Most of us probably separate drug addicts, alcoholics, sexually compulsive people, and adherents of non-Christian religions into separate categories. The truth of the matter, however, is that these individuals are all pursuing the same thing — comfort. In fact, all sinners are looking to ease their pain and guilt. The gnawing sense that things are just not right and our awareness that we are law-breakers no matter how good we try to be (Rom. 1:18–32) makes us an unsettled, restless people who do whatever we can to find peace or at least forget about the trouble we are in.
But despite all of the ways people try to ease their souls, there remains but one comfort in life and in death — the knowledge that one belongs to Christ. After all, our Father designed us to belong to Him as image-bearing sons and daughters (Gen. 1:26–27). We are His workmanship and cannot feel true comfort unless we are assured that we are His — not merely in the sense that we have been fashioned by Him but that we, in union with our Savior, belong to God as His children (Matt. 11:28–30; John 1:12–13). Seeking comfort any other way is futile, for as John Calvin comments, “More is required by the law than what we can perform.” We cannot gain any lasting peace from the good that we do because we can never do enough good to give ourselves rest.
Apart from Christ, we are not the Father’s beloved children and special possession; rather, we are estranged from Him. But Jesus brings reconciliation, as today’s passage indicates, because in His flesh the sin of His people was condemned. God’s wrath was thereby satisfied, breaking the grip that sin had on our hearts and minds (Rom. 8:1–4). Through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, we are given the desire and willingness to live for our Lord. Furthermore, as we walk by the Spirit and not in the flesh, we are increasingly assured that we are children of our loving heavenly Father in Christ Jesus and no longer objects of wrath at enmity with Him (vv. 5–8).
This is true comfort — to know that we belong to God not on account of what we have done but on account of what He has done. For if it is the work of Christ that secures our access to the Father, we can be confident that all things must work together for our salvation, that Jesus, by His Spirit, guides us and will finally bring us to eternal, resurrected glory in His presence (vv. 9–17).