Hardships, Patience, Character, Hope
Re-Translated In December 1999
1. There is a saying "Troubles turn you into treasure." It means "A person begins to develop fine character by experiencing difficulties." There is also a saying "Patience is a jewel for life." It means "Because being patient is the foundation for happiness, experiences requiring patience are very valuable." When looked at like this, the idea of evaluating troubles in a positive way is not so unusual for us to do. Today, we read chapter five of The Epistle To The Roman Disciples. Both verses three and four are sentences that look alike at first glance. "But that is not all, we rejoice1 in suffering. We know that suffering produces patience, patience produces character2 , character produces hope." However, in this temporary world since there are also "counterfeits" we need to be cautious with scriptural words like these. Is it truly speaking here of a kind of "Troubles turn you into treasure?"
2. When we read this again, we notice something immediately. Although this is a good message as far as the words, in reality things don't always go that way. Hardships do not always make you into a jewel. Isn't that so? Do hardships produce patience and does patience produce character? Does character produce hope? "Hardships produce discontent and grumbling and discontent and grumbling produce a rotten character, and a rotten character produces hopelessness." Isn't this [more like] the common experience? In verse five is written "hope will not deceive us." Can we really claim that? Isn't it better [to say] humanity has continuously been deceived for so long by such a fleeting and momentary hope? How in the world should we respond to such a message as this from Paul? How can we live in [this] process of going from hardships to hope as Paul tells of?
A Hope That Takes Part In The Glory Of God
3. Next then, I'd like to read with you from chapter five and verses one to five.
"Likewise, since we have been justified by faith, we have acquired peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ and thanks to Christ, we are led into current blessings by faith and rejoice in a hope that takes part in the glory of God. But that is not all, we rejoice in suffering. We know that suffering produces patience, patience produces character, character produces hope. Hope will never deceive us; for, the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us," (verses one through five).
4. From the beginning of verse one, one thing is already clear to us. It is that Paul is not talking about a common experience of this world. He is talking about what has to do with faith. To put it more precisely, he is speaking as "a person who has been justified by faith." Up to this point the text has been demonstrating that "justifying a person is not based on the works of the law but is based on faith," (3:28). From here the argument is on "How does one define the life of the person justified by faith?" and "What does it mean to live as a person justified by faith?" Thus, we can see in this epistle his entering into a new section from here. The first thing the scriptures speak on is "acquiring peace with God." Surely "being justified" is none other than "acquiring peace with God." [It speaks of a] person who has been in sin and has lost his or her peace with God, but they are made to recover in a righteous relationship with God and acquire peace with God. Therefore, we understand the words I brought up earlier of "Hardships [produce] patience, patience character, character hope" were given in connection with "peace with God." In other words, it is not a general principle [of worldly society], but is given as words which you can first use for yourself after acquiring "peace with God."
5. So, let's read on ahead a little at a time. What will "peace with God" produce first? "Peace with God" will produce hope. Paul expresses his own time when he acquired peace with God in the following way:
"Thanks to Christ we are led into current blessings by faith and we rejoice in a hope that takes part in the glory of God," (verse two).
7. If we literally translate "current blessings" which we have written here [in The New Interconfessional Version] it will be "the grace in which we stand." It is an expression as if we were standing in some kind of great house of "blessing or grace." The phrase "we are led" causes us to associate it in our imaginations with a royal palace. Any way, Paul was not standing in it as if he deserved to. The text has "Thanks to Christ." Christ has opened this pathway for us. The Lord Jesus, who was handed over to death for our sins and who was raised from the dead for our justification, has opened the door to grace for us. And, through the opened door we are led into grace. That we have acquired peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ means so to speak that we have been led into a great house called grace.
8. Furthermore, the text has "by faith." We are led by faith. Faith was necessary here. What kind of faith was that? If you go by chapter four and verse eighteen, it was the same faith as Abraham's faith which "when there was no way to hope he still embraced [a higher] hope and believed." [The same faith was necessary] because there was surely no hope outside the house called "grace." Why was there no hope? Because humanity has sin. Please recall the words "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God," (3:23). Sinful as we are none of us can endure the righteous judgment of God. That we can't endure judgment means our final destination is only destruction. We will not be able to take part in eternal life. There is no hope for us to share in the glory of God. That there is no hope in having a share in the glory of God means there is ultimately no hope of any kind at all. Because the things we hold up as hope before our eyes all end up soon passing away.
9. But, that's where Christ has opened the door for us. There is no doubt that we are without means of hope by ourselves, but as we still embrace our hopes, believe and are led by faith, we are allowed to enter into grace. Paul has spoken so as a person already led into grace. He expresses his blessedness as follows: "I rejoice in the hope that takes part in the glory of God!" That's right, a person who is given peace with God and who is in grace is no longer a person who falls short of the glory of God. He is not a person who has no hope. He is able to live with great joy over the hope of taking part in the glory of God.
10. Therefore, Paul says besides "But that's not all, I rejoice in sufferings as well," because only a hope that takes part in the glory of God can convert sufferings into great joy. The reason for that is recorded in verses three and four. [It is] because hardship produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope. Why does suffering produce perseverance? [It does] because it has hope. It is not a nearsighted hope; for it is an eschatological [end times] hope. A person, who knows that come what may he or she will ultimately be able to participate in the glory of God, can persevere. In this text "perseverance or patience" is not merely waiting something out willingly or tolerating things. That's not what it means, rather it means to stick it out in a positive way. One remains in his or her situation and doesn't run away and abandon things. That is the patience spoken of in this text. A person who has no hope cannot stay put. He or she thinks only of running away. Hope itself is the source which produces patience out of suffering.
11. Furthermore, patience produces character. This word "character" is a word used to express refined metal that has had its impurities removed. In the same way, through patience a person has impurities removed from his or her daily living and life and is purified. In this way a person is prepared for that time of taking part in the glory of God. Therefore, character produces hope anew. Thus, the hope which participates in the glory of God is made more and more certain. What kind of marvelous spiraling process might [this] be? It is an awareness of being in God's grace that lends support to this particular spiral. Furthermore, it is the love of God that pours into the heart of a person living in grace. It is the love of God which is poured into one's heart even when one is in hardship. When one really has this love, hope makes an opportunity out of hardship and produces a more certain hope. Therefore, based on God's love Paul confidently proclaims the following: "Hope will never deceive us; for, the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
The Love Of God Produced Hope
12. Thereupon, Paul goes on to further explain the greatness of "the love of God," and he makes clear the foundation for hope. Please look from verse six to verse eight.
"At a set time when we were still weak, Christ truly died for the sinful. There is hardly a person who will die for a righteous person. There may be a person who will reluctantly give his life for a good person. However, God showed his love for us by this: when we were still sinners, Christ died for us," (verses six through eight).
13. Paul is trying to speak in this text of Christ. He begins to tell of the one named Jesus of Nazareth who walked this earth and was crucified and died. What does this mean? When he says, "The love of God which is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit," he does not merely mean our sensual experiences. It is not a kind of "I guess I felt affection from God." The love of God is inseparably linked to that once-for-all event in world history.
14. Paul states that "God showed his love for us when Christ died for us." Where was God's love shown? It was there on the cross. "There is hardly a person who will die for a righteous person. There may be a person who will reluctantly give his life for a good person," (verse seven). This is the limit of which a human can understand. On behalf of a person one can find worthy, one can give up his life. We might be able to understand that. However, the love of God shown in Christ transcends that limitation. Christ died not for those who are worthy but for the unworthy and not for the righteous but for the sinner. It is not because we have been deeply devoted to him. It is not because we have been strong and righteous persons. We were weak, impious, sinners for whom Christ died. That is why we were forgiven and justified. That is why we were reconciled to God. [That] is why we acquired peace with God. The love of God was shown right there on the cross of Christ.
15. The love of God spoken of in verse five is precisely this love. In other words, the love of God pouring into our hearts by the Holy Spirit means that we come to understand fully the love of God shown on the cross. We see in that event from which we are separated both in time and space the love of God and we understand through that love that we ourselves are being loved now. We never would have expected anything like that. It [could] never [have] come from humankind. It is something God alone is capable of doing. Therefore, it is "by the Holy Spirit."
16. Furthermore, this is how by the Holy Spirit the very person indeed who has been shown the love of God on the cross acquires also a certain hope. Paul spoke like this in verse nine and following:
"With that now, since we have been justified by the blood of Christ, then how much more are we saved from the wrath of God by Christ[!] Even though we were once enemies if we have been reconciled with God by the death of his son, even more now are we reconciled and are we saved by the life of his son[!] That is not all, by our Lord Jesus Christ we rejoice in God; for, now through Christ we have received reconciliation," (verses nine through eleven).
18. Since we can rejoice because the love of God has been poured out and we have been reconciled with God, we can be confident that it is not the wrath of God that we ultimately expect to see. We know that the place we are heading for is nowhere but perfect salvation. Therefore, Paul declares emphatically that "We rejoice in God." These must be the words which only a person who is able to see God as an absolute friend or supporter can say. Paul speaks as a person who sees God as one who is an absolute ally and not an enemy both in the present and the future. This is the foundation for "the hope which takes part in the glory of God" which Paul has been speaking of. That is, it is the basis of the perfect hope which lets one be alive in the cycle of going from hardship to patience, from patience to character, from character to hope.
19. Upon entering chapter five, Paul has begun to speak in this way on the life of the person justified by faith. He does not express these things with an "I" but a "we." [Paul uses "I" later.] That is, this is given in regard to all persons who have been justified by faith. After being justified by faith we too, as Paul surely once did, can live as we acquire peace with God. As we acquire peace with God, we too, as Paul surely once did, are permitted to live rejoicing in the hope which takes part in the glory of God. In rejoicing in the hope which takes part in the glory of God we too, as Paul once did, are allowed to live in the process which is supported by God's love wherein [we progress] from hardship to patience, from patience to character, from character to hope.
1 Literally, "take pride in." The Japanese follows the connotation of pride in the Greek word which means both pride or joy. Being proud and boastful can be similar in meaning to joy. One is so happy he or she wants to tell everyone why. That is New Testament joy or pride. Also, in this series on Romans human pride is a source of sin, but pride from God is a source of salvation. Taking pride in God is realizing one is a sinner with nothing to be proud of.
2 This Japanese word "character" means experience, mastery, skill, dexterity. The Japanese word can be written in two different kanji characters of the same pronunciation, rentatsu, which would include the meaning of purification and refinement. The Greek word is "h dokimh" which is also rich in meaning. According to Bauer's Greek Lexicon it means:
- 'the quality of being approved', hence character Ro 5:4 (as a result of endurance and a prerequisite for hope). ginwskein thn d. tinoV put someone to the test 2 Cor 2:9; know someone's character Phil 2:22. d. thV diakoniaV the approved character of your service 2 Cor 9:13.
- test, ordeal (Sextus 7 a d. pistewV) en pollh dokimh qliyewV in a great ordeal of affliction 8:2; d.zhtein desire proof 13:3. M-M.*