THOUGHTS ABOUT THE CROSS

A TIME FOR JOY: AN EASTER MEDITATION

Romans 5 teaches us that the death of our Lord Jesus Christ is a cause of three-fold joy.

Firstly, we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God [verse2]. Biblical 'hope' is a sure and certain confidence, and here Paul refers to the sure, certain reality: that, because of Christ's death,  those who are united to him by faith are justified, that is, acquitted by God, have peace with God, and are no longer barred from God's presence, in which they now stand in and by grace [verse1,2]. This first cause for joy is the present and future certainty of the grace-based salvation we have in Christ.

Secondly, we rejoice in our suffering [verse3]. This seems to be unrelated to the context, but when we remember that the contemporary culture, then as now, saw suffering as an evidence of God's judgement on a person's sin, this joy in suffering becomes significant: because Christ in his death suffered God's full judgement on our sin, we can never again interpret our individual human suffering as God punishing us for our sin. Nothing that is going on in our daily lives can ever again be understood as God's judgement on us personally.

To stress this second point of joy Paul lists a string of facts about the death of Christ [5:6-10]:

      • Christ died for us when we were still powerless
      • Christ died for us when we were still ungodly
      • Christ died for us when we were still sinners
      • Christ died for us when we were still God's enemies

This is what we were when God poured out his love for us in the cross of Christ [v5,8]. This is what we were when God justified us, declared us 'not guilty', by the blood of Christ [v9]. This is what we were when God reconciled us to himself by the death of his Son [v10].  How much more, Paul asks, now that God has done all of this for us, now that God has made us his friends, shall we be saved from his wrath and judgement? [v10]

As Paul explains in great detail in Romans 8:1,17-39, there is no condemnation left to fall on us, no accusations that can stand. For the believer, suffering is simply a normal part of life between Genesis 3 and Revelation 21. It is not God's judgement, because all the judgement that is due to the believer has already been born by Jesus Christ. Thus, even in suffering, we rejoice.

Thirdly, we rejoice in God [5:11]. Never again do we have to cringe before him in guilt, in fear of judgement. No longer is God the enemy. No longer is there any barrier. Never again does our sin, past, present or future, have any ability to ban us from his presence. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, we rejoice in God, because through him, we have, at this very moment, reconciliation with God.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2008