God Gives Endurance - Romans 5:1–5

This is the fourth and final sermon revisiting the vision of Good Shepherd. You can read our vision statement at the top of the inside cover of the Worship Guide. We’ve looked at God’s call for us to Worship, Gather, Serve, and today, Endure. And like the call to Serve, our call to Endure is implied in the vision statement. None of it can take place if we don’t have endurance. We need to last, to continue. Part of our vision is that we would stand the test of time. When we started out in 2016, we had a picture in our minds of what the Lord could do.

 
God Give Endurance - Romans 5:1-5
 

That’s what a vision is – seeing something that isn’t yet there. We saw a church where there was no church. When we made it to our one year anniversary, I remembered how I had previously hoped that we would one day have a one-year anniversary. I prayed, as did so many of you, that we would endure. For a vision to come to fruition, you must it make through whatever comes your way so you can get to where you’re going. Isn’t so much of life a matter of persevering, lasting, pushing through? Of course it is. What things in life are you trying to push through right now? You need endurance. For that reason, endurance is a major theme in the Scriptures.

In fact, it wasn’t hard to find a passage to preach on endurance; it was hard to settle on one.

Hebrews 10 says, [35] Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. [36] For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. But it seemed to me that Romans 5 was suitable today because it helps us see endurance as the godly virtue that it is, and also, it’s encouraging to know that something else good comes from endurance. As we endure in this life, we come to know the love of God more and more. Have you ever thought, “I want to love God more. I mean, I believe, and I love him, but I want to love him more.” Endurance can produce that love. Another Biblical author, James, the brother of Jesus, wrote to the church about endurance, and he uses the same Greek word that Paul uses in Romans 5. However, scholars used a different word in the English translation. James 1 say, [2] Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, [3] for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Endurance is steadfastness. In other words, “consistency.” God calls us, his church, to be consistent – even in suffering and trials. But we are naturally inconsistent in our faith, or in our love, or in our humility. We are naturally inconsistent in our discipline, or in our joy. Yet the Scriptures teach us that God has redeemed his people through the work of Jesus Christ so that he may give us endurance, so that he may bring us along to greater and greater consistency, steadfastness. Later, in Romans chapter 15, Paul brings up again the need for endurance, and he refers to God himself as the source of endurance. Paul calls God “the God of endurance.” You might think you need to muster up endurance on your own. Not true.

God gives endurance to his people. And since God gives endurance, we should look to him to make us endure. If we would be built to last, whether as individual believers or as a local church, God must do it. But how does God make us endure? We see two ways here at the beginning of Romans 5. They are listed there on page 6 of the WG.

By making peace with us through His Son, and by producing hope within us through His Spirit.

Now, leading up to Romans 5 – in the first four chapters, Paul explains that all people

are guilty before God because we’ve sinned and fallen short of his glory. However, he says there is a way to avoid the penalty due for our sin. But it’s not like you would probably think. It’s not through good works, working our way back into God’s favor.

And not through our best efforts toward good works or by our good intentions for good works.

The way is by faith. And Paul explains that it has always been this way. He says that Abraham was not justified by his works. He was justified by faith. He was a sinner made right with God by faith. Abraham understood that God chose him and accepted him and made a covenant with him (basically a peace treaty) not because of something Abraham had done to merit or earn God’s favor. Abraham understood that God had done this because of grace. And through faith, God credited Abraham with righteousness. Previously, Abraham, like all mankind, had an unpayable sin debt. God himself absorbed that debt and filled Abraham’s account, so to speak, with his own righteousness – with God’s own righteousness. The payment for sin would come due in the future, at the cross of Jesus Christ. There, Jesus would pay the full debt for sin.

Abraham looked forward to it, not fully understanding it as we do now as we look back on it.

The saving work of Jesus Christ fulfilled what was promised in the covenant with Abraham. Jesus met all the requirements of the peace treaty between a holy God and unholy people. For that reason, Paul can say in chapter 5, verse [1], which we just read, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” God has done so much to make peace with us, his natural-born enemies. That peace alone should assure us that we endure to the end. We will persevere. Notice again verse [2] Through him (Jesus) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Paul said that as sinners, we had fallen short of that glory. It was hopelessly lost. Yet, now we hope in that glory. You may think, “But Stacey, what does it mean by “glory?”

That’s a great question. In the Scriptures, the glory of God refers not strictly to him getting credit for what he’s done; it refers, in many contexts, to his magnificent presence. All that he is in his perfect, powerful, awesome and eternal being. It included everything for which he and he alone is praiseworthy. Like no other in existence, it is a blessing beyond description just to be near him. Just to encounter him was and is glorious beyond words. Because of sin, mankind lost the right and privilege to the presence of God.

We were shut out, blocked, denied access to the one true God. But through his covenant, God has restored our access to him.We obtained access by faith in Christ through God’s grace, receiving what we don’t deserve. Have we come fully into God’s presence? Well, yes and no. By faith alone, our future with God is secure. Jesus locked it in. It’s permanent. If you are saved, you didn’t do it; and you can’t undo it. Our salvation is secure with Jesus in heaven; our names written by God himself in his own Book of Life. How is God present with us now?

Those who are born again have been made alive by the Holy Spirit of God and the Spirit lives, or dwells, within us, to teach, guide, and comfort us. We have the Spirit as a deposit of what is to come – our final transformation, the final removal of sin, when we are made completely new and live unhindered by sin in the magnificent presence of God. No more barriers between us and his glory. We wait for that final day – the second coming of Jesus Christ – and we hope in it. We “rejoice” in it, Paul says. You could also say we boast in it.

We are confidently joyful in it. “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad.” So we rejoice in that hope, but, look at verse [3] Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings.” In the present life, what you and I go through from the cradle to the grave, is not all good stuff, is it? There are many trials, difficulties, disappointments, pains. There is anguish, depression, anxiety, fears, tragedies, and failures. Somehow, Paul tells us, we not only rejoice that our access to God is restored, but we can rejoice as we suffer through these things. People in Paul’s lifetime thought just as people think today. They say, “Well, if Christians have peace with God, then why do they suffer illness, persecution, and difficulty.”

If you’re honest (and you should be), you should admit you’ve thought the same thing!God, in his wisdom, knows how we think. He addresses the question here in his Word. “Rejoicing” doesn’t mean we like to suffer or receive pleasure from it. It means what it meant back in verse 2: we have joyful confidence that God is for us and not against us, joyful confidence that we have secure access to God. Can someone have secure access to God (peace with God) and yet experience great suffering?

Well, foretelling Jesus’ suffering in the OT, the prophet Isaiah wrote, chapter 53, “we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” In other words, Isaiah says, “We looked at Christ dying on the cross, and thought, ‘What awful crimes must he have done for God to punish him like this, for God to smite him or strike him down in this way! Oh, how God must hate that man Jesus!”

But just before those words, the prophet says, [4] Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” And just after those words, “he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our (sins); upon him was the (discipline) that brought us peace” – peace with God. But look at why those who are born again, who have faith in Jesus, can be confidently joyful in suffering. The second part of verse 3,

“knowing that suffering produces endurance.” Suffering produces consistency.

This concept resonates with people everywhere. We’ve heard it in recent pop songs by artists such as Kelly Clarkson and Kanye West. Friedrich Nietzsche referred to it in one of his works. The popular saying goes something like this: “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”

Going through things requires inner fortitude to survive, right? Just to make it through. It takes steadfastness to bear-up under the weight of trials. It takes endurance – the inward determination to not quit. Now look at verse [4] “and endurance produces character.” Now, what is character? There are various great definitions out there, which you’ve probably heard. As a young boy, I remember watching the World Series championship of Major League Baseball. I don’t remember for sure which year, but I think it was when the Braves played the Twins. And something stuck in my brain – not from the games, although I remember the games – but from a sign displayed in the stands that read, “The game does not build character; it reveals it.”

I think now that the game does both. It reveals character, and it builds it. The word Paul uses in verse 4 meaning “character” also means “proof.” The idea is that it doesn’t matter what you say you believe, the proof is in the pudding. The game reveals character. Your character is the proof that shows who you truly are. Paul tells us that going through tests, and bearing up under those tests, produces the proof.

Proof of what? A note in the Ref Study Bible Notes put together by Ligonier Ministries says that “Character (is) the quality of being approved by testing.” How do you build character? Another summary from the Ref Bible: it “is produced by the grace of the gospel and demonstrated in faith that perseveres through affliction.” Godly character is built within as the grace of God works on you and shapes you. You don’t muster it. You don’t generate it. For this reason, you can’t shame someone into godly character. You can’t harshly drill it into someone. We go through trials, but God comes alongside with gentleness and kindness. He’s strong and firm, with unmatched power and wisdom and justice, but when James encourages endurance in suffering, he says, “the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” God generates true character within us as we submit to, rest in, enjoy his compassion.

Look what else Paul says, the rest of verse 4, and 5: “and character produces hope, [5] 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. The Old Testament prophet Joel said in the last days God would pour out his Spirit on men and women, young and old. That began at what we call Pentecost, the event in Acts 2 in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit is given to the New Covenant believers in Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter quoted Joel 2 that day and he preached the gospel to everyone present. Many were ashamed and saw their guilt before God. They ask Peter what they should do.

He says what we read earlier during the baptism: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [39] For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” That would sound familiar to a crowd of devout Jews because it is covenant language. That sounds like God’s peace treaty with Abraham and his descendants. It sounds like the new covenant described by the Old Testament prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. There’s a new covenant, with a new community and a new sign of inclusion in the community. Not necessarily a sign of faith.

Those new believers would receive the sign by faith, but their young children would receive the sign because of their parents’ faith. This is how it worked like in the Old Covenant community. And just like in the Old Covenant community, the New Covenant children would grow up hearing the truth, and then they would have to decide – would they be covenant keepers, or covenant breakers?

They would have to put their own faith in God’s saving righteousness. In the New Covenant, faith in Jesus Christ, owning him as Savior and Lord, having Jesus alone as their hope both in this life and the life to come. Hope is the point of these verses in Romans 5. This sounds similar to verse 5: “in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” That is Psalm 22. It’s Old Covenant language. Old Covenant believers didn’t fear God’s judgment because they were sure of his love. New Covenant believers won’t be put to shame because God’s love for us is sure, we know because he poured his Holy Spirit into us.

And so, we have assurance that we will endure to the end. The day of judgment is coming. In the meantime, we suffer. But we don’t have to fear, even though we suffer, that God will be against us at the judgment. Why? Because the presence of his Spirit within us comforts us and assures us of his love. Bible scholar Douglas Moo puts it like this: “The confidence we have for the day of judgment is not based only on our intellectual recognition of the fact of God’s love, or even only on the demonstration of God’s love on the cross, but also on the inner, subjective certainty that God’s love has been “poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Moo points out that Paul’s wording of “pouring out” indicates an “abundant, extravagant” outpouring.

I told Jake, “When you baptize Eli, pour it on! Get him wet.” And may God one day

save that little boy by profusely, extravagantly pouring his Spirit into Eli’s heart!

Because when God pours his Spirit into someone, they endure. No matter what.

As we go to the Lord’s table today, we display our joyful confidence in God’s love. We celebrate the assurance of forgiveness in Jesus, but we do more than simply commemorate or memorialize him. We interact, by the power of the Spirit, with the risen, living Jesus Christ. Has God poured his love into your heart through his Spirit?Not just intellectual recognition, such that you believe Jesus died; not just acknowledgment that you are guilty of sin; but do you have the quiet, inward confidence that by faith alone through grace when God looks at you, he sees the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ? If you’ve never trusted in Christ, well, you won’t endure to the end. You need peace through His Son and hope through His Spirit. Admit your sin to God, turn from it, trust in Jesus alone today, that you may have the peace and hope you need to endure.

Let’s pray together.