May 21, 2023

Enduring Trials with Hope: The Blessing of Suffering According to Romans 5:3-5

Enduring Trials with Hope: The Blessing of Suffering According to Romans 5:3-5


Welcome back to this wonderful book of Romans. As we commence upon the first verses of chapter five, I would like to remind you of where we were, where we are, and where we are going. When it comes to Romans, I believe it’s crucial for Christians to memorize the theological outline of the book. Doing so will provide a reference guide of the Gospel for personal spiritual growth and ministry.

Section #1 is Romans 1:1-1:17 and is the prologue to the book where the thesis of the letter is seen in verses 16-17, which says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Section #2 is from Romans 1:18-3:20 and is the proclamation of the bad news of our standing before God. Namely, all men are condemned as sinners by the Law of God. A man may compare himself to another man and believe he is good, but when measured against God’s Law, all men will be found guilty, wicked, and rebellious. Paul goes as far as to say in 3:10-12 “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together, they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Paul’s intention is to produce a sense of moral sobriety and spiritual doom. He’s eradicating any hope for a person to view themselves as good or justify themselves by works. He does this to drive people from self to the Savior, where forgiveness and justification can be found by faith in Christ alone.

Section #3 is from 3:21-5:21, which is a multi-dimensional defense of Paul’s claim of justification by faith alone. He does this by leveraging the testimony of the Old Testament and primarily the example of Abraham being made righteous by faith in Genesis 15:6.

Now, last week, we entered chapter five and looked at part one of a two-part sermon on the first five verses. Verses 1-2 taught us two central truths:

  1. Through Christ, we now have peace with God. That is, prior to our justification by faith, we were enemies of God under His wrath and deserving of eternal judgment. But in Christ, the sin that had separated us from God’s love has now been punished and paid for at the cross, putting us at peace with God.
  2. We learned that this eternal peace with our Maker ought to cause us to rejoice. Namely, as Christians, we are not to conceal the eternal hope and joy that we have due to our reconciliation with God through Christ.

As I said last week, in chapter five, we move from defending justification by faith alone (in chapter 4) to demonstrating its benefits (in chapter 5), which extend beyond peace with God and unconditional joy. It also includes joy in trials, the sanctification of endurance, character, and hope. This is the context for today’s passage.

Romans 5:3-5
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Vs. 3: Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 

  • Paul opens with the phrase “not only that,” which should cause you to ask, “What’s the “that?” “That” is a demonstrative pronoun, and as faithful interpreters, we want to know the antecedent of this particular pronoun.
    • When we look back at the text, we see the object of “that” is the peace we have with God by faith and the access we have to God’s grace.
    • So, in a sense, Paul is saying, “Not only do you have peace with God and access to His grace, but you can also rejoice in suffering.”
  • Now let me make an important distinction before we continue. Peace with God does not mean we have peace in the world.
  • John 16:33 Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
  • We live in fallen bodies on a corrupted earth. In other words, our peace with God can give us joy in suffering, but it does not remove our suffering.
    • This is the opposite position of the prosperity Gospel that teaches if a person has enough faith, prays enough, and gives enough money to the church, God will remove their suffering.
    • The great Puritan writer Samuel Rutherford once spoke against this antibiblical system of theology. He said:
    • “The greatest temptation out of hell is to live without trials. A pool of standing water will turn stagnant. Grace withers without adversity. Faith is stronger with the sharp winter storm in its face. For you can’t sneak quietly into heaven without a cross. Crosses form us into his image. They cut away the pieces of our corruption. Lord cut, carve, wound; Lord, do anything to perfect your image in us and make us fit for glory.”
  • Now, I’m not saying that we, as Christians, become masochists who prefer suffering. No, suffering in and of itself is an evil of the fall. Paul is simply teaching that for the Christian, suffering is not meaningless or overcoming.
  • He’s reorienting our perspective on trials and demonstrating that the potency of our joy from our peace with God is stronger than the potency of our suffering.
  • But more than that, he’s telling us of a benefit that is exclusive to Christians. For the lost, suffering is merely a foretaste of hell. It’s like waves beating down on an unanchored ship that will ultimately sink. But for the Christian, suffering becomes an act of sanctification, making us fit for heaven.
  • Paul says here that we can rejoice in our suffering because we know that our suffering produces endurance.
    • When we are justified by faith, our relationship with God changes, and, as a result, our relationship with suffering changes. We begin to see how suffering is temporary, a result of the fall, and how it’s unable to detach us from the peace and grace of God in Christ.
    • We begin to think like Paul, who says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
    • Thomas Watson “Affliction may be lasting, but it is not everlasting. Affliction was a sting, but nevertheless, a wing: sorrow shall soon fly away.”
    • We become like a sailor who knows that storms come and go, but the raging seas make him a greater captain or the runner who knows the valleys and the highlands, but the heights make his lungs stronger.
    • An anonymous hymn writer once penned:

For every hill I’ve had to climb,
For every stone that bruised my feet,
For all the blood and tears and grime,
For blinding storms and burning heat,
My heart sings but a grateful song
These were the things that made me strong!

  • Ultimately, as Christians, we can find joy in our suffering because we know they are the means to make us more like Christ. As a result, we become those who joyfully endure.
  • Now, Christ was also a man of joyful endurance.
  • Hebrews 12:2 says, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
  • Peace with God gives us eternal joy. Eternal joy permits endurance in suffering.
  • Paul says:

Vs. 4: and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 

  • The word character here is not talking about personality. It may even be translated as perseverance. But it’s signifying a “testedness” or the act of being proven. We know that trials reveal character, but they also reveal hypocrites.
  • The one who endures demonstrates the validity (or character) of his or her faith.
    • In Matthew 10:22, Jesus says to the twelve: “and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
    • James 5:10-11 says, “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”
    • Endurance or steadfastness in suffering discloses your character.
    • Wayne Barber said, “Without suffering, most of us would not have a clue what is on the inside of us.”
    • And what is in us is the power of God. The Lord responded to Paul in his plea in suffering in 2 Corinthians 12:19 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
    • So, for the Christian, suffering doesn’t reveal you but who’s in you. It reveals the character of Christ.
  • But Paul goes on to demonstrate this chain of blessings that result from our faith in God. He says this “provenness” of our faith due to the endurance we have in suffering by the joy we have in Christ WILL PRODUCE HOPE.
    • That is, our ability to not be overtaken in trials becomes a testament and witness of the genuine work Christ has done in our hearts leading to hope.
    • Namely, if you want to know if you’re truly saved or if you truly have hope, trials will tell you. They will leave you either broken, angry, and bitter or be joyfully enduring as a living confirmation of the eternal hope that is in you.

Personally, I watched my faith and hope grow rapidly when I was sick. I watched God’s Spirit empower me with supernatural endurance and joy in circumstances in which the pagan would be overcome with sorrow and fear. Like Job (or any other saint), my undying hope was a testament to onlookers that trials would not extinguish the power of God in me. My faith was tested and came back proven—and that has given me great hope.

Paul closes this great sequence of blessings by saying:

Vs. 5. and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

  • Hope has been hijacked as a word in the west. It’s been diminished and distorted.
  • The type of hope that Paul is referring to here is eternal hope through Christ. This type of hope is incongruent with shame and guilt.
  • This type of hope, the proven hope of a joyfully enduring Christian in the face of trials is a hope that does not put us to shame but confirms our peace and good standing with God in Christ.
  • This type of hope is our passport to heaven.

Our shamelessness becomes the evidence that our hope is genuine hope. But all of this hope, character, endurance, joy, and peace is (as it says in verse 5) “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Without God’s love, you have no peace. You have no joy in suffering. You have no endurance. You have no hope. As a result, you will be put to shame on judgment day and condemned for all eternity.

Ultimately, Paul is anchoring all these blessings received in this great doctrine of justification by faith alone in the love of God.

God’s love is the ultimate cause of your eternal hope Ephesians 3:14-19 says:

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

This love is not trickled or sprinkled; it is lavishly poured out on us by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

  • There is an essential theological contrast occurring here that we cannot miss. In Scripture, there are children of love and children of wrath. In Revelation 16, we see God pouring out his wrath upon those who are not His, and here in Romans 5, we see the same intensity but in great contrast, God pouring out his love on those who are His in Christ.
  • Fredrick Philippi put it this way: “The love of God does not descend upon us as dew in drops, but as a stream which spreads itself abroad through the whole soul, filling it with the consciousness of his presence and favor.”
  • Another theologian speaking on the relationship between God’s love and the Holy Spirit said, “One of the Holy Spirit’s main roles is to make us deeply and refreshingly aware that God loves us.”

Now, before we close out today, I want to make one last distinction. If you zoom out for a second, you will see the greater theme that Paul has walked us through in these five verses. He has presented a wonderful exposition of Christianity’s three central ethics: Faith, Hope, and Love. But more than that, he has stayed consistent in his theology from 1 Corinthians 13 that says of these three, the greatest is love.

The takeaway from today’s text is not to summon more joy or rally more endurance or muster more hope. It is to see the Love of God in Christ for you. It is to recognize that before the foundation of the world, the Trinitarian God had chosen to pour out their love on you.

In the early 1900s, Frederick M. Lehman wrote this poem that captures the beauty of God’s love. It says:

“O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;

To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”