Romans 5:1-11 enumerates several things we now enjoy as a result of being justified by faith. The first is “peace with God.” The second is “introduction into this grace in which we stand.” Here’s the third:
“We exult in hope of the glory of God…” (5:2b).
When is the last time your worship, in private or in the assembly, could be described as exultation? Some Sundays it’s possible to sleep through a worship service, or to be so distracted by mundane concerns that it is difficult to focus on the Lord’s Supper, the singing, the preaching.
We do our best to “rejoice” when we worship. In another place, Paul encourages us to, “rejoice always, again I will say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4), which is an expression of joy regardless of the circumstances. The Greek word means, “to rejoice, to be glad, to experience God’s favor.” It is a cognate of the noun “joy”; both joy and rejoice are used countless times in the Bible.
The word “exult” Paul uses in Romans 5 is stronger and rarer. The Greek kauchometha is found only 38 times, and almost all of those times it is translated “boasting” in a mostly negative sense, such as the famous passage in 1 Corinthians 1:31. Since Paul in Romans 5 uses the word with a very positive connotation, the NASB translates “exult” here and only here (three times in this paragraph). One scholar defines it here as “triumphant confidence!” This type of exultation is excited rejoicing in the victory provided by Christ.
When people exult in worship, they break forth in joy at the contemplation of God’s greatness. Their praise cannot be contained. When the ark was brought back to Jerusalem, David could not help himself, but started to dance and leap about with exultation. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, and the disciples told Him to silence the raucous multitude, He responded that if He did, even the stones would cry out.
These are examples of exultation on display, and I suppose one person’s “lifting up holy hands” (1 Timothy 2:8) is another person’s rolling uncontrollably in the aisles. I remember when an elder asked the congregation to kneel in prayer (Acts 20:36) and you would have thought he asked them all to hop on one foot. Sure, it’s easy to confuse exultation for mere emotionalism. But it would be appropriate if, now and then, the heights of our rejoicing and the depths of our prayer were expressed in our posture.
But the exultation Paul speaks of in Romans 5 is deeper still, and isn’t confined to contexts of worship. Paul calls us not just to exultant worship, but to exultant life. That is, the great security we possess as those whom God has justified should be obvious as we move about through our lives and community. Our “triumphant confidence” as Christians should be on display!
Let’s look more closely at the three things we exult in. In verse 2, we exult “in hope of the glory of God.” The glory of God is God Himself, and one day we shall gain the victory and dwell in His presence. We shall see Him as He is, for we shall be like Him, with resurrected and transformed bodies (1 John 3:2). What a powerful hope!
In verse 11, we exult “in God through Christ through whom we have received reconciliation.” We are at peace with God, we stand in God’s grace. What earthly thing can be taken from us to mess with that? Nothing! We count all things as loss for the privilege of being in Christ.
Now the challenging part–in verses 3-4, “we exult in our tribulations, which brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.” Those who are approved of God are often hated by the world. Thus, we take tribulations not as signs of God’s displeasure, but as signs of our fellowship with Him, sharing in the sufferings and kingdom of Christ. Those who suffer with Christ reign with Christ.
Benefits come from experiencing tribulation in a spirit of exultation. Through tribulation, we are refined and purified, as metal in a furnace. We gain perseverance, hypomone, which is that cheerful and contented stick-to-it-iveness that allows us to endure anything and stay true until death. From that we gain “proven character,” the trustworthy standing that results after having passed a test. Through God’s grace, we grow! Through God’s watchful care, things painful for a moment produce a stronger character. And as God is shown trustworthy in our circumstances time and again, it grows even more into hope of eternal life.
Our justification in Jesus’ blood is the most important thing. So, we glory in God, in and out of the church building. One who has not experienced the salvation of the soul can’t understand why do not grow weary and why we do not lose heart. The world just can’t understand why we are so determined to sing His praises. We are so thrilled with our gifts from God, so blessed with our new privileges and position. Let us not fail to live and worship with exultation. –John Guzzetta