Benefits Of Justification
Glory In Tribulation
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 21c of 83


1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 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” (Romans 5:1-5).

[We have already considered the first two benefits of justification, namely, “peace with God” and “hope of glory.” In this final instalment of this tranche of articles, we must consider how “glory in tribulation” is also one of the benefits.  —JJL]

3.   Glory in Tribulation

Paul says: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also…”

Not only do we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” we also glory in tribulation. Now, tribulation is suffering. Paul seems to be including all kinds of suffering. We all suffer in many different ways.

Some of us suffer as a result of the Gospel ministry. Paul himself suffered terribly because of the ministry. In addition to the cares of the church, he suffered imprisonment, stripes, stoning, shipwreck, hunger, thirst, etc (2 Cor 11:22-28; 2 Cor 6:3-13).

Some of us suffer persecutions for being obedient to God. Which of you who has decided to keep the Sabbath holy, has not been called names? Some of you may even loose you jobs because you wish to be obedient to God. It is a tremendous privilege to suffer for Christ’s sake. The Lord himself says:

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven…” (Mt 5:11-12).

But some of us suffer under the cares of the world and the providential hand of God. Often we do not discern that it is for Christ sake. We suffer because of illness and injury, lost of job or unreasonable bosses, broken relationship, disobedient or faithless children, interfering in-laws etc.

Paul seems to include all these sufferings. “we glory in tribulations also” says Paul. The word “glory” in verse 3 is the same word as the word “rejoice” in verse 2. It means to “boast” as in verse 2.

But to boast or rejoice in tribulation? Did we read correctly?

Yes! We did not read Paul wrongly. The Christian boasts, rejoices, glories in tribulation. Paul tells us that this is the regular experience of believers! Notice that he is not telling us that we should rejoice in tribulation. James tells us to rejoice in tribulation when he says: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (Jas 1:2). Yes, we need to be constantly reminded to rejoice in suffering.

But Paul is saying more than that. He is telling us that Christians rejoice in tribulations. No, he is not saying that he or the apostles rejoice in tribulations. He is saying that we who are justified in Christ rejoice in tribulation (v. 1).

Are you able to say that? It is easy to say that when everything is smooth sailing, isn’t it? When we are not suffering, it is easy to say, “we glory in tribulation.” It is easy to tell another person, “Count it all joy.”

But beloved, let us remember that Paul was writing as one acquainted with suffering. And he is writing under the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ. Christ our Lord is teaching us that those who are justified will “glory in tribulation.”

Let me put it this way: Christ our Lord is telling us that if we are justified, we will “glory in tribulation.”

b.   But what is it to “glory in tribulation.” It is to rejoice in suffering. What is it to rejoice in suffering? Now, take note that Paul is not saying, “we rejoice in the hope of glory,” even though we are suffering. That is a beautiful thought, and it should indeed be the case with us. We should indeed rejoice despite the trying circumstances that afflict us. But Paul is saying more than that! He is saying, we “glory in tribulation.” He is saying we will rejoice in the trying circumstances themselves!

But how can this be the case? Is Paul saying that Christians should be morbid? You know there are people who enjoy pain. Is Paul saying that? No, no, when God sends suffering for us, he intends for us to feel the pain. He does not want us to harden our heart. We should grieve the way that Job grieved when calamities struck him (Job 2:13). But we must glory in the tribulations. We must be able, in some sense, to thank God for what He brings into our paths. But how?

Paul teaches us that we must be able to glory in tribulation by bearing in mind the purpose of tribulation. It like when you are sick, and you see a doctor. The doctor gives you some horrible tasting medicine. You hate it. But you take it willingly nevertheless; and you thank God for it, and you rejoice in it. You do so because you know it is good for you. You would not be able to rejoice in it or to thank God for it if you know it is poison. But you know it is good for you, and therefore you rejoice in it and thank God for it.

It is the same with tribulation. None of us enjoy having tribulations. But we must and we will glory in them,—knowing that Christ meant them for our good.

Paul says:

3 … we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

Tribulations do not come by chance. They come by God’s sovereign hand. And if we are justified in Christ, then we have peace with God, and we know that whatever He brings to us, must be for our good. If we are not reconciled to God, we have neither guarantee nor assurance that God is not punishing us. But now, being justified by faith in Christ, we know that all tribulations that God brings to us are for our good.

How are they good? They are good because they build us up. Tribulation works “patience.” Patience is endurance and steadfastness. A patient man is one who does not give up easily. It was the patience of Job that kept him from taking heed to his wife’s advice to curse God and die. A patient Christian is one who remains faithful to God; and does not cease to live purposefully for God. He is not aimless and easily swerved from what he set out to do. And he does not get angry and upset easily. Most of us have a lot to grow in terms of patience, isn’t? But I am sure we all desire patience. Tribulation is God’s vitamins to develop patience.

And patience works experience, and experience hope. Now, Paul is not saying that only when we are already patient, we will get experience, and when we get experience, we will get hope. No, no; he is not describing a ladder of progress. We will all be growing in patience, and experience, and hope through tribulation. It is just that patience leads to experience and experience to hope.

What is experience? The word “experience” is elsewhere translated “trial” (2 Cor 8:2) and “proof” (2 Cor 2:9, 13:3; Phil 2:22). Experience is “tiredness”—if there is such a word. An experienced man is one who has been tested and proven. An experienced Christian is one who can smile in the midst of adversity and say, “Blessed be the name of the LORD.… when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

He is one who is positive and confident, and seems always to understand what God is doing in his life and the life of others. We all admire experienced Christians. If we have a few more experience Christians in our midst, our congregation will be far more stronger than it is today. But God must first try us, to develop patience, and to cultivate experience.

And where does experience lead to? It leads to hope, hope in the glory of God. We have come a big round. We begun with peace and hope and we have returned to hope.

We began with a theoretical hope; but God grows our hope so that it becomes a mature hope. It is a hope that…

…maketh not ashamed [or does not disappoint]; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (v. 5).

We begun by describing all the benefits that justification by grace should bring. Now justification by faith is a declaration of God concerning our relationship with Him. It is a legal matter. It does not involve any change in our hearts. And so we may think that what Paul is saying is but imaginations of our mind. So someone may say: “Christianity is no different from communism. It is just a matter of psyching yourself to believe something.”

But the fact is that we cannot have real peace simply by thinking we have peace with God. Neither can we have real hope of the glory of God simply by thinking that we have it. Neither can we really glory in tribulation simply by deciding to glory in tribulation. The fact is that we are able to enjoy these benefits because God does not only declare us righteous; but He gives us His Holy Spirit. When we are justified, the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts. He indwells us. By His Spirit God enables us to know and experience His love. He opens our hearts so that with spiritual eyes we see God as our heavenly father; and we are enabled to cry out unto him as our “Abba Father.” We will see this again when we reach chapter 8.

But for now, it is hard to say any more. This passage does not carry an exhortation. It explains our Christian experience. It reveals what the Christian life should be.

Conclusion

Does Paul’s description of the Christian life fits yours? Do you have “peace with God”? Do you “hope in the glory of God”? Do you rejoice in tribulation?

I think if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we fall short isn’t it? What shall we do then? This is the standard Christian life on earth. We are not enjoying a Christian life when we fall short.

What shall we do but pray? Pray: “Lord, give me these things according as you have promised!” But shall we only pray? Shall we not also obey God and believe Him. If we believe Christ is our Lord and believe that He laid down His life for us, shall we not believe that God is no longer against us? Shall we not hope in His glory and rejoice in tribulation.

So dear Christian, cease to question God about how He deals with you. Cease to live as one who is without hope. Cease to be angry with God in tribulation. Enjoy peace with God; hope in His glory; and glory in His tribulation. You can. You can because the Holy Ghost has been shed abroad in your heart!

But again, if you are yet unconverted; remember that all these benefits cannot be yours until you are justified in Christ. You cannot understand or appreciate these things until you are converted. But is not your soul restless? Do you not see that your life is hopeless without Christ? Do you not see that God hands are against you in the suffering you have to endure? Will you not repent of your sin, and go to God confessing your sin and asking Him to make you His child? Amen.

—JJ Lim