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"Exulting Despite Extremity"

June 1, 2014 Rom 5(1-11,20f)


Winston Churchill in a 1947 speech observed, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." We are on the brink of an election in Ontario; the governing party's proposed budget was not acceptable to the others. So now candidates from each party are out trying to convince the public they have the cure to our system's woes. Not everyone's convinced politicians would provide an adequate solution, though; somewhere on social media it was stated that, on the election ballot, if there were another box below all the candidates that said, "None of the above", THAT would be the option that would garner the most support!

Other levels of government have their imperfections, too. Parents complain that the school board and administration doesn't support the teachers; the teachers don't provide discipline for the students; so students are left to do whatever they please, even if it disrupts the class. In health care, local hospitals find themselves in a budget crunch caused by zero-increase funding yet squeezed by climbing wages and resource costs, so services have to be cut.

The international news each night usually highlights other things that are wrong with the world. A recent distressing incident was the gang-rape and hanging of a couple of lower-caste teen girls in India. This was wrong on so many levels - not just the barbaric crime itself against a couple of young teens, but also the fact that a local police constable conspired with the perpetrators, coupled with the pervasive social attitude that demeans those of lower caste, and women in general. Plus it's estimated some 300 million women and girls in India are too poor to afford toilets so have to use the field for their bathroom, leaving them vulnerable to such attacks.

There is so much sin and evil in the world, from the organizational level to the individual level, that one is tempted to become cold and calloused, cynical, disillusioned. To shrug your shoulders as if to say, "What can we do?"

But Paul's letter to the church at Rome offers hope. He's realistic about the world's ills and their origin, yet also points to the solution, how the "reign of sin and death" can be overturned by the "reign of life" - starting with the individual.

The British newspaper The Times once invited its readers to answer the question, "What's wrong with the world?" It's reported that Christian author G.K.Chesterton responded as follows: "Dear Sir: Regarding your article 'What's Wrong with the World?' I am.Yours truly, G.K. Chesterton."


How did our planet become so infected by sin? Paul states in Romans 5:12, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned..." Genesis 3 recounts how Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent and chose to eat the fruit God had forbidden. Genesis 2:16f "And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."" But the serpent contradicted this, suggesting they would not die, and their eyes would be opened, so they'd be like God knowing good and evil. Selfish desire triumphed; their error brought immediate shame (scrambling to cover their nakedness with fig leaves), alienation from God (spiritual death), and punishment, along with physical death eventually.

Paul uses a variety of terms to describe Adam's sin: v14 "breaking a command"; vv15&17 "trespass", crossing the line; v19 "disobedience". He went against God's clearly expressed will.

What were the consequences? In Genesis 3, enmity between the serpent and the offspring of Eve; pain in childbearing for Eve; fruitless toil working the ground for Adam, and return to it, dust-to-dust. And not just death for Adam: Rom 5:12 "death came to all men, because all sinned..." As Paul puts it in v14, "death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam..." V16 "The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation..." Condemnation means "to give judgment against, to judge worthy of punishment." No one wants to be "damned"! But that's what sin does - con-demns/damns us, marks us, sentences us to a severe punishment. V18 "the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men..." V19 "through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners..."

Genetically speaking, we in our "coding" were present there in Adam's loins when he sinned, so we participated through our forefather, and we inherited his sin-nature from before our birth. We are "born with the bents", damaged goods from the get-go. Psalm 51:5 "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Eph 2:3 "All of us...lived...gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." As the Bible sees it, babies are not born innocent, but as morally misshapen little Adam-ites, predisposed toward sinning, and suffering the sentence of their ancestor.

So, what's the dominant factor? V14 "death reigned", v17 "death reigned through that one man," v21 "sin reigned in death..."

When we're being tempted, we see only one side of the temptation: the part that appeals to our cravings, NOT the consequences side that has negative fallout. But sin loves to reign, to get control, to lord it over you and dominate. You may suppose YOU have control over it, but soon that habit has taken you over, like nicotine traps the smoker or alcohol the problem drinker. "Sin reigned in death..." For instance, there's the deadly effect of lust as portrayed by Amnon in 2Samuel 13. One of David's sons Amnon "fell in love with" Tamar, his beautiful half-sister, the full sister of Absalom, another of David's sons. Amnon's lust made him frustrated "to the point of illness" (2Sam 13:2). He looked haggard each morning. His helpful shrewd friend and first cousin Jonadab suggested a plan. Amnon pretended to be sick and asked his father David to send Tamar to bake for him. But he sent out all the servants and raped her, despite her protests. Then a switch flipped inside him: suddenly he "hated her with intense hatred". Lust "uses" someone as an object, so destroys respect. Amnon sent Tamar away weeping. When King David found out, he was furious. When Tamar's brother Absalom found out, he hated Amnon for disgracing his sister. He bided his time before seeking revenge. Two years later Absalom threw a party at sheepshearing time and, when Amnon was drunk, Absalom ordered his men to strike him down. When David found out, the king and all his servants wept very bitterly. Sin reigns in death. Or as 6:23 puts it, "the wages of sin is death": you're not in control, you're working for someone else: beware the wages you're earning!


Were we left in that condition, the world would be stuck in a very sorry state of affairs. And justly so - we bring such woes on ourselves, though we were warned! But, thankfully, we're not left sinking in that immoral quagmire.

As the New Bible Dictionary notes, God is a righteous God (2Chron 12:6; Ps 7:9) and can be relied upon to act in accordance wtih the terms of His relationship with Israel. He is "a righteous judge who acts for His people (Ps 9:4; Jer 11:20) and upon whose righteousness His people depend for deliverance and vindication (Ps 31:1; Jer 11:20)." So Jeremiah could pray entrusting to God the outcome of his enemies: "But, O LORD Almighty, you who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause." (Jer 11:20)

In Scripture, regarding God, there is a combining of righteousness and salvation. Is 45:21 God says, "...there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Saviour..." A righteous God and - therefore - a Saviour. NBD goes on to point out God is Creator, thus the ground and guarantor of the moral order; but He is also Redeemer, and His righteousness is interpreted by His redemptive activity. So, "Israel's experience of God's righteous deliverance in the past led her to an expectation of a future act of salvation."

NOTE TO SELF: If I aspire to be a "righteous" person (remember last week Paul's emphasis on righteousness through faith), does that just mean keeping a bunch of rules? Does being righteous with GOD'S brand of righteousness mean I will be helping others, participating in His SAVING activity amongst my neighbours?

Back to our passage in Romans 5: "sin reigned in death." Amazingly, undeservedly (for us), God intervened. V6 "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." We weren't righteous or "good" (as it's possible someone might dare to die for a good person), we were write-offs, "powerless", "ungodly", anti-God. V8 highlights it once more, one of the most memorizable verses in the whole Bible, right up there with John 3:16: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Unthinkable, incredible that the Holy One, the sinless Son of God, should die for sinners! V10 emphasizes the amazing nature of this substitution even more: "...when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son..."

Who were we? Powerless; sinners; ENEMIES of God. Diametrically opposed to God and His ways, bound with all justice for hell, deserving its penalty, condemned to eternity apart from God and feeling the weight of His holy wrath. Imagine how the parents of those hanged girls must feel toward the perpetrators! We were that far from God, and farther! Yet, Christ stepped in between and offered His own life, His blood, to absorb and remove the enmity. Rom 3:25 "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." You need to receive Jesus' substitution for your sinful state.

V10 "while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son..." The Greek verb for "reconcile" means to exchange coins for others of equivalent value, then by extension, to return to favour with, be reconciled, receive with favour. John MacArthur comments, "God has declared Himself to be at war with every human being because of man's sinful rebellion against Him and His laws.But the first great result of justification is that the sinner's war with God is ended forever.Scripture refers to the end of this conflict as a person's being reconciled to God."

Sin reigned in death...When someone reigns, who has the advantage? Why are the parties putting so much energy into their electoral campaigns? They are vying for POWER, they want to govern, to call the shots, to have the advantage over the other politicians. When a king reigns, the transfer goes from subject to the king in the form of taxes. Subjects OWE taxes to the one who reigns over them. But what's Paul talk about in vv15-17? A GIFT! V15 "the gift is not like the trespass." He doesn't say what this "gift" is - that gets us wondering. 15B "...How much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!" This sounds good, but we still don't know what the "gift" is. V16 "Again, the gift of God is not like the result of one man's sin...the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification." Still hasn't told us, has he? Sounds like something we'd want, doesn't it? Gifts are generally good to get! V17 finally lets the cat out of the bag, telling us what "gift" he's referring to: "For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ." What's God's gift to those who receive it, by faith? The GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. See it again in v19B, "so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be MADE RIGHTEOUS."

There are two aspects of righteousness, what theologians call "extrinsic" and "intrinsic", what we might call "positional" and "personal". "Extrinsic" righteousness is that imputed through the cross, judicially or legally being counted "not guilty", no longer condemned to the sentence. But suppose a cleptomaniac is acquitted, "let go" without a fine or sentence. Are they suddenly "righteous"? What are the chances they'll re-offend? On social media I saw a link about someone who was caught riding to a court appearance on a stolen bicycle! A courtroom acquittal doesn't in itself rehabilitate the offender.

In Jesus' cross we have forgiveness, acquittal, reconciliation with God, our account "owing" is cleared. But we have more. "Intrinsic" righteousness is a changed life, a life that in a new way conforms to the will of God. Your will becomes willing to choose God's ways; your heart begins to desire what God wants and treasures. Righteousness in this sense includes a new actual LIFE. V18B "so also the result of one act [by Jesus] of righteousness was JUSTIFICATION that brings LIFE for all men." Don't forget "justification" in the Greek is the same word as "being made righteous". Not only is our 'case dismissed', our character is changed! V21 "...so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring ETERNAL LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord." What's reigning now, what's in control, if not sin and death? GRACE is reigning through righteousness. What's it bring? ETERNAL LIFE - a new kind of life, our person is transformed, made fit for eternity with God.


I have two nieces, daughters of my two brothers. This past week they each posted photos on Facebook of things one might say they were rejoicing in, exulting in. One posted a photo of herself with a car she'd just bought. The other posted a photo of her new baby boy. In both cases, how were people responding? "Congratulations!" As if to say, "We rejoice with you! Hurray! We celebrate this along with you."

God's intervention through Jesus changes our world (for those who believe) from one of a 'sorry state' to one where we have cause to rejoice, to celebrate, to exult. V2B "And we REJOICE in the hope of the glory of God." The verb translated 'rejoice' is more literally 'to exult', "to glory on account of a thing". What are we rejoicing / glorying / exulting in? What are we excited about, what do we want to post a photo of in our status? "The hope of the GLORY OF GOD". We hope to spend forever drinking in God's goodness and beauty and excellence in heaven, admiring His greatness and seeing that glory take shape increasingly in us. As Jesus prayed the night He was arrested, ""Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." (Jn 17:24)

But we have more than just HOPE of something in the future. Paul says there are things we can rejoice or "exult" in now, things by faith we already HAVE. V1 "Therefore, since we have been justified ["set right" / declared right-with-God] through faith, we HAVE peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Cessation of hostilities, the war is over; and much more - right relationship, communion, fellowship, God's Spirit inside us helping and guiding us in partnership.

V2 What else do we "have"? "Through [Jesus] we HAVE gained access by faith into this GRACE in which we now stand." You have gained access into God's presence, the curtain separating you has been taken away; you enjoy His grace, His unmerited favour, His welcome anytime into His courts. Eph 2:18 & 3:12, "For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit...In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." Considering our former state - Wow! V15 also mentions God's grace "overflowing" to the many; v17, "those who receive God's abundant provision of grace..." God's not stingy when it comes to grace - it's abundant, overflowing.

Something else we HAVE already to exult in: v5 God HAS "poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He HAS given us." Remember last week's sidebar - what's the best gift we could possibly want? The best thing in the whole universe God could give us is HIMSELF - His Holy Spirit, His love pouring into us. That's what REALLY is going to transform our character.

And the last thing to glory in? This one will surprise you! Vv3f "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, [!! WHY sufferings?!] because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."

The world IS in a mess. Organizations, institutions, and individuals are all imperfect, tainted by Adam's sinful legacy. Creation is "groaning" in its bondage to decay (Rom 8:21f). We will encounter suffering in our lifetime, especially if we witness for Jesus - that makes us targets for persecution. But suffering produces perseverance or endurance; and perseverance produces CHARACTER, which is what God's really trying to sculpt in us. As we see that character developing, that gives us hope, it points us to the prospect of heaven where our sanctification will be perfected, completed, there'll be no flaws left.

Ruth Peters gave 10 years of her retirement to serve as librarian for AMG International, a mission agency based in Tennessee that works in over 30 countries (stands for "Advancing the Ministries of the Gospel"). She recalls, "One day I visited the little room where one of the missionaries of AMG lives in Athens, Greece. This man is an invalid who was condemned to execution by the Nazis during the occupation of Greece in World War II. Seven bullets went through his body and he was left for dead, but he escaped the ordeal alive. Through this experience, and the personal witness of a servant of Christ, he found Christ as his Saviour. After becoming blessed in the Lord through the new birth, he did not want to keep the good news to himself but was anxious to share it with others. Although he suffered 80% incapacitation and constant excruciating pain so that he had to remain in bed most of the time, his great rejoicing in the midst of affliction attracted attention. A radio announcer came to visit him and told his story over the air in Athens, inviting suffering people to write to this invalid who knew the secret of being joyful in the midst of affliction. The same thing happened with respect to one of the leading newspapers in Athens. As a result, this consecrated missionary now has a congregation of about 9,000 people all over the world who write to him asking the secret of his joy. He has written about 38,000 letters to individuals thus far as he glories in his tribulation (Rom 5:3)."

Yes, we can rejoice - even in our sufferings! Let's pray.