Justification—Coming into Our Eternal True Hope
What do you think of when you hear the “hope?”
What would our lives be like if we didn’t have hope?
John Maxwell tells about a small town in Maine that was proposed for the site of a great hydro-electric plant. A dam would be built across the river and the town submerged. When the project was announced, the people were given many months to arrange their affairs and relocate.
During those months, a curious thing happened. All improvements ceased. No painting was done. No repairs were made on the buildings, roads, or sidewalks. Day by day the whole town got shabbier and shabbier. A long time before the waters came, the town looked uncared for and abandoned, even though the people had not yet moved away. One citizen explained: “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.” That town was cursed with hopelessness because it had no future.
What is hope? Hope is not wishing—for a new car or a new pair of shoes. To hope is to expect with confidence. Ultimately, it means to trust in the object of your hope. It is knowing in your heart that what you hope for is true. To be without hope is to have no reason for being. When people look at you, they should see something different. There should be something about you that attracts others to you. 1 Pet 3:15 states
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
As we walk with God, our lives should be such a reflection of Christ that people take note of the hope that we have. Rom 5:1-5 (NIV) says:
Therefore, 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. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 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.
We have been justified by faith
That means that for some reason, some people have been justified, that is “to be put right” in the sight of God. The passage tells us that this justification comes through faith. Our faith, our trust, is in God (John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God…”) and our trust is in Jesus the Christ, our savior (John 20:31, But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.) When we place our faith in Jesus Christ as the only way to obtain a right relationship with God, we are made righteous before God. Now, we still sin, but God sees us as though we “had always been righteous.”
We have peace with God
As a result of us being justified through faith, “we have peace with God…” Sin separated us from God. When Adam and Eve sinned, they left God walking in the garden alone while they hid behind the trees. From that point on, man and God have been living in hostility with one another. But, by trusting in the gift of God, i.e. His Son, Jesus Christ (John 1:12), we are able to have “peace with God.” Thus, peace with God results in two things:
- The ending of the hostility between man and God.
- We have a restored relationship with God, i.e. we no longer need to hide behind the trees, but we can walk with God.
We “have gained access by faith…” to God.
Take note that our access results from our faith which brings us into the very presence of God. Therefore, our access to God is complete and continuous.
We can stand in Christ alone
Our access is “into this grace in which we now stand.” Our standing is in Christ alone and it is maintained by grace. It is all about grace, isn’t it? Philip Yancey relates the story (in “What’s So Amazing About Grace”)
During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death. The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.” After some discussion, the conferees had to agree. The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eightfold path, the Hindu doctrine of Karma, the Jewish covenant, and the Muslim code of law—each offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.
We are able to “rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”
We are told to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Heb 11:1 defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This passage gives us two characteristics of hope:
- It appears to be future (not necessarily far away future, perhaps even tomorrow)
- Hope is a critical component of faith
Without hope you cannot have faith and without faith you cannot have hope.
In the darkest days of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, God asked Jeremiah to go out and buy a piece of real estate—complete with witnesses, a deed, and money (you can read this story in Jeremiah 32:6–15). This act seemed to make no sense, since Judah was about to be conquered and its people taken into exile. But in seventy years, as God reminded Jeremiah, the people would be set free and return to the land to rebuild homes and replant vineyards. Jeremiah’s purchase of land was to provide a beacon of hope during the long years of captivity.
Because of Christ, Christians eagerly anticipate the time when they will share Christ’s glory, in contrast with their falling short of it now (Rom 3:23). In that sense He is “the hope of glory”. The idea behind rejoicing is literally “to boast” or “to exult.” Certainly to share in Christ’s glory is worthy of our rejoicing and even boasting!
Our response to this great hope
Believers can enjoy the peace with God that has been achieved by Christ and the glorious future in God’s presence that awaits us. But how should we react to the experiences of life that are often adverse and difficult?
- We are to rejoice in our sufferings. The “sufferings” spoken of are
- distresses, and
- pressures of life
- We can give glory through our afflictions because we know that the end product of this chain of events that begins with suffering ends with hope.
- We can rejoice in our sufferings because suffering brings about perseverance (i.e. “steadfastness,” the ability to remain strong under difficulties without giving in). Only a believer who has faced distress (suffering) can develop steadfastness.
- Perseverance in turn develops character (which is “proof” and it implies that the result of our steadfastness is a “proven character”), which in turn results in hope.
- Therefore, as believers suffer, we develop steadfastness; that quality deepens our character; and a deepened, tested character cycles again into more hope (i.e., confidence) that God will see us through the most difficult of situations.
A believer’s hope, since it is centered in God and His promises,
- …does not disappoint. “Disappoint” means “to be put to shame because of disappointment” in unfulfilled promises. God’s promises never go unfulfilled.
- This affirmation concerning hope in God is a reflection of Psalm 25:3, 20-21
No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse…Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. My integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you.
The reason this hope does not disappoint is that God has poured out His love into our hearts. God’s love, so abundant in our hearts, encourages us in our hope.
- And His love is poured out through the Holy Spirit,
- Whom He has given us.
The Holy Spirit is the divine Agent who expresses to a believer the love of God, that is, God’s love for us. The reality of God’s love in a believer’s heart gives the assurance, even the guarantee that the believer’s hope in God and His promise of glory is not misplaced and will not fail.
So, how does all of this relate to us as Christians in the world today? Our hope should be deepened as we consider six objects of our hope:
- We should have hope in our salvation. (1Thes 5:8)
- We should have hope in our righteousness. (Gal 5:5)
- We should have hope as look forward to Christ’s glorious appearing. (Tit 2:13)
- We should have hope as we await a literal bodily resurrection. (Act 24:15)
- We should have hope in eternal life. (Tit 3:7)
- We should have hope in the glory of God. (Rom 5:2)
Someone has said that if you could convince a man there was no hope, he would curse the day he was born. Hope is an indispensable quality of life.
Years ago the S-4 submarine was rammed by another ship and quickly sank. The entire crew was trapped in a prison house of death. Ships rushed to the scene of the disaster off the coast of Massachusetts. We don’t know what took place down in the sunken submarine, but we can be sure that the men clung bravely to life as the oxygen slowly gave out.
A diver placed his helmeted ear to the side of the vessel and listened. He heard a tapping noise. Someone, he learned, was tapping out a question in the dots and dashes of Morse code. The question came slowly: “Is … there … any … hope?”
This seems to be the cry of humanity: “Is there any hope?”
Indeed, our hope comes through faith in Jesus Christ.