Monday, December 6, 2010

What is the Advantage of Grace?

Reading: Romans 5  
While the law can give us no confidence of living up to God's righteousness, of ever being restored to the kind of people we were created to be, there is something that can indeed give us hope and confidence in that hope. What is it?
In Romans 2:17, 23 Paul effectively showed that those under the law had nothing to rejoice in, nothing to boast about, because they had broken the law becoming as if they had no law. [Click here for more on the question of advantage in being a Jew.] In Romans 5, Paul begins to talk about the serious advantage of grace. What is it? It is the real advantage that grace offers!
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through 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)
This word, rejoice, is the same word Paul uses in chapter two, except here it carries a positive connotation. Doug Moo in his commentary on Romans suggests that it might be best translated, “we are joyfully confident of...”. Of what are we joyfully confident?
Having been freely justified through faith in the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24; 5:1), we now have peace with God—we are no longer enemies in danger of His wrath, but are now in a peaceful relationship with our Creator, we are restored back to that relationship which Adam had to leave all the way back in the garden because of sin—and we now stand in grace rather than in condemnation and death. And because of this fundamental change in relationship to God, we have confidence in the hope of the glory of God.”
What is the hope of the glory of God?
Man was made in the image and glory of God. “As in Romans 3:23, 'the glory of God' is that state of 'God-like-ness' which has been lost because of sin, and which will be restored in the last day to every Christian.”1 In 1 Corinthians 11:7, Paul refers to man as “the image and glory of God”. While in Genesis we read that man was made in the “image and likeness” of God, “image and glory” of God seemed to become synonymous with those. The glory of God was an element of God's person, His likeness manifest amongst us. In this context, that likeness is Christ manifest among us. (See also 2 Corinthians 3:18.)
Because of the fact that we have a whole new kind of relationship with God, described here as standing in grace, and having peace, we have reason to have confidence in our hope of being restored to the image of God, the likeness of God in us. In another place, Paul describes this “hope of glory” as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27) Christ is the perfect image and likeness of God, and as we are conformed into His image, or rather as He is formed in us (Galatians 4:19), we are moving toward our hope of the glory of God being restored in man.
We also have confidence in our sufferings!
Not only are we joyfully confident through Christ in our hope of being restored to the image of God in Christ (something the law did not accomplish), but we are joyfully confident in our sufferings. Now why in the world would Paul say that? Most of us tend to view suffering as an indicator of God's anger, or God hiding Himself from us, or our failure, or something akin to these. But Paul says that because of this new relationship of peace we have with God which is rooted in our free justification by faith in Christ's redemption, and is described as standing in grace, we also can be joyfully confident in our sufferings! Why?
Suffering produces perseverance because it is hard and we have to endure. And in our enduring we are tested and as we turn to Christ even in our weak faith saying, “I believe, help my unbelief...” we are proven. This word “character” is a word the refers to the result of that proving. Like if you test a stone for authenticity. When you test it, and it proves to be authentic, you might say it has the “character” of that gem and therefore is that gem. As believers, when we suffer we enter into what Christ did—He suffered. And we trust God in the midst of it. And even in our fear, we pray, Abba, Father, if it be possible to deliver me from this suffering, please do, but not as I will, but your will be done.” (Mark 14:36) So that even in our suffering we are being more conformed to the image of Jesus... so our hope is increased all the more. So we rejoice in suffering, because it is evidence that God is going to restore His image in us.
This seems to be the logic of Romans 8:18-29. Here are excerpts:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed....23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.... 28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
This is our hope of glory, Christ revealed in us. We don't yet have it, but we patiently wait for it. And we can have a joyful confidence in it for God has predestined it to happen and will work in all things, even our suffering, toward bringing it about. We rejoice in God. (Romans 5:11) And one day our hope will be will be complete. Oh the glorious joy that comes as we learn what it means to stand in the grace of our Lord Jesus.
What is the advantage of grace? What the law could not do, God did by sending His own Son (grace). And because of that grace, we now can be what the law was never able to produce in us. (Romans 1:3-4) Living grows out of life, and grace makes life possible.

Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,
1Douglas Moo, NICNT Commentary on Romans, pg. 302.

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