Christianity & Culture Sunday School: Session 2
Romans 5: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Last week we saw how God is full of glory, loves glory, and made the world and people to share and enjoy that glory. Glory is success, honor, praise, beauty, and God plans to give glory to those who patiently seek it by doing good. Ultimately this means clinging to Jesus in faith because He has been given all glory. In Romans 5, Paul describes this “hope of glory” in terms of justification and peace.
Jesus, Justification & Glory
When Jesus died on the cross it didn’t look like glory. In fact, it looked like the opposite. It looked like shame, defeat, loneliness, loss, complete despair: the opposite of glory. But there are two things that change all of the appearances: First, we have to understand why Jesus suffered shame, defeat, loneliness, loss, etc. Isaiah 53 says that He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. In other words, the “defeat” of Jesus was actually the defeat of our sin and guilt. That means that what looked like defeat was actually victory. This is why Paul can say in 1 Cor. 2:8 that if the rulers had known what God was planning, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” Secondly, the resurrection of Jesus is His justification/vindication proving Him right: He was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). In other words, the shame of the cross is undone by the victory of the resurrection. Our salvation and His resurrection justify the glory of the cross.
Our Justification & Peace
Paul is writing to Roman Christians who are worried and confused about God’s plans. How could God have given up on the Jews? Would He give up on the Gentiles too? Can God be trusted to keep His promises? How do we know He won’t change His mind and come up with a different plan? Paul is writing to insist that God’s plan hasn’t really changed, and that in Jesus, the same mission begun in Abraham is still in effect. This might seem way different than the problems and questions we face, but it actually isn’t. It has everything to do with glory. To have glory is to be safe, secure, unafraid, bold, determined. In other words, to have glory is to be at peace. In our world, people offer clothing, music, jokes, styles, stories, sports, and attitudes as the way to peace, success, and glory. In other words, we are still trying to be justified by our works. What can I do to guarantee my success, my popularity, or maybe it’s just: what can I do to keep me from being a loser, lonely, left alone?
Justification by Faith & Glory
Paul says that we are justified by faith: that means we believe that our entire lives are only safe in Jesus. We believe that His blood washes us clean from all our shame, sin, and failure, and His resurrection life fills us and fulfills in us the glory of God. Our justification is not in our performance: it’s in the performance of Jesus for us. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t care about glory. Paul says that when we rest in Jesus, we have peace with God, the One who runs this glorious universe. We are friends with the One who invented iPhones, baseball, skateboarding, hamburgers on a grill. Having peace with God means that we are in good with the One who owns all the glory and loves to share it with His people. And that kind of peace is the grace in which we stand and rejoice in the hope of God. God is our generous Grandfather through Jesus, and He owns everything and plans to give it to us (Eph. 1).
The difference between real glory and false glory is the difference between believing that God has rescued us and plans to share His glory with us and believing that if we don’t grab for glory now we’ll be left out in the cold. Justification is whatever we look to for security. Do we look to friends, clothing, makeup, accomplishments, success or do we look to Christ? One is like trying to scramble up a slide covered in oil; the other is a free gift of glory.