Last week we jumped back into our main teaching series in Paul’s letter to the Romans. We retraced some of our steps of where we’d been so far in Romans 1-4 with Paul introducing himself, stating his main theme, going deep into man’s sinful rebel nature, and his careful defining and illustrating justification by faith alone. We then moved on to discuss what chapters 5-8 are all about and said: while chapters 1-4 are all about the gospel being the power of God to save sinners who believe, chapters 5-8 are all about the gospel being the power of God to sanctify sinners who believe. And then, we lingered on 5:1 which reveals the first great blessing of being justified by faith, peace with God.

This morning, we’re keeping on in this same vein, looking at more blessings that come to us from being justified by faith. Particularly this week, we’ll examine the second and third blessing Paul of being justified, both of which are in v2, access to grace and rejoicing in hope. So see first…

Access to Grace (v2a)

“Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand…”

My grandfather was a prestigious businessman. He was the president of many companies and it often brought him VIP access to many sporting events. Occasionally I was invited to tag along on some of these ventures and I remember how we would bypass long lines of people, how we would be allowed through the closed doors off to the side, and how we, every now and then, had the privilege of meeting some of the athletes. As a young boy it took a few years for me to realize this special access wasn’t just because we had special lanyards, but that it was because of my grandfather himself. He was the reason we had such access.

That brings us to v2a. Access is what’s in view here, but while it might resemble the access I just told you about, this access is far greater and far more lasting. It’s eternal, it never fades, it will never be removed or revoked. So what’s this access about? How do we get it? What does it lead to? What does it do to us? Well, note first how v2 begins. Just as it is “through our Lord Jesus Christ” that we now have peace with God (what we saw in v1), it is also “through Him”, or “through our Lord Jesus Christ”, that we have “access into this grace in which we stand.”[1] Meaning, something has changed. There was once a time when we did not have this access, but now “through Him”, through Christ, we have it.[2]

Let’s once again go back. In the garden of Eden we had this access to God but when sin entered the world our access was removed. We we’re banned from the garden lest we, in our new sinful state, reach out and eat from the tree of life and live forever. God took us out of it and we went off east of Eden and God placed cherubim (angelic figures) with flaming swords to block the way back in. Everything had changed. Distance rather than nearness was now the norm between God and man. And this continued didn’t it? Throughout the rest of Genesis it’s clear that mankind de-volved lower and lower into sin. On this continues in Exodus. God graciously redeems His people from slavery and brings them out to the wilderness but there at Mt. Sinai only Moses was allowed to go up the mountain, no one had access, on the threat of death. And once the tabernacle and later temple was made, what blocked the inner sanctum, the holy of holies? A veil, a thick curtain barring the way. Anyone remember what was woven into the fabric of the curtain? Cherubim, just like the ones blocking the way back into the garden. Distance was being communicated. Only once a year could the high priest come in to offer sacrifices, and no one else. Later on, after Israel’s exile and the destruction and rebuilding of the temple they once again hung a veil with cherubim woven into the fabric blocking the way to the most holy place, and moving farther ahead, anyone remember what occurred when Jesus died on the cross? This veil was torn, ripped in half. What does this mean? It means the distance has been removed! Nearness to God is now possible once again but only through Christ! Paul likely had this in mind as he’s writing these words about access.

The word “access” is the Greek word prosagogen. It’s only used three times in the entire New Testament, and only by Paul. It’s translated best as ‘access’ like we see here but it could also be translated as ‘introduction.’[3] This also shows us something of what it means. Some of you watched the Presidential Inauguration this past week and were reminded of how politics can feel very ceremonious at times. Every now and then we get this reminder in our country, and it was clear from watching it that not just anyone can get in to see the President. You’ve got to have the clearance, you to have to a connection, someone on the inside who can get you in and introduce you. Paul has something of this in mind here. There was a time when we were in sin, when we had no right of entry, no access to God, and because of this we could not come into His presence. But now because we’ve been justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we have our introduction to the Father. Or put it like this, distance to God was once our norm but One came to us who had the right of access Himself, One who not only has the proper clearance to get into the Father but One who is the very Son of God Himself. After He deals with our sins and with our hardened hearts through the gospel, He brings us into the Father and introduces us.

But look closely at v2a. It’s not quite what we’d expect is it? We might think Paul would say because we’re now at peace with God we have access to God, but he doesn’t say that. He says, “Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand…” We have access into grace? Normally when we think of grace we say grace is God’s unmerited favor He’s given (meaning it’s not something we earned). And we rightly go further to say grace is God’s demerited favor He’s given (meaning we not only didn’t earn it, but we’ve actually earned the opposite, judgment). This is normally how we think of grace. But the way Paul uses the word grace here in v2a shows he’s got something else in mind. Grace in v2 is surely about the favor of God given to sinners, but it’s presented as something of a position we’re now in. We were under sin, captive to it, and lost. Now, because we’ve been justified by faith we’re no longer under condemnation, but under grace.

And more so, this grace isn’t merely favor or merely our current position, we now stand in this grace. Why did Paul speak of our standing in this grace? He didn’t have to. He could just say in grace or under grace is our position in Christ. Why does he speak of standing in grace? I think Paul’s eager to show us that we’re not merely in this grace, but that we’re secure in this grace.[4] Standing gives us a picture of firmness, of a fixed position, so firm and so fixed that there’s no falling from it. We’re not just in grace, or hanging onto grace by the tips of our fingers, no. Because we’ve justified through faith alone in Christ alone we stand in grace! Paul speaks of this all over the place in his letters. 1 Cor. 15:1, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand…” 2 Cor. 1:24, “Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.” Eph. 6:11, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” It’s right for Paul to speak this way about believers, because this is exactly what we have gained in Christ. But it also points out the tragedy of the lost, because it’s what they don’t have and what they’re unable to do. Psalm 1:5, “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment…”

You need to hear this. We too easily forget it. That by grace, through faith, in Christ, we stand. Maybe you’ve felt this at some time or another in your life, but many Christians feel as if God has rejected them when they sin. That God has forsaken them, removed His grace from them and cast them out. But think about that. If we feel God’s rejected us when we sin, doesn’t that also mean that we feel God only accepts us if we obey? This whole line of thinking is off, because it’s all based on our own works. Hear it Church, by grace God saves us, by grace God gives us access, by grace God keeps us, and in this grace we stand. Even when the Christian sins, we stand firm in this grace.

So we’ve now seen the first two blessings of being justified by faith. First in v1, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and second here in v2a, we have access into this grace in which we stand. These are mighty blessings, truly, but Paul continues on in v2b, with a third blessing of being justified by faith.

Rejoicing in Hope (v2b)

“…and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

Now, I know I just called this the third blessing of our passage and I do think it truly is that, the third blessing in the list we have in v1-2. But when we come to this theme of rejoicing, we don’t just come to the third blessing in the list we come to a major theme in 5:1-11. We’re called to rejoice three times in v1-11. First here in v2, “…and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Second in v3, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings…” And third in v11, “More than that, we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” So Church, rejoicing is no small part of the Christian life, is it? We rejoice in hope, we rejoice in our sufferings, and we rejoice in God. So yes, we’ve now arrived at the third blessing of being justified in v1-2, but having arrived at this blessing we come to a monumental part of the Christian experience. We are a people who rejoice. What then does this rejoicing look like? Each of the three times this word is used in v1-11 it shines forth brilliantly and instructively for how we’re to live. Lord willing we’ll arrive at v3 and v11 later on and we can see how rejoicing comes through there in those contexts.

For us, here in v2, to rejoice is to boast. It’s to glory. It’s to express a deep joyful gladness in something or over something. What’s the something in v1-2? “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” This rejoicing is a boasting in that we now have peace with God and access to His grace. And that all this is ours as a result of us being justified by faith, it comes from that and flows out of that. In this sense our rejoicing looks back at what God did for us the moment we believed and were saved. We don’t look back and rejoice in the decision we made congratulating ourselves or patting ourselves on the back for making such a wise decision, no, it was all of grace! We look back at that moment when we, like Lazarus, were raised to new life and a made a new creation! We look back to Jesus, living, dying, and rising for us and are thrilled by it. “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. Oh how precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.”

But this rejoicing doesn’t just look back at what God has done for us, it looks back in hope. “…we rejoice in hope…” This is not hope as in, ‘I hope the Bucs keep winning’ or ‘I hope I can get a vaccine soon.’ Hope in that sense is wishful and we’re never assured that any of these things we hope for will come to pass. Hope as it’s presented in the Bible is different. Hebrews 6 presents hope “as an anchor of the soul.”[5] Hope as anchor? Yes. Think of what an anchor does. It drops down from a ship to the bottom of the water it’s in and once it gets down there it’s heavy enough to hold the whole ship in place while the wind and waves come against it. In other words, hope in the Bible isn’t wishful, it’s certain, it’s immovable, it’s not something we hold onto, it holds onto us. Christians enjoy this blessing, don’t we? We’re to be a hopeful people, not a despairing people because we now have a liberal president. We’re to be a hopeful people, not a fearful people because Covid is still going around and the vaccines aren’t rolling out as easily or quickly as we thought. We’re to be a hopeful people, not fearing bad news because we trust the King of kings who reigns over all things in His infinite wisdom. Hope is to be thick in Christians. And again, the absence of hope is the tragedy of all unbelievers. Because they reject Jesus, they have no hope, they have no anchor, and they’re tossed to and fro on the seas of life. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3 to always be ready and eager to give a “reason for the hope within us.”

Well, in this rejoicing we do look back at what God has done for us, and in this rejoicing we do here and now enjoy the stability the anchor of hope brings to us. But we do more. At the end of v2 we see where it all of this leads to and where it all of this takes us. “…we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” So Church, the glory that is the Lord’s, the glory He revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ, the glory we see and experience now in part, this glory, we will one day see revealed fully and partake in it forever. Do you know something of this glory?

[1] Douglas Moo, Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2018), 325.

[2] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans – vol. 4 (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth, 1985), 30-31.

[3] Ibid., 31-32. Lloyd-Jones argues the proper translation is ‘introduction’ not ‘access.’ I disagree, but do find his ‘introduction’ imagery with the Queen to be helpful.

[4] Ibid., 39.

[5] R.C. Sproul, Romans, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2009), 146.

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