This is an exegetical sermon from Romans 5:6-8. It examines the deep love of God extended to us through the death of His Son. This sermon was originally preached by Pastor Justin Bragg at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA. Audio unavailable.
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:: The Resolved ::
Justin Bragg (elder)
“Love and Some Verses”
6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
I see a story here. A great drama. A tragedy. A love story.
I see a prodigal son returning home after squandering his family fortune, finding a father welcoming him with open arms and tears and an embrace that lasts for an eternity
I see Hosea, marrying a whore named Gomer, and loving her, relentlessly while she goes out prostituting herself out to every man who walks by, and coming home to a man who cannot stop loving her, despite her abuse of him
I see this thing we call unconditional love, but that I don’t think any of us truly understand
I see infidelity and adultery
And I see grace and forgiveness and love
Here’s the story that Paul is telling – it’s a love story to be sure
The god of this universe, the creator of all things, and the created beings he loves most
He displays his affection and his love, never holding back; always giving the best there is to give
And his lover, the one he cannot help but love, turns away, gets addicted to drugs and sex and money and power and selfish pride and rejects the perfect love offered so freely
And when we would expect this great and perfect lover to say “you have made your bed, now lay in it.” When any one of us would say “to hell with it – if you aren’t going to receive and reciprocate my love – I’m out, I’m done, I can’t do this anymore” We find the lover performing the greatest act of love that one can imagine.
The great lover, at just the right time, while the unfaithful wife has lost her beauty from years of addiction to hard liquor and cocaine and heroin, scarred from countless abortions and needle marks in her arms and in between her toes, rail thin from the drugs, coughing up blood every morning and still cursing the lover for not allowing her to just disappear or even die,
She is on her death bed – there is nothing desirable or attractive about her, she has no value, she is worthless, she is vile and disgusting.
He will not let her go, he will not let her die – he will take her place – in some way, he will take her sin and abuse and sickness upon himself – and he will die, in her place, if only she would feel loved
I see you, and I see me. I see every human being on this earth. I look out and I do not see beauty and value and worth, but I am forced to see what Paul sees
Look at our verses – what are the words Paul uses to describe the human condition?
Weak (powerless, without strength, feeble, sluggish in doing right) unable/useless
The point: left to ourselves none of us is able to do even the smallest thing to please god or return his love
What specifically are we unable to do?
Unable to understand spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14)
Unable to see the kingdom of god (John 3:3,5)
Unable to seek god (Romans 3:11)
You are as likely to save yourself as a dead person is to bring herself back to life.
Ungodly same word used to describe the depravity of humans (Romans 1:18)
It’s not so much that you and I are unlike god (though we are), but humanity is in a state of fierce opposition to him.
We oppose his sovereignty – we want to rule over him, to do as we please.
We oppose his holiness – we do not want our sinful acts called into question because of his righteous standards
We oppose his omniscience – we are angry that he knows us perfectly, that nothing we think or do is hidden from his sight
And we oppose his immutability – the fact that none of this about god will ever change
Sinners: those who have fallen short of god’s standard
Parallel to wickedness from 1:18
Not only have failed to love and worship and serve god
But we are wicked in this world – we do not treat others properly, we do not respect them, we use them for our own selfish gain, and we most certainly do not love them as we love ourselves (matt 22:39)
We are completely worthless and deserve nothing but pain and suffering and agony
But look at our god, look at what he did
God refuses to allow the light of his love to dim. He will not let his beloved perish. He will not let you go. I say to god “Screw you – leave me alone – I hate you.”
And my god, who created me, and saved me, and saves me every day – what does he do?
“Shows his love for us.” He loves us, more, and more, without end, immeasurable and incalculable. How is this love shown? “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
“While we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly”
1 Timothy 1:15 “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners”
John 3:16 “for god loved the world in such a manner, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”
1 john 3:16 “by this we know love, that he laid down his life for us”
That which is most undeserved – is given freely, without condition
Don’t forget what Paul has said about you and I – about our condition (powerless, ungodly, and wicked)
How or why is this the greatest demonstration of love conceivable?
Vs 7 “for one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even die – but god show his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The wording here is a bit confusing, so let me try to explain what I think Paul is trying to communicate here:
Difficult to understand because of the words righteous and good. What is it that Paul is trying to say: one would scarcely die for a righteous person, but one might die, or is more likely to die for a good person?
Why wouldn’t I die for a righteous person, but I might die for a good person?
The point of these verses is to magnify the love of Christ on the cross by reminding us that the greatest act of human love is giving one’s life for another (a wife, child, friend) – whereas Jesus died for people who hated him.
What I think Paul is communicating. A good person has a stronger claim on our emotions than a righteous person. While the righteous person is just and upright in all his dealings, and has some claim on respect. The good person is one whom we have a strong personal attachment, and for whom we would be more willing to die.
I would be more likely to die for.
Here’s the point though: you and I, we know from these verses, from the book of Romans that we have studied so far, from the whole bible, and from the evening news and a stroll through downtown on a given night, that none of us are good or righteous.
And so what does this show us – the reason why this is the most beautiful, the most impossible, the most tragic love story. First – we don’t deserve it. And it’s not just that we don’t deserve it – we are actually diametrically opposed to it. This is where the application comes it: until you and I get this, until we feel it – more than just knowing it in our heads – this will never make any sort of difference in your life.
Here’s my psychoanalysis of the typical human mind. It is natural for you and me to care only about ourselves. This is the way we were born. We perform acts of benevolence and goodwill toward others. But in reality, we only do these things to serve ourselves. The question in every one of our actions is “what will this do for me?” “How do I benefit?”
We may try to convince ourselves that this is not the case, but it most certainly is
I live in the world of King Justin. I am the ruler and celebrity of my own world.
All of you are the supporting cast.
This world in which I live in is for my amusement, for my self-serving fancies.
Each one of you, and even god, serve to make much of Justin.
And so I have difficulty, in fact, it is impossible for me to naturally believe and receive this love of god for me, because, when it comes down to it – I’m not bad – how could I be bad – this whole story, this movie, this song, this world is all about me – I am the hero, I am the heart-throb
And so I can’t receive this love that the bible tells me I need
Because in order for that to happen, I must see myself as the villain, not the hero of this story.
In order for god to take his place as the center of this universe, I’ve got to give up my throne.
I may talk about how wicked and depraved I am, but until I really believe it, at the core of who I am, I will never come to the point of begging for the god’s mercy
Until you and I are humbled by the utter ruin and terror and travesty that is our lives, we will never receive and embrace and be affected by the love of god
Until you can say Paul’s words in 1 Timothy as your own, you will never feel the love of god for you
1 Timothy 1:15 “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost”
I am the foremost of all sinners – I am the worst.
There is none more repulsive than I
And I am loved. I am rescued. I am saved from myself
I think the first century witnesses of Christ’s life and death got it
[Piper, “the passion of Jesus Christ” 30]
And maybe we are at some sort of disadvantage – I didn’t see Christ, I don’t know him like that, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know him at all
Vs 5 – “god’s love has been poured into our hearts through the holy spirit who has been given to us”
And here again is the difficulty – I can’t just tell you “go and feel the Holy Spirit” but it’s the only way
That disadvantage I said we suffered from, Jesus says that I am wrong about that, so I guess we should listen to him: john 16:7
“I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
This love that god shows us. The death of Jesus Christ to redeem and reconcile and make us righteous, it is experienced only in the giving of the holy spirit to our hearts
This is the only way that it will leave the realm of academia and intellectualism, and become something that means something to you, something that changes you
I hear it in Jesus’ words – I hear it in Paul’s words.
I can’t tell you how to do it. I don’t have a recipe – it isn’t like baking chocolate chip cookies
There are no guarantees, there are no formulas.
Our creator, our great lover, is a mystery
But I can begin by knowing, by understanding, by believing, that at the right time, god demonstrates his love for weak, ungodly sinners by sending Christ to die for them
And that truth can leave the realm of a fact, or a belief that I might ascribe to, and enter a realm of deep conviction and comfort when I take hold of it by receiving the love poured out for me by the Holy Spirit
What do we get from a right understanding of this passage?
Again – assurance, confidence
If you are not convinced and affected by the love of god for you, why would you ever do anything?
How will we experience this in our lives? God loves us. Great – now what do we do?
A thousand times we have told you – receive – that’s all you can do
Here’s one more thing that I believe will apply this passage to your life
We see that god shows the greatest love toward us by dying for us
So maybe the application, the only way to feel and apply these words is to go out and get yourself killed for another
Die for one another, but don’t die for one another
Follow me here. Something greater/harder than dying for another… living with and for another
1 john 3:16-18
This great love story: it is about you, and it is about me.