Catechetical sermons preached in PCC Evening Worship Services, Feb 2013 to Dec 2017
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1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.Romans 5:1-11
WSC 36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience,1 joy in the Holy Ghost,2 increase of grace,3 and perseverance therein to the end.41Rom 5:1–2, 5; 2Rom 14:17; 3Prov 4:18; 41 Jn 5:13; 1 Pet 1:5.
The Golden Chain is a term used by the Puritans to describe the order and benefits of our salvation. The eminent Puritan, Dr. William Perkins, even has an elaborate chart to illustrate it. In his chart, he begins with the foreknowledge of God and ends with God’s glory. He includes many other things such as reprobation, temporary faith, doubting of justification, etc.
In this sermon, however, we are concerned only with the portion covered in our Shorter Catechism about the benefits of our salvation in this life, namely justification, adoption and sanctification.
Our catechism teaches us that these are the main benefits that believers or those who are effectually called partake of in this life.
But it also teaches us that there are other benefits which accompany or flow from them. “What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?” Answer:
The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.WSC 36
In so far as these are not the main benefits but the effect of the main benefits, we may call them the glow of the golden chain.
This glow can be seen emanating from many places in Scripture. But for our purpose, we want to see it in Romans 5:1-11.
Before we consider the passage, let us consider briefly its context in the book of Romans.
The heart of Paul’s letter to the Romans is the doctrine of justification by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Paul begins the letter by telling us that all man has sinned, whether Jews or Gentiles (chap. 1), and then he shows us that we cannot obtain righteousness by law-keeping. Instead, the only righteousness acceptable to God is that which comes by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (chap. 3).
“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law,” says Paul in chapter 3, verse 28. In chapter 4, Paul demonstrates how this doctrine is exemplified in David and Abraham.
Here, in chapter 5, beginning with the word “Therefore,” Paul is venturing to speak of the benefits and consequences of justification.
Now, this text comes before chapters 6 and 7, where Paul will discuss sanctification and chapter 8, where he will discuss adoption. However, we must understand the benefits of justification, adoption and sanctification are closely tied together. They are all part of our salvation. Therefore, it is quite hard to separate the benefits that flow from and accompany adoption and sanctification from those that flow from and accompany justification.
Thus, it is legitimate, I believe, to think of all the benefits that Paul speaks of in this chapter as benefits that not only flow from justification but also from sanctification and adoption.
With that in mind, let us consider the first benefit: peace of conscience.
1. Peace of Conscience
Paul says, in verse 1, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
What is it to have “peace with God”? When two parties are at peace with one another, they are not at war with one another. Therefore, to have peace with God is to be not at war with God, but rather to enjoy God’s friendship.
The natural man is at war with God. He hates God. He loves Satan and sin, but he hates God. God’s Word tells us that natural men are “haters of God” (Rom 1:30; Lk 16:30).
However, we do not doubt that in our text, Paul is not primarily talking about man’s enmity against God, but rather God’s enmity against man. This is why he speaks of our being “reconciled to God” in verse 10. Elsewhere, Paul tells us that men are by nature “children of wrath” (Eph 2:3). By nature, we are God’s enemies deserving His wrath and curse.
God was against us because our sin made us hateful in His sight. But we see in the verse just before, Romans 4:25, that Christ “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”
Christ, our Lord, stood in our place to be punished for our sin. Because of what He has done, we are justified. He rose from the dead because we are justified in God’s sight. But God does not declare that we are just until we receive Christ by faith. Until then, we do not individually enjoy justification, and we remain, in a sense, unjustified. Until then, we have no peace with God.
But we are justified when we are effectually called, and by faith, we embrace Christ Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. And because we know we are justified, we know that God no longer condemns us. “There is … no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).
Thus, Paul tells us here in our text: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This peace is not just objective (in that God will not punish us). Instead, it is also subjective (in our conscience). It is heartfelt, for as we are justified by faith, so by faith, we know we are forgiven for Christ’s sake.
By faith, we know that God is no longer against us.
By faith, we know that we are no longer enemies of God whom He would condemn,
By faith, we know that we have been adopted as God’s sons and daughters.
A remnant of corruption remains in us, so we know we do not love God as we should. But we know that we are forgiven and washed in the blood of Christ and that He is, by His Spirit, sanctifying us.
For this reason, our catechism teaches us that a benefit that accompanies justification is “peace of conscience.” Peace of conscience is different from a sear conscience. A man used to sin can have his conscience so seared that he feels little when he sins again. Hitler and hardened ISIS terrorists have seared conscience, not peace of conscience.
Peace of conscience speaks of a conscience not troubled by guilt and the demands of justice even though the conscience is keen and active. Unbelievers cannot and do not have this peace. Whatever peace they have in their heart is either due to a seared conscience or an illusion founded upon false premises that Satan wants them to believe. Peace of conscience is something that only believers can have.
Secondly, we are also given together with justification, adoption and sanctification, an increase of grace.
2. Increase of Grace
Now, this is not directly mentioned by Paul in our text, but it is implied in verses 3-4:
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope.
How does this imply an increase of grace? In the context of Paul’s words, he speaks of how we have “access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.” The idea of grace, then, is the blessing that comes with being reconciled unto God and enjoying His favour. So, an increase of grace must imply a greater enjoyment of blessings from God’s gracious hand. What are these? These will be the fruit of the Spirit and such blessings as patience, experience and hope, as mentioned in verses 3 and 4.
These things would not develop in our hearts were it not that we are first justified and adopted. Indeed, these things are the fruit of our sanctification.
Paul tells us that this fruit develops in us as we experience tribulation or pressure. How do they develop? They develop as the Holy Spirit brings to mind the Word of God to apply to our hearts in each changing scene of life.
This is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16:
But though our outward man perishes, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
Do we not see this happening in our own experience? Do we not often see that faithful believers who experience the most intense afflictions tend to be the most gracious and exhibit most of the fruit of the Spirit? Conversely, unbelievers and nominal Christians who do not have to suffer are often grouchy and full of murmurs and complaints.
Truly, increase of grace and growth in grace is a benefit that we enjoy together with our justification, adoption and sanctification.
But thirdly, even as we increase in grace, we will deepen in our assurance of God’s love.
3. Assurance of God’s Love
Paul has just spoken of how we have peace with God on account of our justification. Then he speaks of how the Holy Spirit cultivate the grace of patience, experience and hope in us through the tribulations that attend our soul.
But what is the basis of our hope when we know that we continue to sin against God and, therefore, deserve His wrath and curse? The answer is supplied by Paul himself in verse 5:
Hope maketh not ashamed [or does not disappoint]; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Thus, whatever else Paul is saying, we know that another benefit of our salvation is an assurance of God’s love. Indeed, Paul speaks of more than just an assurance. He tells us that “the love of God is shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Ghost.”
The word translated “shed abroad” (ἐκχέω, ekcheō) is a verb normally used to describe the pouring of water. So here Paul is painting a powerful picture of the Holy Spirit generously pouring out the love of God into our hearts. Our hearts are, therefore, filled to the brim with the abounding love of God so that it affects every aspect of our being.
One commentator waxes eloquent as he explains that the love of God …
Is poured out, and diffused abroad; filling, quickening, and invigorating all our powers and faculties. This love is the spring of all our actions; it is the motive of our obedience; the principle through which we love God, we love him because he first loved us; and we love him with a love worthy of himself, because it springs from him: it is his own; and every flame that rises from this pure and vigorous fire must be pleasing in his sight: it consumes what is unholy; refines every passion and appetite; sublimes the whole, and assimilates all to itself.Adam Clarke, Comm. in loc.
Of course, love cannot be poured out. But this is an apt picture, for it speaks of how the Holy Spirit enables us to know and be assured of the love of God so that we respond in love. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc.,” says Paul (Gal 5:22).
When we are justified and accounted righteous, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us in adoption. It is in our hearts that the Holy Spirit enables us to know and experience God’s love, for He opens our hearts so that with spiritual eyes, we see God as our heavenly Father who loves us.
What does the Holy Spirit enable us to see? Paul makes it clear in verses 6-8:
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
The Spirit opens our eyes to see that God loves us so much that He sent His only begotten son to die for us! Oh, how can we fail to see God’s love for us? We must be spiritually blind and emotionally brutish to fail to see God’s love for us. How can we not be assured of our Father’s love even as the Spirit both bring to mind what the Father has done for us and stir affections in our heart so that we cry out unto Him as Abba Father?
Thus, another benefit that flows or accompanies justification and adoption is the assurance of God’s love.
But even as we are assured of God’s love, we are given the hope of God’s glory and the assurance that we will persevere unto the end.
4. Perseverance unto the End
Paul speaks of the “hope of the glory of God” in verse 2. What does that mean? The Christian hope is not an empty wish. It is the reality of things promised. So, the hope of the glory of God is the certainty that we will obtain glory and enjoy God’s glory for all eternity. In this life, we are troubled by many things: by sin, by suffering, by the cares of this world, by injustice, and by death. But the day is coming when, as vessels of God’s mercies, we shall enjoy the glory prepared for us (Rom 9:23). At that time, we shall be freed from all sin, pain and sorrows and enabled to enjoy the full splendour of God in the blessed presence of our heavenly Father.
This is our blessed hope. But why do we have this hope? We have this hope because it does not depend on us, whether we are good or how much we do. Instead, it is founded upon what Christ has done for us.
Paul says in verse 9:
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
That is to say, if God so commended His love towards us that Christ died for us even while we were yet sinners, then how much more, now that we are justified, we shall be saved from wrath through Christ.
“Wrath,” here, no doubt, refers to the everlasting torment reserved for the vessels of God’s wrath, the reprobate, appointed unto destruction (Rom 9:22).
Those who are justified have been delivered from God’s wrath and can be assured that they will never fall out of grace and eventually face God’s wrath. We can have this assurance of what Christ has done, is doing, and shall do for us. In other words, we shall persevere unto the end by the power of Christ!
In Arminianism, the Christian perseveres as long as he is willing to be helped by the Spirit. In Calvinism or Paulinism, the Christian perseveres because the Spirit energises him to walk on. In Arminianism, the Spirit provides a walking stick. In Calvinism, the Spirit, as it were, infuses unfailing power for him to walk on. He cannot fail to complete his journey.
Those who are justified and adopted cannot lose their salvation because God cannot deny Himself. The Lord Jesus says:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.Jn 10:27-28
Perseverance unto the end, then, is another benefit that flows from and accompanies our justification and adoption.
But finally, consider how joy in the Holy Ghost is also a benefit.
5. Joy in the Holy Ghost
Joy is implied when we enjoy peace with God and are enabled to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (v. 2). Joy is also implied when we are assured of the love of God shed abroad by the Holy Ghost (v. 5) and given an inviolable hope of perseverance to the end.
So, it is almost unnecessary to say it explicitly. But Paul says it anyway in verse 11:
And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
Our catechism speaks of “joy in the Holy Ghost” because the phrase is found in Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
In our text, our joy is not spoken of as “joy in the Holy Ghost,” but as “joy in God.” But it is implied that this joy is given to us by the Holy Ghost. Why? Because joy is one of the first three blessings to be mentioned as the fruit of the Holy Spirit, together with love and peace, which we have already looked at.
How does the Holy Spirit work joy in us? He works joy by bringing to mind the truths about what God has done for us, and by working faith in us that we believe and rest upon Christ for our salvation and hope.
Indeed, this joy is a joy that transcends circumstances and joy that is beyond description. “Believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory,” says Peter (1 Pet 1:8).
Beloved brethren and children, do you have this joy? It is one of the benefits that accompany justification, adoption and sanctification. All who are in Christ and enjoying these benefits will have joy. If you have no joy, it may be because you are not counting your blessings. Or it may be that you have never experienced the new birth and, therefore, have not received justification, adoption or sanctification.
John Bunyan puts it beautifully:
The Happy Man was born in the city of Regeneration, in the parish of Repentance unto Life. He was educated in the School of Obedience, he works at the trade of Diligence and does many jobs of self-denial.
Are you such a man?
We have been looking at Romans 5:1-11. We have not expounded the chapter thoroughly. We will have to leave that for another occasion. In our present study, we were looking at the glow of the golden chain. We focused on the benefits of salvation that either flow from or accompany the justification, adoption and sanctification.
We saw, as we skimmed through the chapter, five such benefits.
First, there is peace of conscience. We saw how, by faith, we are enabled to know and enjoy the fact that God is not angry with us for our sins and rebellion. We are no longer under condemnation because we have been justified. Indeed, we have even been adopted as God’s children. Therefore, our conscience does not need to accuse us. At least it does not accuse us unceasingly, but gives us peace as soon as we remember we are washed by the blood of Christ and forgiven.
Secondly, we saw how we are enjoying the benefit of increase of grace from verses 3-4. This is not something we work for, but something which the Spirit works in us as He sanctifies and causes us to bear fruits such as patience, experience and hope through the trials and tribulations we experience.
Thirdly, from verse 5, we see how the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit so that we have a firm assurance of God’s love for us. This love is especially felt as we realise that God has made us His sons and daughters despite our unworthiness.
Fourthly, we saw from verse 2 and verse 9 that we not only have a hope of the glory of God, but a firm promise on account of what Christ has done for us. We will persevere not because we have the assistance of the Holy Spirit, but because we are empowered and sustained by the Holy Spirit through our journey.
Finally, we saw from verse 11 that joy, even a joy unspeakable, is wrought in our hearts as the Holy Spirit bestows upon us the reality and knowledge of having received the atonement of Christ.
These five benefits are summarised in our catechism, question 36:
WSC 36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.
Beloved brethren and children, what are these benefits to you? Do you enjoy them? All who are justified, adopted and sanctified may enjoy them. Indeed, unless we are walking in sin and backsliding, we should enjoy them.
Therefore, ask yourself: Am I enjoying a sense of assurance of God’s love? If you do, thank God for Christ, whose blood sealed the love of God for you, and then respond to His love by gratefully loving Him in return.
But if not, ask yourself: Is it because I have mistaken the feeling of love with true love? Assurance of God’s love can only come by acknowledging and believing God’s demonstration of love in Christ. Ask the Lord, therefore, to open your eyes and increase your faith so that you may be assured of God’s love for you.
And ask yourself secondly: Do I enjoy peace of conscience though my conscience is not seared but still quite sensitive? If you do, then thank God for it. It is not natural; it is a benefit that comes from the hand of our Saviour, Jesus Christ!
But if not, ask yourself: Is it because I have not understood the doctrine of justification that I am accepted for Christ’s sake rather than for good works? Or is it because I have been walking in hypocrisy, and therefore, my conscience is smiting me and accusing me of hypocrisy? Oh, will you not repent of your sin, even your sin of unbelief and ingratitude?
And ask yourself thirdly: Do I have real joy despite the difficult circumstances in my life? If so, bless the Lord your Saviour who has blessed you so that you may be a blessing as a witness of Christ. “You cannot glorify God better than by a calm, joyous life,” says Spurgeon.
If not, ask yourself: Is it because I have taken for granted my salvation or because I have grieved the Holy Spirit? Oh, will you confess your sin and ask the Lord to restore unto you the joy of your salvation? Learn to pray as David did in Psalm 51 so that you may be full of joy rather than grumbling. “The devil is a chronic grumbler. The Christian ought to be a living doxology,” says Luther.
And ask yourself fourthly: Am I growing in grace? Does my life exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit, including patience and hope? Or have I become impatient and easily offended? If you are yet growing in grace, thank the Lord your Saviour for working in you despite your unworthiness.
If not, ask yourself: Could it be that I have not been spending time with the Lord in prayer and Scripture reading? Could it be that I have been harbouring iniquity in my heart? Could it be that I have occupied myself with the entertainment and cares of this world more than with the means of grace? Oh, will you not return unto the Lord in humble repentance?
And ask yourself fifthly: Do I still have a strong hope of glory? Am I persevering in running the Christian race, or am I slacking? If you are running strong, thank the Lord for His new mercies every morning. Thank Him for remaining faithful even when your faith has been weak.
But if you find yourself slacking, may I urge you to ask the Lord again to fill you with His Spirit. Ask Him to renew a right spirit in you. Ask Him to strengthen and guide you by His Spirit wherein you should walk.
The Lord will hear your cry. He says: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Mt 11:28-29).
The Lord will not turn away anyone who comes to Him in sincerity. The Lord is ready to bless every one of His children with assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.
The Christian life is not a theoretical one. It can and should be meaningful and abundant, for Christ came to give us such a life. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:32). Only recognise what you are lacking and humbly seek for it for Christ’s sake. Amen.