Romans 5:3-4 [W]e also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
No one wants to suffer, but Paul rejoiced that God is able to use it for our good. Christians who have suffered deeply often have greater wisdom, depth, compassion and character than those who have suffered little. And after it has passed, many are actually thankful for how it shaped their lives.
There are at least four other reasons Christians can rejoice in their suffering. First, our suffering is always less than we deserve. If we consider how often and badly we have sinned, we will be amazed our suffering is not any worse. Second, our suffering will shortly end. Even if it lasts a hundred years, or more, what is that compared to eternity with Christ? Third, suffering can deepen our faith. Many Christians have gone from a shallow faith to a deeper faith due to their suffering. And fourth, suffering can increase our longing for heaven.
A missionary couple lost three small children in an automobile accident. They could have become resentful, and quit the ministry. But they believe God is good, and heaven is real. The thought of seeing their children again, along with their Savior, has created a greater longing than they ever knew before. Suffering seems pointless apart from God, but God uses it to draw us near to him.
Romans 5:8 God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God did not wait for us to repent before he made a way of salvation. He did not wait for us to see the error of our ways and apologize. The world was in revolt when God sent his Son to die for our sins, and Paul saw this as proof of God’s love.
If you were a millionaire, and your child was kidnapped, you would probably give your millions to get him back. And if you were a billionaire, you would probably give your billions to get him back. But what if your child was evil? What if your child hated you, ran away from you, did everything you forbad, and even cursed your name? And what if he did this for years? Would you still be willing to give everything you had to get your wicked child back? Maybe not. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
We are not only saved by the death of Jesus Christ, but also by his resurrection. He is like a wealthy man who left many in his will, then came back to be sure they received their inheritance. Jesus purchased our salvation when he died on a cross, then he rose from the dead to be sure that we receive it.
And all this happened while we were God’s enemies. We were waging in a one-sided war against God. Our hostility was so great, in fact, that when he sent his Son into the world, we killed him. I cannot think of a single friend for whom I would give my son. But while we were God’s enemies he gave his Son for us. This is the kind of God he is.
Romans 5:19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
As the head of the human race, Adam’s sin was applied to each of us. As the head of the new human race, Christ’s righteousness is applied to all who believe. We became sinners because of Adam’s sin, and we become righteous because of Christ’s righteousness.
The righteousness of Christ took him to the cross, but it began at his incarnation. The moment he was conceived, Jesus began winning our salvation through his obedient life. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me (John 6:38). And, I always do what pleases him (John 8:29), he said.
This is important for at least two reasons. First, if Jesus ever sinned, he could not have died for sinners. Second, salvation is not only being forgiven, but also being counted righteous. Since none are righteous in themselves, This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22), wrote Paul. Adam’s sin was imputed to everyone, and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to all who believe.
This is why Jesus had to live to adulthood to die for our salvation. He could not have died when he was five years old, because he had not been righteous long enough. Only after thirty-some years of perfect obedience was the Father willing to apply the righteousness of Christ to all who believe. This helps us cherish the obedience of Christ for our salvation, as well as his sacrificial death.
As he lay dying, an American theologian sent a telegram to his friend saying, I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it (J. Gresham Machen). As he thought about meeting God, he enjoyed the double comfort of knowing that Jesus died for his sins, and lived for his righteousness. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), wrote Isaiah.
Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
With so much talk about God’s grace, the church in Rome may have thought of Christianity as a license to sin. If God is glorified by forgiving our sin, the more we sin, the more God is glorified. The argument is logical, but it comes to the wrong conclusion. Paul used baptism to illustrate why Christians should not sin.
When a Christian goes under the water in baptism, it is an image of our union with Christ in his death. As Jesus died for sin, the Christian dies to sin. When a Christian comes up from the water, it is an image of our union with Christ in his resurrection. Coming to faith in Christ is like dying to sin, so we can live a new life. The wonderful thing about baptism is that it’s more than an illustration. It is the inward experience of all who believe.
Before I came to Christ, sin was a source of pleasure, and obedience was a burden. But after I came to Christ, sin became a source of grief, and obedience became a joy. This is because the Holy Spirit troubles us whenever we sin, and gives us joy whenever we obey. Something truly happens when we come to faith in Jesus Christ. We die to sin, and come alive to God.
Romans 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
Paul wanted believers in Rome to understand that they had a new master. Before they came to Christ, sin ruled over them. But since they came to Christ, sin no longer had the right to tell them what to do.
I am the second of six children, and my big sister is six years older than me. For many years she bossed me around like a second mom. Because it had always been that way, I assumed she had the right. But then, one day, I had a moment of clarity. I stood up to her and said, You are not the boss of me. Mom and Dad are the boss of me, and I have to obey them. But you are not the boss of me, and I do not have to obey you anymore. To my delight she backed down, and that was the end of her authority.
Here is the point: if we belong to Jesus Christ, sin is not the boss of us. Jesus Christ is the boss of us, and we have to obey him. But sin is not the boss of us, and we do not have to obey sin anymore.
Reflection and Review
How is our relationship to Christ, like our relationship to Adam?
Why is Jesus’ perfect life important for our salvation?
How does baptism illustrate conversion?