The Blessings of Justification by Faith Part 3 – Romans 5:5b-8
Pastor Mark Hardy May 26, 2012
During the Revolutionary War there was a faithful preacher of the gospel by the name of Peter Miller. He lived near an unbelieving man who hated him intensely for his Christian life and testimony. In fact, this man violently opposed him and ridiculed his followers. One day the man was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Hearing about this, Peter Miller set out on foot to intercede for the man’s life before George Washington. The General listened to the minister’s earnest plea, but told him he didn’t feel he should pardon his friend. “My friend! He is not my friend,” answered Miller. “In fact, he’s my worst enemy.” “What!” said Washington. “You have walked 60 miles to save the life of your enemy?” That, in my judgment, puts the matter in a different light. I will grant your request.”
With pardon in hand, Miller hurried to the place where his neighbor was to be executed, and arrived just as the prisoner was walking to the scaffold. When the traitor saw Miller, he exclaimed, “Old Peter Miller has come to have his revenge by watching me hang!” But he was astonished as he watched the minister step out of the crowd and hand the officials the pardon which spared his life.
Peter Miller performed a very loving and noble act on behalf of his enemy, but this was just a shadow of what Jesus Christ did for us who are believers. He not only obtained His enemies pardons, He also died for them to accomplish that. This great love of God for us is one of the things we will be looking at this morning. Turn with me to Romans 5.
As we continue on in our study of Romans 5:1-11, we are looking at nine blessings given to every believer that are either a present or future reality. Thus far we have seen the first five blessings that we have right now as a result of being justified by faith:
1) Personal peace with God (v. 1)
2) Privileged access to grace (v. 2a)
3) Continual standing in grace (v. 2b)
4) Joyful hope of glory [ultimate Christlikeness] (v. 2c)
5) Humble rejoicing in tribulation (vv. 3-5a)
This morning we will be looking at the next two blessings. The sixth blessing given to every believer is this:
VI. The Spirit’s indwelling Presence
A. Having already seen last time in the first part of v. 5 that our hope in God and His promise of future glory “does not disappoint,” Paul now gives the reason why in the second part of v. 5. Look what he says: …because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given us.
1. This is the first mention of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, in the book of Romans. Because everything in our Christian lives depends on the Holy Spirit, Paul will develop this truth more extensively in chapter 8.
2. But I want to talk a little bit about Him this morning. At the moment of salvation, every believer “was given” or imparted the gift of the Holy Spirit. Not only is He the Dispenser of God’s numerous gifts in believers lives, but He Himself is also God’s gift to the church.
3. The initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit was on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:33), the birth of Christ’s church, as Jesus had promised (Jn. 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:7). But ever since, when a person receives Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord He immediately takes up permanent residence within him.
4. This is what makes one a true Christian. For Romans 8:9 says, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Tit. 3:5-6; 1 Jn. 3:24; 4:13)
5. It is the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence that guarantees our hope of glory or ultimate Christlikeness will take place and not be disappointed. For Ephesians 1:13-14 states, “…you were sealed in Him [i.e. Christ] with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge [i.e. down payment or engagement ring] of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession…” (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5)
B. The Holy Spirit coming to indwell every believer is part of the inauguration of the New Covenant through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross (1 Cor. 11:25), which promises a new and permanent relationship between God and believers.
1. Although the promised blessings in the New Covenant were originally given to Israel and are still future for them, we as believers experience them right now.
2. Listen to what God told Israel in Jeremiah 31:31-34, “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
3. Again in Ezekiel 36:25-28 the Lord says, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.”
4. In these two passages we see four New Covenant truths that are ours right now: First, we have a new purity.
• We are completely forgiven and cleansed of all our sins. This is because we have been justified by faith or declared righteous and clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Jer. 31:34; Ez. 36:25).
5. Second, we have a new identity.
• The moment we receive Christ we become His children and belong to His family (Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:28). John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
• And Romans 8:15-16 states: For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. (Eph. 1:5; 1 Jn. 3:1)
6. Third, we have a new disposition.
• God has “removed the heart of stone” and given us a new “heart of flesh” with new desires or inclinations, so that we can move with passion toward God and the things of God (Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:26).
• Now as Christians our deepest desire, beneath every other desire, our pain, and even our sinfulness, is to know, love, obey, and enjoy God. What is most true at the deepest level of your being as a believer is that you already have the life of God within you with godly desires that “want” to love God and others.
• This is our true self as believers, although it doesn’t always feel that way at any given moment.
7. Fourth, we have a new power.
• This new power in our lives is none other than the indwelling Holy Spirit. God says in Ezekiel 36:27, “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
• Only the Holy Spirit can move us in the direction that our new desires point and make us godly. And only He can restrain sin in our lives.
• For Galatians 5:16 says, “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
6. Now of the numerous ministries the Holy Spirit has in our lives, one of them is to make us deeply aware of God’s love for us, which we see here in v. 5. We see this in the seventh blessing given to every believer, which is this:
VII. Felt Love of God
A. Look again at v. 5: and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
1. Having begun with “faith” in v. 1, Paul shifted to “hope” in vv. 2, 4-5a, and now he emphasizes love in vv. 5-8, which is the same order given in 1 Corinthians 13:13. When a person receives Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord he or she enters a spiritual love relationship with God that lasts throughout all eternity.
2. Now the phrase “love of God” here is not talking about our love for God, but rather God’s love for us. However, God’s love for us is the pattern of our love for Him and one another as the Holy Spirit produces His fruit of love in our lives (Gal. 5:22).
3. For 1 John 4:19 says, “We love, because He first loved us.” It is this divine or agape love that God Himself is (1 Jn. 4:8, 16) that Jesus said is to be the distinguishing mark of His people (Jn. 13:34-35) and of true spirituality (Matt. 22:37-40).
4. Now the one Greek word translated “poured out” (ekkechutai) refers to abundant and lavish outpouring to the point of overflowing. God’s love for us is not dripped on us one drop at a time, but is profusely poured out like a river “within our hearts,” which is the mission-control center of our lives.
5. And this is done through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Therefore, not only do we have the objective evidence of the previous five blessings that our salvation is eternally secure, but also God has given us the subjective evidence of the felt love of God through the Holy Spirit to assure us that our hope of glory will not disappoint us.
6. John Stott said it well, “The reason our hope will never let us down is that God will never let us down. His love will never give us up.” (pg. 142)
7. The harsh realities of life and Satan himself can tempt us to doubt God’s goodness and to disbelieve God’s love for us. But the Holy Spirit assures us that God’s love for us is never changes and is unassailable.
8. Paul declares in Romans 8:35, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Verses 37-39) “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
9. By the gracious work of the Spirit within us, our hearts are able to experience a depth of God’s love for us that our minds are unable to grasp. In Ephesians 3:16-19 Paul prayed that the Father, “…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.”
10. Now since God’s love for us is poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit, then why does Paul pray that we might know it? Because when sin and disobedience is in our lives we grieve (Eph. 4:30) and quench (1 Thess. 5:19) the Holy Spirit and forfeit the felt sense of assurance of our salvation (Rom. 8:16).
11. It is only as we cooperate with the Spirit by confessing and forsaking our sin and allowing Him to once again control our lives that the life of God that is already within us can be released.
12. This is why when I counsel with people I try to expose within people both the life of God within them and what is blocking it from being released. For only as the block is removed will we be able to be the lovers of God and others that God recreated us in Christ to be as the Spirit’s fruit is manifested in and through our lives (Gal. 5:22-23).
B. Paul then describes the nature of God’s love for us in vv. 6-8. Look at v. 6: For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
1. The word “helpless” is one of four words in vv. 6-10 that describe the sinful state of mankind in order to highlight the greatness and distinctiveness of God’s love in Christ. The word “helpless” (asthenon) means to be spiritually weak, impotent or powerless to save oneself or do anything to please God.
2. William Newel described it this way, “The fact of man’s total moral inability is stated here in the gentlest possible terms. It is a bankruptcy of all moral and spiritual inclination toward God and holiness, as well as of power to be or do good.” (pg. 169)
3. In Poor Richard’s Almanac we read the saying, “God helps them that help themselves.” Although many people take this as their life’s motto, v. 6 says, “…while we were still helpless,” continually in the state of being utterly helpless and powerless to overcome sin, Satan, death, and hell, God took the initiative and “…at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
4. Praise God that He did or no one would ever be saved! Concerning the phrase “at the right time,” Thomas Schreiner states, “It could mean that Christ died at the right time in terms of God’s plan for the world (cf. Rom. 3:26; 8:18; 13:11; Gal. 4:4), fulfilling the promises made in the Scriptures. Others think the appropriateness of the time relates to the weakness of the ungodly, in that he died at the right time to rescue them from peril. We probably face a false dilemma here. God not only planned when Christ would die but also had in mind the people for whom his death would be effective. Again the emphasis is on the greatness of God’s love for his people (pg. 260).
5. Notice again that “Christ died for the ungodly.” The word “for” (huper) often means “on behalf of,” but occasionally as it does here it means “in place of.” Clearly Christ’s death was a substitutionary death, but a death in the place of who?
6. The ungodly! The word “ungodly” (asebon) here refers to the complete opposite of God and godliness. It is to be impious or without reverence for God and His holy standards and to rebel against Him.
7. Peter proclaims in 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.”
8. In Jesus’ atoning death on the cross as our Substitute, the sinless Christ took upon Himself the punishment that we as ungodly people deserved. What unfathomable love!
C. Paul then contrasts God’s love with human love. Look at v. 7: For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.
1. Now whether the “righteous man” and the “good man” are synonymous and talking about the same kind of person, or the “righteous man” is the moralist who does what is right and keeps the letter of the law and the “good man” is the benevolent, kind, and loveable person, Paul’s point is still the same.
2. Although it is rare to find someone who will die for the best of people or causes, no one steps forward to die for bad and wicked people! Nobody but God!
3. Unlike human love that is inclined to love the people who love us and is almost invariably based on the attractiveness, worth, deservedness of the object of love, God’s love is totally unmotivated by any desirable qualities in the person loved.
4. There is absolutely nothing anyone can do to earn or deserve God’s love. It is given freely as a gift of His grace.
5. Charles Hodge accurately states, “If [God] loved us because we loved Him, He would love us only so long as we loved Him, and on that condition; and then salvation would depend on the constancy of our treacherous hearts. But as God loved us as sinners, as Christ died for us as ungodly, our salvation depends, not on our loveliness, but on the constancy of the love of God.” (pg. 136-137)
D. Paul then reiterates the substance of v. 6 and gives the greatest example of God’s love for us in v. 8: But God demonstrates [or proves] His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
1. The word “sinners” (hamartolon) refers to all mankind who has departed from the way of righteousness, fallen short of God’s holy standards and missed the target of Christlike character (3:23).
2. The supreme proof of God’s love is the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for those who rightly deserved His wrath instead of His love. Since God and Christ are one, Paul can speak of Christ’s sacrificial death as a demonstration of God’s own love.
3. We also see this in 2 Corinthians 5:19 where on the cross “…God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself…”
4. The statement “Christ died for us” is the very essence of the Christian message and the most important statement ever put into print in any language.
5. What unspeakable love that God in Christ would die for helpless, ungodly sinners who are His enemies (v. 10). Jesus said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
6. And 1 John 4:9-10 says, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
7. John MacArthur summarizes God’s love well when he says, “The just and infinitely holy….God who hates every sinful thought and every sinful deed nevertheless loves the sinners who think and do those things, even while they are still hopelessly enmeshed in their sin. Even when men openly hate God and do not have the least desire to give up their sin, they are still the objects of God’s redeeming love as long as they live. Only at death does an unbeliever cease to be loved by God. After that, he is eternally beyond the pale of God’s love and is destined irrevocably for His wrath.” (pg. 285-286)
In closing, whenever you are tempted to doubt God’s love for you, remember the supreme proof of God’s love in Jesus death for you. As the saying goes, Jesus stretched out His arms on the cross and said, “This much I love you.”
The hymn writer Frederick Lehman penned this so well in his hymn entitled The Love of God. Listen as I read the first and third stanzas and the chorus:
1. The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
3. Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
If you are a Christian, never forget that God’s love for you is forever and absolutely nothing either from within you or without you can ever change that fact. You are eternally secure in His love. But if you are not a Christian, God extends His love to you in this life only. Please don’t wait! Receive His loving gift of salvation in Jesus Christ now before it is too late.
God never loved us because we were so lovable. He saved us in the midst of our sin for His own glory—to show what a gracious, merciful, and loving God He is!