A Cross-Centred Life
Future Hope
In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 22c of 83


“…11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:6-11).

[We noted in the first part of this study that Romans 5:6-11 is really an exposition of Romans 5:5, which read: “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” We noted how Paul is saying firstly, that God’s love is displayed on the Cross; Secondly, the Cross brings future hope; and Thirdly, the Cross brings present joys. We have already considered the first two points. In this final instalment, we must consider the third point. —JJL]


3.  The Cross Brings
Present Joy

The word rendered “joy” in Romans 5:11 is not the usual word for “joy” (caivrw or makavrio~). It is the same word as “rejoice” in verse 2 and “glory” in verse 3. It means “to boast.” It speaks of having confidence and reliance upon God. Here it is written as a present participle, so Paul is saying: “we are boasting in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are boasting because we are already enjoying a wondrous relationship with God.

And what is the basis of this boasting? It is “Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” The word “atonement” is closely related to the word “reconciled” in verse 10. It is elsewhere translated “reconciliation” (e.g. 2 Cor 5:18, 19; cf. Rom 11:15).

We have been reconciled by the blood of Christ. We are not reconciled to God by a change of attitude in our hearts towards God as the liberals claim. We are reconciled rather by the sovereign grace of God. We did not initiate reconciliation. It was God who initiated. It was God who provided it in the blood of Christ; and we receive it by faith,— which He gives us.

Therefore, we can joy in God. We can rejoice, glory and boast in God. Had we not been reconciled to God, we could not do so. But Christ died for us and we have received His atonement by faith. We have every reason to joy in God today.

b.  But what does that mean to us in practical terms? Paul, you will realize, is not speaking about the theory of the Christian life. And he is not talking about the should of Christian life. He is talking about the normal Christian experience. Is that our experience? Can we say the same things as Paul?

I suspect that many of us will find it difficult to say the same thing. Can you say that you are rejoicing in God? Can you say you are boasting in Him? Are you living the triumphant life that Paul is describing?

I suspect that many of us cannot speak with the same confidence as Paul. It may be because of ignorance. It may be because of spurious conversion. It may be because of backsliding. Whatever the reason may be, it is clear that if you cannot confess as Paul confesses, you are not enjoying God as you should. Worst yet, you may not be living a normal Christian life!  Your Christian life may just be a shadow of the real thing. What you have may be but a poor excuse for a Christian life. Let me put it this way: You are a son or daughter of God, but you may be living as a joyless slave. You are a prince and princess of God, but you may be living as a pauper.  

Beloved Christian, if that is the case with you, something has gone awry in your Christian life. What is the normal Christian life according to Paul?

First, we must realize that the Christian life is not only a future life. There are many Christians today who consider themselves to be Christians because they think they are going to heaven; but their lives are no different from the rest of the world. They may go to church once a week, and that is all. Are these Christians? Are these rejoicing in God? Are they not rather rejoicing in the world?

Secondly, we must realize that the Christian life is not a life of defeat. It is a life of victory—not only future victory, but present victory. If you are a Christian, you have entered into a spiritual battle and you are fighting against sin, Satan and self. Are you aware that you are in a battle? If you are, do you find yourself cowing under the pressure, or do you find yourself victorious? Christ has already risen victorious. Therefore fight valiantly, brother and sister in Christ. The battle is the Lord’s. “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom 16:20). Therefore, do not give in to sin and temptation. Rejoice in God and depend on Him.

Thirdly, we must realize that the Christian life is not purely emotions. To joy in God is not to have a mystical emotional joy. It is to know what God has done in Christ and to boast in Him. It is because we have received the atonement, we can rejoice in God. If you have never heard of atonement and reconciliation, and you have joy, your joy is not a Christian joy.

This is the reason why we seek to teach our children the doctrines of the Bible. If they do not know what Christ did for His Church, they will never rejoice in God; and they will never understand what it is to boast in Him.

Fourthly, the Christian life is also not purely intellectual. There are Christians whose Christianity is no more than to know and discuss theology. There is indeed a lot to think and talk about in theology. But if your thoughts do not translate to confidence in God, they amount to nothing.

But finally, we must understand that the Christian life is centred on God. We must not boast in our good works, our morality or our religious accomplishments. We “joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ” says Paul. Elsewhere he tells us that his good works, morality or righteousness are dung compared to the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord (Phil 3:8).

We ought to be obedient to God’s Word. We ought to serve the Lord fervently; but we must never boast in these things. We must boast only in the Cross of Christ.

This doctrine gives us great liberty does it not? We need not worry if we know enough or did enough to get to heaven. It is not about how much we do. It is about what God has done.

c.   What is your Christian life like, dear child of God?  Are you rejoicing in God? Does contemplating on the love of God for you in Christ brings you confidence and assurance?

Are you living a joyful and victorious Christian life that is centred on Christ? There are many professing Christians today who live as if God does not exist, or as if God is powerless. So one day they are joyful and confident; but the next day they feel defeated. Their Christian life depends not on what Christ has done, but on what they ate for dinner, how well they sleep and what they dreamt in the night before.

That is not the Christian life!

The Christian life is anchored on Christ Crucified. Such as have received the atonement can joy in God through Christ Jesus their Lord. Come what may, they know that God is with them. Come wind and storms, pitfalls and mountains, and wild beasts, they know that Christ is with them. They rejoice in God today and they know they will rejoice in God when they leave this world, for their salvation does not depend on them but on Christ.

Conclusion

How should we conclude? I mentioned that our text is essentially an explication of Romans 5:5—

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

I think we can see what Paul means now.

The love of God is great and undeniable. It is displayed objectively in the Cross.

The Cross bring us future hope because it makes it unthinkable that God should forsake us when Christ is risen and making continual intercession for us as the friends of God.

And the Cross brings us present joy because it show us that it is not about us, but about Christ. If it were about us, we can have no hope, because if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we fall terribly short of the glory of God. But because our salvation is entirely in the hand of God, we can boast in Him today and we can boast in the future Glory of God. And this hope maketh not ashamed, for it is based on a truth which is not only revealed in history, and in the Scripture, but confirmed by the Holy Spirit who now fills our hearts.

What a tremendous privilege it is to be a Christian! What joy? What confidence in Christ we enjoy because of the Cross!

Are you a believer? Are you a covenant child? Or are you still unconverted. Whatever the case may be, look no more to your self—whether to the smallness of your faith or to what you can do to improve yourself. Look to the Cross. If you will be saved, it must be by faith in Christ your Lord crucified. Amen.

—JJ Lim