Chapter 5:1-11 (ESV) - 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. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Question to consider: What is the difference between joy and happiness?
When we read Paul’s letter, we continually need to be reminded that each passage is built upon the arguments presented in previous ones. Paul proved that, like Abraham, our faith is credited to us as righteousness, and because Abraham was declared righteous (justified) by God before he was circumcised, so this righteousness by faith is given to people of all nations— circumcised or uncircumcised.
Since God’s promises to Abraham were fulfilled in Christ who sacrificed Himself to pay for the sins of the world, our justification comes through faith in Christ. Being justified before God means that we have peace with God. Isaiah prophesied more than six hundred years before Christ, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
As Prince (or ruler) of Peace, Isaiah was proclaiming that this child would become the sole arbiter of peace (shalom) with God. It seems counter-intuitive that having peace with God would result in our suffering. In fact, people of that time may have been discouraging young Christians by pointing to their suffering as proof they were sinning against God by associating with Jesus. People will argue that if God loves us, and God is sovereign, He should have the power to remove our suffering and bless us. God does have that power, but according to Paul, God allows suffering because it produces in us endurance, character, and hope. While it is difficult to be happy in the midst of suffering since happiness is an emotional response to circumstances, we can rejoice that God is refining us through it and using it for His righteous purpose in building His kingdom.
Paul will dive deeper into this in the coming chapters, but for now he used it to demonstrate that we don’t come to faith as strong individuals but weak ones. If God uses our suffering to produce endurance, character, and hope, it is because we started out with none of these things. What is marvelous, according to Paul, is that as weak and hopeless enemies of God without moral character, Christ was willing to die for us. Since Christ was willing to suffer death in order for us to be justified before God, Paul emphasizes that He is even more eager and effective in His resurrection to reconcile us to God and continue to mold and refine us into His image.
Dear heavenly Father, thank You for disciplining us as Your children and for caring about building up in us endurance, character and hope. Please give us brothers and sisters in Christ who will help us persevere in the faith and encourage us when we face various kinds of suffering. Amen.