READ : Romans 5:1-11
What shows us how greatly we are loved by God?
Welcome, friends, to this sixth in our series on the heart of the Christian faith, the heart of the gospel, from Romans, chapters 1-8. We’ve talked about: (1) what the gospel is, and how all the evil in the world comes from our suppression of the truth about God, (2) how wrong it is to judge others since we are all under the power of sin. (3) We’ve considered God’s way of making things right through the life, death, and rising of Jesus. We’ve seen that it’s by faith in his redeeming work in a way that shows God to be just and loving. (4) This rules out all boasting by us. (5) We saw that faith has always been the way to a right relationship with God. We see that in Abraham and in David. We especially noted the connection of faith with God’s promise, taking God at his Word.
The Benefits of Being Justified by Faith
Having established the truth that we are justified by faith in Jesus, Paul goes on to show the wonderful benefits that flow from being so justified. Listen to these words from Romans, chapter 5:
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God . . . God proves his love for us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us. But more than that, we even boast in God through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Here are the benefits from our being justified. The first great blessing is that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This includes what we call peace of mind, an inner feeling of contentment, but it means much more. It means that the relationship between us and God has been restored. All distance and alienation because of our sin has been removed and we have friendly relations with God at last. If before we were under God’s frown (dis-pleasure), now we bask in the Lord’s smile over us. The heart of our study is this amazing, heart-warming truth of God’s undeserved love. Through Christ God has transformed people from being his enemies, in rebellion against him, to being at peace with him as his friends.
Here this life of peace with God is spelled out. We rejoice in our sufferings because suffering brings endurance. We rejoice in that endurance because it builds character, and we are thankful for that character because it produces hope. This hope, Paul maintains, will never disappoint us because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Think of a closed room and someone opening a bottle of perfume and pouring it out. The fragrance of it fills the entire room. The assurance of God’s love has been poured into our hearts. Through faith in Christ we have access into God’s presence. We rejoice in the hope of these things. Then we learn about the wonder of God’s love and why our hope will never disappoint us.
God’s Amazing Love
Those who have this hope will never be put to shame. The reason is that God’s love has been poured out in our hearts. We know, deeply, inwardly, that we are loved by God and that we have nothing to fear, that it is well with our souls. Now Paul in convincing words shows us God’s great love.
First, he loved us when we were totally without strength. We had no power within us to help or change ourselves. You’ve heard the words, “God helps those who help themselves.” That is not in the Bible. (It is in Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac.) God didn’t wait for us to start helping ourselves. He came to our aid and rescue, at just the right moment. God’s timing is amazing.
Next, Jesus died for the ungodly – people who are not like him in the least. They badly spoiled the image of God in their lives. They are as loveless as he was loving. Now Paul measures that love against the best in human caring. Who would be willing to lay down his life for someone else? Because a man was a law-keeping citizen, would you? Hardly. Because he was really a good man? Maybe. Here’s how exceedingly great God’s love is. He proves his love for us in this: that while we were still “sinners,” Christ died for us; while we were like criminals in rebellion against him. Not only were we weak and unlike him, we were actually sinning against him, breaking his commands, forgetting him, ungrateful for his gifts.
Picture Jesus on the cross. The soldiers have tortured him. The religious officials are jeering at him, mocking him. Those who screamed for his blood are looking on. While he’s enduring all of that at the hands of sinful people, he prays, “Father, forgive them.” While they’re putting him to death, he loves them and seeks their salvation. What an absolutely astonishing love! The Father gave his Son like this to suffer beyond our imagination. He endured all this so that sinful people might receive mercy – that’s amazing! It’s the greatest miracle of love the world has ever seen!
Paul has one more word to describe us: Christ died for us while we were enemies. The awful scene on Golgotha shows us in a shocking way our anger toward God. See how we treated Jesus when he came. We wanted to get rid of him. In the midst of that bitter hostility, God’s love, though heart-broken, never wavered. This is the truly astonishing mercy of God, dying for his enemies, determined to save his murderers – that’s how God shows all the world how much he loves us. It’s the love Christians sing about and celebrate. Listen to these lines:
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.
(Hymn: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)
The love of God is greater far
than tongue or pen can ever tell . . . (Frederick Martin Lehman)
And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior’s blood,
Died he for me, who caused his pain –
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
The Hope God’s Love Gives Us
Having opened up the riches of God’s love for us, Paul returns to the matter of our hope and confidence in what God will do for us. He has already shown that this hope will never disappoint us because the Spirit within us assures us of God’s love.
Now he speaks of how the mighty redeeming work of God’s love in Jesus guarantees to us a blessed future. “Much more surely then” (v. 9). Here’s a ground of great assurance, solid confidence: Now that we have been justified by his blood, God has made things right for us. Jesus’ “blood” means that by his atoning sacrifice and his poured-out life, we are freely and forever justified. Therefore we will surely be saved through him.
Saved in the Bible has three tenses. Paul can say, “By grace you have been saved” (past perfect tense). The hour you first believed and were united with Christ. He can also say to the Corinthians, “You are being saved.” God is working in you to conform you more and more to the image of Christ. Now we meet the final future tense: “You will be saved,” finally and forever, through Christ, from the anger of God.
We’ve seen earlier in Romans what Paul says about God’s anger. This is his holy reaction against moral evil. There are some who want to eliminate all mention of God’s anger and speak only of his love. But when they do that, they shrink the wonder of God’s love to unthinking emotion (sentimentality). There is a real anger of God over a sinful world. There is a judgment day. There is a final separation between the saved believers and the lost sinners. There is a heaven in God’s presence and a hell of separation from him. And Jesus makes all the difference!
We Boast in God through Christ
Now for the final verse in the passage. We’ve heard Paul talk about rejoicing in our sufferings because of what God does through them, boasting always in our hope of sharing God’s glory. Now for the highest rejoicing: We boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This idea of boasting in God’s above all things runs like a golden thread through the Bible.
We are justified, acquitted, before the bar of God’s justice. But reconciliation, which this passage sings about, is more the language of the home than the court. A father and son are estranged as in the lost son we read about in Jesus’ parable (Luke 15:11-31). A husband and wife are at odds; divorce is near. God works in both of them to remake and renew their love. Resentments are put away. Barriers go down. They are reconciled.
Now throw this on a larger screen. We are far from God. We are rebels against him, but he acts to make things different. (Remember C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Young Edmund has become a traitor. The evil witch demands his death, but Aslan, the loving lion who is a type of Christ, is willing to die in his place. Edmund’s life is changed as the lion conquers death. And God through Jesus welcomes all Edmunds to enter the blessedness and forgiveness of his family.)
We boast in God above all. In the gift of his Son God throws open the door of welcome and brings us home at last. Isn’t this wonderful, friends? God shows his love in this amazing way, in a supreme gift of self-sacrificing love so that we’ll know that we are forgiven and know that our future is assured. Then, humbled and amazed, we will give glory to him and sing with all the redeemed in heaven, “Worthy is the Lamb [Jesus] that was slain!” Amen.