Sermon on Romans Chapter 5:1-8
By Howard Connell
Romans 5 1-8
This passage from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans is a tremendous source of encouragement to Christians who face challenges in their daily lives (and which of us doesn’t).
The letter to the Romans was written, by a man who had already faced persecution for his faith, and who was ultimately to die for it, to a church which was under constant threat and which had to meet in secret. The effect of the passage we have heard, on its original hearers, must have been electric. In saying that “at a time when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”, Paul made about as clear and positive a statement as one could ever hope to read of the true nature of what Jesus did for humanity. And Paul sets the nature of that gift against the background of the road which almost every Christian has to walk with God, so that we can see that, even in the midst of the trials and sufferings, God is with us.
I want to look briefly at three of Paul’s assertions.
We have peace
Please note that this is not a “pie in the sky when you day” statement much beloved of some Christian writers. It was a declaration of what was happening in the early Church even in the midst of the turmoil oppression and challenges which it faced. We have an assurance of the peace of God, here and now. Why do we have it? Not because of anything we have done. On our own we could never manage to restore ourselves to righteousness. Fortunately we do not have any need to do so. The price of our sin and disobedience was paid, once and for all, on the Cross at Calvary; and if we accept God’s forgiveness won for us through that sacrifice, we truly have peace. But it is not supposed to be the easy peace which sits back in self-satisfaction. No, on the contrary it is the peace which is intended to act as a bedrock and a springboard for the Church’s action in the world. That peace was on offer for the Christians in the fledgling Church in Rome in the midst of their persecution. It is available for us, here in Putnoe, today. Not the easy peace of sitting back and taking it all, but the peace which will help us to live out our mission as God’s people in the world.
We have hope
We talk today about “hoping for something“, in the sense of wishing for something to which we aspire, but of which aren’t really very sure. That was not the context in which Paul used the word. When he talked of rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God has was talking of something he knew, about which he was sure and which he had experienced. Paul was absolutely convinced that, because of what Jesus had done for him, he would be able to experience the power of God’s glory eternally. Do we have that same joyous conviction of the power of God’s glory in our lives? Too often Christians either do not have hope in Paul’s sense of the word or, if they do, they don’t talk about it. If the Church is to grow, perhaps if the Church is even to survive, we need desperately to experience the hope of the glory of God and then tell others about it!
We have joy
Sometimes, especially when the going is tough, and at some point in the life of most Christians it is, it can be extremely easy to lose sight of the joy which Jesus won for us at Calvary. But it need not be so. I give you two examples of people in my own life who, in spite great difficulties, were able to show the joy of Christ to those around them. The first is from my childhood, and was a cousin of my father’s who lived in Mold, not far from St Asaph. Widowed at a relatively early age when her husband died from an industrial disease, Beat always stayed cheerful and welcomed her neighbours with a truly generous heart. On her sitting room wall there was a plaque, which I suspect Les may have given her before he died. It bore the inscription “What little I have I share and every day I pray that tomorrow may give more to give away”. It could have been written about her. She was humble, cheerful and as poor as a church mouse: but that never, ever stopped her from being both joyful and generous. She knew the joy of which Paul spoke.
The other example was a dear friend, and a fellow member of Gideons International in Nottinghamshire, who developed cancer of the bowel in her very early sixties. Yolanda (or ‘Lande as she was always known) was never a person to take adversity lying down, and she was so used to sharing her faith, in a powerful way, with those around her. So much was this the case that, even in the Hospice, days before her death, she was able, with total certainty and with complete conviction to gossip the Gospel to those who were caring for her, and some of those who visited others. Even as she confronted her own death. she proclaimed the certainty of eternal life, and by doing she brought some of her hearers to faith.
We can and should have peace in our Christian walk, as a basis for us to do what the Lord wants. We ought to have the hope of eternal life won, not by our efforts but by our faith in the power of the Lord Jesus and what he has done for us. And therefore we have much about which to be joyful and to proclaim to the world.