The Wonder Of God’s Love

I am really glad to have the opportunity to be here this morning.  I have gotten to preach several times now, but this is only the second time that I have gotten to preach in a church.  About a month ago, I had the opportunity to preach at my church at school.  Mom, dad, and Rachel were all able to come down to see that, so that was kind of neat.  Afterward, I asked dad what he thought of it.  I don’t know if it was the first thing he said, but one of the first things he said was that my sermon had three points, so it had to be pretty good.  As I prepared this one, I laughed as I had four points, because I knew you guys would laugh if you saw I had three.  If you look at your sermon outline though, you will see that I now do only have three points….I guess it runs in the family.

Anyway, our text this morning is from Romans chapter 5 verses 6-11.  Now, this comes obviously right after chapters one through four of Romans, which I know you guys have covered.  The first three chapters of the book really focus on who we are.  It is summed up fairly well by Romans 3:10-12.

“As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even on; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.’”

So Paul emphasizes that we have done nothing good and that in fact, we don’t even seek God before we are Christians.

Romans 4 comes after this and we begin to see a turn in the focus because we are talking about Abraham being justified by faith.  We see that Abraham didn’t do anything to earn faith, but rather, his faith was reckoned to him.

That brings us to chapter five, where you studied last week about the hope of the glory of God.  Paul is making a transition here to talk a bit more about who God is in and of himself.  This week is the focus on God’s love through Christ.  Let’s read Romans 5:6-11.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Now Paul writes this section almost like a sermon in and of itself.  He has a short introduction, a body, and a conclusion.  He starts off in verse six by telling us that Christ’s death came at just the right time.  Now, as I considered this, I wondered what this meant.  My initial thought was that Christ’s death came at just the right time in history.  This means that Christ didn’t show up early or late, but that everything happened at exactly the right time in history.

This certainly is true, because Christ showed up after Abraham, he showed up right around Paul’s time.  Christ life was at just the right time and political climate so that every prophecy that had been written about him was able to be fulfilled.  Certainly Christ’s death came at exactly the right time in history, but I don’t think that is what Paul was saying.  The reason is that he qualifies, or clarifies his statement immediately after he makes it.  He says, “At just the right time, while we were still powerless…”  Paul is saying that the right time was the time during which we were powerless.

It’s kind of funny to read this, because Paul is basically recapping the first three chapters in this.  He wants us to understand that there was nothing we could do to save ourselves, and Christ didn’t die because of anything we did, but he died when we were still powerless.

Now, in verse seven Paul begins to make a contrast.  He says, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.”  At first I didn’t understand this statement.  I understood from the context what Paul was driving at, but I didn’t understand the illustration.  To me, good people are everywhere.  In America, we say that everyone is basically a good person unless they are like a murderer or rapist or something of that nature, so good people doesn’t seem to me to be a very exclusive category.  Righteous people seem to be very rare to me, if in fact they exist at all.  It seemed like Paul was saying that it was more likely for someone to die for a good person than a righteous one and that made no sense to me at all.  I found out that the problem was that I wasn’t from 1st century Rome.

During my research I learned that the Greco-Roman culture understood these terms almost exactly opposite of our understanding.  Righteous people were much more common, and the good person was understood to be a very rare person.  So, we may be able to restate this verse in 21st century American terms.

People don’t give up their lives for just anyone.  Very rarely do you see anyone die for anyone else, maybe for a good person.  Most of the time though, if you do see someone die for another person it is because they are a great person, and they deserve to live more.

I think a good example of this is the United States secret service.  One of the jobs that these people are charged with is protecting the President of the United States.  The people in the secret service would be willing to give up their lives for the life of the president because they believe that he deserves it.  They believe that his life is worth more than theirs.  If these same men were around me and we were all walking down the street together and someone shot a gun at me, I would guess that they would all jump out of the way.  They aren’t willing to give up their lives for just anyone, the person must be worthy of it.

Now that we understand this, we can see the point that Paul was trying to make.  Look at verse 8.  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Paul contrasts the way humans think with the way that God thinks.  We aren’t willing to die for someone unless they deserve it, but Christ dies for us when we were still sinners!  Not only were we powerless, but we were still sinners, and because of this were utterly unworthy of having our lives saved.  Paul points out here that this a demonstration of God’s love.  His point is that God shows tremendous love to those whom he would save.

Now that he’s made his point, he seeks to explain it.  In verse 9 he says, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved through him!”  Paul says that we are justified by Christ’s blood.  What does justified mean?  Forgive me for using part of the word in the definition, but justified means that justice has been served.  It means that we are “all square”.  Think of a courtroom.

If I am guilty of a crime, the court will exact a punishment from me.  The court can do whatever it takes to cause me to complete my punishment.  Now, once my punishment has been completed, whether by me or someone else, I am justified.  If I paid my fine, they won’t do anything more to me.  They have nothing against me, because I am justified.  It is the same way with God.  We have all been found guilty of sin, and must pay the penalty for that which is death before we can be justified.  If we don’t pay the penalty, we face God’s wrath, which is hell.

This section says that Christ’s blood justifies us.  Paul then explains that if we are justified, we must be saved from God’s wrath, or hell.  Now this is important for us to understand.  Everyone that Jesus died for is then saved from hell because they are justified.  One way that many people understand Christ’s death is that he died for all men.  The logical conclusion of this is that all men are justified, and thus all men are saved from hell.  This is a concept known as universalism, and it is clearly contradicted by the bible, because the bible teaches that there is a real hell with real people in it.  So, it makes sense that Jesus only died for those who are Christians or will be Christians, because Christians are the only ones who are saved.  So God shows tremendous love to those he would save.

Paul continues this line of thought into verse 10.  He says, “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”  We are told that we are God’s enemies.  As people who have sinned against God, we are his enemies.  We also see that while we were his enemies, we were reconciled to him through Jesus.  Reconciled refers to bringing two parties who are estranged back together.  Christ brings us and God back together into a relationship.  We are no longer enemies of God because of Christ’s death on the cross.  But Paul doesn’t stop there.  Paul doesn’t end with Christ’s death, because the story doesn’t end with his death.  He says, “How much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”  Paul points out that because Christ is alive, we continue to be reconciled.

Turn with me over to Hebrews chapter seven.  I want to look briefly at verses 23-25.  It says this:

“Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus live forever, he has a permanent priesthood.  Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always live to intercede for them.”

Now before this will make sense, we have to know the context.  In the Jewish faith, the Hebrew people had a high priest, who would make intercession for them once a year.  Basically he was the middle man between God and the people.  The high priest could basically only serve as long as he was alive, so there kept having to be new high priests.  Jesus was “the great high priest”, and also lived to make intercession.  The difference with Jesus is that he isn’t dead, so he is still able to make intercession for us.  He is able to “save completely” his people.  This should be an amazing comfort.  We see that if we are Christians, we are saved no matter what!  This shouldn’t surprise us, because we didn’t do anything to earn or even deserve our salvation, so what should make us think we can do something to lose it!  No matter how far we have fallen, no matter how bad we mess up, Jesus is still there to bring us back to right standing with God!  This is great news for us as Christians.

One of the things that I like about this church is that we don’t do things the way people expect us to.  We turn things on their heads.  One of the things that many churches to is a congregational response.  The pastor will say, and all god’s people say…and the people say, amen.  What we do here is a little different.  I say, and all god’s people say… and you say, so what?  This isn’t out of disrespect, but because we want to know what this should mean for us.  So, All God’s people say…

I’m glad you asked, let me tell you.  In verse eleven, Paul basically answers the so what question.  He says, “Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”  It is almost as though he is saying, yes, all these other things are true, but they are not the point of the issue.  The point is that we are to rejoice!  We have been given so much if we are Christians, so we should rejoice.  We are saved when we were powerless, God shows tremendous love to us because he died for us when we didn’t deserve it, and we are saved from his wrath apart from anything we do.  God’s work should drive us to rejoice!  So what?  How should our rejoicing affect our lives?

I already discovered that three point sermons run in my family, but I have also discovered that making lists runs in my family too, so I have a list of four things that I think this should cause us to be.  First, we should be obedient.

We can honor God by being obedient to him.  Children honor their parents by being obedient, and as God’s children we should do the same.  This means that when we are home alone, what we watch, what we read, what we look at online, what we do are all things that should be affected by our rejoicing in God.  It means that when we go to write our checks for the month, that we can honor God by tithing.  It means that when we are late for an appointment because we had other things to do, we can honor God by obeying the law and driving only 55 miles per hour.  We can rejoice by being obedient.

Second, we can be servants.  I am in an interesting situation as far as my living arrangements go right now.  My roommate basically left me in a position where I had to find a place to live, but it was really too late in the game to do so.  I was pretty much resigned to living in my nice little car.  Some people from the church came and said, hey, we have a finished basement that you could live in.  You can store all of your stuff here, there’s even a door down there, so you won’t even know we’re here, and we won’t know you’re here.  You can stay as long as you need.  I asked how much they wanted me to pay them, and they said nothing.  They said that if I was hungry, I should eat their food, if my clothes were dirty, I should tell them and they would wash them.  They gave so much more than I deserved.  My point is that because I am grateful of this, I want to serve them!  I keep trying to find things I can do to serve them.  I ask, can I mow your lawn, can I clean out your gutters, can I change your lightbulbs, can I wipe the cobwebs out of your corners with my hair?  I mean, let me do something to serve!

This should be the attitude we have with God.  We have been given immeasurably more than just a place to sleep.  We have been given an eternal gift when we didn’t deserve it!  We should seek to serve him in any way possible, we should be looking for ways to serve.  In the church, maybe we need to serve in the nursery, or teach a class, or help with some other ministry, or use the gifts we already have to start a new ministry.  Whatever it is, we need to be finding a way to serve God.  We can rejoice by being servants.

Third, we can rejoice by being humble.  The knowledge that we have done nothing to be saved should be humbling.  A complaint about the church is often that the church looks down on everyone.  This should not be the case, we should realize that it is only because of God that we have not been utterly consumed by sin.  The English theologian John Bradford is well known for his comment when he saw a drunk lying in the gutter one day.  As he walked by, he said, “there but for the grace of God lies John Bradford.”  He understood that if it was up to him, he would probably be in the same place, but God saved him, and made him new.  This made him humble, because it was not because of anything we have done, but it is all because of what God has done.  We can rejoice by being humble.

Fourth, we can rejoice by people with attitudes of Joy.  This sounds almost redundant, but our lives should be joyful because of what we have been given.  Too many times, we are focused on everything but God’s gifts, and we don’t rejoice.  We are sour people.  Try this, when you wake up, the very first thing you do is praise God.  It will totally change your day.  Instead of the first words out of our mouths being I have to get up or, it’s hot, or it’s cold, or I don’t want to go to work, or I don’t want to go to school, we should say thank you Jesus for saving me!  Our lives should have in them and unquenchable joy that should be visible around us, because we have been given so much.

I hope this text is clear to you.  Everything comes back to God, and we should rejoice in that fact.  I wan to ask you a couple of very direct questions.  First, are you saved?  If this has made you uncomfortable or you have a desire to understand this more, God may be calling you to be saved today.  If that is the case, then do so.  Talk to someone about it, whether, my dad, or John, or myself, just do it.  If you are saved, then I ask you, are you rejoicing?  Where can you be rejoicing?  What is God calling you to do?  Don’t leave this place the same way you came in, but rejoice in God today.

I want to leave you with a song that I think just echoes this passage of scripture.  I thought about singing it, but decided against it.  I hope that these words will be your prayer.

I’m forgiven because you were forsaken.

I’m accepted. You were condemned.

I’m alive and well, your spirit lives within me.

Because you died and rose again.

Amazing Love, how can it be,

That you my king would die for me.

Amazing love, I know it’s true,

And it’s my joy to honor you.

In all I do, I honor you.

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