Meditations in Romans : 11: A Rejoicing People
Rom 5:11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
When one hears about “world religions” we do not tend to hear about people rejoicing. Religion, for much of the time, seems to be made up of those who are focusing on performing rituals to appease their deity or deities. Even when the words appear to praise and extol the One God, the people in question appear to do little rejoicing over the wonder of their faith and appear to have little to rejoice over. Perhaps this is so obvious to us who are Christians that we ourselves have lost the wonder of it and any ‘rejoicing’ is only a formal use of words rather than an exuberant expression of the heart.
This is one of the things that the crusading atheists of our age appear to miss again and again and one wonders if it is because we Christians are not sufficiently vocal over the wonder of what has happened to us. Before I became a Christian I was lonely, insecure, unsure of myself, used abusive language most of the time, was on the edge of becoming an alcoholic, and life just drifted on with little point than coping with the day. When I came to Christ I was utterly transformed. Now I know a number who became Christians when they were children and so do not have such testimonies, but I also know many who do have similar testimonies. It is the testimony of a wonderful transformation and it only happened when we encountered God’s love and forgiveness after we had been told about Jesus.
Chastising Simon the Pharisee, Jesus concluded, “he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Lk 7:47) The man who had been delivered from demons in the land of the Gadarenes, “went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” (Lk 8:39) When Jesus healed two blind me, despite him telling them to tell no one, we find, “they went out and spread the news about him all over that region” (Mt 9:31) No one, not even Jesus could restrain their joy. Possibly the clearest case of this was the man who had been a cripple from birth who was healed by Peter and John who “went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.” (Acts 3:8) The truth is that when God does something great for you, you can’t hold it in, you rejoice. Again my favourite testimony in the Bible is the blind man healed in John, chapter 9, who was challenged about Jesus, but he wasn’t bothered about Jesus’ credentials: “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (Jn 9:25)
The point should be very obvious – the more you are forgiven, the greater the rejoicing and thankfulness. Even as I write a young lady who has been appearing in the media has just been declared innocent of a crime she had been convicted of and given a long sentence. The new pictures in the press are of this young lady in tears of thankfulness. Perhaps some of us don’t feel thankful or feel like rejoicing because we don’t realise the enormity of our “crimes” and therefore hardly see the point of the Cross.
I spoke earlier of my own testimony and of the wonder of the transformation I experienced. Part of the wonder of the early days was, I am sure, because of the work of the Holy Spirit renewing me. At that time I am not sure that I was very much aware of the enormity of my crimes; I was more taken up with the wonder of what was happening to me. As the years have gone by, I realise more and more what I am really like, left to myself, and I thus realise more and more the wonder of God’s love and of His grace as He deals with me.
Paul’s language, if the translators have got it right, it a little strange at first sight – “we also rejoice in God….” In verses 2 and 3 Paul had said “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings.” i.e. rejoice because we have now this wonder in sharing in the wonder of God’s very presence and because of that we can also rejoice in the face of adversity because He is actually with us in it and in us in it. Perhaps this part of verse 11 could be translated, “we rejoice because we are in God.” In the same way that Scripture speaks of us being “in Christ” so we are also “in God”. Because He is in us (literally) we are linked or united with Him or ‘in Him’. So our rejoicing here flows from the experience of being one with Him.
Praying for his future church, Jesus said, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (Jn 17:20,21). There it is! Jesus is speaking of our oneness with the Godhead. So now today we rejoice because we are one with the Godhead and it is out of the experience of that, that we rejoice or, if you like, because of it and that is what motivates us.
And, of course, all this is because of Jesus who has done all that was needed to bring about our reconciliation to God. Jesus’ death opened the door for us to come to God and as the Holy Spirit convicted us, so we came and knelt at the Father’s feet. As we bowed before His Lordship, we accepted the salvation He offered us and He forgave us, cleansed us and united us with Himself by means of His Spirit, and thus made us His sons and daughters. As we realise this and as we experience this, we rejoice. As we started out by saying, no where else in the world is there a body of men and women who have this same cause for rejoicing. We are indeed blessed!