Romans 5: The Right To Be Happy

Read Romans 5:1-21

The Right To Be Happy

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…
~Romans 5:3-4

Digging Deeper: Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that each American, and I assume, every human being on earth, ought to have the right to the pursuit of happiness.  That is a good thing, depending on the definition of happiness—which I suspect, is an inexhaustible subject that we are still trying to work out to this day, nearly 300 years later.

Jefferson said, mind you, the pursuit of happiness, but he didn’t say we had the right to be happy.  Popular culture, driven largely by the modern media, has fed us that line for a generation or two now, but I think we who follow Christ would be much better if we were disabused of that notion.

We do not have the right to be happy!  We do, however, have the right to a far better attribute:  The right to be holy.  Jesus Christ died on the cross to make sure of that.  That is what Paul is spending a great deal of time describing here in Romans 5.  In fact, Paul begins this chapter with these great words:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)

We have been justified by our faith.  That justification came by Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, by which his righteousness was imputed to us.  Since we are righteous through Christ by his death and through our faith, we are declared holy in the sight of a holy God, and therefore secure for all eternity.  By this, we rightly glory in this unshakable hope—which we might say is what true happiness is all about.

But there is more. Not only do we rejoice in this hope in the future glory of salvation soon to be realized, we rejoice in the glory of our present sufferings.  Why? Because as Paul says, those tribulations loosen this present world’s grip on our loyalties and produce in us the stuff of heaven: perseverance in our faith, Christ-like character, and the unshakeable hope of eternity.

It is time we redefine happiness.  True happiness is the imputed righteousness of Christ.  True happiness is the hope of the glory of God.  True happiness is the very tribulations that would make the normal earthling unhappy, but reminds the heaven-bound believer of that very thing: that they are bound for heaven.

That’s the happiness I want to pursue.

“If we really believe that home is elsewhere and that this life
is a ‘wandering to find home,’ why should we not
look forward to the arrival?”
~C.S. Lewis

This Week’s Assignment (Including two options for Scripture memory):

  • Option A—Memorize Romans 5:1-4,  “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
  • Option B—Memorize Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • Read Romans 5:1-11 once a day for the next seven days (you might want to different version on different days). Ask God to give you a fresh understanding of the richness of these verses.

Romans 5: Life Sentence

Read Romans 5:12-21

Life Sentence

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one
man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant
provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign
in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
~Romans 5:17

Digging Deeper: The problem is simple—yours and mine: We’re dead men walking. We are all under a death sentence because of Adam’s sin:

“You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in— first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death.” (Romans 5:12, MSG)

Since Adam was the first human being created and therefore the head of the human race, through this one man’s disobedience sin entered the genetic code of all humanity.  That might seem unfair, but that’s the way it works.  Every human being, without exception, even the best among us—the sincere, good-hearted, law abiding citizen—is horribly infected with sin-tainted DNA:

“Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God.” (Romans 5:14, MSG)

And even though there was no real accounting for sin before the Law of Moses was revealed (Romans 5:13), the consequence of sin still reigned:  Death for all—both literal, physical death and spiritual, eternal separation from God.  What God created human beings to experience and enjoy—an intimate relationship and forever life in his presence—was erased the moment Adam chose to disobey God’s commands.

Yet as horrible as this situation is, the good news is that through another man’s obedience, Jesus Christ, our death sentence was commuted to a “life” sentence—a restoration of intimacy with God and forever life in his presence.  You see, Jesus is the last Adam (I Corinthians 15:45), and as the head of a spiritual race, our rebirth through him permanently alters our genetic code with life—eternal life that cannot be taken from us.  Just as the first man’s singular act of disobedience (eating from a forbidden tree) had the universal effect of trumping life with death, so the last man’s singular act of obedience (dying on a tree) trumped death with life eternal for all who believe:

“If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?” (Romans 5:17, MSG)

Of course, if you are already a follower of Christ, you know all this.  So why does Paul keep bringing this up here in Romans?  What’s the big deal; how should this affect your life today?

Well, for one thing, it ought to affect your attitude toward people who are far from God.  They are genetically infected with Adam’s sin-tainted DNA, and therefore sentenced to death.  And there is just one way out: Only rebirth into eternal life through Jesus Christ can rewire their Adamic genetic code.  Don’t ever forget that!  In an age that pressures us into believing that there are many ways to God, that if you are just good enough and sincere enough, then in the end, you’ll be just fine, remember the truth: In Adam, all die!  But in Jesus, all live!

“Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.” (Romans 5:18-19, MSG)

And for another thing, when sin (both your sin nature and your individual acts of sin) tries to remind you that you are still under the death penalty of Adam’s disobedience (which, by the way, is so paradoxical: the world says there is no guilt while at the same time the god of this world reminds you that you’re as guilty as sin), you can remind sin that Someone else paid the death penalty for you. Your death sentence has been commuted to eternal life!

Should that make a difference in your life today?  You bet!  You were a “Dead man walking” but have been declared “not guilty!” You have walked out of sin-prison a free man or woman by the gracious act of Another.

Should that make a difference in your life today?  You tell me!

“The arrows of God’s anger that had been put against your breast
were loosed into the Lord Jesus Christ. Because
He has died for you, you were forgiven.”
~Paris Reidhead

This Week’s Assignment (Including two options for Scripture memory):

  • Option A—Memorize Romans 5:1-4,  “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
  • Option B—Memorize Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • Read Romans 5:1-11 once a day for the next seven days (you might want to different version on different days). Ask God to give you a fresh understanding of the richness of these verses.

Romans 5: (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding

Read Romans 5:1-11

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with
God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained
access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
~Romans 5:1-2

Digging Deeper: Elvis Costello & The Attractions (I know, your favorite band) first popularized the song, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” back in the late 1970’s.  If you haven’t heard it—it’s actually a pretty catchy song—you might want to download it to your ITunes.

Anyway, that’s a digression from what I want to talk about.  But I do think it makes a pretty good title for Romans 5:1-11.  The essence of Paul’s argument here is that we have peace with God (not just inner calm and serenity, but literally, the mutual hostility between God and man because of man’s sin has been ended) and access (free, unlimited, and irrevocable) to his grace (unmerited favor) because, through his love, we have been justified (a once-and-for-all legal settlement) by Christ’s sacrificial death.

I don’t know about you, but I find that funny. Not just kind of funny, but gut-splittingly funny!  “Funny” not in the sense of ridiculous—although getting credited with righteousness before God through Christ’s account is a pretty ridiculous equation, wouldn’t you say?  Not just “funny” in the sense of foolish—although the idea of being right with God apart from good works and human effort is the height of foolishness to those who are not saved. And not just “funny” in the sense of odd—although how odd is it that God would go to such great links to prove his love by loving that which was completely unlovable? (Romans 5:6-8)

No, I’m talking “funny” in the sense that what God has done for you and me is so undeserved, and we are such unlikely candidates for his grace, that the only response you and I can offer in return is to fall on our knees, undone by love, overflowing with gratitude, and giddy with joy!

These first eleven verses are so amazingly profound that no commentary I or anyone else can offer will really do them justice.  So I want to recommend that you simply read and re-read them until the Spirit who inspired them illuminates them to you in a fresh way and brings you into a true and deeper understanding of what it took to justify you, and what it means for you to stand in peace and grace in God’s presence.

I have a sense that when you really begin to understand this—although I’m not sure we will ever really and fully “get” what has been done for us—you will probably fall on your knees in laughter, or dumbfounded silence, or tears—because all those responses are appropriate when you begin to understand even in the slightest the amazing grace and the deep, deep love of God!

What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding?  Everything!

“Mercy for the sinner, help in the hardest place,
everything for nothing, that is grace!”
~C.C. Beatty

This Week’s Assignment (Including two options for scripture memory):

  • Option A—Memorize Romans 5:1-4,  “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
  • Option B—Memorize Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  • Read Romans 5:1-11 once a day for the next seven days (you might want to use different version on different days). Ask God to give you a fresh understanding of the richness of these verses.

The Right To Be Happy?

Read Romans 5

“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…”
(Romans 5:3-4)

Food For Thought… Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that each American, and I assume, every human being on earth, ought to have the right to the pursuit of happiness. That is a good thing, depending on the definition of happiness—which I suspect, is an inexhaustible subject that we are still trying to work out to this day, nearly 300 years later.

Jefferson said, mind you, the pursuit of happiness, but he didn’t say we had the right to be happy. Popular culture, driven largely by the modern media, has fed us the line that we have a “divine right” to be happy for a generation or two now, but I think we who follow Christ would be much better off if we were disabused of that notion.

We do not have the right to be happy! We do, however, have the right to a far better attribute: The right to be holy. Jesus Christ died on the cross to make sure of that. That is what Paul is spending a great deal of time describing here in Romans 5. In fact, Paul begins this chapter with these great words:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)

We have been justified by our faith. That justification came by Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, by which his righteousness was imputed to us. Since we are righteous through Christ by his death and through our faith, we are declared holy in the sight of a holy God, and therefore secure for all eternity. By this, we rightly glory in this unshakable hope—which we might say is what true happiness is all about.

But there is more. Not only do we rejoice in this hope of the future glory of salvation soon to be realized, we rejoice in the glory of our present sufferings. Why? Because as Paul says, those tribulations loosen this present world’s grip on our loyalties and produce in us the stuff of heaven: perseverance in our faith, Christ-like character, and the unshakeable hope of eternity.

It is time we redefine happiness. True happiness is the imputed righteousness of Christ. True happiness is the hope of the glory of God. True happiness is the very tribulations that would make the normal earthling unhappy, but reminds the heaven-bound believer of that very thing: that they are bound for heaven.

That’s the happiness I want to pursue.

Prayer… Lord, help me to embrace my present sufferings as temporary reminders of your grace and my future glory.

One more thing…
“If we really believe that home is elsewhere and that this life is a ‘wandering to find home,’ why should we not look forward to the arrival?” — C.S. Lewis