Today, we are moving into a new section of our study of Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome. Paul is going to share with us some of the best news you will ever hear in your life.
During the past few months, as we have been studying Romans, we have learned some things about ourselves that have been difficult to hear. In Romans 1:18-3:20, we learned that all of humanity, Jews and Gentiles alike, have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. As a result of this we are under the power of sin. Sin separates us from God. Sin is the immovable object in the lives of those who are not in a right relationship with God. Our problem is not only that we sin, but that we are sinners, it is in our very nature to go our own way rather than to seek after God’s ways. Sin is the black hole that draws us like a magnet and we have no power, in and of ourselves, to escape its pull. Those are tough things to hear because we like to believe the best about ourselves. We like to believe that we are basically “good” people at heart. Paul has taught us that our hearts are corrupt, they are dark, and there is absolutely nothing that we can do for ourselves to remedy this horrible reality.
In Romans 3:21-31, we learned that God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. Because of God’s great mercy and grace He has sent His Son as the means for us to be made right with God. Read along with me from Romans 3:21-24.
21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-24 NIV)
This is good news! We, who are unable to do anything to make our relationship with God right, have been made right with God because of what He has done through His Son, Jesus, on our behalf.
In Romans 4, Paul taught us that our being right with God is not based upon our good works, circumcision, or the Law. Paul used Abraham, the father of the Jews, and the father of faith, as an example of salvation by grace through faith. Abraham was not made right with God because he was sinless or because he was obedient to the Law. The Law was not given for another 430 years. Abraham was made right with God because he trusted God, he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Paul says that this is the same faith that we are to have.
Abraham didn’t have the benefit of the full revelation of God like those of us who live on this side of the cross and the resurrection. We know that God has provided His Son as the means of our forgiveness and salvation. We believe God that He has provided His Son as the means of our reconciliation. Therefore, we are to believe God about what He has done through His Son on our behalf.
As we come to Romans 5, we are about to discover the glorious benefits of having been made right with God. Some Bible teachers call this the “fruits of justification.” The lessons that we will discover in Romans 5 are not for everyone, but only for those who believe. For those who continue in their unbelief, for those who refuse to surrender their hearts and lives to Jesus, for those who persist in seeking to try to be good enough to somehow impress God—this lesson is not for you. This lesson is only for those who have come to understand their absolute inability to do anything to save themselves. This lesson is only for those who fully understand their total powerlessness over sin. Let me explain to you what I mean.
The Bible teaches that there are only two kinds of people: those who are enemies of God and those who have peace with God. In Romans 1:18-19 we learned that the wrath of God is being revealed against the godlessness and wickedness of people who try and suppress the truth about God. Read along with me.
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. (Romans 1:18-19 NIV)
This is not a random teaching from God’s Word. In Romans 5:9-10, Paul reminds the brothers and sisters in Rome that they have been rescued from the wrath of God because of the blood of Jesus. He also reminds them of their standing before they were justified by Jesus’ death. Paul writes,
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! (Romans 5:9-10 NIV)
For those who do not know the Bible this is a totally foreign concept. They don’t consider themselves enemies of God. I have to admit that before I became a Christian and started reading God’s Word, I never considered myself an enemy of God either. I would have characterized myself as being ambivalent to God. I just really never gave Him a thought. John Mac Arthur writes,
Most unsaved people do not think of themselves as enemies of God. Because they have no conscious feelings of hatred for Him and do not actively oppose His work or contradict His Word, they consider themselves, at worst, to be “neutral” about God. But no such neutrality is possible. The mind of every unsaved person is at peace only with the things of the flesh, and therefore by definition is “hostile toward God” and cannot be otherwise. (John MacArthur, MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: Romans 1-8. Moody Press: Chicago, IL. 1991)
I hope that this helps you understand what I meant earlier when I said that this lesson today is not for everyone, but only for those who have surrendered their hearts and lives to Jesus. For those of you who are here this morning and you have never put your faith in what God has done for you in Jesus, then I pray that today you will recognize that God considers you His enemy. I also pray that today you will hear His voice calling you to Himself. He doesn’t desire for you to remain His enemy. If He did then He would have never sent His Son to die in your place. I pray that today you will hear His voice and believe God about what He has done for you in Jesus so that you might be able to enjoy the blessings of those who have been justified. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Romans 5:1-2.
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 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. (Romans 5:1-2 NIV)
What a change! What a difference one life has made for you and me! Paul says that we are no longer God’s enemies, but we have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” For those who have been justified, that is, those who have believed God about what He has done for us through His Son Jesus, we have peace with God.
“Peace” is an interesting word. The Greek word which is translated, “peace,” means, “a state of national tranquility, exemption from the rage and havoc of war, peace between individuals,” or “the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.” The word appears 92 times in the Greek New Testament.
We live in a world that is full of fighting, wars between nations, discord, conflicts between friends and family members, and overwhelming anxiety, but Paul tells us that we have peace with God. Because of what Jesus has done for us we are no longer God’s enemies, we have peace with God. Paul doesn’t say that we may have peace with God if we do right or we could have peace with God if we don’t mess up, but he says “we have” peace with God. Isn’t that an amazing thought to ponder!
The Greek word that we are taking a look at this morning is used in another way. We have peace with God. That is our present possession. It is unchangeable. We are secure in our relationship with God. We are also to experience peace in our daily lives. Jesus told His disciples that He was giving them His peace in John 14:27. Read along with me.
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27 NIV)
Just two chapters later, shortly before Jesus was arrested and taken to die on the cross, He spoke these words,
33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NIV)
“In this world you will have trouble…” Do any of you have trouble with that statement? In this life we have all kinds of trouble. There are financial troubles, family troubles, health troubles, job troubles, trouble at school, trouble in the neighborhood, trouble all around, but Jesus said that we can have peace in the midst of our troubles. That is good news!
How can we experience peace in daily life? That is the million dollar question isn’t it? We can accept that we have peace with God because God has taken care of it, He has acted on our behalf, and He has reconciled us to Himself. We didn’t have anything to do with it; we were powerless to make things right with God. All we did was accept what God had done for us; we believe that God has acted on our behalf. And there is the key to experiencing peace in our daily lives.
I led a Bible study this past week. We did a word study on the word, “worry,” or “anxiety,” or “being troubled in our thoughts.” I wish all of you could have been there. It was awesome to see what those in class had discovered as they had studied the Greek and Hebrew words that applied to our study. It was powerful to hear the conversations we had about the things that have consumed our thoughts, paralyzed us with anxiety, and robbed us of countless hours of sleep. The general consensus was that we knew better than to allow our minds to take us places that made our troubles seem even worse than they were, to think about things that hadn’t even happened yet, but we allowed it to happen anyway.
That is the way it is with trouble isn’t it? When we deal with the troubles of life our minds begin to wander until we think the absolute worst. We know better than to allow our minds to do this to us, yet we find ourselves repeating this horrible experience over and over again. How can we experience the peace of God when it seems like there is constant trouble coming at us in life? Paul, writing from a prison cell, said,
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)
This passage has counseled me over and over again as I have gone through troubles in my life. I want you to notice something. Paul says that we are not to get all worked up over the troubles of life, but that we are to pray and present our troubles to God. That is our part. You will find no place in this Scripture where we are told to create our own peace about the troubles we face in life. We are to pray and present them to God.
The promise of the passage is that if we will do our part, praying and presenting, then God’s peace will guard our hearts and our mind in Christ Jesus. Our minds and our hearts are the battle fields upon which we lose the war in dealing with our troubles are they not? Our minds take us far beyond the present trouble we are dealing with in life. I know this from experience. God’s Word tells us that if we will pray and hand our troubles to God that He will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.
Can you see how both understandings of “peace” share the same foundation? We have peace with God through Jesus our Lord. The peace we have is not transitory. It is not a sometimes peace—it is a constant, for all of eternity peace. If you have been made right with God and accepted what He has done for you through His Son, you have peace with God. We can have peace in daily life if we will believe God and allow the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds in Jesus our Lord. In John 16, Jesus said that we will have trouble in this world, but that “in Him we may have peace.” He is our key to peace with God and peace in our everyday lives. Wow! What an amazing truth!
Our peace in the present and for all eternity is rooted and based in Jesus our Lord. This was good news to those living in Rome, during Paul’s day, who were being told to trust in Caesar, who was supposedly the originator and sustainer of the Pax Romana, the “peace of Rome.” The Pax Romana was a two hundred year period of history, 27 B.C. to 187 A.D., where Rome was at its zenith and great prosperity was experienced.
Caesar Augustus came to the throne in 42 B.C. and he was responsible for ending the civil wars of Rome. As a result, he was considered Rome’s Savior. Caesar Augustus believed that he was the son of God sent to earth to bring about a universal reign of peace and prosperity for the world. He has been described as the divine father and the heavenly savior. Archeological finds in the Roman Empire show us that Augustus was referred to as Lord, Savior, Redeemer, Liberator, Son of God, and God from God.
By the time Paul wrote his letter to the people in Rome, Caesar Augustus had died and the Roman Empire had been ruled by Tiberias, Caligula, and Claudius. None of these emperors were friendly towards the Christians. In Acts 18:2-3 we read where Claudius had expelled all of the Jews from Rome in 49 A.D., probably because of conflicts between the Jews and Christians. Luke writes,
2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. (Acts 18:2-3 NIV)
Within ten years Paul wrote his letter to the Church in Rome and a new emperor had come onto the scene—Nero. Nero was a wicked, an evil man. He didn’t like his mother meddling in his business so he had her murdered in 59 A.D. Nero was self-indulgent, he was out-of-control, and the empire suffered as a result. Yet, the people had been deceived into believing that they were to worship the emperor for he was the originator and sustainer of the peace of the empire. He was the key to their peace.
Nero suffered from a “god complex” that put his predecessors to shame. He loved to be called, “kyrios,” the same word that is used by Paul to describe Jesus in Romans 5:1—Jesus our Lord.
In less than a decade after Paul wrote his letter to the brothers and sisters in Rome, a great fire broke out, in 64 A.D. and many felt that Nero was behind the fire. Nero blamed the Christians for the fire and began an all-out persecution of the followers of Jesus. Tacitus, the Roman historian, wrote,
Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.” (Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Annals, Book XV)
Trouble broke out in Rome for the followers of Jesus. Christians were torn apart by wild animals, covered with pitch and lit on fire, crucified, and tortured by various means. The torture and execution of Christians was used by emperor Nero to entertain the citizens of Rome.
Paul had never been to Rome at the time that he wrote the letter that we are studying, but he told the people that he was planning on visiting them towards the end of his letter. Paul did go to Rome, but it was not on his own. Paul was arrested and taken to Rome where he was held for about two years before he was released in 63-64 A.D. Just a couple of years later, Paul was arrested again and taken to Rome where he was beheaded under the reign of Emperor Nero in 67 A.D.
As Paul was awaiting his execution, he sat down to write a letter to a young preacher named Timothy. Paul knew that the end was near for him, that his life on earth was about to come to an end, yet he wrote.
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day– and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV)
Can you hear the peace flowing from Paul’s pen? He was not trusting in the emperor or the Pax Romana, he was trusting in the peace of God. Peace is found not in Caesar Augustus, Caesar Claudius, and not in the one who liked to be called “lord,” Caesar Nero, but in the one who is Lord over all, Jesus our Lord and Savior.
Ironic as it is, the one who called himself “lord,” the one who had all of the power that the world had to offer, within one year of having Paul beheaded, he himself committed suicide on June 9, 68 A.D.
You want to know peace? Then you must believe God concerning what He has done on your behalf. Before you or I can ever experience peace in our daily lives we must first have peace with God. Before you can experience peace you must first have peace. Our peace is not found in the absence of trouble, but the peace of God is available to us in the midst of the most painful, gut-wrenching trouble that you or I will ever experience in life. Like the followers of Jesus in Paul’s day, we are being encouraged to trust in the Lord, not some governmental leader, presidential hopeful, or religious guru who suffers from delusions of grandeur about what they can do for you or me.
I have to believe that there is someone here today who is troubled by the troubles of life. You’ve lost sleep, you’ve lost weight, you’ve lost hope, you’ve lost your way and have become consumed by the troubles you are having to deal with. I’ve got good news for you this morning. The peace you have been longing for is available to you this morning in the person of Jesus. In Jesus you will find something far greater than peace in the midst of the storm of your life, you will find peace with God. Won’t you place your faith in Him and receive the blessings of those who have been justified?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
September 10, 2013