KEY THOT: Paul describes the fruit of justification by faith as "peace with God". In other words, by faith in Jesus Christ, we are acquitted of all our sins and now reconciled with God as His children. But Paul didn't stop there: he said "we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand". This little word "also" tells us that there is more to justification than peace with God. Justification is the beginning of our spiritual transformation, not the end. Once we have peace with God, we are in the place where we can plug into the divine grace that empowers us to "rejoice in hope." This hope enables us to rejoice even "in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope" (v.3-4).
What Paul is saying is that hope is a fruit of suffering that produces character. Hope is a quality associated with a godly character--an optimism that has a never-say-die attitude towards life's challenges. Hope is not a wish (as in "hoping for the best"); but hope is certainty about an outcome based on faith as it is solidly grounded in God's promises and our life experiences.
So, as much as we thank God we have peace with God because we have been justified by faith, we have to recognize that this is just the "entry grade" in God's kingdom. There is more to eternal life than this: salvation is not a passport but a bank account. It gives us access to God's bank of His grace (spiritual riches) and these riches are meant to be spent in this life to build godly character marked by hope. Paul asserts that "hope does not disappoint" (NIV) because "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (v.5). So, hope is the prerequisite fruit of divine love, for we cannot love as God loves unless we have hope in God and in others. And the Holy Spirit is given to help us move towards the goal of divine love.
When we condemn and criticize a fellow believer, we demonstrate unlove because it reveals an attitude of pessimism that is contrary to attitude of optimism that underlies agape-love. If we have hope in others, we will be encouraging instead of disparaging. And we also invest in mentoring, training and equipping others with the right knowledge, skills and attitudes--just as Jesus did to his disciples.
And that is the essence of true discipleship: from justification to sanctification, from peace with God to hope and love of God.
Father, fill our hearts with Your Spirit that we might know the love of God that will empower us to help others move from peace with God to obtain a godly character filled with the hope and love of God. Amen.