The Joy of Everlasting Life
“The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”- Romans 14:17
Having summarized the great truths of the Christian faith on the nature of God and redemption, the Apostles’ Creed concludes with a confession of belief in “the life everlasting.” Knowing that we have eternal life in the blessed presence of God comforts us greatly. Question and answer 58 of the Heidelberg Catechism take up this comfort, turning to Romans 14:17 to explain why the doctrine of everlasting life gives us so much assurance.
Today’s passage refers to the kingdom of God, a term the New Testament generally reserves for that place where the Lord pours out His blessing and where His sovereign rule is recognized and celebrated among men and women. This kingdom manifests itself as God’s name is hallowed and His law is kept (Matt. 6:9–10, 33; Luke 13:22–29). Only those who repent and rest in Christ alone have citizenship in this kingdom, and only the citizens of this kingdom have eternal life (1 Cor. 6:9–11).
When the Apostle Paul speaks of the things that characterize the kingdom of God, He is really speaking of the things that characterize eternal life. Eternal life is not about what we eat or drink, and we do not receive it and evidence its presence through such things but through righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are granted the faith by which we lay hold of the perfect righteousness of Christ and are declared just in God’s sight (Eph. 2:8–10). By the same Spirit, we are empowered to serve our Creator and act righteously, not to earn a right standing with God but to prove that we are in Jesus, whose work alone is grounds for the Father to accept us (Rom. 6; James 2:14–26). Being clothed in Christ, we have peace with the Father, which the Holy Spirit confirms in our hearts by giving us love for God (Rom. 5:1–5). Moreover, the Spirit gives us an abiding joy that comforts us even in affliction (1 Thess. 1:6).
Righteousness, peace, and joy are the greatest gifts we could receive in Christ. The Spirit grants them to all who are in Christ, and, by grace, we will enjoy them forever. John Calvin writes, “He indeed who is become partaker of true righteousness, enjoys a great and an invaluable good, even a calm joy of conscience; and he who has peace with God, what can he desire more?”
Knowing that we have everlasting life comforts us because we know that it is a life grounded in the perfect righteousness of Christ and, therefore, secure forever. It also comforts us because we know that we will experience righteousness, peace, and joy forever. Even now, we begin to enjoy these things as we are being conformed to Jesus in our sanctification. Only Christians can know true righteousness, true peace, and true joy.
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