Justification by Faith Flows From the Love of God
If you have your Bibles, Id invite you to turn with me to Romans, chapter 5. As we continue to work our way through this great book of Romans, let me remind you where we have come from. In chapters and 2 the apostle tells us what the problem is, what our predicament is. In chapter 3 he tells us what Gods glorious solution is in Jesus Christ. And furthermore, having told us that Christ died for sinners in Romans, chapter 3, he says God declares sinners to be just freely because of what Jesus Christ has done. In Romans, chapter 4, he defends that from the Old Testament. And in Romans, chapter 5, he begins to talk about the consequences of that, the implications of that. So notice what he has done. In Romans 1 and 2 especially, he explains to us the reality and the necessity of justification by faith. In Romans, chapter 3, he tells us about the provision of justification by faith. In Romans, chapter 4, he tells us that justification by faith is scriptural. And in Romans, chapter 5 through 8, he explains how effective justification by faith is. Hes telling us consequences or implications of this great truth, this great reality of justification by faith. Its not just a doctrine, its something that impacts us every single day. Weve already seen some of those implications if youll allow your eyes to run over Romans 5, verses 1 through 5. Youll remember some of the things that weve seen already. Justification results in our experience in the peace of God. We have peace with God, having been justified, Paul said in verse 1. Secondly, justification results in our communion with God. The greatest grace a person can have eternal fellowship with the living God is brought about in justification. If we truly desire to glorify and enjoy God forever, it is realized and enjoyed in our justification by faith. We saw that as well in verse 2. Furthermore, in verse 2, we saw that justification means a certain future hope of glory. A certain future hope of glorification, the final hope belongs to us if we are justified. We not only have our sins dealt with, peace with God, we not only have a present experience of communion with God, we have a future expectation of glory all because of justification.
Pauls not done yet. He goes on. In the verses that we looked at most recently beginning in verse 3 and going into verse 4, to say that justification enables us to rejoice in tribulation. Not merely to endure tribulation, not merely rejoice in spite of tribulation, but to rejoice because of tribulation. And furthermore, justification says to us that every tribulation which we experience now, God intends to make serve His purpose of sanctification in us. In other words, He turns what would be an enemy against us into a friend for His purposes because there is nothing that can be against us since He is for us, since He has justified us. Its a glorious thing. Theres no meaningless suffering for the believer. Every drop of tribulation for the believer God has caught up in His purposes and will use for our good.
I remember many years ago in a college English class, having an English professor say to us, "Why is it that the Southern writers are the greatest writers of the American writers in the 20th century?" Now he wasnt a particularly religious man, but here was his answer. His answer was, "God, because Southern writers are still haunted by God. God has been forgotten in the rest of modern American literature." And he went on to say that there was no ultimate meaning in life, and how can you write if there is no meaning? Why reflect on what is meaningless? God makes all things meaningful, even tribulation and suffering are caught up into His purposes because we have been made right with Him in justification.
That brings us then to verse 6, and thats where we are going to start today as Paul continues this train of thought. Hes not done yet as he expresses to us the consequences of what it means to be justified. Lets hear Gods word in Romans 5, beginning in verse 6.
"For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while yet we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Amen, and thus ends this reading of Gods holy and inspired word. May He write His eternal hears upon our hearts. Lets pray.
Our Lord, we bow before You, and we ask that You would open our eyes to understand this truth. We pray that as believers that we would be rooted and grounded in the love of God displayed in the death of Jesus Christ. And as unbelievers we pray, oh God, that You would shock us with the unexpectedness and the magnitude of Your love. Enable us all then to praise You for that loving grace and to respond to it by faith. These things we ask in Jesus name, Amen.
So, in the first five verses Paul has said that Gods grace in justification puts things right between us and Him, past, present and future. He goes on to say even in our sufferings we are enabled to rejoice by justification. But Hes not finished, He has something else to add to that. Not only do believers have the capacity to rejoice in suffering, they are also recipients, we could even call them receptacles of the lavish, the undeserved love of God. The whole focus of the passage before us is, of course, precisely that. The lavish and undeserved love of God. And Id like you to see four or five things Paul says to us about that love.
In fact, Id like you to sneak back to verse 5 because were going to pick up there. We didnt get to verse 5. And Paul begins this thought, this focus, on Gods love right in that verse. And he tells us first of all in verse 5 about the fatherly love of the judge. He also tells us about the agent of the fathers love in verse 5. In verse 6 he introduces to the love of God for sinners. This undeserved love of God. In verse 7 he tells us that this love is unparalleled in human experience. In verse 8 he tells us that what Jesus did is the proof, the demonstration that God loves us. Thats the question on many of our minds. We hear the words of "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know," and we ask the question to ourselves sometimes. "Well, how do I know that? I know the Bible tells me so, but there are a lot of Christians that wrestle with that. How do I really know that? How do I know that God loves me?" Paul is answering that question here. Lets here what he has to say. First, lets hear God as he speaks to us in verse 5.I. Justification means that we are the object and recipients of God's amazing love and apprehend it.
"Hope does not disappoint," He says. "Because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts. Justification means not only that we are forgiven sins, that we are acquitted, that we are accounted as if we were righteous; but it also means that we are objects and recipients of the Fathers amazing love. Think of it in a courtroom. If you go before a judge guilty of a capital crime, you are convicted of that crime in the course of that trial. The judge does this. He sentences you, and then he dismisses you. And never again do you have a relationship with him. The apostle Paul says look at the amazing difference between our just Father who is a judge, and the way that an earthly judge deals with us when we are guilty. The earthly judge, if we are guilty, convicts us. The heavenly Father, when He finds us to be guilty, and we all are, gives us His son in our stead to bear the due penalty of sin, and then He acquits us. But Hes not done. He doesnt dismiss us from the courtroom. He adopts us into His family. And He lavishes on us the love of God. Thats what Paul says there in verse 5. The love of God has been poured out within our hearts. He has lavished on us his love.
We said, perhaps the last time, this is the first time in the book of Romans that the love of God has been explicitly mentioned. Oh, ever since at least chapter 3, Paul has been telling us about the love of God. But here he explicitly focuses on the love of God, and hes talking not about our love for God, hes talking about Gods love for us. Thats clear, by the way, in verses 6 through 8, when he illustrates what hes talking about here in verse 5. And if you dont get it from 6 through 8 in general, look specifically in verse 8, and the very first words. He says there, "God demonstrates His own love for us." Clearly this is Gods love for us, not our love for God, which has been shed within our hearts. The reason we can glory in suffering, the reason that we can be assured of a hope that will not disappoint is because the love of God is certain. It has been poured out within our hearts. By the way, look back at verse 2, and then verse 4 and then verses 5 through 8. Notice the progression from faith to hope to love. You heard that triad before in Paul. Youll hear it, for instance, in I Corinthians 13. Paul likes to speak about faith, hope and love together, and here we see a procession of faith, belief in God. Hope being established in a certain hope, and then thirdly, love. The experience of love for us. Justification means that we are the objects of the love of God.
II. The Holy Spirit is the agent of God's love.
Now Paul, in the rest of this passage, is going to explain that glorious reality as a consequence of our justification. He tells us also in verse 5 a second thing. The Holy Spirit is the agent of that love. It is the Holy Spirit given to us who grounds us in that love. Justification is joined with this incalculable gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit. And its the Holy Spirit who ministers in us to root us in Gods love. Let me demonstrate that to you from another passage in Paul. Turn with me if you would to Ephesians, chapter 3 beginning in verse 14, Paul says this. "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name; that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through his spirit in the inner man so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And that you being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge; that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." The one thing that I want you to see in that glorious passage, which is worth fifty sermons, is just this point: that the Holy Spirit is given to do what? To root us and ground us in the apprehension of Gods loves for us. He is the agent that God implants in our hearts that we might experience and know the love, which God has for us in Jesus Christ. Jim Phillips puts it this way: "The Holy Spirit is the executor of the Godhead. It is He who effectually applies the work of Christ to individual hearts, making it real to them. Without the Holy Spirit salvation remains merely something to hear about, never to experience. It is He alone who makes it ours. All that Paul proceeds to teach in the subsequent chapters presupposes this truth."
Perhaps youre an unbeliever today, and youre having a hard time getting your head around this gospel, and you cant quite accept and embrace it, perhaps an appropriate prayer for you would be "Holy Spirit, open my eyes, enable my heart to understand the gospel and to see the love of Christ for sinners." Its the Holy Spirit that gives us the ability to see the greatness of Gods love and grace. He alone grounds us in that reality. Paul means that Gods love has been sealed and applied to us in the gift of the Holy Spirit. Pauls not talking about some secret, second, subsequent, mystical blessing. Hes talking about something that God does in every believer by the Holy Spirit. As he justifies you, He vests with in you His Spirit that you might know the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ. What an amazing thing, this justification. Then he goes on, hes not done, he begins to explain this further.
III. God's love has been shed abroad not merely in the death of
Christ, but the death of Christ for sinners.
We see a third thing in verse 6. Paul here in verse 6 gives an argument. In verse 7 he gives an illustration, and in 8 he gives a conclusion or he makes a deduction from the argument. Heres the argument in verse 6. His argument is Christ died for us while we were helpless and hopeless, while we were weak and sinful. While we were unbelieving and undeserving. In other words, hes telling us in verse 6 that Gods love has been shed abroad not merely in the death of His Son, not merely in the death of Christ, but His love has been shed abroad, but His love has been shed abroad in the death of Christ for sinners. Its not just nice people that Jesus has died for. In fact its not nice people at all. Jesus didnt die for the righteous. He didnt die for good people. Why? There are no good people, there are no righteous people. He died for sinners. And thats Paul emphatic point here in verse 6. Notice he uses two words, helpless and ungodly. What do you want on your obituary? Theres been a lot of talk about whats going to be the first entry in the encyclopedia about our former president, you know. Well, whats going to be the first entry in the divine obituary for you?
Well, heres Pauls description of you, helpless and ungodly. Thats you apart from Christ. Thats you apart from grace. Thats what you are. That sums you up. Helpless and ungodly. Helpless in the sense that apart from God, apart from Christ, apart from grace, we are under the power of sin. We are unable to free ourselves from it. We dont want to free ourselves from it. We enjoy it. Were unable to repent. Were unable to see the gloriousness of the offer thats being made to us. Were helpless. Were weak. Were ungodly. Were separated from God. Were in rebellion against him. Were not manifesting His image. Were created in His image, but were not manifesting that image in the way that we live. Thats how Paul describes us. He describes us from two perspectives as those who are captive to sin and to those who are out of a right relationship with God. Thats His summing us up. Thats us apart from Christ.
And he tells us that Christ died for people like that. Thats who Christ died for, people who are weak, people who are helpless, people who are captive, people who are sinful, people who are ungodly, people who had no relationship with God. Jesus loves me, this I know. How do I know? You know because Christ died. Thats how you know. He died for the ungodly. Think, my friends, think just for a second. Think of your sin at its worst point, or least at its worst point for you, because every time I think I know the worst about myself, God shows me something else. But think for a moment. Think about that thing or those things perhaps that you have worked hard even for those closest to you not to know. Those things that you think, you know, if my wife, if my husband knew that, theyd leave me in a second. When youre honest, in those few moments that youre willing to be honest with yourself, its precisely at those points that Christ loves you, that Christ dies for you. He knows the worst of you. Its not as if fifteen years later Hes going to discover 'O, you mean that person is that way? Ah, what big mistake Ive made.' He already knows you at your worst p point. He died for the ungodly at the very worst point. At that point believer, He loved you still in Jesus Christ.
The gospel is not just 'God loves you.' You see, 'God loves you' might convey the idea that well, were fairly loveable people. Pretty nice guy, hes reasonable, its a nice thing for Him to do. Its not even 'Gods loves you at the cost of His Son.' God loves you in this magnificent way. Thats true. Its 'God loves you, sinner, at the cost of His Son.' Thomas Boston once said, "If anyone knew my heart, I wouldnt have four friends left in Scotland. And its precisely there that Christ dies for the ungodly. He doesnt die for those whove got everything together. Theyre clean, they are well scrubbed, they have prepared themselves. He doesnt say, Im going to die for everyone whos going to help themselves. Im going to die for everybody who at least makes the effort to do what they ought to do. He says, 'I die for the ungodly.' Christ died for the ungodly. Gods love has been shed abroad not merely in the death of Christ, but in the death of Christ for sinners. Paul is saying, "Do you want to see the love of God? See it in who Jesus dies for." He dies for people who dont deserve it, people who are totally unworthy of it. Hes not done.
IV. God's redemptive love cannot be presumed upon.
In verse 7 he gives an illustration of this. His illustration points to the rarity of vicarious sacrifice on behalf of virtuous people at the human level. From time to time in our experience and perhaps in our reading we have heard about people who have nobly given themselves on behalf of another person. Perhaps it has been someone serving in the military who has been willing to lay down his or her life for the country. Perhaps its a spouse who saves the life of his or her spouse through some heroic act or saves the children. But in each of these cases Paul points out that we are doing it for someone who is to us good. Paul is saying here that we cannot even compare that kind of love with the love that God has shown to us in Jesus Christ; and we certainly cannot presume on Gods redemptive love since even human self sacrifice is rare, and we are undeserving. Paul is not making some sort of a nitpicking distinction between a righteous man and a good man as if nobody would die for a righteous, but some people would die for a good man. Thats not his point. His point is simply this. That at the very highest levels of human nature, at the very highest levels of human behavior, its almost altruistic. It is where we hear of someone giving their life for another. When we do, it is always the case that that person is giving their life for something that they consider to be good and righteous. A man laying down his life for his country. A man laying down his life for his family. A person of noble and upstanding character, and its precisely that point of discontinuity between the death of Christ and the death of people in a vicarious situation that Paul is drawing our attention to.
Paul is going to argue in verse 8 again that Christ did not die for good and righteous people, He died for criminals. He died for pagans. He died for sinners. Christs love for us. Gods love for us in Jesus Christ is not what the philosophers call the love of complacency. In other words, God doesnt look at us and say, "Oh, how lovely. How wonderful. Oh, I just couldnt go on without those human beings. They are just so excellent, so fine. Theres something in them that compels My love for them." Thats the love of complacency. Thats the love that attracts young men to young women and hopefully vice versa. We delight in something in someone else that attracts us to the other person. Thats not the love of God. The love of God is what the philosophers would call to love is spontaneity. It dwells up from within him. Its not conditioned on something in us. In fact, if it were conditioned on something in us, we wouldnt have received it in the first place; because were unlovely, were ungodly, were weak and helpless. Gods love for us in Christ is not based upon something in us or about us. Its based wholly and solely on something in Him and about Him. And its something, my friends, that you and I will spend an eternity, and we will never understand it to the bottom. The love of God, how deep, how wide, how surpassing all our knowledge it is. Even in glory, well never understand it until the end. And Paul is saying, "Thats the kind of love that God has for us. Its not like any other kind of love. Its rare," Paul says, "that a human would lay down his life for a righteous and noble person." Then how much more amazing, how much more unbelievable is it that God would give His Son for those who dont deserve it, for those who are sinners. The unparalleled love of God. But thats what Hes talking about in verse 7, but Hes still not finished.
V. God's unique love is expressed and proven in the
death of Christ for unworthy sinners.
Furthermore, I want you to note that Paul does not say, 'in this is love. God had only wrath for you, but because Christ died, Christ was able to entice His heavenly Father to love you.' Thats not what Paul says. In Romans 5, chapter verse 8, Paul is not saying that Christs death made God love us. The picture is not of the Lord Jesus on the cross when he says, "Father, forgive them," praying to some reluctant deity. He finds it so hard to bless His people who just wants to blast them into oblivion and has no love in His heart for them, and Jesus is somehow pleading with the heavenly Father, "Oh Father, love your people, please." Thats not the picture at all. The cross is the expression of Gods prior love for His people. If the Father had not loved His people, the cross would have never occurred. The cross doesnt make God the Father love His people. It is the expression, it is the consequence of God the Fathers love for His people.
Paul is saying that this death of Christ is the very manifestation of the Fathers heart of love for us. His love is unprecedented, and its unparalleled, and it is yours if you believe on Him. Its an amazing thing.
Now maybe some of you are still wrestling with that. "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know." How do I know that. And maybe some of you are saying, "I have a hard time feeling that. I have a hard time accepting that. I have a hard time getting my heard around that." I understand that. Ive met a lot of Christians who have wrestled with that. But its a reality, my friend, for every believer. Gordon Reed tells the story of a man who many years ago got on a riverboat in Cincinnati, Ohio, to make his way to New Orleans. He didnt have a lot of money. He spent almost all of his money to buy a ticket to get on the riverboat. He didnt have any money for food, except for a little bit while he was going to be on this fairly long journey. And so he bought himself a supply of crackers and cheese. He was embarrassed by his poverty, and so he hid himself from the other passengers so he hid himself from the other passengers at mealtime. He knew that he would never be able to afford to eat in the ornate dining room on the riverboat. And so for days at a time when it come mealtimes, he would hide himself and eat his crackers and cheese. About the time he got to Natchez, he bumped into a fellow passenger who befriended him, and at mealtime he was going to creep off and eat his crackers and cheese, and his friend said, "Where are you going? Arent you coming to the dining hall." He said, "Oh no, I could never afford to go to the dining hall." And his friend said, "Take out your ticket." And his friend took out his ticket, and he said, "Now read it." And at the bottom of the ticket it said, "All meals included." Brister Ware tells me its the same way on the train today. You buy a bed, you get your meals.
Some people forget that. My friends, if youre justified, its not just that you can be. It is that you are awash in the love of God. Have you read your ticket? Christ died for the ungodly. Now eat the feast. Lets pray.
Our Lord and our God, what wondrous love is this that the king of bliss died for the saving of our souls, and yet oh Lord, we live as such paupers that we dont realize the wealth of the love of Christ, which has been given to us. Help us this day to embrace it and to walk in it and to live in it and to walk in it and to breathe in it and to praise You for it, in Jesus name, Amen.
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