Feb 09


                Whenever you see therefore, you must always ask wherefore.” I can’t remember where I first heard that phrase, but it stuck with me. Maybe it was one of the preachers in my life; maybe it was in seminary that I heard it. It is the idea that when you read “therefore” in the Bible, you must always explore why it is there. What are the previous thoughts that are influencing the following ones? Therefore is a common word to see, but Paul diligently used it in meaningful ways. Most of his letters use a pattern that lays out some doctrinal truth, followed by practical application. He would lay the foundation for our belief, and then show how it affects our lives. Most of his letters have two major sections like this, but sometimes he would utilize this literary style within a couple of verses.

                Look at Romans 5:1 for example, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith…” Here we see the transition from one section to another. Almost everything in chapters 1-4 was building an argument that Paul summarized in this one phrase, “we have been justified through faith.” Paul has shown how we are in a right standing with God through the application of Christ’s sacrifice through faith. Now Paul is about to show us how this fact of justification affects our lives.

                “We have peace with God” is Paul’s first application. This word “peace” is not talking about subjective inner tranquility. It is an objective and external state of being in a relationship with God. A relationship where God removed all wrath and hostility caused by sin. It is a grace gained through Christ and by faith. A grace that gives assurance, or hope, for the future (vs. 2). Tranquility might be a result of this relationship, but it is not a given because we should expect trials and hardships.

                Hope is the second application Paul gives for justification, but we get to it through suffering.   First off, biblical hope is not optimism. It’s not that I hope to win the lottery. Biblical hope is a confidence or assurance that something will inevitably happen. Paul says we gain this type of trust through a rugged process and that it should be a joy for us. Paul inspires us to “glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom 5:3-4). James confirmed this when he said to rejoice in suffering, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). Both Paul and James knew that suffering produces inner strength of character. God uses hard times like a refiner’s fire to purify us; He builds us to trust what we can’t see by relying on what we know and have experienced of Him.

             The process leaves us not with just some vague assurance in the future, but with a fortress of faith. For example, it is one thing for a new believer to hope in Christ’s return and trust in His provision for life, but it is another thing for those who have walked with Christ for decades through loss, sickness, and persecution. It is the assurance that no matter what life brings Christ is there. A foundation of trust that allows joy and hopes no matter what situations we go through. Not happiness in trying to make the best out of bad situations, but joy in the realization that God is working in our lives producing Christlike character. So next time something comes up in your life that brings hardship don’t work your hardest to avoid the pain but press through it trusting Christ and relying on the love of God to carry you.

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