Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on January 7, 2018
Today is the first Sunday in January, which means a new memory verse for our congregation. In the bulletins you should have a half-sheet of paper that has this months, along with the previous verses we have memorized, so that you can hang it on your fridge.
This month, we have a short memory verse, but I massively important verse, Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” So let us all recite it together, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”- Romans 5:8.
This mornings we are going to be unpacking that specific verse and the verses around it. Our focus will be on Romans 5:5-11, however, to bring the whole thing into focus, I want us to read Romans 5:1-11 in its entirety. Please stand for the reading of God’s Word:
Hey there, Mr. Tin Man
You don't know how lucky you are
You shouldn't spend your whole life wishin'
For something bound to fall apart
Everytime you're feeling empty
Better thank your lucky stars
If you ever felt one breakin'
You'd never want a heart
The song “Tin Man” is a love song for all humanity. God has created us to love and be loved, yet when left to our own passions and desires, all we do is break things. Because we are sinners, mankind has made a mess out of this thing we call love.
Everyone in this room has, or will have, a broken heart story. Maybe it was when you were younger, or maybe it just passed, or maybe you are in the midst of it right now. The nature of humanity is the longing to be loved, which I would love atheists to try to boil down to Darwinian evolution.
The word English word for love is used 684 times in the Bible. Interestingly, love is mentioned twice as much in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament. In the book of Romans it is used 16 times. The first time we saw it was in Paul’s opening remarks, Romans 1:7, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.”
It isn’t used again until our text today, chapter 5, verse 5 where it says, “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
To Know God is to Know God's Love
Jesus in John 17:3 prays these words to His Father in Heaven, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” This idea of knowing God, is not in the sense of academic information. It is not the knowing in the trivial. It is the knowing in the intimate. The idea of knowing, as prayed for by Jesus, is the knowing that we would equate spousal intimacy. It is the knowing that we see in Genesis 4:1 when it says, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain,” Adam knowing Eve was a subjective physical union. The same is true for the “knowing God” that leads to eternal life. To know God is to have a subjective spiritual union with him.
We also understand that to know God is to know Him as a God of love. 1 John 4:16, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” So to know God is to know the love of God, for God is love. Love is an attribute that he has. It is not something he does, as much as it is something he is. Love for God is not only a choice, it is His essence.
The question we will address today is how can man come to know God’s love? How can God, the Creator of all things, omnipotent and omniscient, display to humanity His love. It begins with a proper understanding of ourselves.
Weak, Ungodly, Sinners, Enemies
Look at verses 6-10. How does God describe humanity? Weak, ungodly, sinners and enemies. I think everyone would agree that those words are not very encouraging. That description is not going to puff up our self-esteem. Imagine looking at your children and telling them that they are weak, ungodly, sinners, and your enemy. If you do that in public, you will get some angry looks, and rightfully so. Having said that, we are reading those exact words in our text to describe the nature of humanity.
And this is not the first time in the book of Romans that we have read about how bad we are. Remember Romans 1:18 through Romans 3:20. We were told that no one is righteous, no one is good, that we don’t understand, and that we are worthless. Why does God say such things?
For one, because they are true. It says in Psalm 139:1-4, “O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” Everything you have ever done from the moment of your conception until now, God has seen. And not only has he seen it, but he knew it before it existed, before the event even occurred.
Later on in verse 16 of Psalm 139 it says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Ponder that for a moment. Before you were formed, God saw the days of your life. This is what it means to be all knowing. God doesn’t receive knowledge, God is the reservoir of knowledge. And what God sees in the life and hearts of humanity is weakness, ungodliness, sin, and hostility. And God, who we have already established is love, loves us enough to tell us the truth about who we really are.
And this is not the only place in Scripture that God spends time reminding us of our total depravity.
Christ Died for the Ungodly
So that is the first reason God tells us how bad we are, because it is true. The second reason is found in verse 6, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” What does Paul mean by this? He means that God, who is perfectly aware of your ungodliness, who knows all of the skeletons in your closet, sent His Son to die an excruciating death upon a cross so that you can be reconciled to Him. Let that sink in. Christ knows how bad you are, but still dies for you.
As Paul says in verse 7, it is within the realm of possibility that someone might die for a righteous person, or a good person. But Paul wants to make it abundantly clear that this is not the case when it comes to Christ, for we are not righteous and we are not good. We are weak, ungodly, sinners, who are enemies of God. Yet Jesus is still willing to lay down his life so that we can be forgiven.
Approximately two years ago, there was a video going around via Facebook that was well produced, inspiring, relevant, you name it. And it had this hip looking young man speaing with hi energy stating that the reason that God sent His Son to die for you was because of how awesome you are. That God wanted because you are smart and you are funny and you are just a wonderful person, and because of that, you were worth Christ dying for. I had multiple “Christians” send me that video thinking that it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, and they were shocked when I responded with a rebuke, because that is not what the Bible teaches.
The reason that Jesus died on the cross is not because you are awesome. The reason that Jesus died on the cross is because He is awesome. That is the preeminent purpose of the cross, to display that awesomeness of Jesus. For in the cross we see the display of the essence of God, His love.
Look at verse 8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The purpose of the cross, the purpose of the death of the Son of God, is to put on display for all time the glorious beauty of God’s love. And this love
God's love is not like the love of the world. God's love is not based on anything of value or worth in us. God's love is not quid pro quo. God does not love because you are beautiful. He does not love you because you are smart. He does not love you because you are awesome. God's love is not based upon a condition. God loves the weak. God loves the ungodly. God loves his enemies. God loves sinners who have failed to love him.
1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” They key word is because. The reason we love God is because he first loved us. God's love is the cause of our love. If God does not love us first, we do not love Him. God's love in the ignition of our hearts.
God's Love Poured into our Hearts
So how does this happen? How does God ignite our hearts for him? Look at the second half of verse 5, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” God's love is poured into our hearts by the third person of the trinity. The Holy Spirit, takes the love of God as displayed in the objective event of Christ on the cross, and subjectively applies it to individual hearts. The Holy Spirit takes the gospel of Jesus Christ and pours it over our souls.
What do we call this? We call this being born again. This is what happens at the moment of our conversion, the Holy Spirit subjectively applying God's love to our individual hearts. This is the intimate union that occurs that causes us to know God, not just academically, like we know algebra, but intimately, like we know our spouse. It is an internal transformation, not an external work.
And it is important to know that the Greek Word for poured is ekcheō which means an abundance, an extravagant amount. Interestingly, it is the exact same word that Jesus used in Matthew 9:17 when he says, “Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed.” This is the picture of God's love being lavished upon you, whereby you have to become a new creation to contain this overwhelming love of God that has been poured into your life. And once again, this love that the Spirit pours into your life is done when you are a wretched sinner, not when you cleaned yourself up.
The Security of God's Love
Which leads us to our final point, and really the main purpose of our text this morning. Look at verse 9-10, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” What is Paul's point?
Paul is saying that Jesus died for us while we were sinners, and when the Holy Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts and we respond by placing our faith in Jesus Christ, at that moment we are justified before God, “we have now been justified” is past tense. Meaning we are completely not guilty before God. All our sins are forgiven at the first moment of authentic faith in Christ.
And at that particular moment of our justification it says that we are reconciled to God. Look at verse 10. It says, “now that we are reconciled.” This means, as we see in verse 1, we are no longer enemies, but have peace with God. Right now in this moment, through faith in Christ you are reconciled with God. Therefore, if God loved you while you were an enemy, he will continue to love you as a child. Meaning, that you cannot lose your salvation. Christ will keep you.
In John 13:1, right before Jesus went to the cross it says, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Jesus loves his disciples to the end. He did not stop loving them, and he will not stop loving you. The love of God is not like the love of this world. God's love is not like Blake Shelton's. He does not get bored with you and move on. He does not divorce you when you sin against him. Once he sets his love upon you through eh Holy Spirit, it is finished. God's love is enduring, it is steadfast, it is eternal.
As it says in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Did you hear what he said, things present or things to come will not separate you from God's love. You don't have to worry about God's love growing cold towards you. It will always burn for you. And as Paul says in Romans 5:11, in this we rejoice.