One of the things we know and come to expect as Christians is that we will suffer.
Suffering…part of the journey in Christ (…and yes that’s me digging my way out!)
Throughout the New Testament we see teachings about suffering, the need for suffering, how to deal with suffering and not to be surprised at the sufferings and ordeals that come upon us as Christians.
Suffering is an essential part of our walk with Christ. He suffered so that we could have this opportunity to come to God and be saved from this world of sin and evil. And we suffer because we have made a decision to turn away from the ways of this world and to seek a better life.
But there is a deeper purpose to the sufferings that we go though and that purpose is encapsulated in this scripture, which is one of my favourites, so let’s look at it and see what suffering actually does for us.
Access to Grace
The words of that most famous of hymns begin saying, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” And grace is truly amazing. It is by grace that we have access to all the gifts and promises of God promised through the writings and words of His prophets, disciples, apostles and of course Jesus Christ his only begotten son.
But grace is an unusual concept and an odd word that is not really well understood. Moreover access to grace is even less understood because of the all encompassing nature of it.
But what truly shocked me about grace was when I read this one verse in Romans 5:2 and began to see that the giving of grace and the extent of grace was not as universal as both I and I know many others believed it to be. This was quite a revelation for it shows that there is a definite process and a way to receive the grace of God. It is not open to everyone but only to a select group, and when we know and understand the process then we are able to receive God’s grace and the bountiful promises that come with it.
The most wonderful thing about the grace of God and the process He has put in place through faith in His work in Jesus Christ is that we now can have peace with God.
Peace with God
Are you aware that before coming to Christ you were actually at war with God? Did you know that you were God's enemy before coming to Jesus Christ? And if you are not currently with Jesus Christ you still stand as an enemy of Christ and thus an enemy of God. And if you are an enemy of God, you cannot have peace with God.
But as Paul says in this one verse, through Christ we now have peace with God. Even more than that, the peace of God rests upon us through Jesus Christ and we can hold onto His peace through the working of the Holy Spirit as we walk with Him.
So let us briefly look at what this peace is and why we have it now.
If ever there were just a few verses that summed up the essence of the new covenant and how both it works and what we are to believe and accept in Jesus Christ, these are those few verses.
Essence of the new covenant
The new covenant is deliberately simple to grasp and take hold of. It had to be that way so that all of mankind could have access to it and receive the gifts of God. It does not require great wisdom or great knowledge to receive the truth of the new covenant, or at least the essence of the truth that begins a walk with Christ Jesus.
All it needs is faith. But not blind faith. This faith is quite specific and quite a deliberate belief in a set of things that The Lord has established in the new covenant, and we see the essence of what we must believe in these few lines of scripture.
When it comes to the old prophets, teachers and patriarchs of the bible, Abraham stands out as being THE man of the faith. All of us today along with those spoken of in bible times and everyone in between look to Abraham as our father, either as a direct descendant in the case of the children of Israel, or as our father by faith.
Faith like Abraham
Abraham crosses the divide that exists between the old and the new covenants for he was the father of the adherents of the old covenant law through the covenant and sign of circumcision, and he is father of those who now come to God through Jesus Christ whose faith is like the faith Abraham had in the word of God.
This section of Romans 4 really spells out the strength and the power of Abraham's faith
Here is an interesting question worth considering, because it goes to the heart of what the New Covenant is all about.
Do you need the law?
Do you need the law?
Man reveres law because they seek order and structure. We see this reverence for law in the way that the law and lawyers are depicted in books, television shows and movies. We see it also in the similar reverence for lawmakers and politicians who, even though many individuals are fallible and have done some terrible things, the institutions of the political processes and democracy are held in high esteem as necessary to ensure stability in our society.
We know also that God gave the law to Moses, also for the purpose of giving Israel structure and to promote a better standard of life for those who followed the law. God wanted people to live well and it is His law that formed the basis of most of the laws that govern life today, albeit some have since been perverted.
Paul wrote in Romans 7 that the law of Moses given by God is holy, just and good because there is great wisdom in the law. They were after all the words of God given for the benefit of man.
But the question remains, in spite of all of this, do we need the law? The answer may be a surprise to some.
When God originally chose a people to be his own special people He made a distinction and selected the people of Israel. He took these people as His own and He blessed them mightily so that they had a standard of living that was far greater than any of the other nations.
God's promise to everyone
But they rebelled and turned away from God. They chose idol worship in the days of Moses and at other times,mand in the time of Jesus they were hypocrites who thought they could achieve righteousness through works of the law.
God called them a stiff-necked people who would not bow to Him and He said they were hard of heart, not able or prepared to learn the ways of God. They were proud and arrogant and did not understand that it was in returning and rest and through humility that God can be found.
So God rejected them, although not entirely, and opened His arms to ALL the peoples of the world. Jews and Gentiles had an equal footing in His sight and all could come to Him and be saved under the teachings of Jesus Christ and the New Covenant for this was His promise, made even before the Jews were born and before Isaac and Jacob were born from whom the whole nation of Israel were to come.
God's promise to all people that they could receive righteousness by faith came with Abraham and these few scriptures in Romans 4 show us how God set these things in place.
There is a chorus we sing in church on a regular basis which goes like this:
Free gift from God
For from Him and to Him and through Him are all things…
The chorus was written around the words in Romans 11:36, but if ever a piece of scripture bore out those words it is this section of Romans 4.
This website and blog are titled the Free Gift From God and those words too are made clear in this short section of scripture in Romans 4. For it is made abundantly evident what and how much we have been given and what we do for it in these few verses.
One of the most difficult aspects of Christianity for people to come to grips with is how they stand in relation to the laws given by Moses. Part of the reason for this confusion is contained in this scripture which says in verse 31:
Christians are free from law, but they cannot then break the law
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
We are set free from the law of sin and death by the death of Jesus Christ. But this verse tells us we must uphold the law. So the challenge for all Christians is to understand how we now relate to the law and that is what I will look at in this post.
In my last post I discussed verse 23, which is a much used and well known scripture. It spoke of the fact that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I spoke also of the redemption that is possible for those who subsequently come to God seeking a better life and desiring to seek and do God's will.
Walking with The Lord restored by grace
In these next few verses we see Paul speak of this redemptive power and how it is to be received. It is a wonderful scripture and too often overlooked because so many focus on the fact that we are all sinners.
This scripture shows that even though we all start out in sin, we do not have to stay in that terrible place. There is a solution and there is a means by which we can find redemption and once again be reconciled to God.
The secret to this redemptive power, not that it is any great secret, is contained in these few verses.