SERMON TITLE: Justified Love
TEXT: Romans 5:6-11 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Robert Tansill
Good morning, Gateway! I'm Robert Tansill, and it is great to be with you this morning. I also want to send greetings to our North Main Campus joining us by video. We are glad to be worshipping with you. As Josh reminds us every Sunday morning, "God loves you!" And this is the reason Jesus died, which is at the heart of the gospel. This is why we preach every week; to remind you how much God loves you, and how faithful he has been to you, and will continue to be, as you continue to trust Him in all things.
This morning in the series we are doing called, “Justified”, we are taking a look at Romans 5:6-11. And, as we begin, the question I want to ask is this, “Has God done anything for you that makes you want to boast about Him?” We boast about a lot of things. We boast about our favorite sports teams when they win, we boast about our kids and how wonderful they are, and we boast about that recent promotion we got at work. And what is consistent about all of these things is that we, in some way, are part of the focus of our boasting. But is there anything that God has done for you that makes you want to boast in Him alone. A boast where any attention you might receive is non-existent, and where God gets all the focus and attention?
This week I read an interesting quote from now-deceased comedian, George Carlin, who said this, “Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time! But He loves you. He really loves you."
Wow! Those are really harsh words about the Creator of the Universe, aren’t they? But, Carlin is not alone in his beliefs. Many people today deny the existence of God and hate anything that resembles faith in Him. And that number keeps growing. For those who believe that God does exist, there are a large number of people who view Him as uninvolved and uncaring. For them, God is, as atheist Richard Dawkins said, “one whose activities were confined to setting up the laws that govern the universe. The deist God never intervenes thereafter, and certainly has no specific interest in human affairs.”
But is that the God who created the universe? Is that the God that you know and believe in? For the Apostle Paul, the answer to that question is an emphatic, “No!” The God that Paul is speaking about in Romans, the One who created the universe and holds it all together, the One who is deeply involved in every detail of your life at every moment, wants to have an intimate relationship with those He’s created. And for that to happen He had to do the unthinkable. And what He did was so sacrificial, so loving, that it should not only take our breath away, but at the very least should humble us, causing us to take pride in, or to boast in, our God and His love for us. Why? Turn with me to Romans 5:6-11 as Paul shows us two reasons why we should boast about God.
And as you are turning to the passage, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is to let you ask questions that we answer on our weekly podcast. So if you have a question, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
The Apostle Paul writes, "6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For 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. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11 ESV)
For us to truly understand our passage this morning, we have to step back from it for a second, and look at the context. Paul is writing to the church at Rome, made up of both Jews and Greeks in a largely Greek culture. Just like in our world today, the culture that they lived in often influenced how they thought as Christians, and even how they functioned as a church. So, what is the context of our passage?
Well, if you go back to the beginning of chapter 5, you find Paul telling the church at Rome that, because they are justified, or declared righteous as a result of what Jesus did for them on the Cross, they now have “peace with God”, and “access by faith into this grace in which we stand”. This is a “peace” that God initiated, and which continues to be extended to the believer on a daily basis. And it will never be taken away. The same can be said for the “grace” that God gives us. They are both irrevocable! Not only that, but Paul adds that because of this “peace and grace”, we can view our suffering differently. Instead of seeing it as something that just happens to us without any rhyme, reason, or purpose, we can now see it as something God uses to help us grow in the hope that He now gives us. As Rom. 5:5 says, it’s a hope that “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.” And its this love of God that Paul calls us to boast in. But why? The first reason is found In verses 6-8, which can be summed up this way...
POINT 1: We Boast In God’s Justifying Love…because of what He did for us through the death of His Son, Jesus. (vv. 6-8)
Looking again at Paul's words in verse 6, he writes, “6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Using the word, “For”, to explain what he just said in verse 5, Paul wants us to see how God’s love impacts us on a daily basis in ways that we might not be aware as we place our trust and hope in Him. And one of those ways is through the death of His Son, Jesus. What God did for all of us who trust in Him through Jesus should cause us to pause and reflect on how good our God is to us, and how much He loves us. It should also cause us to rethink who we once were in light of that. And who were we before God revealed His love to us?
The first thing Paul says is that “we were weak”. What does he mean by that? Well, the phrase he uses in the original language actually means, “to be incapable or lacking the ability to do something.” And in this case, he’s referring to the inability to save ourselves or make ourselves righteous enough to please God. That’s why some of your translations use wording like, “helpless, or utterly powerless”. That’s who we are without Christ when it comes to pleasing God. We try in our own strength to do things that we think will give us greater favor in God’s eyes. But we can’t because we “lack the ability” in ourselves to earn God’s favor.
What does it take to gain God’s favor? Perfect obedience all the time; twenty-four hours a day, and seven days a week. And no one in this room, or even on this planet, is capable of doing that. No one! We can try, but it would be a futile attempt because we are simply “incapable” in ourselves to do it.
So, God does the unthinkable by sending His Son, Jesus, to die in our place because He’s the only one capable of perfectly obeying God in both His life and death. And, as always the case with God, He did it, “at just the right time”; at a time He appointed which would perfectly meet our need as those who were, in Paul’s words, “ungodly”. Is that how you viewed yourself before trusting Christ? As “ungodly”; against God? What does that even look like? Well, because of time, I can’t elaborate on it. But if you want to get a clear picture of what he means, go back and read Romans 1:18-32. There, Paul spells out who we really were without Christ. And it is bad! When I read that passage I often wonder why God even bothered with me when there was nothing in me that wanted anything to do with Him. I remember how I used to think and act. I was capable of everything that Paul mentions in Romans 1, and so were you. Like many of you, I wanted nothing to do with Christ other than making sure that I believed in Him just enough to ensure that I would go to heaven. He was like “fire insurance”. And just to make sure the “insurance policy” stayed up to date, I made a point of doing things that I thought would please God. Or should I say, “appease” God.
But here’s the saddest part as I think back on those days. Nobody ever told me my thinking was wrong. I thought that if I “accepted Jesus” then he would forgive me for my past sins, and from that point on it was up to me to keep the slate clean. And if I messed up (i.e., “sinned”), then I needed to do something to make up for it in God’s eyes. It was my way of winning back His favor. But I had one problem. No one ever told me that I was “weak and powerless”, or “incapable of gaining God’s favor” in my futile attempt to save myself. And why? Why aren’t we capable of doing enough good to contribute something to our salvation?
Look at what Paul says in verse 7, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die.” In all honesty, for many, this is a tough verse to understand. But it’s an important verse because Paul uses it to show the reason why Christ had to die. Not only that, but he also shows why we need the gospel so badly; not just need it, but more importantly, need to understand it! The gospel is not about God saving people who are good. The gospel is about saving people who are bad that God, through the death of Christ, makes good. And it all has to do with how we define the word “good”. Let me explain what I mean.
If you ask most people you come into contact with why they think they are going to heaven, the typical response is because they are “good”. I hear that answer all the time. But what if God’s definition of “good” was radically different than ours? What if our definition meant something like, “an acceptable way of life that includes being nice to people and helping those in need”, leaving room for those times when we might not meet that standard because we lost our temper, lusted after someone or something, or didn’t keep God first in everything we do which is what He requires. We wouldn’t be perfect, but we would be “good”, right?
Now suppose that God defines “good” differently. Suppose that instead of “good” meaning “acceptable”, God defines it as “perfect”, which reflects His character. You see it in Genesis 1 when God creates the world and calls it “good”. You see it in Psalm 14:3 and 53:3 where the Psalmist says that “there is no one good, not even one”, which Paul repeats in Rom. 3:12. And you see it especially in Luke 18:19 when the rich young ruler calls Jesus, “good teacher”, making Jesus respond by saying, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone”. By saying this, Jesus is not only saying that is God perfect, but He is also revealing Himself as God in the flesh, and therefore “perfect” like His Father.
And that is the key to understanding verses 7-8. Listen to how the New Living Translation quotes this verse, “Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” What Paul is saying is that most of us would never be willing to give our lives for someone who is a stranger even though they might live an upright life, let alone someone who is especially good. We’re too selfish for that.
But God, “while we were still sinners” and wanted nothing to do with Him, displays His love by giving His Son to die for us. And that is one reason why we can boast in God’s love; because of what He did for us through the death of His Son, Jesus. Through that act, He didn’t just forgive us for our sins. He did so much more than that. Which leads to another reason we should boast in God’s love which is that…
POINT 2: We Boast In God’s Justifying Love…because He reconciled us to Himself so that we can spend eternity with Him. (vv. 6-8)
One of the things that should amaze us the most about God, when we stop to think about it, is how deeply He really loves us. I know that I often take His love for granted, and at times may even doubt it. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that. But Paul wants us to see how much God loves us by showing us the extent God is willing to go to so that we can spend eternity with Him. Look at what he says in verse 9, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. ”
Thinking back to the opening quote by George Carlin where he describes God as one who says he loves you, but then threatens you with “a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish”, when you sin, we have to ask the question, “Is there any truth to what he said?” And the answer is, “Yes!” Scripture is clear. There is a place God has designated for those who choose to live for their own glory rather than for God’s glory. As the author, C.S. Lewis, wrote in his book, “The Great Divorce”, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Your will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Your will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice, there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek, find. Those who knock, it is opened.” And this place is the result of what Paul calls in verse 9, “God’s Wrath”. But what is “God’s wrath”?
Well, theologian Wayne Grudem says that, “God’s wrath is His intense response for His hatred of sin.” And Pastor and author Tim Keller says, “God’s wrath is his settled, fair, right anger.” This anger is directed toward all sin and unrighteousness, which is an assault on His Perfect and Holy character. In fact, Paul mentions God’s wrath in Romans 2:5, which the New International Version says, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.”
Folks, the truth is that we all deserved God’s wrath because of our “stubborn and unrepentant hearts” towards Him and His glory. But, as we have said before, we don’t get what we deserve; not because of anything we have done, or could do, but only because of what God has done for us through Christ.
And this is where both George Carlin and Richard Dawkins get it completely wrong! God is not one who says He loves us and then waits for us to mess up so he can unleash His wrath on us. Nor is He one who, “never intervenes, and certainly has no specific interest in human affairs.” On the contrary, He says He loves us and then proves it by declaring us righteous because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross which we trust in by faith alone. And that’s the point that Paul is arguing. Since God has justified us through faith in Jesus, which is a completed action once and for all, Paul says we will be saved by Jesus from God’s wrath. But why?
Because God unleashed all His wrath on Jesus instead of us, even though we deserved it, and not Him. Because of that, we are “justified”, or declared righteous by God in His eyes. And what role did we play in all of this? Just for fun, go back and look at some of the places Paul uses this word, “Justified”, and see what you find. Here’s what you will discover. We are justified by God’s grace as a gift (Rom. 3:24), we are justified by faith apart from our works (Rom. 3:28), and finally, from our passage, we are justified by the blood of Jesus on our behalf (Rom. 5:9). And all of this is initiated by God through Christ. All of it! Our role is simply to trust in that finished work, and in the work that God is doing now in our lives through His Holy Spirit as a result of it. And this should give us comfort as we journey by faith through this life.
Listen to how the Heidelberg Catechism explains it by asking the question, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” The answer? “That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”
This is what God has done for you in Christ. You are now justified by faith alone through the blood of Christ for your sins, and declared by God as perfectly righteous and perfectly Holy once and for all; not because of anything you have done or could do, but only because of what God has done for you in Christ.
And why did God do this for us? Why not give us what we deserve? So that we could be reconciled to Him. Next to having His name glorified, that is one of God’s greatest desires. Look again at verse 10 in our passage where Paul writes, “For 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.”
So, what does Paul mean when he uses the word “reconciled”? It literally means, “to exchange a hostile relationship for a friendly one.” The reason that God sent Jesus to die for our sins, and the reason that He also declared us righteous (or justified), is because He wants to be our friend and not our enemy. That’s kind of a crazy thought, isn’t it? By nature, our desire was for anything other than God. We were the ones hostile to Him. But His desire is to have a close, intimate relationship with us. So, in spite of our hostility toward Him, He does everything that needs to be done to reconcile us with Himself, “while we were still weak” (5:6), and “while we were still sinners” (5:8). That is mind-blowing! And, simply put, THAT is the gospel!
And it is because of this gospel, this “good news” of God’s gracious act displayed through the death of His Son that reconciles us to God, that Paul says, “we shall be saved by His life”. Listen to how the New Living Translation puts verse 10, “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.”
In this verse I want you to notice two things that I hope will help you see how much God really loves you. First, I want you to notice the result of being reconciled to God, and what it means for you. In verse 9, Paul said that, “since we have been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God”. And then in verse 10 he uses an almost identical phrase, “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.”
So, we have to ask the question, “What are we to make of all this language about being ‘saved’?” What are we saved from? And what are we saved for? Isn’t this language about “being saved” a bit outdated, and archaic? I mean, if you were at Walmart and some guy rolled up on you, and asked you if you were saved, would you not just roll your eyes? Many would. And why?
Because, even though we have placed our trust in Jesus, we often forget that there is some truth to what George Carlin said was going to happen. There will be a day when God will judge the world. Remember, I mentioned it earlier when I quoted Roman 2:5 where Paul said, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” That is what Paul is talking about, which is why he uses the future tense, “shall be saved.” He is pointing to an actual event that is going to take place in the future. And for those who place their trust in Jesus and what He has done for them on the Cross, not only are they declared righteous, and reconciled with God in spite of the fact that they continue to struggle with sin, but they will be saved on that, “day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” That is what we are being saved from. But, what are we being saved for?
Well, because of everything that God has done for you, not only will you not have to endure God’s wrath, but as one who has been declared righteous and reconciled with God, you will now spend eternity with Him forever. And what is that going to be like? Scripture tells us in Revelation 21:1 in these words, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”
This is one of my favorite passages in Scriptures. This is what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s what helps me when I’m feeling anxious or worried about the future. And it’s what fills me with hope when everything around me feels hopeless at times. This is what we are being saved for, and we did nothing to earn it other than trust in Jesus by faith. And even that is a gift from God, which Paul reminds us in Eph. 2:8 in the words, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God!”
It is all a result of a loving, and yet perfectly Holy God, and His righteous and perfectly obedient Son. A God who loves you enough to do everything that needed to be done so that you could stand in His presence one day as righteous, reconciled, saved from God’s wrath, and saved for His love and presence which you will get to experience forever. Folks, this is why we boast in God’s love for us, which is the gospel.
And this is why, after everything that Paul has said, in verse 11 he sums it all up by calling all of us to boast in Him and His love through Christ when he says, “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Folks, that’s what the word the ESV translates as “rejoice” actually means. It means, “to take pride in something, boast, glory in, or brag about.” So, what does look like to boast in God and Jesus?
Translating verse 11 a little differently, “The Message”, captures this idea really well when it says, “Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!” In short, one of the ways we boast in the love that God has chosen to show us, and which He will continue to show us for eternity, is through our worship. This is one of the primary ways we express our hearts to our Creator and His Son for a love which is undeserved that justifies, reconciles, sanctifies, and will eventually even glorify. And it’s a love that is much more worthy of boasting in than those things in which we typically boast about being ourselves, our luxuries, and our achievements in this life.
As pastor, Jonathan Parnell, said so well, "The Christian boast, therefore, is so radically different from worldly boasting that it is almost unrecognizable to natural eyes. As the worldly boast is infatuated with ‘here and us’, the Christian boast is obsessed by ‘there and him.’ The worldly boast is shiny and boisterous, consumed with appearances and approval; but the Christian boast is that quiet confidence that refuses to be dismayed when circumstances sour, or when public popularity fades. The Christian boast is that resolute focus on the unseen, the kind that politely chuckles at the days to come, the one that knows the mustard seed is small, but boy, the tree is huge, and God’s going to fill this earth with the knowledge of his glory like it’s water covering the seas."
So, as I conclude, I want to leave you with one thought, and one request. When I became a Christian at age 17, one of my favorite Christian musicians was a guy named Keith Green. Every month he would put out a newsletter, and one of the articles that got my attention, and which I still remember to this day was called, “Will You Be Bored in Heaven?” In it Keith wrote these words, “The Lord made me realize recently that if I do not absolutely relish His company now, desiring to be with Him more than anyone in the whole world, then I would not really be comfortable in heaven at all - for it is there that we will spend all eternity in the company of the Holy One who made us.”
Folks, what we do in worship when we are together is just a warm-up for the real event. Now, in the midst of our continual struggles with our sin, the disappointments of life, and the pain that we can feel as a result of living in a fallen world, along with hints of God’s grace and mercy that we experience throughout our day, we are called to boast in our God for who He is and what He has done. However, one day we will be standing with the rest of the saints from generations past doing what we were created for; standing in His presence, and in the righteousness that will finally realized, bringing glory to our God and His Son, Jesus. This is what awaits us, and where our hope is found.
And after having spent some time studying and thinking about this passage, I feel led to simply remind you of the words Paul would later write in this same book about what is required of you to be saved. If you have any doubts in your mind that God loves you, or if you question whether or not you are saved, please take Paul’s words, which I’m about to read, to heart. As I’ve been saying for the past 30 minutes, God loves you. And He’s proven it by giving His Son to die in your place, taking all of God’s wrath which you deserve upon Himself. What more proof do you need? And what is required of you?
Paul tells us in Romans 10:8-10, “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Believer, rest in the finished work of Christ, which God initiated out of His love for you. For to God, and God alone, belongs all the glory.