The 19th Sunday After Pentecost September 29, 2013
27, 370, 381, 215
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Dear fellow-redeemed by the blood of God’s own Son:
A man was ready to jump off a bridge to his death when a police officer stopped him. The man said: “Officer, you don’t know how miserable I am and how hopeless my life is. Please let me go so I can end it all!”
But the officer argued: “Listen, friend, you take five minutes and give your reasons why life is not worth living, and then I will take five minutes to tell you why I think life is worth living for both of us. Then, if you still feel like jumping from the bridge, I will not stop you.”
So the man took his five minutes, and the policeman took his five minutes as they debated about hope. But at the end of ten minutes they both jumped off the bridge!
You see, real hope in this life is not an argument that holds for one day, but not the next. Real hope does not totally disappear in times of trial and hardship. Real hope is anchored deep within the soul of the Christian. WHAT IS THE ANCHOR OF OUR HOPE?
Our hope is first mentioned in verse 2 of our text where Paul says that we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” In other words, we hope to stand in the presence of the holy God and possess in ourselves His holiness and perfection of body and soul forever! This is the hope that makes it possible for the Christian to have joy within himself even as he is dying!
But you and I are poor, miserable sinners. How can we have the hope of standing before the holy God in Heaven? We have this hope because our sin and guilt no longer stand between us and God! His holy judgment of sin has been turned away from us toward His own Son, as Paul says in verse 1: “Therefore, having been justified (declared righteous) by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Completely outside of and apart from anything in us, God declared the whole world righteous because of the life, sufferings, and death of His own dear Son. Through our faith in Christ, He has become the “access door” by which you and I enter and continue to “stand in this grace.” That’s why we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
From the moment we are declared righteous through faith in Christ, we rejoice in the hope of receiving God’s glory on the Last Day. But that may seem like a long wait! What about the trials and tribulations along the way? How shall we receive them?
Paul says, “we also glory (boast) in tribulations (afflictions).” [v.3] This is another of those “hard sayings” of Holy Scripture. How can we boast and rejoice when we are suffering from chronic disease, or persecution, or the pains of death? Because we know that God uses afflictions only to draw believers to Himself. Now follow God’s work as Paul describes it in verses 3 and 4: “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
As we are made to suffer affliction in this life, it “produces more and more perseverance,” Paul says. What is perseverance? Perseverance is that courageous faith that becomes stronger under its burdens—similar to the way your physical muscles become stronger as you increase the weight they must lift. And the more we persevere the more our Christian character is proven.
When we persevere under affliction we reach the tested character of strong faith which leads to greater certainty of our future hope! Our faithful God does not toy with us or seek to destroy us by our trials. On the contrary, His goal is to bring us to that blessed certainty of hope which Paul expressed to Timothy toward the end of his earthly life. Paul wrote: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day…” (2 Timothy 4:8).
Still, doubts arise. What if this hope of glory is only a terrible hoax? What if the hope of eternal life is not based on reality? Won’t we be disgraced and disappointed? I have heard even Christians say so! But Paul says, “No! This hope does not disappoint!” How can we be so certain of our hope? “Because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” [v.5]
Paul is telling us what I said earlier: Real hope is not an argument which changes from day to day because of our circumstances. The very moment we believed the Gospel of Christ, we received the gift of the Holy Spirit’s presence and the testimony of God’s abiding love for us! By means of the Gospel in the Word and Sacrament, the Holy Spirit continues to pour out the life-renewing, hope-restoring love of God upon our dry and troubled hearts.
If you lack hope when afflictions arise, is it because you are content to hear and receive only small amounts of God’s Word or an occasional taste of his Holy Supper. Are we like the man who needed rain water to live, but when it rained he tried to catch only a little of it in a tin cup? The Spirit of Christ has not told us to be content with a tin cup or an occasional dab of God’s love. The Holy Spirit does not dab or sprinkle the love of God toward us. That love is poured out, Paul says! So, let your hearts become as great lakes in receiving the Word about your Savior! For in connection with Jesus Christ we have the assurance of God’s enduring and faithful love for us!
This great, undeserved love of God for us in Christ is the anchor of our future hope. Note carefully and remember: Paul is talking about a very special love—God’s own love—a love very different from man’s love. How different is God’s love? Simply put: Christ did not die for good people or for those who are God’s friends. “Christ died for the ungodly.” [v.6] Jesus died in the place of God’s enemies! Just think of how difficult it would be for us to suffer and die even for the finest, most loveable person we know. Rarely does a person offer to die in the place of a good man—a loveable man. But which of us would offer himself to die in the place of a murderer or a thief?
Would any of us ever think of causing his own son or daughter to die for the crimes of a wicked person? I wouldn’t. You wouldn’t. But God did! “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that when we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” [v.8] God’s love caused His only Son to suffer and die for you and me, even though we were gossips, slanderers, fornicators, liars, cheats, murderers, haters of God and of our fellowmen, performing all kinds of evil against Him.
But what next? If divine love has already sacrificed Jesus Christ so that we might be declared righteous, then must not that same love finish our salvation on the Last Day? How can it be otherwise? So Paul assures us: “Having now been justified (declared righteous) by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” [vv.9-10] When has the God of Heaven ever failed to accomplish His purposes? Since Christ has been delivered to death for your sins and raised again from the dead, He now lives to finish your salvation and bring you to His glory in Heaven!
“And not only that,” Paul continues, “but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [v.11] The poor unbeliever can only place his hope each day in his own strength, health, wealth, or earthly success. When these things change and decay, the unbeliever is left hopeless and despairing. But we may continue to hope in our God Who does not change. “I am the LORD, I do not change,” He tells us in Malachi 3:6. In Christ, the unchanging God of Heaven has already fully committed Himself to bringing us to His eternal glory. He cannot fail to fulfill this hope He has given us in Christ!
The symbolism of the church at times pictures Christ as an anchor. It is a reminder of what the Holy Spirit says through the apostle Paul: “Keep your Anchor with you, by means of this Gospel of salvation.”
No ship that sails the stormy seas goes forth without an anchor. Circumstances may arise when the hope of the ship does not depend upon the captain, the crew, the compass or the steering gear, but on the anchor alone. There is always hope in the anchor! Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Anchor of our hope—today, and always! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.