way:
“Well, then, just as the result of one disobedient act was banishment for the whole human race, even so the result of one God-pleasing act was the restoration to life for the whole human race. For just as the multitudes were lined up as sinners by one man’s disobedience, even so will the multitudes be lined up as saints by one Man’s obedience. Now Scripture came on the scene to heighten the Fall; but wherever sin flowed, grace overflowed, in order that, as sin was king in the death realm, so might grace, through restoration to favor, be king in the spiritual life realm provided by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Read that paragraph slowly, two or three times, and meditate on its meaning. Think about it – Jesus has rescued us from the kingdom of sin and given us the undeserved privilege of living in the Kingdom where grace is king. If that does not light your fire, your wood must be wet! Surely this is good news in the extreme – and news that must be shared!
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