Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.
Review of This Series on Hope
We begin this morning by trying to sum up where we have come in this 17-part series on Christian hope. We began eleven weeks ago by asking, What is hope? And we answered from Hebrews 6:11 that it is not a finger-crossing wish like, "I hope daddy gets home in time for supper tonight." But instead it is a "full assurance of hope." It is a confident expectation of good things to come.
Then we asked, Why hope? Is there any ground or reason to hope? And we gave two answers. From 2 Thessalonians 2:16 we answered with the word grace: "The Lord Jesus Christ loved us and gave us good hope through grace!" We may hope because God is a God of grace. And the second answer came from Colossians 1:23, namely, gospel: "Don't shift from the hope of the gospel." There is hope because of grace that overflows for the ungodly and because of good news that Christ died for sinners.
Then we asked, How can I, a sinner who has no love to God and no inclination to trust Christ, ever have hope? Salvation is promised to those who believe. How can I hope if I don't believe? And the answer we gave from 1 Peter 1:3 was new birth: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who by his great mercy caused us to be born again to a living hope." The Spirit blows where it wills and quickens the heart, giving spiritual life so that faith is born and a living hope springs forth from what was once dry ground.
Then we asked, How is hope sustained once it is created? The answer from Romans 15:4 was the promises of God: "Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope." Our hope is sustained by what God has said in his Word.
Then we asked, What is the content of our hope? What is it that we are actually hoping for? We have given three answers so far and today will give a fourth and next week the fifth. We answered from Titus 2:13 that our blessed hope is "the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." We answered from Romans 8:23 that our hope is "the redemption of our bodies." And we answered from Galatians 5:5 that our hope is the consummation of our righteousness.
We live in hope. We wait to see our Lord face to face. We wait to have whole and healthy bodies which don't get sick any more. And we wait to have whole and healthy souls which don't sin any more.
Along the way we have taken time on Mother's Day to speak of holy women who hoped in God (from 1 Peter 3:5), and on Christian Education Sunday to speak on educating for hope (from Psalm 78:7), and on Father's Day to speak on fathers who give hope (from Colossians 3:21).
The assumption behind these messages is that hope is an essential part of saving faith and that it is the spring of joy and love and courage and endurance in the Christian life. My goal very simply is to persuade unbelievers and to motivate believers to put your hope in the grace of God and not in yourself or in anything this world can offer.
Three Truths About Our Hope in the Glory of God
This morning we look again at the content of our hope, this time, at the glory of God. Our text is Romans 5:1–2, "Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have [or: let us have] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God [or more literally: we rejoice in hope of the glory of God]."
Let's focus our attention on the last several words of verse 2, "We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." In the time we have I would like to try to unfold three wonderful truths in these words.
- First, the glory of God is very great.
- Second, the glory of God is a sure hope in Jesus Christ.
- Third, the hope of the glory of God fills the heart with joy and exultation.
1. A Very Great Glory
First—and here is where we will spend most of our time—the glory of God is very great. I get this point simply from two things in the text: one is that the mere hope for it, not to mention the having it, fills the believer with exultation. The other is that it is GOD'S glory, and God is very great!
The catechism question for this week in the STAR is, "What is God?" And the answer is: "God is a Spirit. He is infinite, eternal and unchanging, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth." In other words God is very great. And therefore his glory is very great. And if we are not filled this morning with joy at the prospect of seeing and sharing that glory, then we need to pray right now that God would open the eyes of our heart and awaken our affection and give us a relish for his glory.
Eleven Ways God Shows Us the Greatness of His Glory
God has been very good to us in the New Testament by giving us many different ways of seeing the greatness of his glory. I am going to mention eleven of these in the hope that one or several will sink into your heart and give you a longing for God's glory. I am not going to define it first, but just let the texts point you to the reality.
1. By Saying It Is Eternal
God shows that his glory is very great by saying that it is eternal. Romans 11:36, "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen." The greatness of God's glory is seen in the fact that it will never end. It is great in durability and permanence.
2. By Contrasting It with the Frail Glory of the World
God shows the greatness of his glory by contrasting it with the frail and temporary glory of the world. 1 Peter 1:24, "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides for ever."
"Flesh" in that verse simply refers to all that is not spiritual. All the accomplishments of natural man are like grass and all their glory—engineering glory, architectural glory, artistic glory, electrical glory, atomic glory, computerized glory—all our greatest human glory is like a dandelion ball compared to God's permanent glory.
C.S. Lewis preached a great sermon on June 8, 1941, called "The Weight of Glory." He said, "Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat." And if the greatest glories of the world are to us as the life of a gnat, how much greater must be the God of glory in whom we live and move and have our being!
3. By Speaking of Its Might and Power
God shows the greatness of his glory by speaking of its might and power. Colossians 1:11, "May you be strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory." And 2 Thessalonians 1:9 turns it around and speaks of "the glory of his might." The point is not very different: the glory of God shines forth in great power, and the power of God exhibits itself in great glory.
If you want to conceive of the glory of God in its proper proportions, dwell on the scope of God's power. How great is the power of God when Isaiah 40 says he "measured the seas in the hollow of his hands . . . and weighed the mountains in scales"; and when Daniel 4 says, "He does according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say to him, What doest thou?" And when Hebrews 1:3 says, "He upholds the universe by his word of power." God is exceedingly powerful beyond all imagination, and his power is only one expression of his glory. Therefore his glory is very great.
4. By Raising Christ from the Dead by It
He makes the greatness of his glory known by telling us that it was by his glory that he did the greatest acts of power and love in history. Romans 6:4, "We were buried with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. If the resurrection is a great thing, if the eternal hope of millions hang on this great deed, then the glory of the Father must be very great. For it was the glory of the Father that burst the bonds of death and brought life and immortality to light.
5. By Repeatedly Reminding Us of the Riches of It
God presses the greatness of his glory on our minds by referring again and again to the wealth or riches of his glory. Romans 9:22–23, "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory?" God compares his glory to wealth and says that the ultimate purpose of all history is to make the greatness of that wealth known to the vessels of mercy prepared for glory.
6. By Contrasting Its Joy to This Life's Suffering
God highlights the greatness of his glory by telling us that the joy of experiencing it will so far outweigh the sufferings of this life that they are not worth comparing. Romans 8:18, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." No matter how much you suffer in this life, the joy of the glory of God will be so great as to make you feel as though your years and decades of suffering were as nothing.
7. By Calling It a "Weight of Glory"
God says this to us in 2 Corinthians 4:17 and adds that the glory we will experience is a "weight of glory." "For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." Notice, the glory is eternal and weighty; the affliction by comparison is momentary and light.
Is there any heaviness in your life? Do you carry any burdens that are heavy and seem to drag on and on? The Lord teaches us that the glory of God is going to be so heavy that when it is put in the scales of your life for your enjoyment, it will make all the heaviness of this world go up like air in the balances.
8. By Linking Eternal Punishment with Exclusion from It
God causes us to see that his glory is very great by telling us that the great punishment in the day of judgment will be exclusion from his glory. 2 Thessalonians 1:9—at the coming of Christ unbelievers "will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might."
When my mother died back in 1974 and a few months later my father sold the house in which I grew up, I had a chance to go through it one last time. It was a deeply moving experience as walked from room to room remembering her and knowing that I would never come home again.
But O how much greater is the tragedy and the grief going to be for the person who comes to the end of his days and has to say a farewell forever to the glory of God! Your heart was made to enjoy the glory of God. God is your real home. His glory is very great! And without it you will forever be heartsick. Don't live a life that results in being excluded from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
9. By Showing Us That It Will Replace the Sun
The Lord pictures the greatness of his glory for us by showing us that in the coming age the glory of God will replace the sun for our light. Revelation 21:23, "And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb." For now the immensity and brightness of the sun are reminders and symbols of the greatness and brightness of the glory of God. But someday we won't need any symbols or reminders, for the real thing will swallow us up in light.
10. By Revealing It in Settings of Heavenly Worship
The Lord magnifies the greatness of his glory by revealing it to us in awesome settings of heavenly worship where it is held in proper esteem. Revelation 5:11–14,
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, "To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!" And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Surely the purpose of giving us a glimpse into this heavenly worship is to make us feel the greatness of the Lord and the tremendous worth of his glory.
11. By Showing Us Jesus, the Perfect Reflection of It
Finally, we are made to see the greatness of the glory of God when Hebrews 1:3 tells us that our Lord Jesus "reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature." The glory of God is not merely a distant and strange thing. If we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father! We know what the moral character of this glory will be. It will be like Jesus—full of grace and truth.
So when Paul says in Romans 5:2 that "we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God," he means for us to know and feel that the glory of God is exceedingly great. If there is any wonder, if there is any awe, if there is any admiration, or fame or praise or applause, it belongs to the glory of God. For all other glory is like grass compared to God's.
That is the first and major point: the glory of God is very great.
2. A Sure Hope
Second, the glory of God is a sure hope in Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:2 says, "We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." The glory of God is not yet manifest in full, even though the heavens declare the glory of God and Jesus himself is the image and reflection of that glory. There is so much more coming that we now live in hope. We wait. We wait for Christ. We wait for health. We wait for righteousness. And we wait for the glory of God.
But there are three phrases in Romans 5:1–2 that are intended to give Christians strong confidence and full assurance that we will indeed share in this glory. We don't wait and wonder if it will turn out well. We can wait and know that the glory of God is our eternal portion.
The first phrase is, JUSTIFIED BY FAITH. ("Since we are justified by faith . . . ") The second phrase is, PEACE WITH GOD. And the third phrase is THE GRACE IN WHICH WE STAND.
Suppose this text is fulfilled in you and you go whistling to work tomorrow because the hope of the glory of God has dawned in your heart. And suppose somebody says, "What are you so happy about?" and you say, "Because I know I am going to share in the glory of God," and they say, "How do you know that?" What should you answer?
Well, Paul tells you should answer in these three phrases. You say, "I know I am going to share in the glory of God because I am justified by faith, and because I live at peace with God, and because I stand in the center of God's grace."
And if they say, "And just how did you get access into the center of God's grace?" you will answer with verse 2, "Through Jesus Christ who loved me and gave himself for me. Because of Jesus, God acquitted me of all my sins and reckoned me righteous in his sight. Because of Jesus, God is now reconciled to me; we are no longer enemies but friends. And because of Jesus, I have access into his grace where I am as safe and secure as a babe in its mother's arms."
And then you will say, as I say to every one of you right now, "My friend, don't you want to share in the glory of God?" You can if you turn from sin and start trusting Christ. He gives justification. He gives peace with God. He gives grace upon grace. And therefore our hope in the glory of God is not built on sand. It is as sure as the character of Jesus Christ.
Those are our first two points: 1) the glory of God is very great, and 2) the glory of God is a sure hope in Jesus Christ.
3. Hearts Full of Joy and Exultation
That brings us to the third and final point—which is not so much a point in my message as it an opportunity for you to respond. It's simply this: the hope of the glory of God fills the heart with joy and exultation. "We rejoice, we exult in the hope of the glory of God."
The reason we can always rejoice in God is not because the Christian life is an easy life. It isn't. The reason is that the glory of God is great beyond all imagining, and in Jesus Christ it is rock sure.
And so REJOICE!
Rejoice in glorious hope!
Our Lord the judge shall come
And take His servants up
to their eternal home.
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!