God’s Wondrous Love—Romans 5:6-8

INTRODUCTION

 

Memorial Day is primarily when we remember those soldiers who have fallen in service for our nation. There are at least two words that make up the actions that make Memorial Day: Love and sacrifice. A soldier’s love for their nation, family, and comrades; A soldier’s willingness to sacrifice themselves for their nation, family, and comrades.

 

Where does that willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of love come from? It points us to Someone greater than ourselves. We are all made in the image of God, and so His characteristics of love and sacrifice are in some measure passed on to us. Yes, God Himself, is a loving God who was willing  to sacrifice Himself for us.

 

6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God  commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6–8)

 

In these verses we learn about the love of God, which is great and awesome. But we don’t appreciate much the love of God until we learn about…

 

THE CONDITION OF MAN

 

Romans 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

 

1) Without Strength

 

What strength didn’t we have? The phrase “without strength” (asthenēs) refers to weakness, such as the sort of weakness that we have when we get sick. We become physically incapable of doing sometimes even the basic necessities of living. We are incapable of willing ourselves to be well again.

 

One of the good things that God is teaching us in this crisis is how dependent we are on Him. COVID-19 shows how little strength we actually have. 

 

It’s invisible, so we don’t have the strength in our eyes to see it. We can be infected up to fourteen days without seeing any symptoms, so we can never know for sure if we are infected or not.

 

And then, at its worst, the Coronavirus can take away our strength to breath on our own—we might lie on a bed hooked up to a ventilator for two weeks. We won’t have the strength to simply will ourselves to be physically well.

 

In a similar way, we are without strength spiritually. We are unable to make ourselves spiritually well. Listen to the following verses which describe our spiritual weaknesses:

 

We do not have the strength to understand spiritual things—

 

14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

 

We do not have the strength to see or enter the kingdom of God—

 

3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…

 

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:3,5)

 

So the condition of man is that we are without strength and unable to save ourselves. The condition of man is also that we are…

 

2) Ungodly

 

“Christ died for the ungodly” (asebēs)—What does it mean to be ungodly? 

 

Here’s a short definition: To be ungodly means to be unconcerned about God. It means that a person does not care about God’s law or His character or His personhood.

Don’t think for a moment that an ungodly person is someone who is always nasty and mean. The person might well be a nice person and still be ungodly. The key is that they are unconcerned about God and His ways in their life. 

 

The ungodly person is opposed to God’s rule in their hearts, and this opposition might come out quietly (think of the sweet grandpa who hasn’t ever come to church) or it might come out viciously (like some of the outspoken atheists today). 

 

Just don’t think that because you are a nice person, that you are not ungodly. What matters is whether or not you are concerned about God in your life.

 

In the book of Jude, we find that there were people posing as believers who came into the church and taught that people could do whatever they wanted and it would only magnify God’s grace. Notice what Jude calls these people:

 

4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)

 

The ungodly person wants to be free to do what they want to do. Many ungodly people have moral standards that just happen to line up with the Bible, but that’s just a coincidence. 

 

If there’s something they want to do, and it’s not biblical, it doesn’t matter what the Bible says, they will do it anyway. They will excuse it by saying that that God is a God of grace and love.

 

The ungodly person will not allow God to judge their actions. If someone points out a sin in their life (using the Bible), they will say, “Who are you to tell me what to do? You can’t judge me!”

 

The ungodly person is someone who is opposed to God. They might have a godly facade, if it suits them, but they are really only focused on themselves. They might be nice and sweet, or they might be thieves and murderers. But they are all ungodly.

 

The condition of man is that we are without strength and that we are ungodly. And the condition of man is also that we are…

 

3) Sinners

 

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 

What does it mean to be a sinner (hamartōlos)? 

 

To sin meant, originally, to miss the mark. It could have been used to describe an arrow missing the bullseye, a child missing a question on a test, etc.

 

In the Bible, sin is missing God’s mark. We read, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God is the mark that we need to hit, and we all come short of His mark.

 

Sin is also breaking God’s law—

 

4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4)

 

So sin is lawlessness—it’s refusing to obey God’s standards.

 

Our human tendency is to think that we are not sinners—or at least we’re not bad sinners. Or, if we are sinners, it’s not our fault that we are sinners. However we do it, we like to find a way to wriggle out of the label “sinner” being tacked onto us.

 

Being a sinner isn’t just about committing certain sins or a lot of sins. We might think that as long as we are not murderers, thieves, and so forth, that we’re okay. We might excuse our sin because it is so common—“Everyone does that…I am only human.” 

 

But the Bible is insistent that we are all sinners:

 

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Romans 3:10–12)

 

We need to lay aside the excuses and face up to our human condition as described by the Bible. We are without strength to save ourselves; we are ungodly and don’t really care about God; we are sinners who fall short of God’s standards every single day.

 

If that were all there was, we would be hopeless indeed. In fact, many people live as though this was it—that there is no God. Their response is usually either to be a cynic or to be an optimist

 

The cynic says that it’s all hopeless and I might as well do whatever I want—it doesn’t matter, when I die, I’ll just be food for the worms.

 

The optimist tries to have hope. They devote their life to improving mankind. They think we can have peace on earth. In short, they think they can change man’s condition.

 

Both the cynic and the optimist are wrong. There is hope, but real hope does not come from human ambition. Real hope comes from…

 

THE LOVE OF GOD

 

When you start to think about the love of God, you begin to realize that there is no end to His wondrous love. Someone once took the famous verse, John 3:16, and broke it apart to show the greatness of God’s love:

 

God

the greatest Lover

so loved

the greatest degree

the world

the greatest company

that he gave

the greatest act

his only begotten Son

the greatest gift

that whosoever

the greatest opportunity

believeth

the greatest simplicity

in him

the greatest attraction

should not perish

the greatest promise

but

the greatest difference

have

the greatest certainty

everlasting life

the greatest possession

 

Isn’t that a wonderful way of looking at John 3:16? What a great way to learn that God’s love is the greatest! 

 

In Romans 5:6-8, we learned about man’s terrible, sinful condition. Now let’s go back through and see what we can learn about God’s love.

 

Romans 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

 

1) God Showed His Love At The Right Time

 

Look at that phrase, “in due time.” The Greek word here is kairos. It often carries the meaning of the right time or the opportune time.

 

Once, on a gravel road near the ranch where I grew up, the Dodge Caravan we were driving had a flat tire. It wasn’t just a flat…the tire was shredded. 

 

Since we were on vacation, the van was packed to the ceiling with suitcases and what-not. Guess where the spare tire was located? Underneath all that stuff! In addition, the baby was crying, so the situation was tense.

 

But just minutes later, old friends—neighbors from the old days—that I hadn’t seen in years pulled up from opposite directions, got out and helped change the flat. They came at the just “right time!”

 

Christ came to earth at the kairos, the right time. In Galatians, Paul uses a different phrase to describe this right time.

 

4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, (Galatians 4:4)

 

When talking about the fulness of the time, scholars will mention how the world was prepared for the coming of Jesus in that there was, in the Roman Empire, a single language everyone knew. They will describe the Roman roads and shipping that allowed travel anywhere.

 

The fulness of the time also brings in the fact that Christ came and fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of a Messiah to come. His coming was at the perfect time to do that.

 

But the greatest thing I think about the right time or the “fullness of the time” is that Jesus came and died when we were sinners. 

 

Imagine for a moment that I was unable to change that tire myself—that I had a disability that prevented me from doing it. What great love was shown by my old neighbors showed up at the right time to help!

 

As sinners, we are unable to help ourselves—we are without strength. So Jesus’s death was God’s love being shown at the right time.

 

2) God Showed His Love Despite Our Lack Of Goodness

 

Romans 5:7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 

 

Despite being selfish sinners, people still show a bit of God’s image of love in them. Most people have someone or something that they would die for. A parent will often die to save their child. A soldier will sacrifice his life for his country or his comrades.

 

On June 3, 1944, an American patrol was ambushed by Germans. They had been moving across a wide clearing when they came under fire from German tanks, machine guns, and riflemen. American soldiers fell like flies.

 

The patrol leader, lying flat on the ground, ordered a retreat. But they would need cover fire if they were to make it. Two soldiers, Private Christian and Private Johnson must have understood that. On their own initiative, they leaped to their feet and started moving directly toward the enemy.

 

Both of them were hit multiple times by machine gun fire. Private Christian had his right leg blown off. Private Johnson took hits in his chest. But both struggled forward, continuing to deliver fire to the enemy until both were dead so that their comrades could escape. Both Private Christian and Private Johnson received the medal of honor (taken from Edward Murphy, Heroes of World War II)

 

Yes, you do see men and women who are willing to sacrifice themselves for others, especially for their family or their comrades. What Jesus said is true—

 

13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

 

But at the same time, it’s rare that anyone would willingly die for someone like Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin. It’s rare that anyone would even die for someone who is a stranger. 

 

Romans 5:7 sets up a contrast for the next verse:

 

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 

“God commendeth his love toward us” The Greek word for “commendeth” (synistēmi) means “to cause something to be known by action” (Louw & Nida). We do this when we commend someone on a job that they have done well—we make known their good job by our action of speaking out.

 

God shows His love toward us by sending Christ to die for us. But it’s more than that. He sent Christ to die for us…“while we were yet sinners.” 

 

A person might die for a good man, a parent might sacrifice themselves for their child, but Christ died for sinners. 

 

Sinners are, we just learned, people who are in opposition to God. They ignore God. They fall short of His standards. They break His law. Sinners don’t care about God. 

 

Romans 5:10 even describes us all as enemies of God. But despite us being sinners, God still showed His love for us.

 

During the Revolutionary War there was a faithful preacher of the gospel by the name of Peter Miller. He lived near a fellow who hated him intensely for his Christian life and testimony. In fact, this man violently opposed him and ridiculed his followers. 

 

One day the unbeliever was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Hearing about this, Peter Miller set out on foot [60 miles] 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 living 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 hastened to the place where his neighbor was to be executed…

 

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…produce the pardon which spared his life. (R. Kent  Hughes, Romans: Righteousness from Heaven, Preaching the Word)

 

Friends, this is what God did for us! And by the way, if you are a Christian today, this is also what Jesus meant when He told us to love our enemies.

 

God showed His love at the right time, God showed His love despite our sin, and then…

 

3) God Showed His Love By Christ Dying For Us

 

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Why did Christ have to die for us sinners? Why didn’t God simply say, like a good grandpa does when he looks at the window you broke with a baseball, “Well, as long as you are sorry, it’s okay…I’ll overlook it.”?  

 

It’s because God is a holy and just God. Overlooking a sin is not justice. It’s a travesty of justice. Just ask anyone who has been the victim of an injustice in the court system.

 

Sin carries a death penalty (Romans 6:23) and the penalty must be paid. Anything less would be unjust.

 

God could just wipe out the entire human race, like when He did in Noah’s day. He could do something like that again—and leave no survivors and still be perfectly holy and just because that’s what sinners deserve.

 

But God is also a God of love. He wants people to come to Him. He desires them to be in a relationship with Him. So to satisfy both His love and His justice, He gave His own Son, Jesus Christ, to be a sacrifice for us.

 

It is not like the deals that parents make with their kids—if you behave and get good grades, I’ll buy you an iPad. No, God loves us and shows us that love when we were “yet sinners.” 

 

It’s not a matter of cleaning up your life to make yourself good enough for God. It’s simply receiving that love He has already shown. It’s believing in His Son who died for your sins. Have you done that? 

 

CONCLUSION

 

For Christians, if we understand God’s love against the background of our sin, it prevents us from ever thinking that God loves us because we are a  good person. God did not and does not love us because we are good. He loves us in spite of our lack of goodness. 

  • God loves us despite the grumpy attitude that we gave our spouse or parents or children this morning.
  • God loves us despite the fact that we didn’t sit down and pray and read our Bible this morning.
  • God loves us despite the fact that we gossiped, slandered, or otherwise ran down another person this week.
  • God loves us despite the fact that we pridefully lie to ourselves, “I didn’t do any of that…I am a good person!”

That’s the wondrous love of God! And what that means is that we can be secure in His love

 

If you think that God loves you because you are even a little bit good, then when you do something really bad, you are going to wonder, “Will God still love me after this?”

 

But the fact that God loved us and sent Jesus to die for our sins while we were yet without strength, and ungodly, and sinners, means that nothing we ever do will separate us from His wondrous love!

 

Levi Durfey—LDM-45-Romans 5.6-8-20200524FBCAM-Memorial Day-SERMON

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