This is the sermon shared in my church on Saturday.

“Therefore, having been
  justified by faith, we have
  peace with God through
  our Lord Jesus Christ,
  through whom also we have
  access by faith into this grace
  in which we stand, and rejoice
  in hope of the glory of God. “ – Paul (Rom 5:1-2)

Paul was talking about justification of faith in the book of Romans From Rom 1:17 onwards, Paul was talking about how the righteousness of God is revealed through the gospel. In the gospel, the righteous shall live by faith. The main theme of the book of Romans is justification by faith. Paul shared in great details how is one justified by faith.

Understanding Justification By Faith

in the days of Paul there are 2 ways for one to be justified before God. One is through the keeping of the Law of Moses while the other is to be justified by faith in Christ. In Rom 5:1 Paul was talking about Christians being justified by faith. Most of the Christian churches believe that justification by faith happens when one believe in Jesus. But we believe that justification by faith happens at the point of Baptism .

For Paul once told the Church in Corinth

And such were some of you.
  But you were washed, but you
  were sanctified, but you were
  justified in the name of the
  Lord Jesus and by the Spirit
  of our God.” – Paul (1 Cor 6:11)

In the earlier verses (1 Cor 6:9-10) Paul was describing the lives of the Corinthians before their conversation to Christianity. How they used to be fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers and extortioners. They used to live in sin,  but after their baptism they were cleanse and justified. For baptism washes away their sin, that is why they are justified before God.

Baptism is effective for it is done in the name of Jesus and with the witness of the Holy Spirit.

When we are baptised, we are immersed into the waters, but it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that bear testimony that this baptism is effective. It is at baptism where our sins were washed away and we are sanctified and justified before God.  But Christians ought to understand that there are two types of sanctification.  These two types of sanctification can be seen in Paul’s salutation to the Corinthians

“To the church of God which is at Corinth,
  to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus,
  called to be saints
, with all who in every
  place call on the name of Jesus Christ
  our Lord, both theirs and ours” – Paul (1 Cor:1:2)

There are those who are sanctified in Jesus Christ, these are the members who had received baptism and have put on Christ. They have their sins forgiven and are called the sons of God. But these are also people who are called to be saints. After baptism, we need to pursue sanctification in our lives. Our sins are forgiven during baptism, but after our baptism, we must strive to remain sanctified. In another words, we must live a life separate from the world and to spiritually cultivate ourselves. That is what it mean to be called to be saints.

When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he addressed the Corinthians as  people sanctified in Christ and called to be saints.  These are two aspect of sanctification that we need to pursue. The Corinthians were sanctified by the blood of Christ at baptism, but they did not respond to the call of being saints. For when Paul wrote the letter to them, they were weak and there were divisions among them. They were drunk during Holy Communion and they bear grudges among themselves so much so that they sued their own brethren in court. They have not responded well to the calling to be saints, so therefore Paul wrote to them encouraging them to be sanctified before Christ.  He wanted their conduct to be compatible with the gospel of faith which they have received from him.

Paul reminded then in 1 Cor 6:11 that they were sanctified by the blood of Christ during baptism. They are justified in their status, they are now children of God. But this sanctification does not necessarily change their conduct.  So when does one conduct justified? John wrote in his book of 1 John

“Little children, let no one
  deceive you. He who practices
  righteousness is righteous, 
  just as He is righteous.” – John (1 Jn 3:7)

Those who do righteousness have good conduct. Indeed when one arise from the water during baptism are justified before God, but how can they continue to be justified? They need to continue do righteousness.

Understanding Peace With God

In Rom 5:1, Paul describe  those who are justified by faith have peace with God though Jesus. What does he mean? Before our conversion, we were separated with God because of sin. We were his enemies.  God is holy and no sinner can come to God directly. But when a Christian believed in Christ and are baptised. They are  justified by God, they have a change of status. They changed from being a sinner to one justified before God. As they are justified by the blood of Jesus,they can come before God and draw near to him.  They can overcome sin by relying in Jesus and they can enter heaven.

Gaining Access To The Grace Of God  By Faith

That is what Paul meant by those who are justified by faith are able to gain access by faith. Today Christian receive baptism by their faith in Jesus, this allow them access into the grace of God. When Paul talk about gaining access to grace, he is telling us not to stay put at the point of baptism. For the righteous must live by faith, it is only though faith we can access the grace of God. A Christian life in the grace of God begins at baptism when he decide to acknowledge his sin and to follow the instruction of Jesus to be baptised. After that he must continue to deeper into the grace of God by faith.

Those who have faith  are able to access the grace of God easily. He is able to access regardless of his education level or social status. One may be highly educated but he may not see the grace of God. Interestingly,   a normal man may be able to understand it better.  In our church we have natives who live among the hill tribes that had little access to TV, civilisation and internet, but they are able to understand the grace of God.  Those with faith can understand the grace of God even if they are illiterate and without much knowledge. A person may be illiterate but if he hear the words of Jesus and believe by faith he is able to receive the grace of God.

We use to have a sister who cannot read at all. In the church we often write the instruction to pray in a banner. The opening  words are written in red while the rest of the words are  in blue. Usually the preacher will instruct the congregation saying “Repeat the red line follow by the blue line”. So this sister followed that instruction with faith, she prayed by saying “Repeat the red line follow by the blue line”. As she prayed she ended up speaking in tongues. Eventually the church taught her more regarding prayers and faith. The more she understands the more experience she receive.  Her faith grew and she was eventually baptised. It continues to move her even today.

The Grace In Which We We Stand

Rom 5:2 Tells us that those with faith will access the grace in which we stand. It begins at baptism and baptism is the beginning of this relationship with God. How can one continue in this relationship? He need to enter into this grace by accessing it through faith. Perhaps we may not start off with a good faith initially, there may be some of us who started with a weak faith, but we need to continue in this faith and grow in it. Then we can be preserved in the grace of God.

At the point of baptism, we are justified in status, but our conduct have not match up to the standard set by God. Even though we are far from his standard, but we have taken the first step and entered into the grace of God through faith. If we continue o stand in grace, our faith will grow in grace. Gods had high demand for us, we must be perfect just as our heavenly father is perfect.

Since we have entered this grace, we need to pursue perfection from our imperfection. Our faith need to be progressive. We need to strive to improve continuously until we reach all of God requirement for us. As we strive to meet God standards, we will receive both spiritual and physical blessing and the more we experience in this faith the more joy we receive.

Rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Eventually this joy will develop into hope. For the more experience we have with God the stronger our joy and hope becomes.  Then we will hope in his glory. After gaining access to the grace of God by faith, we need to continue to stand in this grace and the more we experience God the more we will rejoice when we experience God working in our life. This joy will turn into hope, this is a hope of the coming glory of God that we will receive at the end.

Our hope is related to the grace we receive, if we lose hope we will lose the grace that God had given to us. In order to maintain this grace in which we stand, we need to spiritually nurture ourselves, to come for service often, to offer to take part in the holy work. This hope will help us overcome problems and difficulty, we will be able to hold on to this hope. For Paul once shared with the church in Rome.

“For I consider that the
  sufferings of this present
  time are not worthy to be
  compared
with the glory
  which shall be revealed in us” – Paul (Rom 8:18)

Paul was a man who suffered for Go, he  was often whipped and tortured . He was eventually sentenced to death by Emperor Nero. Paul wrote the book of Romans, he tells us that no matter what suffering he encountered, they cannot compare to the coming glory that God had revealed to him. For he knows that the coming glory outweighs the suffering he encountered.

We all desire good achievements in life and  we are willing to work hard for a good result in life. We know that we need to go to a good school to put in effort to start and prepare ourselves for the test. In order to get to a good university, we are even willing to sacrifice our rest days in order to achieve a good result. Similarly a farmer is willing to work hard in his field for he hope to receive a good harvest. There is no free lunch on earth, we need to pay the price in order to get the good result.

Conclusion So Far

Paul wanted to achieve that glory that is to come, therefore he put in his effort with his relationship with god. He had entered into grace through faith and he works hard to stand in his grace in order to achieve that glory that is to come.

In the same way, we need to move forward in faith, different Christian move forward at different speeds. Some can sprint quickly while others run slowly as if in a marathon. But  what we need to know is that faith must not be stagnant, we must move forward as our goal is in the glory to come.

There was a sister who had believed in Jesus for more than 20 years. But her faith remain stagnant, she had no learnt to rely on God and she kept working day and night and have no advancement in faith. So God shown her a dream to help her understand her problem. In her dream she saw herself carrying her daughter in her arms as if she first came to church 20 years ago. She entered the place and she saw an examination hall, she was going for an exam and her husband is seated on a table nearby. When the invigilator pass her the papers, she read the question and was unable to answer. So she look on her husband to see how he was faring. Her husband simply told her to write anything on the answer sheet and hand up your papers.  But the sister was afraid so she handed a blank answer sheet to the invigilator.

When the invigilator saw it, he commented “This is a simple question even a kid can answer it.” She was unable to recall the test subject, but she distinctly remember the invigilator saying “Why did you not rely on Jesus but solely relied on yourself?”

When she awoke, she thought of the comment and she remembered that she had followed Jesus for 20 years. She still saw herself carrying her daughter for she was stagnant in faith, her faith is exactly the same as 20 years ago when she carried her daughter to church. Even though she entered into the grace through baptism but her faith remained stagnant and there was no progress. Therefore she was reminded by God.

In the same way, we have entered by faith into this grace. As long as we are living we need to stand in this grace and grow in joy and hope. For this hope tells us for the glory that we will receive. In order to attain this hope we need to seek to improve our faith. It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow we walk, but we need to seek perfection in faith. So that eventually we will receive this greater glory that God had destined for us.

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