LET HIM WHO BOASTS BOAST IN THE LORD
by Steve Zeisler
On a beautiful sunny afternoon on a recent Sunday I had the privilege of
attending a baptism service at the fountain in White Plaza at Stanford University.
More than twenty Stanford students stood and proclaimed in clear tones that
they were followers of Jesus Christ and that in their community they wanted
to stand publicly for the Lord. I was on the edge of the crowd, and as I
strained to hear some of the more soft-spoken individuals speak of their
faith in Christ, I could also hear the passersby. Some ridiculed the baptism
that was taking place. Others continued in their conversations and ignored
what was going on. Still others seemed attracted by what they heard. It
struck me that the voices I could hear were multiplied thousands of times
around the university in dormitories and classrooms and libraries and computer
centers. The university is a place of intense conversation, self-declaration
and intellectual argument. It is a place of exaltation of the human spirit
if you will, even arrogance. But in the very center of the campus men and
women stood saying, "Jesus Christ is my Lord, and I will live the rest
of my life in his service," and then they made public proclamation
of their faith by being baptized.
The reason I describe this scene is that it reminds me of the argument of
the book of Romans. Let's review the first four chapters briefly. These
chapters, too, are filled with human voices arguing their case and calling
attention to themselves. The self-proclaimed sinners knowingly and openly
rail against God and everything he stands for. The finger-pointing moralists
deflect attention from their own sin by judging the flaws and failures of
others. The very religious and outspoken teachers of the law, who often
speak of the things of God and name his name, also by what they say deflect
God's statement about their need. As the argument progresses these voices
grow louder and louder and make their assertions more frequently.
There is a Greek word used several times in these chapters that I would
like you to consider with me, because it's going to come up again in the
passage we will look at today. It is the word kauchaomai. It can
be translated two different ways depending on whether the context is negative
or positive. When it is used negatively it means to boast, brag, or vaunt
yourself. When it is used positively it means to rejoice or to exult in,
to be thrilled with, things that are worthy of your feelings for them. In
chapter 2 verse 23 Paul castigates those who boast in the law and dishonor
the God who gave the law by breaking it. In chapter 4 verse 2 Paul says
that if Abraham had been justified by what he did, he might have boasted
or bragged before God; but he couldn't because his works weren't sufficient.
In chapter 3 verse 27 Paul summarizes the negative use of this term kauchaomai
by saying, "Where, then, is boasting? It is [entirely] excluded."
An important phrase that draws a conclusion to Paul's argument in the first
three chapters of the book is found in chapter 3 verse 19. It says, "...that
every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God."
In exposing all the false speech, the apostle is driving toward this point:
Everybody should be quiet-no more promotion of sin, no more casting of blame,
no more judging of others, no more clever denials, no more extenuating circumstances.
The voice of God speaks through the Scriptures as Paul quotes the damning
indictment over and over in these Old Testament phrases:
"There is no one righteous, not even one;
The entire world should stand speechless as the word of God speaks the indictment.
Our desparate condition is declared and there is nothing anyone can say.
there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God."
"...ruin and misery mark their ways...."
"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
But then, glory of glories, the heavenly Father offers a gift to silenced
sinners, not because they deserve it but because he loves them: You can
be made right with God because of what Jesus Christ has done. And if you
accept the gift, everything changes. Where once there was unrighteousness,
now there is righteousness; where once distance, now acceptance.
Having illustrated this point in chapter 4 by speaking of Abraham and David,
Paul is finally going to pick up the logic of his argument again in chapter
5. The question is now, if everything has changed, how should we understand
the new life that is ours?
I remember several years ago reading about what happened to some Japanese
soldiers after World War II. The Japanese had conquered most of the islands
in the Pacific, some of which were extremely remote and unpopulated. The
war ended, the Japanese surrendered, peace was established, and the world
got on with its business. But there were Japanese soldiers stranded on these
remote islands, some of them living in caves. They had no contact with the
outside world, and some of them went for as long as twenty years thinking
they were still fighting the war. They were finally discovered subsisting
in these caves by those who had once been their enemies, who invited them
into the modern world, offered food, clothing, and medical help. These soldiers
found out that Japan had lost the war, and now peace reigned between the
That picture is something like what Paul is describing. In chapter 5 we're
going to start learning about what it means to live this Christian life
we have been given. Verses 1-2:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have
peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 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.
We have been given access into the presence of God, and we stand in a circle
of grace approved of completely, instead of living in a cave and hiding
from God from whom we were once estranged. We now have a friendship where
once there was enmity. So now that the problems are over, now that the gift
has been given, what shall take place? Wonderfully, these opening verses
of chapter 5 speak three times of the word kauchaomai; of exultation
and rejoicing. Where once we were silenced by the reading of the indictment
against us, now three times we will read here that we are to rejoice or
exult. We are to speak up, because we have songs to sing and a name to name.
We can hold our head high and boast in the best sense of the word of what
the Lord has done for us. In verse 2 it says, "...we rejoice in the
hope of the glory of God." In verse 3, "...we rejoice in our sufferings."
And in verse 11, "...we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus
Let's talk for a moment about this business of exulting or rejoicing. At
the heart of the word it just means to declare yourself, to speak of something
that matters to you, to take a stand, to speak up, to announce who you are
and what you stand for openly and clearly and loudly. It is to rejoice because
the object of which we speak inspires joy.
For example, if you wear a Giants' hat into Dodger Stadium, you are exulting
in or being a fan of the Giants. You are taking a stand, saying who you
are regardless of whether the people around you want to hear it or not.
Another example is a wonderful experience I had just this morning. I came
in about 7:30, and the choir was up on the platform practicing. Kathy Hansen
was standing on the end of the riser. Glenn Pickett, our minister of music,
noticed that she had a ring on. He stopped everything and said, "Kathy,
are you engaged?" She blushed and said, "Yes, I'm engaged! Look
at my ring!" And as choir members began kidding her she said, "I'm
going to get married!" and started jumping around on the risers. Her
exultation was infectious-joy spread to everyone in the room.
Now let's look at the three things Paul tells us we rejoice in. We rejoice
first of all in the hope of the glory of God. Hope is a very important word
in the Bible and a critically important concept in the world we live in.
I believe our world is more hopeless than it has been in ages. Western culture
had Christian foundations once, but it has lost them, and there is a growing
darkness and hopelessness that surround us everywhere. Human beings cannot
survive without hope. This is one of the reasons that the urban underclass,
as sociologists describe it, is in such desperate shape now. No matter what
the government or individuals do to try to change the horrible circumstances
of our cities, most of the people who live there don't believe it's going
to do any good. There is absolutely no reason to hope that tomorrow is going
to be any better than today. So why go to school? Why get a job? Why try
to make a marriage? It's not going to work. Many in that situation have
no reason to think that any good thing is going to come of their lives.
Children are sometimes helped by just being given hope that their parents
believe in them. Tell your child, "You don't have to give in to the
sins that your peers give in to, because there is something great that is
going to happen to you some day. Your body was meant for something better
than drugs. Your sexuality is a gift that doesn't need to be spent on something
that is unworthy of it. You are a remarkable person, and I can see a great
future for you."
Even commercials have raised the same issues. Michael Jordan sells shoes
and Pepsi and so forth, and one of the tag-lines of his commercials is,
"I want to be like Mike." So children put up posters of Michael
Jordan in their rooms. And sometimes even that might give them enough to
not give up: "I want to be like that; I don't want to settle for anything
less. So I'll stay in school and work hard." It's interesting that
even the advertising world has captured the truth that if you can somehow
pass hope on to somebody, you have done them a great service.
The very first thing that Paul says of us who have come out of the caves
and are now standing before the throne of God in the circle of grace is
that we exult in the hope of the glory of God. Now, he isn't saying that
we are rejoicing because God is glorious. That is true, but what he is saying
is that we rejoice because we have the hope that we are going to partake
in God's glory. We will one day be like him; we will reflect his glory to
the universe. We will be near him in his glory. We are destined to be like
our Lord with no distance, no waiting between us. We will be filled with
the glory of God and will be offering back to him praise because he is glorious.
That is what the future holds for us. It is as if, having walked into this
circle of grace that we didn't belong in before, we can look off into the
distance and see ourselves as we will be some day, when God has completed
his work in us, when all the things we hate about ourselves are over with,
all of the deterioration has ended, and everything has been made new. And
because we're destined for that we rejoice or exult in the hope of the glory
THE RESULT OF SUFFERING
Verse 3 then raises the second reason for rejoicing or exulting:
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because
we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and
character, hope. 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.
If the first word of exultation is to look to the future and see what we
are destined for, the second word of exultation has everything to do with
the present. It is hard-headed honesty about the real world. In this life
we will have troubles. Things break down, relationships fail, people disappoint
us, and we do things we're ashamed of. We seemed gripped by problems that
we can't get out of. We have illness, loss of jobs, angry relationships,
everything you can think of in the way of suffering. Yet the apostle says
we rejoice in our sufferings. He is not saying that we like pain as if we
were masochists. He is saying that we recognize as Christians that the God
who is sovereign over our lives would use our suffering for a purpose. It
is not random or without its reasons, although God is not required to explain
the reasons to us.
Many of you know that I had knee surgery in December. I spent six weeks
on crutches with my leg immobilized. The combination of surgery and then
immobilization produced a weakened and constricted joint. Then I was supposed
to rehabilitate it, and that meant inflicting pain on myself. The whole
point was to make the knee bend and break adhesions within it, but it didn't
want to do that. It suffered and protested. I put more weight on it, demanding
that it lift heavier amounts all the time because I was trying to strengthen
muscles that had atrophied. The pain was required in order to gain mobility
again. Suffering led to strength and opportunity. Once I could walk and
go where I hoped to go, there was the possibility for relationships, service,
learning, joy, and so on.
That is the kind of progress that Paul is pointing to here. Suffering makes
us stronger than we ever believed we could be. To have to trust God with
something that is very hard and to see him give us the strength to survive
make us different people than we were before. And once we grow stronger
we realize that our character is changing. We do not merely experience isolated
incidents of faith. We have become people of faith. Suffering leads to perseverance,
which leads to character, and finally that leads to hope. Now we are back
where we started-the hope of the glory of God. The whole process of facing
this world as it really is and trusting God in the midst of real life, drawing
on his strength, and becoming a different person leads us again to look
forward to that which has not yet happened. We can see the invisible more
clearly than ever.
Now in his wisdom Paul, this great teacher of the gospel, raises a question:
Is it possible that this is somehow just wishful thinking? May it not be
that the hope at which we arrive will disappoint us if we lean on it too
heavily? What about suffering that doesn't look like it has any useful purpose
at all? It is one thing to say that you are rehabilitating your leg and
making it strong, or to to say that you have some horrible habits that have
led to misery in your life, and you are going to start disciplining yourself-stop
doing drugs, being angry with your kids, and doing all the things you shouldn't
do-and become a better person as a result. That suffering leads to a useful
end. But what about all the suffering that is absolutely without explanation,
that doesn't lead to any good thing that you can see? What about the suffering
of children who are innocent? What about the tragedy of the rape and pillage
and desecration going on in regions of the world that lead to no good thing
and to misery upon misery? Can we say that this suffering is leading to
hope? Will hope disappoint us?
The apostle takes up the challenge. In verse 5 he says, "And hope does
not disappoint us...." The reason it does not disappoint us, he contends,
is because of the nature of the love of God. We are deeply loved by God,
and that is the great, inexplicable, remarkable power that makes our hope
reasonable and secure. We don't receive just a little bit of love; it is
poured out into our hearts. We are treated to an avalanche of God's love!
The love of God is described to us here as both something we can think of
logically and rationally, and something that is beyond reason.
The first point that he makes is that the love of God is poured out into
our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us. As we walk with the Lord,
you and I will have times of intense awareness of intimacy with God that
cannot be explained. The only way to describe the experience is to say that
we are overwhelmed by the power of the Spirit resident in our hearts.
As some of you know, my wife's mother died the day before Easter. Leslie
was with her sister and father at her parents' home. Her mother was in bed,
and she and her dad described a deep sense of the presence of the Spirit
of God as Betty died. They could say that there was a peacefulness about
her breathing when it ended. But beyond anything they could articulate,
they said that the Spirit of God was in their midst, embracing them. As
they lost their beloved, he was there. There are elements of the love of
God that we can't do anything but experience, although we occasionally attempt
poetry to speak of it. That is the best we can do.
UNDERSTANDING GOD'S LOVE
Then Paul goes on to speak of the reasonableness of the love of God. It
is also true that we can be sure that God loves us for reasons that will
make sense to us if we think about them. Verses 6-10:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless,
Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous
man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates
his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for
There are three phrases here that speak in turn of increasingly awful aspects
of our prior existence. Verse 6: "when we were still powerless."
Verse 8: "while we were still sinners." Verse 10: "when we
were God's enemies." We were powerless before the gift of righteousness
was given us; we couldn't fix things. We would strut around and imagine
ourselves to be important, but we could accomplish nothing that was really
worth accomplishing. We were sinners; that is, we were shamed and defiled.
And finally, we were God's enemies.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we saved
from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were
reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been
reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Now here is the logic of Paul's argument: If God would send his Son to die
for us in that condition, if he could look clearly at us and see nothing
but rebellion and unrighteousness and love us anyway, if the Father gave
the life of his Son for us, if the cross had real blood on it and the tomb
was really empty because the Lord became human and suffered on our behalf-if
all that is true, then isn't he going to love us more now? Can't we be more
sure that he is our friend now that we have peace with God, now that we
can love him in return? Shouldn't we be more certain now, on the Godward
side of the gift of righteousness, that he will care about us, even though
our suffering seems absolutely beyond any explanation we can think of? We
can be sure God loves us because he loved us when we didn't deserve it.
The argument says that if the greater is true, the lesser must also be true.
That kind of argument is a helpful way to think. As parents you might have
had a rocky time with teenage children in which you experienced anger, rebellion,
yelling, distance, hardship, heartache, and hurting of one another-all the
awful things that can happen during rebellious teenage years. But afterward
you would say to your children, "If I stuck with you through all that,
you know I want to be there to dance at your wedding! I want to be there
for you even more now that things have turned around."
That is the argument that Paul is making. Because God gave his Son for us,
we can be sure that he will love us now that we are friends, now that we
have peace with him. So we have the super-rational explanation-the Holy
Spirit's embrace of our hearts-and the rational explanation, the death of
Christ for us when we didn't deserve it. All of that serves to underline
the certainty of God's love, and it is for that reason that hope will not
The last use of the word rejoice or exult is in verse 11:
Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our
Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
In this third use of the term, Paul is not speaking any longer about our
participation in the things of God. In the last phrase here he says we rejoice
simply in God himself through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have a sense of
appreciation for God that is not attached to any benefit to us, but that
is just because he is.
In the book of 1 John there is a wonderful description of the stages of
maturity. John says that when you are little children, you are grateful
that your sins are forgiven and that you have a Father who will listen to
you. When you are young and vital, like young men, you are delighted with
God because you are fighting his battles for him and overcoming the evil
one. And when you are adults in the faith, the simple statement is that
you have known him who is from the beginning. He says that twice. The most
mature men and women are those who are finally able to rejoice in the person
of God as he is. The things of this world make less and less of an impact.
We find our thoughts more and more drawn to him, our hours more filled with
him, our joy in his company and in his reality deeper. That is the third
word of exultation here in verse 11. We rejoice in God himself.
It's thrilling to me that on the Godward side of the gift of righteousness,
the awful silence is over. There is a great deal to rejoice about. We have
a lot to say. We can sing songs of praise because we have hope in the glory
of God; we will be participants in his glory. We look squarely at our suffering
and are certain of the love of God that gives purpose to our lives, even
if it is very hard and very painful, because the love of God will not disappoint
Lastly, as he gives us the grace to grow, we find ourselves rejoicing in
him for who he is. That too deserves a song to be sung and a word of praise
Catalog No. 4296
May 23, 1993
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