Sermon notes 06-14-20                      Peace with God           Pastor David King

Romans 5:1-8: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 Earlier this week when Allison and I discussed, as we do every week, what music might go with my message, I think I probably frustrated Allison even more than I usually do because at the time we talked I wasn’t at all clear which direction to go with my message.  This passage of Scripture that David just read for us from Paul’s letter to the Romans is packed full of theological truths and wonderful hope for those who claim Christ as Lord and Savior.  In these eight verses Paul describes great and precious promises Christians can claim as a result of what Christ has done for us.  There are so many directions a message on this passage could take.

But as I prayed for direction about what to preach, I was especially drawn to a term that appears in the first verse of this passage.  That term is peace with God.  Paul says “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  So I want to speak with you today about that term peace with God, and I would like to do so by posing three questions: first, why do we need peace with God; secondly, how do we get peace with God; and finally, how does being at peace with God impact our lives?

I’ll begin by re-reading verse one of Romans chapter 5 in its entirety: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.   Now, whenever we come across that word “therefore,” we know that it is alluding to a point that has previously been established and settled.

So in order to fully understand what follows the word “therefore,” we need to determine what point had just been established and settled; in other words we need to figure out what that word therefore is there for.  In this case we need to identify what point Paul had just been making at the end of chapter four.  In Romans 4, Paul had been teaching about the faith of Abraham, and how Abraham’s faith in God made him right before God.  Paul tells us that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness.  Abraham did not have righteousness of his own, but righteousness was credited to Abraham because of his faith.  And then Paul says, it is the same for those who have faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul makes the point that we are made right before God, we are justified, not through our own righteousness, but because of our faith in Christ who died for our sins and then rose again.

Therefore, Paul continues in chapter 5 verse 1, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Which brings us back to the first question I posed: why do we need peace with God in the first place?  Why are we not already at peace with God; what circumstances have led to us not being at peace with God?

Let’s think for a moment about what it means when persons or entities are not at peace with another.  When two nations, for example, are not at peace with one another, they are either at war with each other, or they are at least hostile toward one another.  They certainly do not cooperate with one another or share the same interests.  They regard one another as enemies.

You might be thinking, “Well, I am sure I have never considered God to be an enemy.”  But brothers and sisters, we cannot claim to be a friend of God if we do not cooperate with the will of God, if we do what we know is displeasing to God, or fail to do what we know pleases God.  And we have all been guilty of those things.  We are all sinners, and God cannot abide or tolerate or condone or accept sin.  Because of human sin, hostility exists between humanity and God.

And moreover, many of us treat God as an enemy, or at least as an opponent, in the competition for control of our lives.  As for me, I remember all too well my younger days when I wanted to live life my way, not God’s way.  I don’t recall actually regarding God as an enemy, but I did not really regard God as a friend either.  I knew full well there were things about my life that were displeasing to God.  I was competing with God for control of my life.  I wanted to be in control, to call my own shots.  And I certainly did not share God’s interests in others; I was consumed with self-interest.  As you would expect, things ended up not working out very well for me.  And when I realized just how badly my way was working for me, I finally came to the point of desperately wanting and needing to be at peace with God.

Which brings us to the second question: How do we acquire or gain peace with God; what brings it about?  Again I’ll quote Romans 5:1: since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Said another way, we have peace with God because have been justified by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have faith that Christ died for our sins and made us right with God.

Friends, Christ accomplished our justification for us; it’s a done deal … but, faith in Christ and peace with God are not forced on us.  We can refuse to be at peace with God by denying faith in Christ, by not accepting that he died for us, by not acknowledging that we need to be saved from our sins, by refusing to relinquish control of our lives.  When we persist in that kind of thinking, we are certainly not at peace with God.  What then must we do to attain peace with God?

Allow me to refer again to the analogy of a war between two nations.  A war between two nations often comes to an end only when one side surrenders to the other.  The terms of peace are laid out when the defeated side surrenders to the victorious side.  Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse to end the Civil War and bring about peace between the north and south.  The Japanese surrendered to the Americans to end World War II resulting in peace between our two nations.

In much the same way, some of us may need to personally surrender in order to gain peace with God.  Looking back at my own situation, when I finally realized what a mess I had made of my life by insisting on being in control and doing it my way, I quite literally fell on my face before God and offered my unconditional surrender.  I told God I was tired of making a mess of my life; I didn’t want to do it my way anymore; I didn’t want to be in control of my life, I wanted God to control my life.  I asked for forgiveness, and by God’s grace, I found peace with God.

And so we come now to the last question: how does being at peace with God impact our lives; what is the result of peace with God; what does peace with God do in our lives, and what does it not do?  Perhaps most importantly, when we have peace with God, we no longer fear God’s wrath or punishment, we no longer dread the thought of Jesus coming again, we no longer fear our eternal destiny.  By faith we have the assurance that our sins are covered in grace before God, and as Paul writes in verse 2, we are able to rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  That means we have the hope and promise that we will be glorified and perfected when our lives on earth are over.  That hope results in joy.  Through no works of our own and by nothing that we have done or earned or deserved, we have the peace of knowing we are justified before God.

This knowledge is more than having an emotional feeling of being at peace with God; our peace with God is an objective reality.  God’s terms of peace have been met by virtue of Christ’s substitutionary death on our behalf.  By faith in Christ we have been justified and declared righteous by God, once and for all.   Our justification has been accomplished through Christ; our faith and trust in Christ results in peace with God, and having peace with God brings joy to our lives.

That being said, what does having peace with God not do in our lives?  Peace with God does not mean life is always blissful and free of suffering.  Paul affirms that we will experience suffering in this life, but he says we rejoice in our sufferings.

Friends, if you’re like me you find that to be a contradiction in terms.  Rejoice in suffering?  On the surface that sounds like you would have to be a masochist.  But let’s think a little more deeply about this.  First of all, Paul cannot be saying that suffering and trials in life are pleasant.  If they were pleasant, they could not rightly be called suffering.  Nor do Paul’s words mean we are to celebrate our experiences of suffering.  Rather Paul explains that experiences of suffering can bring Christians through a series of results that make us more like Christ.  As we go through trials and tribulations, grounded in our faith, our suffering can produce endurance, which can produce a strengthened character, which can move us toward a stronger hope in the God in whom we have placed our faith and trust, and with whom we are at peace.  As someone who has experienced suffering while not being at peace with God, and who has experienced suffering while being at peace with God, I can tell you that suffering is a whole lot more bearable when you are at peace with God!

Lastly, we know of course that being at peace with God does not mean that we will live perfect lives or that we will never do anything that displeases God.  Thankfully, our standing in grace and forgiveness before God is not contingent upon our perfect behavior.  We are forgiven not because we are perfect or even good.  Christ died for us in our imperfection and indeed, in our ungodliness.  Paul writes that while we were still weak, that means while we lacked any moral strength, Christ died, not for the good and righteous, but for the ungodly and unrighteous people living in willful rebellion against God.

You may have recognized the last verse in this passage as the words of pardon we use nearly every week after our prayer of confession.  God shows his love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, that is, long before we were at peace with God, Christ died for us.  Thanks be to God, for the peace with God we have through faith in Christ, who died so that we might freely receive forgiveness in his name.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.