This is how much God loves us (Romans 5:6-11)

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What is the thing that we perhaps find hardest to believe during trials and suffering?  Well, it’s the very thing we need to know the most. We need to know how much God loves us.

We left off last time with that wonderful declaration of God’s love for us. This is the first mention of God’s love in Romans. [1] This not because this is a minor theme for Paul indeed, he places quite an emphasis on the theme. [2] Rather, it is because he has been building up to this wonderful truth crucially deployed in the context of our need for hope in the midst of suffering. 

So, the big theme here is that God’s love poured out through the Holy Spirit and seen in Christ’s death and resurrection has resulted in our justification. This justification guarantees our future day salvation from God’s wrath. To emphasise this, Paul uses a superlative “all the more…” (v9)

We can know three crucial things about God’s love (and there is one thing to do in response.

God loved us first

(v6) The word “for” (gar) shows that Paul is continuing to build his argument from the point made in verse 1 that because we have been justified, we have peace with God and that this peace with God enables us to face suffering knowing that God uses it not for our punishment but for our good. It’s immediate connection is back to verse 5 and the description of God’s love poured out in our lives. His love ix received through the coming of the Holy Spirit but it is first given in Christ’s sacrificial death.[3]

“Paul never thinks of God’s love for us apart from the cross, and he never thinks of Christ’s dying for us apart from the Father’s giving of the Son (c.f. Rom 3:2.”[4]

 God’s timing for acting was “while we were still weak” emphasising that God’s intervention is by grace, just as Abraham was justified before he had carried out any righteous works of the Law, so God acts to justify us before we are even able to do anything for ourselves.  This was “at the right time.” First of all, it was historically or “eschatologically” at the right time in God’s purposes. God’s timing is perfect. However, also the timing in terms of our own spiritual state is crucial because it emphasises grace and removes the possibility of boasting. [5]

So, once again, I’m humbled by God’s grace. There is no place for pride.  I’m not the centre of the story.  It is not my victory.  I’m grateful for his grace shown to me but more than that I’m overwhelmed by his love. He chose to love me even though I didn’t deserve his love.

God’s love is greater than our love

(v7-8) shows the uniqueness and awesomeness of God’s grace. In human terms, the possibility of dying for someone who is righteous seems unthinkable.  I consider Paul to be using “righteous” and “good” interchangeably here. It is not that one would not die for the first category “righteous” but possibly for the other “good.”[6]  The sense here is “It’s highly unlikely that you would die for a righteous person though I guess you might possibly entertain the idea.”  However, God goes beyond that. Christ does not just die for good people but died for us whilst we remained ungodly.

God’s love guarantees my future and final security

Verses 9-10  use the superlative “all the more.” It’s not as though God on the one had has justified us but we are going to experience an even greater degree of salvation or be even more certain of it.  Rather the language here emphasises the cast iron certainty of our future hope.  Moo identifies this as a reversal of the major  to minor” movement. The point is that God has accomplished the more difficult (major) requirement of dealing with our sin and drawing us to himself. This means he can definitely accomplish the minor, easier requirement and rescues us from the coming judgement. [7]

Schreiner puts it this way:

“Since God has already removed the greatest obstacle to future glory, the guilt and enmity of believers then he will surely see to it that believers will be spared from his eschatological wrath.”[8]

This hope is found in the (resurrection) life of Christ.  We are raised with him.

As we saw in the earlier verses of this chapter, believers have security. This is sometimes know as the perseverance of the saints -the certain hope that those who know the Lord will persevere to the end and not fall away.  Why do we believe this? Well, it’s because the whole of our salvation Is God’s work, God’s responsibility.  If my salvation were in any way dependent on my efforts, if I had to work to earn God’s love and forgiveness, then we could legitimately presume that God expected us to go on working to stay in a right relationship with him. Yet because salvation is God’s initiative and because he chooses to love me first, that I can trust him to go on loving me. It is the sovereign God who holds me safe in his hand.

So, there are the three things we can know -and now is the one thing to do in response.

Enjoying God’s love

V11 A furtherimplication of this is that we “rejoice” (ESV). The word here can refer to boasting. WE have been told that we are not put to shame (v5) and here now is the positive converse of shame. However, boasting in our own works or (ethnic) identity is excluded by justification by faith. So, this boasting is in God (note the pattern “in God through Christ).  I think in this context given that the boasting is in God not ourselves, it is right to link it to praise, exultation and therefore to rejoicing.  Paul reinforces the point again that reconciliation is something that we have now and that this is through Christ’s work on the Cross. There is no question concerning our status and relationship to God.

This description of joyful, exultant boasting reminds us that our purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.  Glorifying God and enjoying him are linked intrinsically to praising him, magnifying and declaring his goodness.

At this stage we can also see once again the link between this and persevere  hope in the face of trials.  How do we face suffering and persevere? It’s as we look at what God has achieved already. He has loved us in the act of sending Christ, through whom we re reconciled and justified. He has sealed us with his Spirit as confirmation of this love and as a guarantee of the great day of vindication and triumph to come.  So, in the middle of our suffering, we lift our eyes to the bigger more beautiful picture and we rejoice.  It is this shared joy that spurs and motivates one another on towards the goal and helps us to keep going.

Conclusion – love in action

If I believe in God’s love to me, then it should affect how I live. First of all, together we are spurred on to persevere even when we feel like giving up.  We encourage one another on as we rejoice together.  Secondly, I’m prompted to love others. I seek to encourage my fellow believers because God’s love overflows in my life. This helps me to love my brothers and sisters even when they let me down and fail me. I remember that Christ has loved them first. It helps me to be moved with compassion towards those who don’t know Christ, even when they oppose the Gospel because I remember that God chose to love me when I was unlovely, when I was his enemy. Finally, this love compels me to love Him back. He has won my heart.

“Love so amazing so divine demands my life, my soul my all.”[9]

[1] Moo, Romans, 307.

[2] Moo, Romans, 307.

[3] Compare how John also links God’s love to him sending the son as an atoning sacrifice. 1 John 4:9-10 where John also emphasises God’s love in Christ being prior to our response to Him. 

[4] Moo, Romans, 307.

[5] C.f. Moo, Romans, 307.

[6] Though note Schreiner’s suggestion that the good person here is a technical term for a benefactor. This would suggest a specific relationship and dependency between the person willing to die and the one whose place they take. Schreiner, Romans, 261-262.

[7] Moo, Romans, 309-310.

[8] Schreiner, Romans, 262.

[9] When I survey the wondrous cross.

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