21 October 2023

What are the benefits of God's grace?

Major Lynley Oliver

Major Lynley Oliver reminds us of the peace and hope received from God.

Key text

Up pops another alert on my phone. The phone: another disruptor of peace. Or is it? Is the experience of our soul’s peace so delicate that we are incapable of being exposed to daily stresses whereby our peace might crumble?

The backdrop from which Paul wrote Romans was anything but peaceful – his context was one of tension. In Reading Romans Backwards, Scot McKnight comments: ‘Not only tension of all that the Roman Empire represented, but also conflict of two groups of believers: 1) Gentiles who believed in Jesus as Messiah but did not fervently uphold the Torah and 2) Jewish believers looking for affirmation in their election.’

Unbelievable, isn’t it? To think that there could be tension within a group of believers.

One of Paul’s desires in Romans is to bring balance; that Torah-observing Jews should not perceive the Gentiles as inferior, and that Gentiles ought not perceive Torah observers as a lesser people. He affirms both parties and has encouragement for both; we are called to live in the economy of God’s grace.

Paul does not have an easy solution. It is amid tension that Paul writes: ‘Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (v1). The peace Paul describes possesses the capability of cutting the tension of the world, pointing us to the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6).

Pause and reflect

  • How does having peace with God affect your daily life and relationships?
  • When have you felt the peace of God in a challenging situation?

What do peace and hope look like when we consider a world of tensions and then recognise areas of inner conflict when we struggle with a heart of tension, causing a divided heart? The Hebrew word that describes peace – shalom – denotes the absence of conflict. In Peace in Paul and Luke, Michael Gorman writes: ‘Shalom is more than peace amidst circumstance. It is a deep conscious awareness of wholeness, and it is Jesus who is the shape and the source of shalom.’

A photo shows a drop of water delicately balanced on a rippling surface.

Romans 5:6

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

Read Romans 5

Our sole basis of peace is Christ, through whom we are justified by faith. We are encouraged to remember that everything, including peace and hope, is granted only by God’s grace (see v2).

Despite being recipients of God’s extravagant grace, it can be tricky to extend that to others in our daily lives. An honest examination of our hearts allows us to become aware of inner tension. In our best of times, we know we stand in the grace of God but then suddenly tension can build within.

Pause and reflect

  • When peace appears to be eroding, how do we take a deeper and more deliberate stand upon the promises of the one who is peace and hope?

Our personal trials may not equate to those of Paul’s, but there is a deep connection between perseverance, character development and hope.

Perseverance is the ability to endure – to keep going when things become tough. It is through this perseverance that our character is developed and strengthened. When we acknowledge that we are made in God’s image, and seek to mirror more of him, attributes of our character become more akin to his. In the context of these verses, when we face difficulties head on – with determination and resilience – our character is refined and moulded.

Pause and reflect

  • How can we cultivate a mindset of rejoicing in the hope of God’s glory?
  • Consider the difference between worldly hope and the hope we have in God.
  • How does this hope sustain us in times of suffering?

Recently I returned from holiday in a storm, which caused extreme turbulence on the plane for most of the journey. Normally, this would have caused me to turn inward to pray that God would protect us all the way. On that flight, I had a revelation about turning my prayers to him and so, as I named his attributes above the storm outside, my storm inside decreased – not in terms of wind speed knots but in the knots of my worry.

As our character develops, it brings forth hope and this hope is not a fleeting wish or desire, but a confident dependency on God’s faithfulness and goodness, which allows us to see that he is with us, supporting us and working all things together for good (see Romans 8:28). What’s more: we have the Holy Spirit’s help available!

Pause and reflect

  • Reflect on the sacrificial love of Christ described in verses 6 to 8. How does his sacrifice reveal his love and hope for humanity?
  • How can we emulate Christ’s sacrificial love in our relationships and interactions with others?

Hope does not stop with us. We can reflect on the blessings of reconciliation with God and how it brings us true hope – a hope to be shared as we rejoice in it and in him (see v11).

Theologian NT Wright is convinced that reconciliation is at the heart of Paul’s ministry and that it is a mark of the Church. If that is an accurate description, what is our part to play?

Of course, Paul refers to an eschatological hope. Peace and hope are also present in the person of Jesus. We are reminded of the lavish blessings we have received through our faith in Christ. We have peace with God, who offers steadfast hope that can sustain us through difficult times.

May our lives reflect the peace and hope we have received.

Bible study by

A photo of Lynley Oliver.

Major Lynley Oliver

Spiritual Formation Co-ordinator, William Booth College

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