Yesterday we spoke of the grace the Lord has mercifully given us to stand in. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom 5:1-2)
Today I want to look over the next few verses. “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom 5:3-5)
The Greek word kauxáomai that is translated “glory” in the NKJV, means “properly, living with ‘head up high,’ i.e. boasting from a particular vantage point by having the right base of operation to deal successfully with a matter”. It comes from the root word auχēn (neck), which is what holds the head up high (upright). Figuratively, it refers to living with God-given confidence. So verse 3 could be translated, “And not only that, but we also have God-given confidence in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance”.
In this verse, Paul points to a benefit of salvation we experience immediately. For those in Christ, our suffering matters. It counts for something. For those who die without Christ, suffering is merely suffering. It is pain and loss and frustration, resulting in no particular benefit, and coming to no resolution.
For those in Christ, however, suffering has a point, since we’re destined for something higher. It accomplishes great good in us, in fact. Being in Christ does not end our personal, temporary suffering on earth. That suffering does, however, produce something Paul here calls perseverance (or endurance in some translations), which itself produces other powerful, positive characteristics in us.
Perseverance is the ability to keep going when we feel like stopping, as long distance runners train themselves to do. In this context, endurance is about our ability to trust God for longer stretches of time and through greater degrees of difficulty. Suffering, in other words, is an opportunity to trust God at a deeper level through harder stuff.
The next verse adds character to perseverance: “and perseverance, character; and character, hope”. Christians of character choose to keep doing the right things on a consistent basis. The pattern is that suffering causes us to trust God on a deeper level, and the more we trust God, the most likely we are to consistently make right choices. We become Christians of proven character.
Character, too, produces a new quality in us: hope. In the context of Romans and the New Testament, “hope” is confidence that God will deliver what He promised. Hope implies some level of certainty that we will receive God’s good forever. Hope defines the baseline or a “bottom line” for a Christian’s thoughts and emotions. No matter what comes along, we are fully convinced that our ultimate end will be sharing in the glories of God forever.
Now Paul concludes this chain by saying that our hope will never disappoint us. By that, Paul means our hope will be fully vindicated. We will never, in the end, be disappointed for hoping to receive God’s goodness forever. “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Why can believers be so confident about our ultimate destination? Paul’s answer reveals the very emotion of God toward us. His love has been poured in our hearts. In other words, God will always, always keep His promises to us because He loves us. It is not just that God is powerfully able to do what He has promised. It is not just that God is good. It is because He cares about us, loves us, so deeply that each of us actually carries His love inside of us, through the Holy Spirit. That makes God’s promises powerful indeed.
Finally, Paul adds as almost an afterthought that each person who trusts in Christ has been given God’s own Holy Spirit to live in our hearts—in our inner being. That may be the most powerful benefit Paul has mentioned, and he will talk more about it later in Romans. I don’t know about you, but being able to have confidence given to us by God who pours out His love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who sealed us, is humbling and awe-inspiring.
Thank You, Lord, for your generous love and grace. May You remind me of how to genuinely love others as You have commanded in the way that You love us.