What does Romans 5:4 mean?
ESV: and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
NIV: perseverance, character; and character, hope.
NASB: and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
CSB: endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.
NLT: And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
KJV: And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
Describing the fantastic benefits that come with being justified by God's grace through our faith in Christ, Paul began the previous verse by saying that we "rejoice in our sufferings." He does not mean "we" in the sense of all mankind, but in the context of those who express faith in God, as exemplified by Abraham. Paul also did not mean by this that we feel happy when things are hard. Instead he showed that, for those in Christ, suffering is an opportunity to move closer to God and to grow in our faith. Suffering for the believer, Paul wrote, produces endurance, the ability to continue trusting God for longer periods of time and through more difficult circumstances.
Now he adds that this battle-tested faith of endurance produces in Christians the quality of character. Christians of character choose to keep doing the right things on a consistent basis. The pattern is that suffering causes us to trust God on a deeper level, and the more we trust God, the most likely we are to consistently make right choices. We become Christians of proven character.
Character, too, produces a new quality in us: hope. In the context of Romans and the New Testament, "hope" is confidence that God will deliver what He promised. Hope implies some level of certainty that we will receive God's good forever. Hope defines the baseline or a "bottom line" for a Christian's thoughts and emotions. No matter what comes along, we are fully convinced that our ultimate end will be sharing in the glories of God forever.
Romans 5:1–11 describes the amazing benefits that come with being declared righteous before God by faith in Christ's death for our sin. God has made peace with us. We stand in His grace, and we rejoice in the sure hope that we will share in His glory. Our suffering brings growth, which leads to even more potent hope. God has proven His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We are saved from God's wrath and reconciled to God in Christ.
Romans 5 begins by describing some of the benefits that come with being declared righteous by God because of our faith in Christ. We have peace with God, and we stand in His grace. We rejoice both in the hope of God's glory and in our temporary suffering. We have hope that will not disappoint, because God has already proved His love for us. Paul then compares the work of Adam in bringing sin and death into the world with the work of Christ in dying for sin in order to offer God's free gift of grace to all who believe.
After proving that all men are guilty of sin and incapable of earning salvation, Paul explained how faith—not works—is the means by which God declares us righteous. Romans 5 begins with a powerful, joyful revelation of all that comes with being justified in God's eyes by our faith in Christ. We have peace with God. We stand in God's grace. We have hope for eternal glory and meaning in our current suffering. God has proven His love for us in the death of Christ for our sin while we were still sinners. Adam introduced sin and death to the world, and they continue. Christ, though, by dying for our sin brought God's grace to all who believe. The next chapter begins by refuting a common misconception about salvation by grace through faith.
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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