The Saints' Triumphant Praise
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, October 26, 2008
Copyright © 2008, P. G. Mathew
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. And we rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
As we have discussed previously, this passage teaches that because of justification, we experience three blessings: peace with God and the peace of God; access to God's presence; and the ability to rejoice in all things. In this study we want to examine the third blessing of triumphant praise, looking first at what it means to rejoice; second, what it means to rejoice in hope; and, third, what it means to rejoice in the glory of God.
Only Christians can rejoice always, regardless of circumstances. When Paul was in chains in a Roman prison for the sake of the gospel, he exhorted the Philippians, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Phil. 4:4). It is the grace of God that enables us to rejoice always.
The joys of this world will eventually end. John tells us, "For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires will pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:15-17). The joy of salvation will never end. Therefore, despite any trials we experience in this world, we can rejoice.
Paul writes, "Through our Lord Jesus Christ . . . we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2). The Greek word kauchômetha (rejoice) means "to brag, boast, glory, exalt, or triumphantly praise." The Bible speaks of rejoicing with exceeding joy. That implies a fuller jubilation than merely rejoicing. Paul uses the present tense, meaning that we are to praise God continually, not only when good things happen. Every believer can triumphantly praise always in view of the hope of the glory of God, in view of the absolute certainty of our ultimate salvation.
The Jewish people used to rejoice about many things. Claiming to be justified by their own good works, they bragged constantly about their relationship to God, saying, "The Lord is our God. Gentiles are dogs, without God" (Rom. 2:17). Like the rich young ruler, they bragged that they kept the law (Rom. 2:23). They also boasted in their flesh, pointing out that their circumcision was proof that they were saved (Gal. 6:13; Phil. 3:13) In the same way, people today might take pride in being baptized or going to church regularly. But Paul tells us that we are saved by grace, "not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph. 2:9).
Jesus spoke about a Pharisee who rejoiced in himself: "The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get'" (Luke 18:11-12). Another Pharisee wrote, "For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory, who boast in Christ Jesus and who put no confidence in the flesh-though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless" (Phil. 3:3-6). But Paul says such glorying is excluded before God (Rom. 3:27). He also declares, "What, then, shall we say that Abraham our forefather discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about, but not before God" (Rom. 4:2). Then he proves that Abraham was justified by grace through faith.
There is, therefore, a type of negative boasting that is prohibited. But in this passage Paul is speaking about a positive boasting. We are exhorted to boast, to brag, and to rejoice greatly in God and what he has done for us. Paul cites Jeremiah 9:24 in 1 Corinthians 1:31, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord." Elsewhere he says, "[We] glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:3). He also declares, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal. 6:14). We are proud of the cross, because it tells us there is nothing good in us but we stand solely in the grace of God.
Our salvation is all of grace so that God may be praised both now and all eternity. Paul writes, "In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace" (Eph. 1:6). He repeats this refrain, "to the praise of his glorious grace," throughout this chapter. In verse 12 he writes, "In order that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be for the praise of his glory." And he says, "[The Holy Spirit] is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession to the praise of his glory" (v. 14). Go ahead- brag, glory, and praise in this way. The grace of God has given us great blessings in the gospel.
Incomparable, unsearchable, and glorious riches come to us in the gospel. Paul declares, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God's grace" (Eph. 1:7). Note the plural: "the riches of God's grace." Then he writes, "In order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace. . . . Although I am less than the least of all God's people, the grace was given me to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. . . . I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you" (Eph. 2:7; 3:8; 3:16). When we receive the gospel package and unpack it, we will glory in the riches that God has given us. But if we do not understand the gospel, we will remain timid, anxious, and sinful.
Paul exhorts, "Be joyful in hope," that is, in hope of the glory of God (Rom. 12:12). Elsewhere he says, "Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God" (Rom. 15:17). Yes, we are entitled to some boasting. We should triumphantly praise God in hope of his coming glory. We can rejoice even in tribulations, knowing that our ultimate salvation is so certain that not even death can prevent us from being glorified. Our salvation depends entirely on God, not on ourselves. Paul writes, "Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:11). Note, Paul says that we rejoice in God-not in ourselves or anything else. Our salvation depends one hundred percent on God and zero percent on ourselves. Therefore, we can be absolutely certain of our salvation. If salvation depended to any degree on us, then we could not be so certain. But the Bible says salvation is all of God.
Therefore, we glory, exult, and praise always. It is a shame for a Christian to go about downcast and miserable. We must seek to understand what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. And when we understand, if we are lying down, we will sit up; if we are sitting, we will stand; and if we are standing, we will run up and down and praise God. We will agree with Paul, whose life of joy was expressed throughout his letter to the Philippians: "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy: (Phil. 1:4); "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice" (Phil. 1:18); "Then make my joy complete" (Phil. 2:2); "But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering," that means, even if I die, "on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me" (Phil. 2:17-18); "Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown. . . . I rejoice greatly in the Lord" (Phil. 4:1, 10). This great apostle, a highborn citizen of Rome, was arrested and thrown into a cold, damp prison in Rome. Yet though he was in chains and deprived of many things, he continued to rejoice.
When the disciples came back from their preaching tour, they told Jesus, "Even demons are subject to us in your name!" Jesus told them, "Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). Our names are also written in God's book of life from all eternity. God foreknew, predestinated, called, and justified us, and he will also glorify us. God does it all. That is why we can brag in the Lord. We shall never fall from God's grace, for God himself will keep us from falling.
We Rejoice in Hope
The second point is that we rejoice in hope (Rom. 5:2). The word "hope" in modern usage has the meaning of "hope so." It is full of contingencies and doubts. But in the New Testament, hope signifies absolute certainty. It is faith oriented to the future based on the promise of the good, almighty God, who does not change his mind. Hope, as Dr. Ernst Kí¤semann said, is not "the prospect of what might happen but the prospect of what is already guaranteed."1 John Frame says, "Hope is not something radically different from faith, but it is a kind of faith: directed toward the future fulfillment of the promises of God."2 Paul writes, "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations" (Rom. 4:18). Against the reality of the deadness of the bodies of Abraham and Sarah, Abraham believed that God would fulfill his promise. His faith was based on his hope in God. He reasoned, "God promised me a son and God is faithful. He creates out of nothing and raises the dead. Nothing is too hard for him. I believe in his promise of an heir."
In the same way, we can rejoice in the absolute certainty of our final salvation. At the coming of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, we will be transformed to be like God (Titus 2:13). This is our blessed hope for which we wait.
Hope means we wait because hope has to do with future. Our hope is based on God's promise. Speaking of the redemption and glorification of our bodies, Paul explains, "For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is not hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently" (Rom. 8:24-25). He also states, "This hope does not disappoint us" (Rom. 5:5). Its fulfillment is certain; therefore, we can hold on to it and patiently endure all troubles, knowing that we are destined for nothing less than glory.
We cannot put our hope in this world. People will disappoint us, whether our spouses, children, employers, or political leaders. We must, therefore, put our hope in God and in his gospel. When we do so, the Holy Spirit in us will guarantee our final salvation (Eph. 1:13-14). Having been marked and sealed, believers enjoy complete certainty and security. We will be saved.
The Gentiles are without God and therefore without hope (Eph. 2:12, 1 Thess. 4:13). Their hope is only in this world. So they run after the things of this world, which will pass away. But their joy shall come to an end and they will hear the terrible words: "The party is over for you." Such people dread to die.
But our hope is in the Lord. Paul speaks of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27) and of "Christ Jesus our hope" (1 Tim. 1:1). Ours is a living hope, a hope stored up in heaven, where Jesus is. Our life is hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). It is the hope of an inheritance kept in heaven for us that does not perish, spoil or fade. This hope is revealed to us in the gospel (Col. 1:23). It is like an anchor that stabilizes our souls when we face all sorts of tribulations. (Heb. 6:18) In the midst of terrible sorrow, we can therefore have a smile on our faces.
By the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit we come to know this hope to which we are called, even our glorification. Paul says this abounding hope fills our hearts to overflowing (Rom. 15:13). That is why we worship God and pay full attention when the gospel is preached, because the gospel alone can give us hope in the midst of all problems. (PGM) This hope enables us to endure persecutions; in fact, trials only make it stronger. It also enables us to live a holy life (1 John 3:3).
On what are you basing your hope? Are you taking pride in your family, your children, your education, your work, your beauty, your friends, your wealth, your power, your fame, or your country? Let me assure, all these things will disappoint us. But if we hope in Christ, we shall never be ashamed. Hope, therefore, in the Lord. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved into this living hope.
We Rejoice in the Glory of God
Not only do we rejoice in hope, but we also rejoice in the glory of God. "The glory of God" means either the glory God has or the glory God gives us so that we share or receive glory. Both are true here.
God alone is eternally glorious. He alone lives in unapproachable light. He is light; in him there is no darkness. Adam was created with glory to behold this God of glory. But because of his sin, he lost his God-likeness. In Adam, we also sinned and lost our glory. Paul writes, "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles" (Rom. 1:22-23). Man exchanges truth for a lie because of his sinfulness, and then he glories in his shame.
The wages of sin is death, but God devised a plan that will restore us to glory. This was the mission of Jesus. The Son of God became incarnate and through his death and resurrection, we are brought back from our shame, death, and corruption. The author of Hebrews declares, "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering" (Heb. 2:10). Paul also speaks of this: "He called you to this through our gospel that you might possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 2:14). Peter writes, "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed. . . . When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away" (1 Pet. 5:1, 4).
Why should we run after the pleasures of sin? To do so is like a hobo rummaging through the trash. If we are believers, we will share in Christ's glory and receive a crown of glory when he comes. Paul says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. . . . The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. . . . Not only so, but we ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, that is, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom. 8:18, 21, 23-24). This is speaking about our glorification. Elsewhere he says about the body that dies: "It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power" (1 Cor. 15:43).
Jesus told us that, in one sense, this glory has been already given to us. He prayed, "I have given them the glory that you gave me" (John 17:22). But we are also being changed from glory to glory. Paul writes, "And we who with unveiled faces all behold the Lord's glory are being transformed into his likeness even now with ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18). As we behold the Lord in the Scriptures, we are being changed from one degree of glory to another. This is sanctification.
Paul speaks with certainty about our future glorification: "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control. He will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body" (Phil. 3:20-21). It is with that glorious body that we shall see God face to face.
God is glorious. As sons of God, we are re-created in God's image and likeness that we might reflect his glory. But when Christ comes again in great glory and power, he will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Moses was permitted only to see the back part of God. But when Christ glorifies us, we shall, together with Moses, see him face to face because we will be without sin. Then the hope shall be reality. We shall possess glory that we may dwell with God forever.
Why do you go about seeking trash when you are destined for glory? A glorious people shall dwell with the God of glory in a glorious universe in which there will be no more sin and death. Then the hope of our calling shall be realized fully.
We can receive great comfort and hope from the words of Paul: "He did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of mercy whom he prepared in advance for glory" (Rom. 9:23). This is God's purpose for us. Before the creation of the world, we were prepared for radiant, immortal, sinless perfection. Glory is our destiny and destination.
Paul also says: "We speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it. For if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written, 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him'" (1 Cor. 2:7-9). What did God prepare for us? Glory.
God has a wonderful plan for all who believe in Jesus Christ. Is it to make us rich, famous, or powerful? No. God's plan is higher and more transcendent than that: "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jer. 29:11). In one word, what is God's plan for us? Glory!
What Are You Choosing?
What are you choosing-trash or glory? Long ago in India, I noticed a number of young people from the West who were raised with knowledge of the gospel going after other religions and philosophies with great zeal. I met with these youths and asked, "Do you know what you are doing? You are looking for a grain of wheat in the midst of a large cow-dung pie. You rejected the bread of life that you heard growing up. You are seeking trash because you rejected the God of glory and the gospel that promised you glory."
The rich fool chose trash (Luke 12), as did the rich man (Luke 16) and the rich young ruler (Matt. 19). But another young man made a different choice: "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward" (Heb. 11:24-26). David writes, "One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze at the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple." Jesus told Martha, "Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better" (Luke 10:42).
Have you chosen that one thing needful, the source of all things, the inexhaustible, incomparable riches of God's grace? Have you chosen that good part, even Jesus Christ? In him is life and hope. He is joy, peace, and glory. Trust in Christ, not for health, wealth, power, and fame, but for eternal life and glory. After showing Jesus all the kingdoms of this world and their glory, the devil said, "All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus refused, saying, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'" (Matt. 4:9-10). May God help us to choose his glory as Jesus did, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And if you are not a true believer, may God grant you faith to trust in Christ that you may rejoice together with us.
1 Ernst Käsemann, Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1980), 134, quoted by Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1987), 220.
2 John Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), 194.
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Copyright © 2008, P. G. Mathew
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