Romans chapters 1-4 covers a variety of topics including the essence of the gospel and our need for salvation, and justification through faith in Christ alone. Chapter 4 covered Old Testament characters who looked ahead to God’s fulfillment of his promise through his son Jesus.
In Romans chapter 5 however, Paul begins to unpack what knowing Christ means in terms of daily life. He begins by teaching readers that believers have peace with God through faith in Jesus. But Paul doesn’t stay there long. In fact, he quickly transitions to teaching about our response to the peace we have with God, which is rejoicing. And on this subject, we read that Paul teaches us about rejoicing in suffering.
Romans 5:2-4 says, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope”.
At first glance, rejoicing in suffering seems like a backwards-minded, almost counter intuitive response, but what we find through this scripture is that we rejoice in our sufferings because we know the byproducts of it. This scripture teaches that the suffering we walk through produces endurance. The Greek word here for endurance literally means, “to abide under, to stay under the pressure.” Pressure is something that none of us like to be under, but suffering teaches us to stay under, to stick it out, and to push through.
Then Paul says that our endurance produces character. The original Greek word for character found here means to be put to the test and be approved. So in other words, our endurance, or our ability to stay under pressure, produces in us the ability to be put to the test and approved. When we’re able to endure suffering, we realize the strength of God at work in us, and it builds our trust in Him.
The last part of this progression in Romans 5 is that our character produces hope. The Good News that our hope is not in a possibility, but a certainty. Our hope isn’t some wishful, almost fairytale wondering if things will work out or not. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We have a confidence, a boldness, in our hope that we KNOW God is at work through us. And when we allow God to work in our suffering, we find this progression of becoming more like Christ. I know that each one of us would say we want the byproducts of suffering, but it’s a different commitment to rejoice in the face of it.
Paul continues later in Romans chapter 5 with this theme of rejoicing when he says in verse 11, “more than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation”. So the question we’re left with today is why would Paul be so focused on our rejoicing in suffering and in God? We find the answer in verses 6-10. Through this passage Paul details the saving work of Jesus on the cross.
Romans 5:7-8 says, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. Other versions say that God demonstrated his love for us. We don’t just serve a God that asks us to love without showing, or demonstrating, what that means. We’re called to love, because God loves each one of us. God reconciled us back into relationship with Him by sending His Son to die for us.
Paul says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Oftentimes the further in faith we are, the easier it is to forget this fact. The longer that we’ve had a relationship with God, the easier it is to judge those younger in their faith. We begin to believe that people need to get their act together before their relationship with God begins. But the truth of the matter is that Christ died for all of us while we were still sinners. Our lives are transformed once we’ve come into relationship with God, but He loved us before we ever knew Him.
Romans 5 shows us that having a relationship with God doesn’t mean that life is always easy or that we will never suffer. Rather, a relationship with God provides us with the ability to face anything that comes our way. When we face hardships and suffering, we know that God is still leading us, and walking with us. We can have hope in all situations, confident of God’s grace and His faithfulness. And it’s because of this, that we can rejoice like Paul teaches us to through this chapter.