Is God's notion of justice the same as ours? What does it mean for us to have peace with God? Are works needed for salvation? Fr. Michael Sorial addresses this through the lens of Romans 5:1-8 at the Link.
[Music] the this this morning we're starting in Romans five but Before we jump into Romans five I want to look with you for a few minutes at Galatians three because the question of the law is really it's it's a it's a question that Paul is wrestling with in the book of Romans why the law what do we save by the works of the law or is it by faith and this is kind of this is the the tension that exists in in Romans but in Galatians chapter 3 verse 19 he asks the question what purpose then does the law serve what's the reason for the law why is it there and so he explains it was added because of transgressions till the seed should come to whom the promise was made and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator so it was added because of transgressions it was added because people needed to know what was right and wrong okay but importantly if you skip down to verse 24 he says therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ the law was the tutor the law was an image the image of the tutor by the way is the the tutor was the one he was in you know in those days the family would have like a servant or slave and the the purpose of that tutor that slave or servant was to lead the child to school that was their job take the child to school wait with the med school and then bring them home okay that was the tutors job okay tutor would take them to the person who would instruct them and then bring them home what Paul is telling us here is that the law was given as a tutor it was to leave the the people of God ultimately to Christ and so as we read now Romans we're going to unpack Romans through that lens of this tension between the law and faith okay so just a few things as we as I was looking through Romans chapter 5 last night there were a few words that repeat themselves over and over again in in Romans chapter 5 the first word that Joe we're gonna look at a few times is gonna be the word love it actually pops up a couple times another word is reconciliation reconciliation is a an important theme in Romans that we were kind of a part separated from God now we're going to be reconciled but the overwhelming theme of chapter five has to do with two words there were justification and the word righteous or righteousness okay justification and righteousness and just to kind of explain that the difference between those two words justification and righteousness one is an adverb or an adjective rather the other is a noun okay but the root of them in in Greek and this is important the root of them in Greek is the same one is that the word justification justify is the Greek word D echo the echo the echo sorry D cow decoe and the word righteousness is D Co Sunni okay one is simply a noun the other is an adjective it's the same roots and this is important because as we're looking at the or justify it it will actually shape how we understand what it means that we have been justified by faith and what it means that God is actually justifying us what what does that idea mean okay so let's jump right in in Romans chapter 5 verse 1 therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ okay the word justified I've heard oftentimes translated that we have been made legally righteous before God but the word justified has a very different connotation the word justified means to not be made legal right or approved in front of God but it means to be made virtuous and righteous okay that we've been freed from this thing called sin and now we have been made righteous before God the idea is less about legal righteousness and more about a restorative condition of who we are it's less about status and more about condition okay and on one side people oftentimes will speak about we've been justified being made suggesting that we are now just legally God looks at us and he says I declare you righteous but that's a very very simplistic view of the word justify in Greek he's not looking at us and saying I declare you righteous but yet you're trash he says no no you were apart from me you were separated for me and now I'm going to change your condition by faith okay that change in other words doesn't come by fulfilling the law the change comes by faith in Christ and faith in Christ here is understood that it restores us that our condition our stat like not our status but our condition is transformed if you look all the way in the very very last verse chapter 5 verse 21 he says so that as sin reigned in death even so grace might reign through righteousness okay grace might reign through righteousness so great grace reigns in our lives grace reigns in our lives imagine when we talk about reigning you have this king who has is now ruling okay and the word terrain is the word in Greek Basilio where we get the word basilica okay who sits on the basilica on the throne of the basilica it's usually the bishop right it's the cathedral so the one who reigns of course the the bishop there is to represent Christ the one who reigns and that's what also one might suggest why we look to the bishop and refer to him as your grace right he's to be a symbol an icon of Christ in the Basilica who reminds us of our own ruling in the kingdom of God so we're told here that as sin reigned in death even so grace might reign through righteousness grace reigns through our like God's righteousness transforming us that we begin to live a life of integrity a life of purity a life of correctness our right a life of right thinking feeling and as a result of that living folks justification by faith is not that you've been declared righteous but that because you have now been brought into a relationship with God your life is transformed its transformative its restorative it's about having wholeness when we also think about the word justice justice as you and I would think about it is that we've done something wrong and we deserve to be punished we've broken the speed limit and we deserve a ticket we've broken God's commandment we deserve to go to hell we are trash and so we deserve to be left out of the kingdom of God but God's notion of justice is quite different God's notion of justice is what God sees to be just he does and what God's God's notion of justice is the following God says I have deemed it proper and rights to create you in my image and you say but who are we to bear your image and you know who I'll say that the devil said that's not fair that's not just and God looks at him says who are you to question me God's notion of justice is he says you are to be in my image for God's notion of justice and this is important for our understanding of justification and righteousness it's that we are to be image bearers what is just in the eyes of God is not that we should be slaves to sin not that we should be consumed by death but rather that we should bear his image that we should live eternally with him but we say but and would he's actually Paul's gonna unpack this throughout the rest of the chapter okay I'm giving you the keys so as we read through you'll have the keys to unpack what we're we're looking at we would say but we've sinned and Adam sinned and our nature became corrupted and so what do we say every time I walk into church we repeat this phrase over and over and over again we say that God lord have mercy lord have mercy God's justice as God saying I want to create you in my image God's mercy is his action of providing his justice to us in other words God says you are not to be homeless and you are not to be uncle naked and you are not to be hungry what do we when we see a person who's in the street who's naked who's hungry what do we do we perform an act of mercy we go to them we feed them when we clothe them we give them a place to stay right this is an act of mercy when we say that God God have mercy on us God is saying I'm coming to close you with myself I'm coming to feed you I'm coming to give you a place to live this is God's act of mercy to us and in so doing what that does for us is it provides God's form of justice into us he's restoring his image into us okay is that clear look with me in Psalm verse Psalm 85 verse 10 so I'm 85 verse 10 in Psalm 85 the psalmist says mercy and truth have met together righteousness and peace have kissed s-- righteousness and peace have kissed what's implied actually in the text there is that mercy and truth meets righteousness or justice and peace remember we said righteousness and justice they have the same route they're the same they're in a sense they're it's I don't want to say it's the same word in English it's a different word but in in the Greek it's a it's the same route it's the same idea okay so he's saying that mercy and truth have met together with justice or righteousness and peace so the idea here is this that mercy and justice have kissed one another and truth and peace have kissed one another or have met with one another okay our understanding is that when we look at God's righteousness as justice for us to be in His image what does that mean how do we accomplish that we accomplish that by God extending mercy to us and how do we experience peace we experience peace peace and truth have met right we experience peace because God's truth Jesus Christ has been revealed to us and we now come into communion with him so you have this connection between righteousness and mercy we experience God's righteousness his image in our lives by His mercy by him clothing us and feeding us and we experience God's peace because the truth himself Jesus Christ has been revealed to us he's come and he's clothed us and he's he's given us a place so therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God we have peace with God two ways we can understand the word peace number one is that we were at war with God which actually in a sense fits because the scripture tells us that while we were still his enemies okay while we're his enemies and we're gonna come to that verse in just a few minutes while we were his enemies that he he he died for us okay so we were at war with him and we were at war with ourselves but the notion of peace in in in Hebrew Shalom in Syriac Shlomo gives a fuller a very different idea than just we were having a conflict with a person and now that conflict is gone the idea of peace in the word Shlomo and Syriac where I believe also in the the Hebrew is the idea of wholeness its completeness okay that I have found wholeness in God so in fact when the priest looks to you and says peace be with you all what he's saying is that may you find wholeness may you find completeness in God okay and the way that we experience that wholeness that that you that that fullness that completeness is through a life of unity with him we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through a union with him we have completeness we have wholeness we have now the image of God is restored in our lives but he tells us that this happens by faith it happens by faith in other words it's not by the works of the law even Abraham himself we're told in Romans chapter 4 the previous chapter was not justified by the works of the law but by faith he's also mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11 that it wasn't by the works of the law was by faith that heap that that Abraham is justified safe here is not a subjective a subjective emotion but it's an active decision that I make concerning my walking with Christ that it's through faith in Christ that I've made an active decision to walk with him to live with him that I am now have his image his justice his concept of justice restored into my life by His mercy in His grace James explains to us this idea this tension between faith and works that people oftentimes are uncomfortable if they say well James says one thing in Paul says another okay James says faith without works is dead you know what Paul says speaking about faith without works it's an impossibility for Paul the idea of saying that you have faith and there's no work in your life that's an impossibility he's saying like for Paul he can't even entertain the idea James entertains it James says it favor that works is dead Paul's saying listen if you want to tell me that there's faith and there's no works like come on guys that's not faith okay the idea is for Paul it's an impossibility okay if I have faith then God's image will be restored in my life because if I faith in Christ and I know what he's done and I know the image that I've been restored to and I'm crying out to mercy for him to feed me to clothe me to give me a place to live then naturally my life will be transformed for James it would have been it would have made no sense to say that Abraham had believed God but hadn't been willing to put his faith into action Paul on the other hand he would have set for Abraham to have refused obedience to God would have been the same thing as him not believing God if God says to Abraham Abraham I want you to take your son I want you to leave and go to the other side of the known world at the time and he said I believe you but I'm not going Paul would have said he didn't believe for Paul it's not just we've declared something and so by extension justification is not that we've been declared something that there's a real living faith that is present there okay let me come back to peace for for one more minute then we're gonna really dig into the the rest of the the text okay so we said peace is wholeness I want you to turn to 2nd Thessalonians 1 well well I'm giving this background okay if we said peace is us being whole and completing God that and the goal is complete wholeness the goal of our life is complete wholeness right it's step when we say that I am NOT I don't have peace inside what I'm saying is I have I'm torn apart inside right when a person when Christ says be anxious or sorry Paul says be anxious for nothing the images that were being torn apart inside to have peace means that I have an inner wholeness I'm complete I'm unified with God the opposite of peace is suffering okay the opposite of peace or the antithesis of peace is suffering why because the idea of suffering the idea of suffering is the idea it's related to the concept of being cuts or cut off okay in in the the Syriac the word for suffering literally means that you've cut something and it's been separated it's been severed so to suffer is to feel like we've been separated from God we no longer have peace with him we are cut off from him okay that's why in second Thessalonians chapter 1 verse 9 he says they will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his might the idea here guys is that what's implied is that the ultimate suffering the ultimate suffering is to be cut off from God eternally and the ultimate gift for us the ultimate piece for us is to live a life of union with God for all of eternity to be in our father's house to have a seat at the table to be clothed with Christ to be vested with his glory also the idea of peace here what Paul is speaking to us he's abolishing the most bitter of all racial hostilities that existed between Jews and Gentiles we don't realize today in the 21st century living in New Jersey how much Jews and Gentiles in the first century truly despised one another they hated each other okay and so what what what he's doing here is he saying because he lays a background in chapters 1 & 2 about the Gentiles who don't have the word that they have the the the the conscience their conscience becomes a word for them he's kind of laying this foundation that Jews and Gentiles in Christ it's not by the works of the law it's by faith in Christ whether Jew or Gentile to have peace with one another to sit at the same table think about how Jews and Gentiles wouldn't even sit at the table with each other and eat together and that's the reason Paul stands up to Peter and says what are you doing what are you doing how come when the the people from Jerusalem the Christians from Jerusalem come you step back and you won't sit with the Gentile converts Paul confronts him because the idea is that in Christ it's not based on our ethnicity our culture that we have peace with one another that we sit at the table together and how beautiful it is it that the Eucharist we we look we speak about the Eucharistic table to which all nations are invited to come and share in chapter 5 verse 2 let's let's move on so through whom we also have access by faith into His grace in which we stand and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God through whom we also have access we also have access we have access by faith into His grace we've been set apart and now the door has been open for us and you've been invited into this beautiful house this beautiful mansion that has a full spread for you and you're invited to eat you're invited to dine with God you're invited to unite yourself to him and the way that this introduction this access is given st. Paul actually lays out for us and we're gonna talk about this next week in Romans chapter 6 verse 3 this entrance this introduction happens through baptism okay that's where we become united to him that's where this is accessed by faith through grace or by grace through faith happens is through baptism that's the entry point into this relationship with him the whole life of the church is actually to be a life of grace whether it's the the the sacraments as we practice them it's the reading of the scripture it's your own time of prayer at home it's the prayer of the hours it's the making of the sign of the Cross it's the praying the Jesus Prayer all of those are to be a practice of grace not a discipline of law that you must do these things or else you're never gonna earn God's favor rather you're saying I do these things because God has given me his image and I want I need to eat I'm hungry I don't have a place to live I find my home in him and he makes me into his home I'm naked and I want to be clothed by His grace and so rather as we draw close to God we do so acknowledging confessing our need for for His grace and rabbinic Judaism a man would be saved by his works he'd be saved by his works Jesus comes and kind of flips and that was that was part of the issue with Jesus Jesus is saying salvation is not because of your righteousness but because of the outgoing saving righteousness of God that you've been created in His image and once again this grace is the entry point is through baptism which incorporates us into the actual body of Jesus Christ into Christ himself and then he goes on and says rejoice in the hope of the glory of God what does it mean to rejoice means to exalt it means I'm walking around bragging about the glory of God you don't know the best way to do evangelism you can read all the wonderful books the missionary books the apologetics books all those things are great they're wonderful okay but you want to know I think the most beautiful form of evangelism is when we walk around exalting about the glory of God that is the most powerful form of evangelism one can find is when someone looks at someone when a person looks at it someone who is exalting in the glory of God how beautiful God how wonderful God is and that is one of the most attractive qualities in a person you can read all the books and please do by all means I love reading those things but I will tell you in my own experience that it's not through having the best arguments or knowing the best formulas or knowing memorizing all these different Bible verses all those things I enjoy and I love and not because of anything I just enjoy learning more and having those words planted into me but I don't think they're the most effective form of evangelism evangelism which is sharing the good news is doing just that it's glorying in the good news of who God is how beautifully is how majestic he is verse 3 he goes on and says not only that but we also we don't just exalt by the way in the glory of God we also exalt or glory in tribulation now all of this by the way if we go back just for a second there's four times in this book in this chapter either that he says because we've been justified by faith we have been made right we have received the image of God my faith as a consequence of that four things he's going to tell us that should become a present reality for us number one we said we have peace with God number two this is an this is an ongoing thing okay number two is in verse 3 it says we so glory and tribulation sorry number two is in in verse two we rejoice in the hope of the glory we glory and tribulation and in verse 11 we also rejoice in God this we have peace with him we glory in who he is we glory in our difficulties our tribulations and we rejoice we rejoice in God he becomes our source of joy we looked at me we say he's the beginning of you he's our peace that's ongoing it's transformative for us today okay the glory we begin to look and say how glorious he is now again all of this it's restored if it's not a declaration it's not about status it's about our condition changing in Christ okay so he says but we also glory in tribulation knowing that tribulation produces perseverance and perseverance character and character hope so tribulation produces perseverance which produces a character or the word proving character which produces hope tribulation when difficulties come it's an opportunity that's why James says count it all joy when you fall into various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience tribulation is God's way in our broken world to shape us and so we should count it joy why because we're saying that there's nothing more important to us than to be in His image in this world because that happens through our peace with him our union with him okay so he's saying we should count it out we're able to count it all joy because we're saying that this is not the end this is the means that shapes me into the image so tribulation which is this intense pressure develops leads to perseverance and perseverance develops character character or proven character the image there is that you have this piece of metal that needs to be purified for it to be proven for it to become shiny and all the impurities have to come out and that proven character leads or produces hope the character proving character leads to hope why because when my life has become purified I now have hope in the true sense of the word I trust and rests in who God is this is not hope by the way that I like I hope the the Giants are gonna have a good football season this is not hope like I hope that I can figure out what the lottery ticket numbers are so I can go bet and make a million dollars I can figure out the betting odds in Vegas and and put all my money this is not that kind of Hope is not the worldly Hope this is hope that we trust and rest in the assurance of who who got us because God is faithful and as our life becomes purified we come even more certain of who who God is and what it is that he wants from us just as a quick note this is also a promise by the way that you and I will not be exempt from tribulation ok John 16:33 is a reminder also Jesus says it in the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer I have overcome the world ok so promise for those who would be out there telling you just walk with Jesus everything's gonna be the hunky-dory peachy-keen everything's gonna be great you know do pick up your Bible and read the Bible alright because the Bible don't say that anywhere at all just walk with Jesus and everything's gonna be just fine alright but what it does say is what will be fine about it is that you'll rest in the hope of who God is why because you've been justified by faith you have been made right yes you've been restored the image of God is being restored back into you now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us hope does not disappoint the assurance of our hope will not be disappointed because once again God is faithful and he's poured out this love has been poured out by the Holy Spirit and in verse 6 to 8 he tells us that when we were still without strength when we were a week when we were feeble when we couldn't help ourselves in due time in the fullness of time in God's timing not in our timing Christ died for the ungodly for scarcely a righteous man will will one die yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die the Gnostics and and saying Irenaeus speaks about this in his work against the heresies he says that the Gnostics believed that the God of the Old Testament was righteous in the pagan sense of the word which was God needed God is an angry God you need to appease him and in appeasing him actually Jesus appeases the wrath of God so if so the Gnostics have this view of God and this Old Testament that he is this righteous God from from a pagan perspective and in the New Testament is a different God he's a good guy he's nice he's Catholic he he well like he Suites you and he's just like he like he turned he turned the cheek he's turned over the new leaf okay so this is what Paul by the way this is the framework that Paul is speaking from because once again remember the Gnostics are that that notion of Gnosticism is present okay so he's saying for scarcely a righteous man will one die and yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die think about it this way in the Old Testament someone might possibly scarcely would one died for God but in the New Testament even still it's rare that someone would be willing to die for Christ okay think about it another way how little do are we willing to sacrifice for one another would you take a bullet for your neighbor would you take a bullet for your faith in Christ he says but let's not compare our love to God's love but God in verse 8 demonstrates his own love towards us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us the word sinner there comes from the Greek hey Martina which is the the the negation of the word marty-mart area okay marked area means to witness something great to be a martyr marked area means that I've there's an a mark an image after which I am pursuing and I have met the mark Revelation chapter 1 tells us that Jesus is the faithful witness he's the faithful witness he has revealed to us what we are to be hey martyria means that it's the negation of this which means we've missed the mark the image is distorted in our life God's image has been distorted but he's saying my friends I want to justify you I want to make you right I want to restore my image into you in that while we were still sinners the way he does this is by the extraordinary love that Christ died for us he died for us much more then having now been justified by his blood his life-giving blood because remember in the Old Testament in the Book of Leviticus were told that the life is in the blood we shall be saved from wrath through him we have been saved from wrath through him in verses 5 to 8 emphasizes the length to which God is prepared to go for our salvation God in other words does not wait for us to clean up our acts or act but verse 9 we might need to end with this today and continue next week with the rest because verse 9 there's quite a bit there through Jesus just as we have been justified by his blood we shall be saved from wrath through him having now been justified by his blood we shall be saved from wrath through him by the way this this verse is sometimes translated in some translations and you might be holding a Bible that says from God's wrath okay and that's not actually in the original Greek but it's been a read into the text by a translator who had a certain theology and wrote it in okay so what is the idea here this idea comes from we're gonna we're gonna spend the last like 5-10 minutes talking about one more theological term which is propitiation propitiation okay and in order to do so skip back to chapters with me Romans chapter 3 verse 23 to 6 says Paul says here for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God being justified freely by His grace through redemption that is in Christ Jesus okay so we have been justified we have been made right freely God's image has been restored in us freely not because of anything we've done but by His grace through redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God set forth as a propitiation by his blood through faith to demonstrate his righteousness because in his forbearance got passed over the sins that were previously committed well in the classical Greek paganism propitiation means I need to appease an angry deity and in the Greek pagan world the God was always angry and the only way you could satisfy and calm the God was to present him a sacrifice a blood had to be a blood sacrifice now that blood sacrifice could be an animal could be a human it could be that a of people they went to war and in order to appease their God to satisfy him they had to kill a certain number of people and slaughter them whether adults are babies okay made no difference but they would do this in order to appease the deity - to satisfy the thirst of the God for his desire for blood this concept is foreign to the biblical view of who God is this notion has been read into the text I think from this pagan perspective God does not need to be propitiated in that sense he doesn't not need God doesn't need to be a peace he's not a young kid he's not a young child okay he's not an angry father like we oftentimes have been angry dads at times we yell at our kids and we need them to bring us something to calm us down okay no no God is not that emotional wreck that we oftentimes have seen that he has been depicted as God does not need to be propitiated but rather he propitiate s-- or covers us and that's what the word propitiate in the biblical sense of the word means to cover he covers us okay that's why we're told by the way that love covers a multitude of sins God is not the one that's being perpetuated he is propitiating he's the one doing the propitiating first John chapter four he says the phone if you want to turn there with me okay this word propitiation is used four times in the New Testament okay first John chapter four verse 10 and this is love that we have loved God the sorry in this is love not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins he has been the one who covers our sins and it's for that reason if you skip down to verse 18 it says there is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment but he who fears has not been made perfect in love there's no wrath we're not looking at God terrified of him but rather we're understanding God has come to cover us he's not thirsty for blood he's thirsty for us He loves us he wants us okay if you also turn with me to Hebrews chapter 2 verse 17 it says therefore in all things he made he had to be made like his brethren that he might be merciful and faithful high priests and things pertaining to God to make propitiation for the sins of the people okay and one more time the word is used but it's the it's actually translated differently as in Hebrews chapter 9 skip down first five and above it was the shara beam of glory overshadowing the mercy seat of these things we cannot speak in detail so this word Pro it's the same word in the Greek that's translated several times as propitiation but this time it's translated as mercy seat why because the mercy seat is that which covered the tabernacle or covered the Holy of Holies rather okay the mercy seat is the place where the blood would be spilt poured in order and the understanding here is that that is what covers us Christ has come to cover us this is what it means for him the propitiation of our sins that Christ has come to cover and they he's the one who actually propitiate snot the other way around a perhaps a better translation would have been expiates to reconcile okay he does this to make reconciliation for us he does this so that we can have peace that that unity that wholeness can be restored but when he says in in Romans five he speaks about the wrath that we would be God God demonstrates his own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us much more than having now been justified by his blood we shall be saved from wrath through him this is not God again once again he's angry and he's wrathful rather this is 8 it's a technical term that denotes one aspect of the day of the Lord okay and that aspect is that God condemns sin God rejects him and sin doesn't fits but it is not God is not saying that I need to be appeased like an angry deity okay that when we are being saved from wrath what we're being saved from is the the day of the Lord the judgment that will happen on the day of the Lord because there is no fellowship between lightness light and darkness the - there's no connection they can't meet okay yes it's speaking of both the present and the future not of the past no but what we're being saved from is this experience of absence of communion with God it's the lack of peace both currently and to come absolutely yeah and that's why in 1st Thessalonians chapter 1 he speaks about this idea that it's there's also a future expectation of future experience right he says wait for his son from heaven whom he raised from the dead even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come the wrath to come okay and then the present experience is that in in the next chapter he says first Thessalonians 2 16 he says the wrath has come upon them to the uttermost okay so this this experience of a separation from feel from being at peace with God is the experience of Wrath that we have okay it's this separation it's this suffering that we experience from being cut off from God it's not that God is sitting up there and saying I need you to satisfy my thirst for blood rather it's he himself who perpetuates us why because he's loves us He pours out his love upon us he doesn't pour out his wrath on anyone on his son rather God is a loving God it's we who sometimes say I prefer nots and our experience of that is rough that's the wrath that we experience when we reject him when we turn away from the Sun we walk in darkness we experience true suffering that's the the notion that Paul was giving in first Thessalonians when he spoke about this eternal suffering is that eternal suffering isn't in the truest sense it's eternally being cut off from God not having peace with him so when he begins the chapter saying that we've been justified by faith through food but we've been justified by faith having been justified by faith we have peace in God what he's saying is that that wrath that one you once experienced that darkness that hurt that pain that's suffering you now have peace and wholeness with God because he's covered you by His mercy [Music]