Wednesday, August 24, 2016

So that the trespass might increase

Read Romans 5

There is an entire sermon in the first two verses.  The chapter begins with therefore which means that Paul didn’t put a chapter break here.  He is continuing with his train of thought and the next few boxcars on that train are:

·     We are justified through our faith.

·     We have peace with God through Jesus Christ.

·     Through Jesus and faith, we have gained God’s grace.

·     We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

So we are good with God, right?  We have received this wonderful gift of grace and everything is right with the world, right?

Not exactly.  We have peace with God.  We may find ourselves in opposition or even at war with the world.  We are in the precise relationship that we should be, but we should not expect peace with the world.

In fact, we may have some or even a lot of friction with the world.  Perhaps we don’t notice this all the time, especially when we keep the company of other believers, but we are at odds with the world and sometimes we suffer.

Now hold your holy horses!  Paul just said that we were at peace with God.  Why should there be any suffering at all?

Because you are no longer a friend of the world.  You are a friend of God.  That alone may put you at odds with the world.

To which the followers of Jesus replied, “Oh great???”

Actually, Paul says we should be a little excited about this suffering that might come our way because we are a friend of God and not the world.  Paul says that we should rejoice in our suffering.

You might think that Paul had a loose screw in this theology, but Peter and James both told us the same thing.  Paul, adds his own explanation to this rather provocative statement.

Paul says that suffering produces perseverance.  What does it mean to persevere?  It means to stay the course—often in the face of adversity—even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Stay the course.

But perseverance is not the end product.  Perseverance produces character.  We presume from the escalating context that this will be good character.  Perhaps in Paul’s time such distinctions were not necessary.  But even character is not the end state.

Character produces hope!

So as you go through this progression we see that our suffering can produce hope.  Some may think this backwards.  Surely we need hope to get through our suffering.

But let’s take this in the context presented to us.  We are at peace with God.  What is the evidence of this?

The world is at war with us.  The blood of Jesus has reconciled all things to himself but not all things want to be reconciled.  Much of our world remains at odds with us because we are reconciled to God and a friend of God.

We suffer, stay the course, refine our godly character, and emerge from these trials of life in the flesh with hope.  By the evidence of the world being set against us we know that we are at peace with God.

Hope does not disappoint!  Through his own Holy Spirit, God has filled our hearts with love.

Paul reframes his discussion.  Sometimes Marines and soldiers die for each other, not so much because they are good but because they are friends.  You might see a fireman risk his life to save a child in a burning building.  We do see people sacrificing their lives for others from time to time, but overall, most people are not going to risk their lives for you, especially if they don’t know you and double especially if they don’t like you or you don’t like them.

But God, however, poured out his love for us while we were still sinners—while we were still set in opposition to him. 

While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!

Now that right there is cooking with Crisco, but it is not the pinnacle of Paul’s exposition.  If God did this for us when we were his enemies, how much more will he do for us now that we are his friends?

If when we deserved wrath we received mercy and forgiveness through the blood of Jesus, how much more will we know God’s love now that we have been reconciled?

So in our worldly sufferings, stay the course, refine your character, and live in hope.  Our suffering is not because we are at war with God but because we are at peace with him and the world doesn’t like it.

But we don’t care if the world likes it or not for the God that went to the cross for us in this ultimate display of love for us has more love in store for us.

I am at peace with God.  My trials and tribulations are shaping me in the image of his Son and because of this I have hope.

I have hope not because things are easy but because I am at peace with God.  I hope because he has done this for me!

Remember, Paul is writing something of a textbook disguised as a letter to this Roman congregation, so he reframes again, this time in more reflective terms.

Paul didn’t give the Romans the story of Adam and Eve or the serpent in the garden or even Cain and Abel, but his readers had some knowledge of these creation accounts and sin entering the world.

So Paul offers:  Sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and death came to all men because all had sinned.  Even before the law, death was in the world because sin was in the world.

A record of sins was not kept before the law but death prevailed in the world because of sin.  From Adam to Moses, people did not have 248 do this instructions and 365 don’t do that directives; yet sin was present and humankind was subject to death.

Paul continues that as sin entered the world through a single man and brought death to the many; through one man—Jesus—his righteousness brought justification for many and life to all men.

Through the disobedience of one man, the many were made sinners.  Through the obedience of one man, the many are made righteous. 

But Paul notes this is not a tit-for-tat relationship.  The gift is not like the trespass.  The trespass brought condemnation plain and simple but the gift brings the abundant provisions of God.

God always has something greater in store for us.  Paul’s readers and that includes us need to get our minds around this concept.  God has something greater in store for us.  We need to understand this to understand the last part of this chapter.

The law was added so that the trespass might increase.

Let’s get this straight.  God gave his people the law so that there could be even more sin, or at least his people would be aware of even more sin?

Really?  What was Paul smoking?

It turns out that he was very sober and cut to the heart of the matter of God always has more for us.  For where sin increased, grace increased all the more.

So just as sin reigned in death, now grace reigns in this life we have been given in Jesus Christ.

Sin’s day has come and gone.  We live in grace.

We live in grace.
We are forgiven.
We are made right with God.
We are justified.

And because the law showed us how far off target we were, we have a little taste of how much greater than sin and death that God’s love for us truly is.

God’s love and forgiveness and mercy and grace are much greater than anything that sin and death can try to enslave us with.

The trials and tribulations and suffering that we endure in this world are not because sin has the upper hand.  The world comes against us because we are a friend of God and the world hates us for that.

But we do not become discouraged.  We stay the course, refine our godly character, and live in hope.

There is no place that sin has lured us from which grace has not already rescued us.  Let us live in hope as people of hope!


No comments:

Post a Comment