August 31, 2010 David Balzer

Romans 5: Worth Boasting About

Aussies don’t generally like BOASTERS. Big-noters.  And so, a candidating politician won’t admit that they’re FAVOURITE in the polls. For the voters, that’s a sure sign of BOASTING. Of taking the electorate for granted. And they’re likely to suffer an election backlash.  Or show-offs who hoon around the streets in their fast cars. We wiggle our little finger at boasters like that.

Or the footy man of the match is interviewed. And the reporter talks about what an amazing game he played. And the standard way of dealing with that is for the man of the match to bat it back, talking about how well THE TEAM played. Gave 110%. How much it was the result of a WHOLE TEAM EFFORT. Even if everyone knows that it was pretty much a one-man-show.

The Aussie way is not to stick your head above the crowd. Not to big note yourself. Not to BOAST. Because when you do, Aussies love to take people like that down a peg or two. Our national pastime is cutting down tall poppies. We don’t like BOASTERS. It seems to be the opposite of being humble. Of being a good bloke.

But the funny thing is/ in this passage today, PAUL is doing some boasting. Three times in 11 verses, he BOASTS.

But you probably won’t notice it right away. Because there’s such a negative connotation to the word that nearly every modern translation uses REJOICE instead. Can you see it now?

The end of v2. We BOAST in the hope of the glory of God.

V3. Not only so, but we BOAST in our sufferings

And then, finally, down in v11. Not only is this so, but we also BOAST in GOD through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rejoice isn’t a BAD translation. There’s certainly REASON to rejoice. But I think it loses some of the STING Paul means it to carry. Let me show you why.

Remember what he’s been doing in the first four chapters. He’s been taking down the Jews who reckon they can be right with God simply because they have the law. Because God’s made a covenant with their nation. A covenant with circumcision as its sign. They’re PROUD of it. Even BOASTING.

But Paul’s been showing that NO ONE can be right with God by DOING, or keeping, or obeying. Because no one can do it PERFECTLY. Instead, it’s got to happen simply by TRUSTING GOD. Just like Abraham did. That’s the argument so far.

And it’s not just a problem for the Jews of Paul’s time. Israel’s got a long history of the same problem. Of human pride. Of people trusting in their RELIGION, rather than their RELATIONSHIP. Of trusting THEMSELVES, rather than GOD.

Right back in the prophet Jeremiah’s time, about 600 BC, God warned his people that judgment was coming. That if they didn’t turn back to him, then Babylon would invade and conquer them.

And one way of looking at their sin was that it was BOASTING. Like in chapter 7 (p540). God tells Jeremiah to go to the gate of the temple, and then to say (v2),

“‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. 3 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “THIS IS THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD, THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD, THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD!” … 5 If you REALLY change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. 8 BUT LOOK, YOU ARE TRUSTING IN DECEPTIVE WORDS THAT ARE WORTHLESS.

They think because they’ve GOT THE TEMPLE, or that they’re making sacrifices, that gives them license to sin any way they like. But God’s saying, don’t trust deceptive words like that. Don’t boast “We’ve got the temple, we can do what we like.”

Into the next chapter, Ch 8 v8. MORE boasting.

8 “‘How can you say, “WE ARE WISE, FOR WE HAVE THE LAW OF THE LORD,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? 9 The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?

This time, boasting about having the law. But it’s no good HAVING it if you don’t KEEP IT! Which is Paul’s argument in Romans 2.

And so into Jeremiah chapter 9, where God warns that judgment is coming. V7.

7 Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty says: “SEE, I WILL REFINE AND TEST THEM, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people? 8 Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks with deceit. With his mouth each speaks cordially to his neighbor, but in his heart he sets a trap for him. 9 SHOULD I NOT PUNISH THEM FOR THIS?” declares the LORD.

And then down to v23, we see the lesson to be learned from the whole warning.

23 This is what the LORD says: “LET NOT THE WISE MAN BOAST OF HIS WISDOM OR THE STRONG MAN BOAST OF HIS STRENGTH OR THE RICH MAN BOAST OF HIS RICHES, 24 BUT LET HIM WHO BOASTS BOAST ABOUT THIS: THAT HE UNDERSTANDS AND KNOWS ME, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.

Boasting in your own strength, or cleverness gets you nowhere. Except to judgment. Boasting about your privilege, or your possession of the law only leads to God’s anger.

But there IS a boasting God DOES delight in, says Jeremiah. The person who boasts that he knows and understands and trusts the God who forgives. It’s not boasting in SELF. It’s boasting in the blessings of what SOMEONE ELSE has given.

Well, that was Jeremiah’s time. Jump forward to the church in Rome. AD 57. Different age, different place. But the same problem.

Look at Ch 2 v17, Paul’s talking to the Jews in the church.

17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and BRAG about (same word as BOAST) – if you BOAST about – your relationship to God; 18 if you KNOW HIS WILL and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are A GUIDE FOR THE BLIND, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, BECAUSE YOU HAVE IN THE LAW THE EMBODIMENT OF KNOWLEDGE AND TRUTH-

All those things they were BOASTING about. All wonderful advantages of having the law! So, what’s the problem? They’ve GOT the law, but they don’t KEEP it. Paul goes on, v21.

21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who brag (that’s BOAST again) – You who BOAST – about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?

There’s actually nothing to boast ABOUT. They’ve got the law. But they might as well NOT have it. Because it doesn’t make A scrap of practical DIFFERENCE. The Jews are in exactly the same position as the Gentiles. Guilty. Helpless. Dead, Headed for judgment.

Worth Boasting About

And so we come to chapter 5. Where Paul’s going to outline something WORTH boasting about.

In Ch 1:18 to Ch 3:20 he’s described the NEED for justification. Jew and Gentile alike are all helpless and guilty in sin.

Then from 3:21 to 4:25 he’s shown the WAY of justification. Through faith in Christ. And now in Ch 5 he’s going to show us the BLESSINGS of justification. What’s so GOOD about being right with God, and why it’s WORTH boasting about.

a. peace with God

First point. We have PEACE WITH GOD. V1.

5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

If your sin’s been dealt with. If God’s declared you forgiven and righteous. Then there’s no barrier between you and God. Peace with God is what we were MADE for.

There’s peace where there used to be enmity. Access where there used to be distance. Easiness and comfort where there used to be tension and rejection. Intimacy and acceptance where there used to be rejection and alienation. Friendship between those who used to be strangers.

It’s the position King David was describing back in Ch 4 v7. A quote from Ps 32.

7 “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

How good is it to know that a failure, or a mistake will NEVER be dredged up again. That it’s gone, forgotten, wiped clean?

standing in grace

The second blessing that comes from being justified through faith is that we’re STANDING IN GRACE. V2.

2 through Jesus we have gained access by faith INTO THIS GRACE IN WHICH WE NOW STAND.

When God declares us righteous he introduces us into the realm of grace. We’re welcomed into the throne room. There’s an open door to the King of heaven.

And once we’re IN, we STAND in this grace. We’re ESTABLISHED in it. Solid, sure and certain of it. Why? Because it’s BY FAITH IN WHAT Jesus HAS DONE, not in our own efforts.

There’s no uncertainty. No grovelling on hands and knees. No hoping we’ve caught the king in a good mood. Or desperately thinking back over our actions during the day – whether we’ve done enough to DESERVE the grace we’ve been introduced into. That’s not STANDING in grace.

When Billy Graham, the American evangelist, was in Sydney a number of years ago, he was interviewed by Mike Willesee. And after a couple of introductory questions, he was asked, “Dr Graham, do you think you’ll be going to heaven?”

And his answer caused quite a media storm. Because his response was this: “I don’t just THINK I’m going to heaven, Mike. I KNOW I’m going to heaven. And it’s not cause I’m Billy Graham and I’ve preached to a few people in my time. And it’s not because I’m a GOOD MAN. God knows… I’m a sinner.” He said, “The point is, I know what my future holds… because I’m trusting Jesus. And he’s promised it. For me… and anyone else who wants to trust him.”

That’s STANDING in the grace he’s been introduced into. And it’s a BLESSING worth BOASTING about.

c. Hope of the glory of God

Next blessing is at the end of v2.

And we rejoice in THE HOPE OF THE GLORY OF GOD.

No, it’s not just REJOICE. What is it? It’s BOAST. And we BOAST in the hope of the glory of God.

When you become a Christian, God doesn’t promise that all of your problems will automatically be fixed up. In fact, life often gets MORE difficult. But one thing we CAN be sure of, God’s promised us GLORY. Seeing and experiencing HIS glory. Seeing and experiencing the glorious renewed heavens and earth for all eternity. Receiving glorious resurrected bodies OURSELVES. And experiencing the glory of no pain, or crying or sickness or mourning. The glory of perfect intimacy and peace and fulfilment.

That’s the Christian HOPE. And it’s a CERTAIN hope. It’s not like the hope you might have that Penrith will win the premiership, or that it’s going to be sunny tomorrow. It’s a hope that’s based on solid foundations.

It’s SO SOLID, so CERTAIN. It even means the Christian can boast in the face of sufferings. Look there in v3.

3 Not only so, but we also rejoice (we EVEN BOAST) in OUR SUFFERINGS, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

The Christian can even boast in sufferings because God’s brought them about to produce perseverance and character and HOPE. Hope to experience the glory of God.

Do you LONG for heaven? Is there an ACHING to be set free from the bondage of decay in THIS LIFE? Or is life going pretty well at the moment, and eternity seems a distant irrelevance? Perhaps that’s because you’re not SUFFERING.

One of my friends at college suffered, at times, from depression. And he said to me once that he could actually understand why depressed Christians sometimes committed suicide. Because life was so low, suffering so painful, their hope for God’s glory was so strong they could almost TASTE it.

That’s why Paul says Christians can BOAST in suffering. Because God uses it to strengthen our hope for the glory of God.

d. God’s love poured into our hearts.

And there’s another reason our hope isn’t just WISHFUL THINKING. Why it’s CERTAIN. Because we’ve already got a TASTE of the experience of God. Look there in v5.

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.

God brings suffering to strengthen our hope. But he also gives us HIS SPIRIT to make our hope more sure.

The experience of the Christian life MIGHT be about suffering. It might be persecution or sickness or testing. But at the same time, for the genuine Christian, there’s also an experience that, despite our sin, God LOVES us.

At times that feeling will be stronger than at other times. Often it catches me by surprise. When I’m reading something in the Bible, or something in the words of a song or a prayer someone’s praying just CATCH me, and I’m overwhelmed by a feeling that God loves me.

That can only come from God’s Spirit. It can’t come from emotional manipulation, or great music. Can’t come from a lack of sleep or hormones.

The genuine experience of the gracious, undeserved love of the holy and powerful King of the Universe only comes from His Holy Spirit. Given to everyone who becomes a Christian.

And his love is POURED into our hearts. Like a rain storm flooding down on a dusty dry desert. And that’s sometimes what it FEELS like. Being SWEPT away by God’s love. Overwhelmed by the strength of it. The GRACE of it!

And it’s that experience that makes our HOPE for the future MORE CERTAIN.

e. God’s love demonstrated

But there’s ANOTHER proof God gives us of his love. He gives us a TASTE of it. But he also gives us A PRACTICAL DEMONSTRATION.

It’s a FIFTH blessing of being justified. A fifth reason to BOAST. THE CROSS. God’s love demonstrated.

The cross does LOTS of things. But ONE thing it does is remind us of how much God loves us. Historical proof. V6.

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.

The point that’s being made is not that the cross was such a terrible way of dying, and that’s how much God loved us. But that he did it AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME TO BEST DISPLAY HIS LOVE.

It was when we were powerless. When we were ENEMIES.

It’s just possible to imagine someone sacrificing himself for someone who LOVES him. Who DESERVES it.  A righteous person, or a good person. But it’s ANOTHER THING ENTIRELY to die for someone who HATES you. THAT’S love!

If you’re a cricketer, the best time to demonstrate your character is when the pressure is on. Scoring a century when your team is 7 for 25 and the ball is swinging – that’s JUST THE RIGHT TIME to show your resolve. Scoring a century when your team is 3 for 500 and conditions are perfect – it’s good, but it doesn’t really DEMONSTRATE much.

Christ dying WHEN WE WERE SINNERS was just the right time to demonstrate the Father’s love.

It’s the historical proof of the cross IN THE PAST that assures us that God loves us IN THE PRESENT, and gives us confident hope that he has a glorious FUTURE planned for us.

f. saved from God’s wrath.

In fact, God’s already done the DIFFICULT thing. So, we can be 100% sure of the EASIER thing. That’s the logic of the NEXT point. From v9.

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!

Can you see the logic? The cross is evidence that God’s already done the DIFFICULT thing. He’s made us his FRIENDS, when we used to be his ENEMIES.

So, now we’re his FRIENDS, it’s the EASY thing for him to save his FRIENDS.

And that’s the SIXTH blessing of being justified. When it comes to judgment day, and we’re all called to give an account of our life. God’s going to say to those who belong to him, “Friends, step THIS way! When I look at YOU, I see Jesus’ righteousness. Come on into the party. Come to the front of the queue, your name’s on the invitation list.”

That’s something worth boasting about. Which is how Paul finishes this section. Summing everything up. V11.

11 Not only is this so, but we also REJOICE in God (there it is again – we BOAST in God) through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Being made right with God has got so many blessings that come with it, you just want to BRAG about it. Brag about GOD. Because he’s so GOOD. And because you’re NOT.

It’s like the bushwalker who stumbles across an incredible view. He’s arrived at just the right time, the sun’s in just the right place, he’s perched on a rock in just the right position to see the waterfall, or the eagle, or the sunset.

He can’t believe his good fortune! He takes the photos, and tells everyone he sees. That’s the sort of boasting we’re talking about here. Nothing to do with YOU. EVERYTHING to do with WHERE YOU’RE STANDING.

Gordon was telling me about a conversation he had with Scott Donnellan many years ago. Scott was the student minister at Sutherland Presbyterian. They were on the banks of the Woronora River just down the hill from Sutherland. Lovely spot. It’s in “the shire.” The SUTHERLAND Shire.

Now, people in the shire are pretty protective. Pretty PROUD of their corner of the world. And they’ll often DEFEND it to the death.

And Scott was telling Gordon about what the Shire was like. And what PEOPLE from the Shire were like. And a local walked past. And Scott said quietly, “I bet that guy thought I was criticising the Shire. And on his way back, he’ll defend it.”

Gordon said, “No way!”

Sure enough, five minutes later, on his way back. He stopped, and made sure he pointed out all the good things about this part of the world. About how people didn’t appreciate it. And what a treasure it was.

That’s the sort of boasting WE should be on about. Defending. Enjoying. Our enthusiasm should be CONTAGIOUS. We should be as evangelistic about the place WE’RE standing in, as that guy from Woronora. God DELIGHTS in people like that. People who DELIGHT in HIM.

Jer 9:23-24

23 This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.

May that be OUR boast!

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