Romans 5:3-5 – Honor and Hope in Suffering

Romans 5:3–5 (ESV) — 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

 

Introduction:

Beginning with Romans 5:1, we have been looking at the content of the hope of saving faith.

  • Last week we dealt with the peace and glory that comes with our righteousness in Christ and the hope they produce.
  • Today, Paul deals with a life that boasts in suffering and its relationship to hope.
  • We need to figure out why Paul makes such a bold claim.

 

We are going into the trees, as usual, but N.T. Wright wants us not to lose sight of the forest.

“What [Paul] is doing, throughout the section…is establishing those who belong to Jesus as the true covenant family, those in whom all the promises (and all the commands) given to Israel have come true” – N.T. Wright.

  • Why – because only the people of God are at peace with God, hope in His glory and can objectively boast in the midst of suffering.

 

 

Therefore – Hope Through Suffering:

Romans 5:3–4 (ESV) — 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

  • In this text, Paul gives us a fourth reality that gives content to our new hope…
  • The redemption of our suffering.
  • We saw the other three last week.

 

Now last week we also saw that though the ESV uses “rejoice”, the meaning here is “to boast”.

  • In order to get at what Paul is teaching here, we need to dig into this idea a bit more.

 

 

Boasting:

In the honor/shame culture of Paul’s time, suffering was not seen as honorable, but as shameful.

  • Honor – considered a virtue – was not to be found in suffering.

 

Robert Jewett puts it like this:

“In the extreme version of an honor/shame environment present in Rome, where triumphs over enemies were celebrated on every side, to boast in a groups adversities…is counter-cultural” – Robert Jewett.

 

This means that once again Paul, in recognition of the new reality in which the believer walks…

  • Is taking yet another feature of human existence and redefining it around Jesus Christ.
  • And in suggesting the believer can boast in sufferings, he is turning cultural norms on their head.

 

And as N.T. Wright alluded to in his big picture statement…

  • This redefinition of one’s attitude toward suffering around Christ is a fulfillment of O.T. hopes.
  • Psalm 21:5 (Brenton LXX En) — 5 They cried to thee, and were saved: they hoped in thee, and were not ashamed.
  • Psalm 24:20 (Brenton LXX En) — 20 Keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I have hoped in thee.

 

Paul, by the way, is well aware of the perceived absurdity of much of what he is teaching.

  • 1 Corinthians 1:27–30 (ESV) — 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

 

Boasting in Sufferings:

So what are the sufferings?

  • The idea here is “trouble that inflicts distress, oppression, affliction, tribulation” – BDAG.
  • Specifically, Tom Schreiner says Paul is referring to “the pressures and troubles that afflict believers in this present evil age” – Schreiner.
  • It is within the context of these realities that we are to boast.

 

Importantly, we are not being asked to boast of the affliction itself.

  • “Note, he doesn’t say that we celebrate our sufferings (in the same way that we celebrate our hope, in verse 2). We celebrate, he says, in our sufferings” – Tom Wright.

 

The Christian does not celebrate evil and affliction.

  • In fact, to arrive at the hope Paul speaks of, we must recognize that suffering is at odds with God’s ultimate purpose for creation.
  • Therefore, it is something He will redeem and put right.

 

We need to be especially sensitive to this when ministering to each other.

  • Recognize the evil; don’t downplay it.
  • And then, at the right time, boast in the hope of redemption.

 

So why are we to boast “in our sufferings”?

  • 1 Peter 3:14–15 (ESV) — 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
  • Peter says we are to have an answer to this question.

 

And given the apparent disparity between the new reality Paul says we have in Christ…

  • And the circumstances as they really seem to present…
  • Paul himself knows an answer is required.

 

BTW – This is a parallel to our Moses’ Message lesson from Genesis 1-3.

  • Under Moses, the people of God were in slavery and under oppression by Egypt and her elohim.
  • Yet Moses was bringing a message of the preeminence of Yahweh and His covenant faithfulness.
  • Under Paul, the people of God were suffering and seemingly not living in the reality Paul was describing.
  • Yet Paul was bringing the “but now” and “therefore” message of a new reality in Christ.
  • A reality that supposedly demonstrated the covenant faithfulness of God.
  • If faith in Yahweh is rational, there must be an explanation of the apparent disconnect!

 

So Paul says the answer to the question of why we are to boast in our sufferings is:

  • We can rejoice because, “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope”.

 

In Christ, suffering doesn’t produce shame but hope…wow!

  • How?

 

Paul spells out a sequence of things whereby suffering leads to hope.

  • Suffering – Endurance – Character – Hope.
  • I think we can get the gist of what Paul is saying with some definitions.

 

Endurance is…

  • “The capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty” – BDAG.
  • Robert Jewett calls it fortitude.
  • So suffering produces (cultivates) something in us – ostensibly something from God – that we didn’t have before.
  • Namely, a capacity to “hold out” or show fortitude in the midst of suffering.
  • This holding out is for a purpose…character.

 

Character is…

  • “The experience of going through a test with special reference to the result” – BDAG.
  • So the capacity to “hold out” in the midst of suffering produces a God ordained and sourced result.
  • Which is what, exactly?
  • A tested and authenticated faith – Jewett.
  • Character here is authenticity.
  • The realization of authenticity (and its source – more on this later) brings hope.

 

Hope is…

  • The anticipation of the glory of God we talked about last week – theosis, deification, Christification.
  • The point is that a tested and authenticated faith is a saving faith that is shown to contain this sort of hope.

 

As we saw a few weeks ago…

  • Faith consists of new knowledge, new affections and a new hope.
  • Now we see that faith is authentic if it contains this tested and authenticated hope.
  • “Hope, like a muscle, will not be strong if it goes unused” – Douglas Moo.

 

It might help us to paraphrase Paul given what we now know.

  • The believers’ sufferings cultivate the capacity to hold out in their midst.
  • And, in fact, result in a person of character – one who has been tested and authenticated as having a saving faith.
  • Why? Because the person responds to suffering with hope of the glory of God.

 

BTW – as we said earlier, none of this means that we are happy in or with our sufferings!

 

 

Therefore – Honor Through Hope:

Romans 5:5 (ESV) — 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

But wait…there is more.

  • The additional idea Paul wants us to see is that the only way suffering can bring about these things is if one has been righteoused by God in Christ through faith.

 

The boasting is in what God has done in us!

  • God creates these things out of our suffering.
  • In other words, none of this happens because of our efforts.

 

Paul gets at this in verse 5.

  • Our hope doesn’t bring us shame, but contrary to the world’s view, it brings us honor – “does not put us to shame”.

 

How can this be?

  • What is the thing that makes hope and not shame out of our suffering?
  • Or as we saw earlier, how does the “but now” (3:21) bring about the Psalmist’s cry…
  • Psalm 24:20 (Brenton LXX En) — 20 Keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I have hoped in thee.

 

Paul says beautifully:

  • because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

The fuel behind this entire feature of Christian life that Paul is describing is – the love of God!

  • A love “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”.
  • A Holy Spirit given to us by God.

 

Robert Jewett wants us to know something about Paul’s words here.

  • Poured out”, he says, is language used to describe the pouring out of blood.
  • Matthew 26:28 (ESV) — 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
  • So, no doubt, Christ’s work on the cross is in view here as an act of love.
  • This “poured out” love is part of the “but now” that leads to Paul’s “therefore” in Romans 5.

 

BTW – In Revelation, “poured out” is used many times of God pouring out his wrath.

  • Remember – saving righteousness and judging righteousness.

 

And this love of God, His sacrificial love, is “poured into our hearts” through the Spirit “who has been given to us”.

  • We need to point out two things here.

 

The first is that this alludes to the truth Jesus taught in John.

  • John 16:7 (ESV) — 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
  • For the reality Paul is describing to be a true and present reality…
  • Christ had to send us the Spirit of God.

 

The second thing is that Paul says this love through the Spirit is “poured into our hearts”.

  • There is no way we can know what this means without knowing what is meant by the heart.

 

So what is the “heart”?

  • It is a “Judaic conception of the human person” as “the seat of understanding, knowledge, and will” – Jewett.

 

This is remarkable stuff!

  • The heart, in this sense, is the place of faith – our knowledge, affections and hope.
  • In this place the Spirit enables and sustains our saving faith – our hope in the midst of suffering.

 

So this is why it is God, and not ourselves, about whom we boast.

  • The Spirit poured out in love into our hearts displaces the shame of suffering with a hope from
  • “Divine love addresses shame at its deepest level…” – Robert Jewett.

 

Finally, to hope in our suffering is not an irrational delusion for the Christian.

  • It points to the very real presence of God’s “poured out” love through the Holy Spirit.
  • It points to the very real fact that we have been “righteoused” by God.