Sermon on Romans 5:1-5
Text: 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 boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
The Sunday after Pentecost has been designated as Trinity Sunday. For centuries the church has set aside this day to reflect upon our triune God. As you remember, triune means “three in one.” There is only one God, but there are three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is a mystery we cannot understand, for how can 1+1+1=3? Yet, we believe it to be true for God has thus revealed himself on the pages of Holy Scriptures. This morning, we are going to focus our attention on the work of each person of the Trinity. In doing so, we will be led to exclaim BLESSED BE THE HOLY TRINITY. 1. The Father Has Justified Us. 2. The Son Has Redeemed Us and 3. The Holy Spirit Has Given Us Faith.
We turn our attention, first of all, on the Father. In catechism class, we often refer to the Father’s work as creation. We acknowledge that he created the world in which we live. We also take note of the fact that he preserves us, that is, he provides us with everything we need for our lives. However, he does more than take care of our physical needs. St. Paul, in verse one, refers to this when he says, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God.” One might easily overlook that portion of the passage, but it is one of the key concepts of the Christian faith. It is the overriding theme of the epistle to the Romans. We have been justified.
What does the word “justify” mean? As we have learned, to “justify” it to “declare ‘Not Guilty!’”. It is a term that comes straight from the courtroom. God, the Father, declares us “Not Guilty!”. This is not to say that we were not guilty. Indeed, none of us should ever claim to be not guilty, on our own. As the apostle John writes in his first epistle, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) All of us must confess that we have sinned against our God time and again. We have not always had the proper respect for those whom God has placed in authority over us: our parents, those in the church and the government. The laws of our government tell us to do one thing, but we choose to do another. An example of this is the speed limits that are posted. If there is no law enforcement personnel in the area, we can go as fast as we would like. This is not only breaking the laws of our land. It is also breaking God’s law. This instance is just a speck on the mountain of sins that we commit every day. Indeed, if we were to stand in God’s courtroom on our own, the verdict would have to be “Guilty!”. The sentence would be eternity in hell. Yet, God declares us “Not Guilty!”. Because of this verdict, we are at peace with God.
This peace with God was lost long ago. We see evidence of this in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were at peace with God. We are told they would walk with God in the cool of the evening. Look, however, at how that relationship changed after they disobeyed God and ate from the forbidden tree. When they heard God in the garden, instead of going to him, they ran away from him. They were afraid of God. They knew that they had sinned and were afraid of God and his punishment. There was no peace for them. Indeed, anyone who has ever been bothered by their conscience, can understand the fear and upheaval in their lives. Yet, we do not have to be afraid. The Almighty God has declared us “Not Guilty!”. In God’s sight we stand holy and perfect. Because of the Father’s declaration, we are at peace with God.
Why has the Father justified us? Is it because we are better than all the others? Indeed, such is not the case! The Bible tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Could it be that God overlooks sin? He tells us that our sins really aren’t all that bad and he can overlook a few mistakes. Does that sound like the same God who says in Deuteronomy 5:9, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” or who says in Ezekiel 18:4, “The one who sins is the one who will die”? Indeed, God does not overlook sin, nor does he leave it unpunished. How, then, can God declare us to be “Not Guilty!”?
It is here that the work of the Second Person of the Trinity comes into play. St. Paul speaks of this in verses 1&2, “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.” The only way that we can gain access to God the Father is through his Son, Jesus Christ. The work of Jesus, God’s Son, is called “redemption.” “Redemption” or the verb “to redeem” means, quite simply, to “buy back” or “ransom.” You will, at times, see a redemption value on the top of cans of pop for the various states. This means that the state is willing to pay a certain price to buy back the can from you.
We, also, had a redemption value placed on us. We belonged to the devil, because of our sins. We were sentenced to death because of our sins. What price did God demand be paid to buy us back, to “redeem” us? What price did he exact from Jesus, so that we would be justified? It was not earthly wealth, for Psalm 49:7&8 tell us, “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them — the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough.” So, it had to be something even more precious. What was the ransom price? Peter tells us in his first epistle, “It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18&19)
God demanded the blood of Jesus as the payment for our sins. God did not overlook our sins, when he declared us “Not Guilty!”. He took the punishment that we deserved and punished his Son. It is like in the days of kings and royalty when the prince or princess would misbehave. Instead of spanking the royal children, another child would be brought in and spanked in their place. Our sense of justice tells us that wasn’t fair. One should not have to be punished for someone else’s wrongs. Yet, that is exactly what the Father did. He punished his Son for our sins. He got everything that we deserved. It is only because of Jesus’ redemption that we can be declared “Not Guilty!”.
Because of Jesus’ redemptive work, we have gained access to God. It was if God and we were on separate sides of a canyon. The canyon is our sins, which separated us from God. We had no desire to go to the other side. We were content in our sins because we knew no better. God wanted us to come to him, so he sent his Son to bridge the gap between us and himself. Jesus’ work of redemption bridges the way to God. He makes it possible for us to come to God. We have peace with God because Jesus bridged the gap for us. We can go to our Father and rely upon him.
Yet, we would still not have crossed the bridge on our own. We would still be wandering around in the darkness of our sins, if it were not for the work of the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. St. Paul speaks of the gift of the Holy Spirit in verse 5, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” The Holy Spirit created the faith in my heart that led me to accept the gift of redemption that Jesus won for me. The Holy Spirit brought me to faith, which alone can give me the forgiveness of sins, the faith that gives me the gift of heaven. All of this is mine because the Holy Spirit created faith in my heart. Not only did he create the faith, but he continues to strengthen it. He works through the Word to strengthen my faith. In the Lord’s Supper, not only is forgiveness given, but also the strengthening of my faith. Because he continually strengthens my faith, he gives me confidence in the life to come. More than that, he gives me confidence for this life. He tells me that my heavenly Father is watching over me, making sure that I have all that I need for this life. He assures me that Jesus is in control of all things and makes everything work out for my benefit, even if I can’t see it at the time. All these gifts and assurances are mine because the Holy Spirit created faith in me.
Did you notice something about the sermon this morning? Who was the one who was active and who received all the benefits? It was the Father who justified me. I could not do so. It was the Son who redeemed me. I couldn’t pay for my own sins, much less the sins of the entire world. It was the Holy Spirit who created faith in my heart. I could not choose to believe in Jesus on my own. This is hard for us to take. Our human nature asks, ‘You mean, I don’t do anything to be saved? You mean that I didn’t help out at all, not even in the slightest bit?’ I have to tell myself this again and again. God did everything and I did nothing. For this, I rejoice. I couldn’t save myself, but God saved me. God saw that I would be lost if it were not for his intervention. So, in his love, he did it all for me. I receive all the benefits of his work. No wonder Paul says in verse 3, “We boast.” We cannot boast about our efforts, but we do boast about what has been given to us and, thus, we give glory to God. When we receive a nice present, we might also point out the giver: ‘Look what so-and-so gave me.’ In the same way, we say to others, “Look at the salvation God has given me.” We, not only call attention to the gift, but, also, the giver.
This morning, we have had the opportunity to look at the working of the three persons of the Trinity. Again and again, we have been reminded of how much God loves us. We saw the love of the Father as he sent his Son into the world and the Holy Spirit into our hearts. We saw the love of the Son as he laid down his life so that we would be saved. We rejoice in the love of the Holy Spirit as he created the faith in our hearts which saves us. In light of all that God has done for us, may our lives reflect the joy that is in our hearts. May all aspects of our lives shout out “Blessed be the Holy Trinity!”. Amen.
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