Thursday, May 8, 2014

Forgiveness (framed) against justice and righteousness

Preamble: My long-distance pastor friend, Ps Prentis, recently wrote a blog entry entitled, “What ever happened to forgiveness”; in it he touched on the tension between forgiveness and justice and righteousness.  He touched on tolerance, and selective tolerance. I commented on that entry; from that comment, with some additional points, I put up this entry, here, below.

Does it mean, to be just and righteous is to mean we cannot be forgiving?  Or is it we MUST still be forgiving, even as we are to be just and righteous.  Are we to tolerate injustice and unrighteousness? Or do we tolerate some but NOT others, like we tolerate when we are NOT directly hit by it (or NOT yet!), the injustice or unrighteousness? And, tolerate means we can numb our conscience? Such issues cannot be easily addressed in an article of a few pages; what I write below is just touching the surface only, so to speak.

Indeed we should be a people of justice.  The Word has it (in Ps 89:14) that the foundation of God’s throne (and therefore, rule) is the twin pillars of justice and righteousness.  And it added love and faithfulness (mercy and loving-kindness) [be allowed] to come before Him.  And so, rightly, we should be indignant with all these horrendous crimes/sins we hear and seen on the news (TVs, etc) all over the world.  We should NOT numb our conscience to all of these, and could just regard all these as “it is like that-one-lah”.  We read that Jesus was indignant before; He was indignant when He saw the Temple was used as a “den of robbers”. 

Should we be tolerant of such wrongful acts or sins (like those we hear and seen on the news)? I think a simple yes or no, is NOT the way to answer such issue, for different people have different idea of what tolerance is to include and mean.  Then, is there or is there NOT an issue of we need to forgive the people who did those wrongful acts or sins that we are NOT directly being impacted by it at the moment?

The perspective from the Word I believe includes this:

Sins we do NOT tolerate, meaning we should NOT just let these offences just continue on, unrestrained.  It means we cannot apply caveat emptor into this and say, “Each is to beware; you just watch out yourself; it is like that, ‘a dog-eat-dog world’; if you get mugged, too bad for you-lo.”  No, that is the animal world; we are NOT animals.  We are Man, NOT animals (No, I don’t believe we are/from monkeys!)  Sin is to be hated, and NOT to be taken lightly.  We don’t condone sins, or just ignore them, or excuse them.

Even if the wrongs or sins are NOT done to us, directly (but on other people, like we hear or see them on the news), still wrongs/sins are wrongs/sins; they should NOT be tolerated, and so, when we are in position of influence, we should influence accordingly.  For example, if bullying is happening in the school where you are a teacher, even though the wrong is NOT done to you, you are in a position of influence and you should try to influence, so that such a wrong (bullying) will cease.  The attitude of “Nowadays, it is rampant in schools, I will just teach my subject (like Mathematics), that’s all”, is NOT right.  There are channels which we can use to influence (so that the wrong/sin will cease), and we should use them.

We still love the sinner!  Does the Word prescribe that?  I believe so.
(But if you are asking if the phrase of “love the sinner but hate the sin” is from the Bible, DIRECTLY, it is NOT.  Its origin is believed to be from St. Augustine’s Letter 211 (c. 424) [Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum - translates roughly to "With love for mankind and hatred of sins."] Some say that Jude 1:23 pointed to it; “Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” {NLT version – other versions read differently}  Others said that the story of the adulterous woman who was NOT stoned pointed to it.). The phrase is NOT directly from the Bible, but the way is.

How does it work; hate the sin but NOT the sinner?  It cannot make sense until you and I identify with God.  I repeat you can be hating sin and loving the sinner only when you are identified with God.  In this respect, identification with God, means “That is what God, in His holiness and love, would like to see happening, and we agree to it, subscribe to it, and give effect to it, we having been a recipient of it.” 

Justice and righteousness is the foundation of God’s throne; we can see it said in Ps 89:14 (as mentioned above), and we can also see it repeated in Ps 97:2.  This means God actually have all the right to “do sinners in” immediately, so to speak.  He has [however] allowed love and faithfulness [mercy and lovingkindness] to come before Him. 

What does the second part of Ps 89:14 about love and faithfulness to go before Him, mean?  It means in His administration of His rule with justice and righteousness as the pillars, He allows love and faithfulnesss [mercy and lovingkindness] a voice – to speak for the offender or mediate, so to speak.   And so, God, in His mercy has often refrained from punishing immediate (letting out His wrath) (But note that still, it does NOT mean He has given up His right to punish or chastise, immediate. It also does NOT mean the foundation of God’s rule is love and faithfulness; that would be wrong.  The foundation is still justice and righteousness). 

The overall counsel of the Word tells us that God in His love, wants to give people opportunities to turn from the wrongs or sins, or to repent.  God is a holy God, and accordingly, justice and righteousness is foundation of His rule and Kingdom. It is NOT His desire that we be destroyed from His holiness (holiness’ demand); rather it is His desire that we be forgiven, so much so that, He gave His own Son, Jesus, to be the atonement for our sins. We have been a recipient of such love and faithfulness of God, haven’t we?  Yes, we have; otherwise, we would have been “dead-meat” a long time ago!

How do we go from here?  I perceive this:  “We do NOT administer justice ourselves”.  What do I mean by that?  One, we are NOT to administer justice according to our own righteousness and justice.  The justice and righteousness are those of God, NOT our own.  Two, we do NOT administer justice ourselves in that we do NOT administer justice for our own case. 

Then, there is no justice?  No, God deals with the justice on our behalf; and it is we have to let God deals with the justice as He wishes.   But why?  Because He is your master! We turn to the metaphor of a slave-master relationship or we can look at a child-father relationship, in our attempt to understand this proposition.  I will try to be brief and use the child-father relationship. 

Now, suppose a child of yours [A] (and so, you are the father) bullied another child of yours [B], who incidentally, has previously bullied his younger sister(!); how should this be handled? Is B to administer his own justice, in that B is going to take matters into his own hand?  The answer is no.  Is B to administer his own justice, in that, according to his own sense of justice and righteousness, he would do A in, so to speak, like maybe get a friend to push A off a tall building!  It is a no, too.  B is NOT to take things into his own hands, and he also cannot apply his own justice. [Sound familiar? Cain and Abel story?!]

What would you, the father, say to B?  What is the thing that B is to do?  B has to tell himself this: “I will tell daddy (you, the father), and let daddy deal with A, that A have bullied me”.  B has to remind himself that he, too, previously has done wrong (he did bully his younger sister or did other wrongs to his siblings). 

Now, you, the father, do you tell B this, “You should hate your brother, A; he has done you injustice!”? Or do you tell B NOT to hate or bear grudge or harbour resentment and bitterness against A? 

You, the father may say this to B, “My son, remember, the last time you bullied your sister, I forgave you, should you NOT also forgive your brother, A?  Son, you should just forgive him, A; and let me deal with him.”  A word to sum this, is “deference” (Believers are slaves to Christ Jesus, the Master; slaves don’t administer their own justice [when injustice is done to them]; they defer it to their master, and it is up to their master to deal as the master deems fit – same idea). 

We can see, it is NOT bullying is NOT wrong, but it is that B is to forgive A; it is that B has no longer the right to matter of forgiveness, he (B) is to forgive; the right to forgive or NOT to forgive, lies with the father.

We have wronged God and wronged other people, but God has forgiven us, by grace.  We, as a believer, no longer has the right to “NOT forgive”; we are to forgive, and defer justice for wrongs done to us, to God for Him to deal with, as He knows fit.  Scripture said vengeance belongs to God (and so, NOT to us [no longer, to us]). 

Why all over the world (thank God, it is still so!), do we find, we do NOT take the law into our own hands?  When wrong is done to us, we don’t take the law into our own hands; someone, the authority (police, judge, etc), administers justice for the case.  And these “magistrates”, they are under-magistrates to the Great Magistrate (God).  “Under-“ means there are matters which we may have to defer to the one above (this idea, also applies to under-shepherds; we [pastors, spiritual leaders] are under-shepherds; the Lord is the Great Shepherd).  We can understand, the man-magistrate, he does NOT deal with the (personal) forgiveness matter; and rightly, it is so, for the forgiveness matter is a matter between the offender and the victim.  And so, our forgiveness for another who offended us, is independent of legal proceedings of a court or any out-of-court settlement.  Forgiveness is NOT “if or when I get the damages/compensation [the court is going to award to me], I will forgive him-lo!” If it is merited by the offender [compensate you back], it is no forgiveness!  Forgiveness is to be BEFORE THAT, independent of any recompense.

In this sense, a court does NOT damn a criminal to Hell, directly; the only case of it is “helping” one (though NOT culpable) to Hell is when there is immediate capital punishment, where unrepentant offender is summarily executed, leaving the death-convict little or no time to repent.  As a side, so my view on capital punishment is that it should be reserved for extremely bad cases, if at all, we do NOT want to do away with it; and when there is capital punishment, actual execution should NOT be soon, to give time and opportunity for the death-convict to come to the Lord, and/or repent (I know it still costs money to keep a death-row convict in prison; but I still say, “So what!”).

Bro Anthony, are you saying, when we are wronged, we cannot ask for compensation of sort?  No, I am NOT saying that; but you must forgive first (in your heart; our [believers’] forgiveness is rendered [out of] “unto the Lord”), and it is independent of any recompense.  You can ask for recompense, but whether you get or get NOT the recompense, you must in no way to double-back on your forgiveness (which you have done so, in your heart).  If NOT getting a recompense would put you in hardship, you can tell God about it, and trust that God will make a way for you.  Also, do bear in mind the overtone in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt 18:23-35). Matt 18:35 (KJV) reads, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” [The lord of the unmerciful servant delivered the servant to the tormentors].

Ps Prentis is right (in this blog entry) to say “We should be [a] people of justice. Forgiveness is putting ultimate justice in God's hands. Forgiveness refuses to seek revenge and hopes for repentance.”

I just want to explain a little more on the “forgiveness hopes for repentance”, although I have said above that forgiveness is independent of recompense.  We are to forgive, by grace, for Col 3:13 said that we are to forgive as God forgave us, meaning forgiving in the same way God forgave us, meaning, we, too have to forgive by grace.  By grace, means the offender does NOT need to provide any merit; and so, I was NOT wrong to say we no longer have the right to “NOT forgive” another.  We are to forgive, rightaway.

What if the offender is NOT repentant at all, even still deviant?!  We are still to forgive, rightaway, in our heart!  A distinction needs to made between forgiving (in our heart, we forgive or have forgiven) and releasing forgiveness. 

To forgive, we have to, rightaway.  You forgive first, and then you hope for repentance on the part of the offender, and so, it is forgiveness hopes for repentance.  If you have forgiven NOT, there is no forgiveness, and so, there is NOT the “forgiveness hopes for repentance”.  It is NOT the other way round, as far as what you (the one who has been wronged) are required to do; you don’t wait until the offender has repented before you forgive!  If it were the case, it wouldn’t be “forgiveness hopes for repentance”. 

It is only in the releasing of the forgiveness, already wrought in our heart, to the person (offender), we look for prima facie repentance.  When there is no prima facie evidence of repentance, you hold back the releasing of forgiveness to the person (BUT NOT the forgiveness of the person in your heart).  Why we do it this way, the RELEASING of forgiveness, is due to the doctrine of, we are our brother’s keeper, which much emphasizes that we must NOT mislead a brother.  If you release forgiveness to the offender, before any (prima facie) evidence of repentance, you could be signalling to him (and it is wrong) that it is alright for him to have done what he/she had done (the wrong or sin). 

Now, a test of you have NOT already forgiven another (in your heart) [which you must do], is when the person shows repentance, even just prima facie evidence (like he/she says, “I am sorry”), and is before you waiting for the releasing of forgiveness by you, to him/her, you will NOT give it.  So, do NOT deceive yourself; ask yourself, this question, “If the person is before me, now, and ask for my forgiveness, will I be able to release the forgiveness?”  If you cannot, you have NOT forgiven the person in and from your heart, which you must do.

You don’t want to forgive!  Then how are you going to deal with Matt 6:14-15, Ps Prentis has given, as his opening scripture text for his blog entry? 

Matt 6:14-15 – 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Or are you going to say, “My overly grace preacher/leader tells us that we don’t need to ask God for forgiveness anymore, once we have become a believer; and so, I can ignore that text!”  Listen to me, we have to continue to ask God for forgiveness, because we do sin.  Stop kidding yourself! By being unforgiving, you hinder your blessing from God (including, at times, the receipt of healing from the Lord for pains/sickness in our body).

Finally, before I end, I will touch on whether or NOT there is the issue of forgiveness from us for those wrongs or sins done NOT on us, directly, like those we hear or see on the news.  For the “victims”, they have to forgive; it is personal to them, and in their personal way, they have to forgive the offender(s).  For us, the “general people”, we too, forgive. 

For many, these wrongs/sins do NOT “haunt” them, in so personal sort of way, and they do NOT find it too difficult to “NOT hold resentment and hatred” towards the offender(s).  The test is still the same (the one suggested above), if the offender(s) is/are before you, and he/they ask you for forgiveness (which is unlikely the case, that the offender will ask you [who are NOT directly wronged]), will you release it?!   So, unless it “haunts” you, you only need to have the right understanding and resolved in your heart that you forgive all such non-personal offences (done to other fellow men); you don’t necessarily have to come before the Lord, over every wrong/sin in the world, to say that you forgive the offender(s), for each case, specifically; it is in your heart you forgive them all (you can and should intercede against wrongs/sins, though); and the test above applies.

For some, such non-personal offences/wrongs/sins “haunt” them in a personal sort of way, nonetheless!  For example, when a bullying incident has a racist overtone, some people let the offence hit them in a personal kind of way, and bear resentment against the race (race of the offender(s)).  When the wrong/sin hits that way, you have to specifically forgive the offender(s) in your heart, as if the wrong/sin was done to you.  The point is that as believers, we have to forgive, and cannot bear any grudge, resentment or bitterness.

Bro Anthony, are you saying the law should NOT go after the offenders?  The presence of the law (of the country) or legal system does NOT contradict the ways of God.  From Scripture, we can see a society judicial system was developed in the time of Moses, with his father-in-law’s suggestion.  It is what is in the law or how it is being administered that can offend the ways of God.  

Laws is necessary for law and order, so that there will NOT be chaos, so that there will be restraints on the part of men, so that the wrath of God does NOT get incurred so very often and to the extent that God has to mete out His wrath.  I have already said a little of my personal view on capital punishment; generally, the laws (country laws) serve to chastise, and that generally speaking, is NOT against the ways of God.  I believe, to God, He is the only one to decide on the Heaven or Hell issue (punishment in finality); and meanwhile, chastisements (punishment in chastisement) are expected and generally speaking, is part of His ways.  Some people said the saying, “You reap what you sow” is NOT from Scripture.  No, it is in Scripture, in Gal 6:7 – “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  Generally speaking, that a person has to pay for his crimes/wrongdoings is NOT out of line with Scripture.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions
PS: I know I am far from arrived.  And so, even as I know, I still have a long way to go, in living out the truths and ways of God.

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Persevering of hope and faith

Article text:
Rom 5:1-5 – 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.  5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

This Romans 5 text is a follow-on from Romans 4 where the author, believed to be the Apostle Paul, talked about the persevering faith and hope, of our Father of Faith, the patriarch Abraham.

Starting from Rom 4:16, we can see Paul held up Abraham as our Father of Faith.  God told Abraham that He was going to make him the father of many nations.  In Rom 4:17, Scripture tells us that Abraham believed the God whom he believed, to be “the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not”; in other words, he believed his God (and ours, too) was/is almighty God who is the creator of all things, that nothing was/is impossible with God.

Some people noted that this Romans 5 text started with hope and then ended in hope (character produces hope [v4])!  It is right to say, we believers already possess a hope and a faith, to begin with (if we have indeed accepted Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior); in Rom 4:18-21, it is said the same, of Abraham.  Rom 4:18 (NIV), Paul said “Abraham IN HOPE believed, and so became the father….  In fact, there was the phrase “against all hope” preceding “Abraham IN HOPE believed ….”; what does it imply?  It was meant to say, despite many challenges to his hope over time, Abraham continued to believe.  He did NOT lose hope despite the odds staring at him.  Hope is made stronger and persevering when it “has survived” challenges thrown at it. 

Again, was Abraham with some faith already?  Yes, Rom 4:19 (NIV) said this, “WITHOUT WEAKENING IN HIS FAITH, he [Abraham] faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead”.  As is the case for hope, faith too, is made stronger and persevering when “it has survived” challenges thrown at it.  That is what Rom 4:20 said, “Yet he [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but WAS STRENGTHENED IN HIS FAITH ….” V21 – “being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised

The Apostle Paul went on to explain how righteousness is accorded (counted/credited) to us.  In Rom 4:22, Paul explained, “This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.””  How? Righteousness is credited to Abraham in his persevering of hope and faith, giving up, NOT.  And Paul said how (in v23) “it was credited to him” were written not for him [Abraham] alone, (v24) BUT ALSO FOR US, to whom God will credit righteousness— ….”.  It is the same for us, through our perseverance of hope and faith, and it begins with our initial faith (salvation faith) [that the works of Christ Jesus wrought us our justification], and with our hope of going to Heaven (salvation hope/hope of glory).  That was how Romans 4 ended, and in Rom 5:1, we read, “Therefore, since ….”. 

The “Therefore, since …” is what links the Roman 5 text we are looking at, to Paul’s talking about we need to be persevering of hope and faith as illustrated by the patriarch Abraham’s life (Romans 4).

Paul was in this Romans 5 text saying, therefore, we, as believers, we have had also righteousness counted to us, and we will continue to have righteousness counted to us, just as we could expect it to have happened to Abraham, that God continued to count righteousness to him, when a life of persevering of hope and faith is being pursued.

“Initiation” has a place in God’s scheme of things or His ways.  What it means is that from then on (from “initiation”), you are counted as ……. whatever the counting is for.  So, for our entry into salvation, we are counted righteous, we counted as citizen of Heaven, we are counted as children of God, we are counted as disciples of the Lord, etc. 

The idea is similar to (metaphor only) when we are recruited into a company, as (say) the Accounts Manager (Accounting Manager) of the company.  So, when you report for work, after the recruitment process (“initiation”), you are introduced as the Accounts Manager of the company.  Now, you have then to function as the Accounts Manager of the company.  You are in name or status, the Accounts Manager of the company, and you are to function as such.  Now, suppose you made a mistake and the company (the recruiter) also made a mistake; you were a Sales Account Manager (previously), but you are recruited as the Finance Accounts Manager.  Now, you do NOT know and cannot perform your role; you may be the Accounting Manager in status, it is a matter of time, you will be discovered of your unfitness for the position, and you will stripped of your position, and asked to go.  What would have made you fit for the position that you have been named into?  The accounting schooling and experience thereof would have fitted you for the position; you have none of it, actually; but you got in, first. (I am NOT suggesting, though, that we can easily have our names erased from the Lamb’s book of life – this is a metaphor. But justification and sanctification are both required for you to get into the company of Heaven, so to speak).

That is why we can find such texts in Scripture:

1 John 3:7 (NASB) – “Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one WHO PRACTISES righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous,” and

Rom 8:14-17 (NASB) - 14 FOR all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, IF INDEED WE suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Phil 2:12 -  Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my [Paul] presence only, but now much more in my absence, WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION with fear and trembling.

The notion (of some) that all we need, is righteous standing, and there is NOT the necessity of right living is incorrect.  If it were just right standing only is necessary, the NT Bible needed NOT be that thick, loaded with so much the “dos and don’ts”, and the “hows”; 6-7 pages will do, isn’t it NOT, if all is needed is justification, which is by grace (God’s part anyway). 

Yes, when we entered into salvation, we are counted (adopted) as sons, yet Rom 8:14 said that (truly) sons of God are the ones led by the Spirit of God.  The adoption or conversion is the “initiation”. We still need to walk worthy of the counting or crediting (or calling); and how is that ever able to be accomplished?  Rom 8:14 said it, by being led by the Spirit of God.  If you are no longer being led by the Spirit of God (not referring to occasional lapses), you are no longer the sons of God.

People like to jump to Rom 8:16-17, and say we are children of God and heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ Jesus, of the Kingdom of Heaven, but many just imagined the last bit away – the “IF INDEED WE suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.  This is NOT the right way to handle scriptures.

I will NOT go into what suffering is, here, but it suffices to say that, it, at least includes sacrificing, even though that, sacrifice, may need to be explained for some to understand.  We do need to make some sacrifice (for sacrifice is part of love, that we love God), so that we may share in the Lord’s glory.  The Apostle Peter painted for us the same picture of suffering-participation (or sacrifice for Jesus) as being part and parcel of our salvation walk.

1 Pet 4:12-19 - 12 Dear friends, DO NOT BE SURPRISED at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

If you look closely at this 1 Peter text, in v18, the Apostle Peter did imply it is NOT as easy as some think, we will get to Heaven (like we just need to accept Jesus as our Saviour by saying the Sinner’s Prayer).  Reading v18 with v17, the “righteous” of v18 should be referring to the believers (God’s household); not so easy for righteous to be saved!  Why? Because many do NOT love the Lord enough, for their version of love has no suffering and no sacrifice for the Lover (God) of their life.  Perhaps, rather, they suffer and sacrifice for other reasons other than as a “participation in the sufferings of Christ”. 

What does the v19 mean by “those who suffer …  should commit themselves to their faithful Creator ….”?  It implies we have to persevere in hope and faith in our Creator God (Also, as a side, it is to be noted that it is NOT God must lead you by His Spirit, but that God is faithful (to lead you); the two are NOT the same; and some people are erroneously holding out to us that it is “God must”; God owing us!  No.).

The Apostle James also highlighted the same -

James 1:2-4 - 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

It is in the trials of many kinds, that our posture and actions tell on us, whether or NOT, we are still holding on to our faith and hope.  When the trials call for participation in the sufferings of Christ or sacrifices, will you still hold on to your faith and hope?!  Will you persevere and continue to do good?  Will you consider it pure joy, with the understanding that the development of perseverance of hope and faith, is part and parcel of our Christian character development; joyous that God could use the trials to develop our holiness and godliness, which are necessary for us to of, to go to dwell with Him, in Heaven.  Why is it NOT joy to know that one is progressing (onwards to Heaven)!

In 2 Cor 1:5, the Apostle Paul said this: “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 

And he went on to say that if they (Paul and his company) get comforted, it was for the Corinthians’ comfort, which would produce in them (Corinthian) patient endurance of the same sufferings they (Paul and company) suffered.   What Paul said was that we can expect to be comforted by God, in our present life (if NOT, in our after-life, when we come into the sharing of the glory of our Lord), when we do participate in the sufferings of Christ.  

When Paul and his company did get comforted by God, then they would have a (positive) testimony for the Corinthians to take comfort in, and to help them (testimony “encourages” hope and faith) in patient endurance of the sufferings they, too, might have to face (believers, generally, may have to, too).

Phil 2:12, that “work out our salvation” is a reminder to us, that salvation is NOT a one-off incident of saying the Sinner’s Prayer; if it were, there is no “working out” to talk about.  Salvation is justification followed by a life of sanctification before culminating in sharing of the glory of our Lord, in Heaven.  In that life of sanctification, there is testing of the faith and hope, “that it may prove genuine”. In 1 Pet 1:6-7, we read this: “6 In all this [inheritance in Heaven] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

I return to the Romans 5 text; again say, therefore, we, as believers, we have had also righteousness counted to us, and we will continue to have righteousness counted to us, just as we could expect it to have happened to Abraham, that God continued to count righteousness to him, when a life of persevering of hope and faith is being pursued.

Through justification, by faith, we are initiated back into peace with God (Rom 5:1), but it does NOT stop there, unless you die straightaway!

For Rom 5:2, some Bible translation use the word, “introduction” in place of “access”, and I think that word is a better word.  Through the works of Christ Jesus on the Cross (and the resurrection thereof), we obtained introduction into this grace in which we stand.  What is this “this grace in which we stand”?  It is the state of God’s favour.  What is this state of God’s favour?  It is the favour of God counting out righteousness to us as we continue to persevere in our hope and faith. 

What is so important about this God’s counting of righteousness to us, you may ask. It is most important, for without it, righteousness (being counted to us), we lose the reconciliation with God, or we, ill-able to stand before God.  Righteous believers stand tall before God (unrighteous ones dare NOT look up, so to speak!)

Through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we get into this – the grace of God counting out righteousness to us.  But it is God continues to count to us righteousness as we continue to persevere in our hope and faith.  If we do NOT continue to hold on to our hope and faith, we disqualify ourselves from this counting out of righteousness to us, by God. 

Paul said (Rom 5:2) we rejoice in our salvation hope (the hope of glory), which the works of Christ has secured for us; but why? Because it (hope) lets us see we can be led to the end-point of sharing in the glory of our Lord in Heaven.  Paul, in v3, said it is NOT only that, that we rejoice that we have that hope, we rejoice in our sufferings, too; but again why? Because it (sufferings), when we go through them, it builds up in us, perseverance (of hope and faith), such perseverance defines us, what we will and will NOT do, or our character (One’s character characterises him); and the character from perseverance of hope and faith, is NOT an anyhow character, but a tried character of hope.

Some find it astonishing this Romans 5 passage seems to start from hope and then, in a round circle comes back to the same – hope! I have said, from hope (and faith), through perseverance through sufferings where our hope (and faith) are stretched and tested, we develop of a tried character of hope.  And this tried character according to Rom 5:4 produces hope! 

How are we to understand this (the tried character produces hope)?  One way, discernible from the above exposition of mine, is that the resultant person will be one NOT easily persuaded from his hope and faith; in other words, he will die, die persevere in his hope and faith.  Another way of looking at it, is that after perseverance, in sufferings, has finished its work, the person will NOT just be a person of hope (and faith) but a person with persevering hope (and faith).

I believe it is more than that (above), it is also that Hope has taken hold of him.  What is Hope?  Or who is Hope?  In 2 Cor 4:7-12, we read this:

7 But we have this TREASURE in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life [hope] is at work in you.

The treasure in this 2 Cor 4 text, has been said to the Gospel, God, Spirit of God or Spirit of Christ; they are all NOT incorrect.  I say, it is also Hope.  What do we say Christ is?  Yes, He is hope of glory (Col 1:27 – “Christ in you, the hope of glory”). 

Such a tried character, NOT only the hope in him will be able to see him through the harshest scenarios, some of which was given us in 2 Cor 4:8 (see above), Christ (the hope of glory) lives out of him; he becomes the hope, because Christ or the Spirit of Christ or the Gospel lives through him; he becomes the bearer of light, the bearer of hope.

Lastly, we find the last verse, v5, of this Rom 5:1-5 text said that (the tried) salvation hope, it will NOT shame us, or disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us; what does it mean? To understand this, we need to go back to the Rom 8:14-17 text I have given above. The understanding is like this:

Rom 8:15 tells us that upon entry into salvation, we (our spirits) get counted or adopted as sons of God. But when we take the whole text together, we will realise that, with vv14 & 16 & 17 in, it is, as we are being led by the Holy Spirit, including when we do suffer with Christ (participate in sufferings of Christ), the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.  As we let the Spirit leads us through all the good times and the bad times we face and pass through, we become knowing (ginosko-knowing) of God’s love as it is showered into our hearts through the Holy Spirit as He leads us.

A person having through such, undergone perseverance of hope and faith through sufferings, will know (ginosko-know) the hope he is having will NOT shame and will NOT disappoint, ultimately. 

Have NOT you heard it being said, “If Christians are wrong about the Gospel (the hope therein), they would be most miserable people to have lived!”  By “miserable”, these people mean we, Christians, in their eyes, gave up all the liberties and so-called opportunities to indulge one-self, which they did NOT (as non-Christians).  If we are wrong, we have been stupid and “don’t know where to hide our faces”, is what they are thinking.  What do you think?  As for me, I say my hope will NOT shame or disappoint, for I know the love of God poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit indwelling and leading me (as I let Him to; you have to let Him lead you).

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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