Unrivaled Love - Romans 5:6-11 - Skip Heitzig
Good morning. Book of Romans, chapter 5. Let's turn there in our Bibles. David Roper wrote a little poem that goes like this, "Paul's girl is rich and haughty, my girl is poor as clay. Paul's girl is young and happy, my girl looks like a bale of hay. Paul's girl is smart and clever, my girl is dumb but good, but would I trade my girl for Paul's? You bet your life I would."
Well, that's hardly true love, and it's what people want. It's what people look for in life. To be loved and to be able to give love. So in preparation for this message on unrivaled love, the love of God, I went to Google, and I typed in true love. And Google responded with 2,640,000,000 results. The first page was largely advertisements on how we're going to help you find true love, then the next page was hit songs that talk about true love. Articles about how you can ensure that you'll discover it, and then explanations as to what true love is all about.
But my mind goes back to that great theological movie called The Princess Bride, and you may remember when the hero of the story named Wesley is in a comatose, nearly dead, almost dead, perhaps dead, and they bring him a Miracle Max. And Miracle Max takes this set of bellows and starts pumping air into his lungs, and then Miracle Max played by Billy Crystal says, hello in there. Hey. What's so important? What you got worth living for? And then he pushes on Wesley's chest and out come the words, true love.
His friend, Inigo Montoya standing next to Wesley says, true love, you heard what he said. There can be no more noble cause than that. And Miracle Max says, sonny, true love is the greatest thing, except maybe for a MLT, mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with the mutton that is thinly sliced. Their perky, I like it.
True love is a topic that has been discussed, it has been pondered, it has been argued, it has been debated for centuries. So much so that some people are cynical and believe that nobody can really truly find true love, that is simply the result of chemicals in the brain. You think it's there, but it's just a physiological response.
Others are hopeless romantics. They think they'll find a soul mate that will be compatible and absolutely every possible way, and they'll have an endless romance as the sun sets with a white picket fence around. The truth is, we live in a fallen world. Our world is filled with broken and imperfect people, and because of that, any relationship of love can at some point fail, because when broken, imperfect people love other broken, imperfect people, their love will be perhaps broken and imperfect.
Yet, when we talk about God's love, we are in a different category altogether. It is what I am calling unrivaled love. In the book of 1 John, as John is writing, it's like he comes to a point where he stops and in chapter 3 he says, "behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called the children of God." In other words, what kind of love is this? What foreign kind of love is this?
Well, we're in Romans chapter 5, and last week, we looked at the first 5 verses which talk about the benefits that we have of justification. Remember, once again, the very last word in chapter 4 is the word justification. The very first word-- or not the very first word, but in the very first verse-- It says, therefore being justified by faith, and he lists the benefits.
So if you remember, to be justified means to be declared righteous. God makes a declaration that you are now right with him, simply because you believe in what Jesus did for you. He declares you right and then he treats you that way. That's justification. The benefits are listed in verses 1 through 5. We have peace with God, that's not a subjective, tranquil feeling of peace, it's a fact. It's the state you're in. You are right with God, the channels are open. The way is clear. So that's benefit number one, you have peace with God.
Followed by access to God. You can go any time, boldly before the throne of grace because you live in that environment of grace. Third, you have hope in the glory of the future, the glory to come, you'll be in a glorified body one day. Won't that be wonderful, and you'll see the glory of God.
And then fourth, between now and then, all of the trials and hardships you and I go through are there for a purpose, to create character within us. So chapter 5 verse 5 closes with this thought, you have your Bible in front of you, you can check it out. He talks about the hope that we have, and he says, "The love of God has been poured out in our hearts." That's God's love for you. The love of God has been poured out in our hearts.
That's noteworthy, because the very first time the word love is used in the book of Romans is in verse 5. He's been speaking about the wrath of God and then the grace of God, but here, he introduces the idea of God's love. So that's the very first introductory thought. In other words, when you come to Christ, when you receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, you are saved, and you enter into a lifelong love relationship with God that lasts forever.
Now, the second use of the word love is found in verse 8. I'm going to skip ahead a little bit, and you'll notice that God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. So he introduced love, and then he points to the cross as the greatest example and act of love ever.
So the overwhelming truth of the gospel is that God loves broken, imperfect people. You might say God loves the rebel. I'm glad for that, because I grew up as one. Dwight L Moody used to say, "No truth in the whole Bible ought to affect us as the love of God." Now, love is an essential part of God's character. You may recall 1 John, chapter 4 verse 8, where we are told "God is love."
Not the God of some celestial grandfather sitting on a cloud with a dopey, detached smile on his face just winking at everybody. And not that God doesn't hate, because the Bible tells us God does hate. There's a whole list of things God hates in Proverbs chapter 6. He hates lying, evil, a proud look, pride itself, but God's essential nature is love.
And here is Paul discussing justification by faith, and now he gives us the motive. God's motive for it at all, and that is the motive of love. So we're going to look at three facets of God's unrivaled love. And so look at chapter 5, verse 6. "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." Not a flattering description of us all.
"For scarcely for a righteous man will one die yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more than having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his son, much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have now received the reconciliation."
We have in these verses the proof of God's love, the provision of God's love, and the product of God's love. We're going to take each of those three one at a time. Now, the proof of love is always in the gift. What is love willing to give? So this gift was sacrificial. I want you to notice twice, once in verse 6, and once in verse 8 that Christ died.
Notice, in verse 6 when we were still without strength, in due time, Christ died. That is he gave his life. Verse 8, God demonstrated his own love toward us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Most famous verse in all the Bible, John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son."
Another verse that goes along with it that may not be as famous, but we should all know it is Galatians chapter 2, verse 20. Paul says, "I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, I live. But it's not I who lives, it's Christ who lives in me and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
God gave his son, his son gave his life. Love is willing to give. It is willing to sacrifice. Stephen Covey who wrote that famous book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People came up with a little line, "Love is a verb." Love is a verb, and in the context of that, he was having a discussion with a married guy who was talking about the problems he and his wife were having, and he doesn't quite have the same feelings for his wife as he had at the beginning. And Stephen Covey said, "Hey, man, love is a verb."
Whether you feel like it or not, love is willing to make a sacrifice. It's never passive, it's never silent, it is always active and it is willing to act. And one of the reasons that many marriages deteriorate is because couples stop giving to one another. Giving their interest, giving their time, giving their energy, giving their care. And so the relationship deteriorates into a legal, formal relationship where those feelings go, because giving stops.
So for God, love was a verb. God gave his very best, his only son. For Jesus, love was a verb. He gave his life. He said, "Nobody takes my life from me, I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down, I have the power to take it again."
I don't know if you've seen the latest a Lion King movie, but I took my grandkids to it. It was awesome. And in the new Lion King movie, there's some lines in it that weren't in the original. So one of the lines is by Mufasa, you have to think of James Earl Jones and that beautiful voice of his saying, "Some search only for what they can take, but a true King searches for what he can give."
Jesus was a true King searching for what he could give. He said, "The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many." So the proof of God's love is that the gift given was a sacrificial gift. Notice, also, the gift was unconditional because it says in verse 6, "For when we were still--" What? It says, "without strength--" verse 6. "When we were still without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly."
What does that mean, without strength? It means hopeless, powerless. We had no ability to improve our condition. We had no capability to help ourselves. Why? Because we were spiritually dead. Ephesians 2, "You were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once also walked according to the course of this world." It's a strange analogy. You were dead, but you were walking around. You were the walking dead.
You were insensate to spiritual things, so while you were without strength-- note this-- in due time, or in the nick of time, at the right time. I love Galatians 4, verse 4, "In the fullness of time, God sent forth his son born of a virgin, born under the law." There's a great story, and it's a true story about a man in Australia named James Harrison, also known as the man with the golden arm.
He is called that because he has donated blood so many times. Come to find out that his blood has an unusual plasma composition that contains the cure for a disease called Rhesus disease that affects children in the womb and then once they're born. And come to find out that back in the 60s, there was this huge inundation of that disease, especially in Australia.
So James Harrison has donated his blood over 1,000 times. Once a week for 60 years, James Harrison donated blood and in so doing, saved the lives of 2.4 million babies by donating his blood.
So we should be excited for that kind of sacrificial, unconditional love, but in an infinite level, in greater level. In the nick of time, just like at the right time, James Harrison save those who were without strength, our God, at the right time, sent his son to save those who were in a helpless, hopeless, powerless condition. And this is the style of God's love.
God loves the prodigal when they run away and they wallow in the muck and the mire of their sin. Jesus loves the prostitute who is turning over a new trick night after night. Jesus loves the drug seller and the drug user and the business man who cheats at his income tax or her income tax and squanders the company's money. Make no mistake, God hates what they're doing, but God loves the person.
I love the story of the rich young ruler and the New Testament, who meets up with Jesus and it says, "Jesus looking at him loved him." Powerful verse. He knew all about him. In the condition he was in and his unwillingness to change, Jesus looking at him loved him. So his gift, the proof of his love, was both sacrificial and unconditional, and it was incomparable.
Look at verse 6-- I'm sorry-- look at verse 7. "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet perhaps for a good man, someone would even dare to die, but God demonstrates his own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." In these two verses, the apostle Paul is comparing a divine love to human love to show you the vast difference between the way people love one another and the way God loves us.
So human love is almost always based on the attractiveness of the object that it loves. And if the object is more attractive, there's more love. If the object is less attractive, there's less love. That's human love. It is object-oriented. It is based upon the value, the worth, the status, the beauty of the object.
And we are inclined to love people who love us. Big deal, anybody can do that, right? That's the point Jesus made in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, if you love those who love you, big deal. He didn't say, big deal, but that's my paraphrase of it. He said, don't even the tax collectors do the same? Anybody can love that way. Now here's the mistake we make.
We often take human love the way we love and we attribute that to God. So we think that God must love the ones who love him or that his love depends on how good we are, and the more we love him, the more he will love us. That's a huge mistake as theologian, Charles Hodge, wrote, "if God loved us because we love him, he would love us only as long as we love him, and on that condition. And then our salvation would depend on the constancy of our treacherous hearts."
So here's the deal. God's love is not like human love. God's love is not object-oriented it is subject-oriented. It is part of his nature, his character, completely independent of the beauty, attractiveness, and value of the object. Completely dependent on the quality of the subject giving the love. And that's Paul's point. His point here in these two verses is that it's unusual to love and to sacrifice for a scoundrel, a rascal, a villain, a cheat, a thief, but God is so inclined.
Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but I have come to call sinners to repentance." There's a great story about a guy in Plano, Texas. His name was Hayden Carlo, and he is driving down a highway at night in Plano and he goes over the speed limit. Police sees him, pulls out, follows him, pulls him over, and when a police pulls you over, he asks for two things. What are they? Licensed and registration.
He looks at the license, checks out. The registration, however, has expired. The police officer brings that to the driver's attention. Registration is expired, I'm going to have to give you a citation. The driver says, please. I just lost my job recently, and it was true. I recently lost my job. I had to make a decision with the money, resources that I have to either feed my children or reregister the car. I opted to feed my children. I didn't have enough to do both.
What should the police officer do at that point? What he should do is write him a ticket. You know what he did? He wrote him a ticket.
He wrote him a citation, which devastated the driver because he knew that's $100 fine. But then the officer got in his car, drove away. The man opened up the citation, and in it was a $100 bill that the police officer put in the ticket to pay for the fine. So think of it this way, at the cross, Jesus wrote us a ticket, and then he paid for the fine himself.
Infinitely greater than a police officer giving $100, so that was a wonderful thing. Don't expect that to happen to you.
So that's the proof of God's love and the sacrifice given by our Savior. Let's continue with the provision of God's love. Look at verse 9 and 10, and I love how Paul does this. This is one of his favorite phrases. Much more than. Get used to that phrase. He's going to use it a lot in the book of Romans. "Much more than--" he's ramping it up-- he's going to go to a greater example.
"Having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." What did God's love provide? Two things. Jesus' death saved us from God's wrath. Jesus' life saves us from our ruin.
Now follow it here. He mentions wrath in verse 9. "Having been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him--" and what wrath is he talking about? God's wrath. It's the path we've been dealing with for the first three chapters of the book. Beginning in chapter 1 verse 18, where it introduces, "for the wrath of God as revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteous of men, where they suppress the truth in their own godliness."
So he unleashes for three chapters describing the wrath of God, the condition that humanity is in. That's the wrath we're saved from. For us, for you and I who believe in Jesus, God's wrath is not an issue. You never have to worry, you never have to cringe, you never have to think, am I going to am I going to get God's wrath in the end? No you won't.
Jesus in John 5:24, said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in Him who sent me has everlasting life." Not will have, you have it now. "has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment--" That's wrath-- "but has passed from death into life." So for you and I who trust in Jesus Christ, simply, authentically, wholeheartedly, God's wrath will never be an issue.
But that's not true for everybody. In John 3:36, we are told, "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life. He who does not believe the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." So understand that the Bible divides all of humanity into two camps. Those who believe in Jesus, those who do not believe in Jesus. Those who have escaped God's wrath, versus those who will one day encounter God's wrath.
For you and I who believe, wrath is not an issue. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 1 verse 10, "We wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath that is to come." So you never have to fret or sweat that. The wrath has been removed. Why? Because he took the brunt of it. He took the shock of it. All of the wrath of God was allowed to be poured into and on the body of Jesus, so that when he died for you and for me, God's wrath was satisfied in that sacrifice.
True story. Back in 2004 in the little town of Husaybah, Iraq, a Marine Corporal by the name of Jason Dunham and his squad were checking out a convoy of vehicles. They were stopping cars on the road looking in each one, making sure there's not bombs, there's not devices, there's not guns, terrorists, et cetera. Well, they approached one white Toyota Land Cruiser.
They noticed in the back seat they could even see from afar, a whole slew of AK 47s and ammunition. They told the driver to get out. The driver got out of the car, started fighting some of the Marines, and then took off. The Marine Corporal chased him apprehended him, subdued him, but in the fight, the driver, the terrorists, had a grenade, pulled the pin, threw it on the ground.
Instinctively, Corporal Dunham jumped on top of the grenade with his body. Put his helmet on top of the grenade, put his body over the helmet, the blast killed him, but saved his squad and saved the life of the terrorist. Effectively, Jesus absorbed the blast of God's wrath after you and I pulled the pin.
So having absorbed the blast of the wrath of God, the wrath of God is no longer an issue for those of us who believe in him. So Jesus' death saved us from God's wrath, so that's part of the provision of his love. But there's a second provision. Not only does his death save us from God's wrath, His life saves us from our ruin.
Look at verse 10, "For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." This is one of the strongest promises in the New Testament that we will be kept by God. The keeping power of God. And Paul here argues from greater to lesser.
He starts with the greater. If that happened and that caused this, then-- so he argues from greater to lesser, and his words are both logical and theological. Let me frame it for you. If the dying Savior reconciled us to God, then surely, a living Savior will keep us reconciled to God. If God can bring a sinner to heaven, then surely God can keep a Saint while on the earth.
If our sin couldn't keep him from his love before we were saved, can anything keep us from his love now that we're saved? If our sin was not a barrier to the beginning of our salvation, then how can our sin ever be a barrier at the completion of our salvation. If our past and our future salvation is secured by God, how can you and I ever be insecure about our status as children of God?
I'll boil it down to an irreducible minimum. God always finishes what God starts. He is the author and the finisher of our faith. In Philippians, Paul said, "He who has begun a good work in you will complete until the day of Jesus Christ." Our safety depends on God's nature, not ours, just like your salvation didn't depend on your character and nature, but God's. And his love doesn't depend on you, but on Him.
Now that's what Jesus prayed for. In John 17, Jesus said, "Father, I do not pray that you should take them out of this world, but that you should keep them from the evil one." So here's what it means. Jesus not only pardons you, he preserves you. He not only heals your soul, he can keep your soul. Paul said in 2 Timothy 1, "I know about I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to him until that day."
So that's the proof and the provision of God's love. We end now at what it brings us. What is all this love of God do in us? Look at verse 11, here's the product of it. "And not only that--" don't you love how Paul always does that? He talks about the greatest things in the world, and goes, and not just that, there's more than that. "Not only that, but we also joy, or rejoice in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation."
This is the result of experiencing that love, authentic joy. Joy is what the world is missing, and joy is what the gospel produces. I've noticed everybody wants to-- I've never met a person who doesn't want to be happy. Every person I've ever met, what do you want? I want to be happy. I just don't want the pain and suffering in life. I want to be joyful.
And you know, but there's whole industries around that, that are built around joy. You want joy? By our hand cream.
You want joy, sleep on our mattress. You want joy, buy our pillow. You want joy, drive our automobile. And all of the commercials always have the image of a joy-filled person. And they're filled with joy because they bought the product. And it even gets down to the ridiculous. Even Preparation H. The commercial begins with a guy just in distress, forlorn, hopeless, and then at the end, he's just smiling so big, he's got so much joy given to him by Preparation H.
Thomas Aquinas even noted, "No man can live without joy. That is why one who is deprived of spiritual joy goes over to carnal pleasures." Whenever you see somebody trying to fill up their life to just sensual, carnal, worldly pleasures, it's because they haven't found what they're looking for. And that is a true sense of spiritual joy.
Now one of the first signs that a person gets right with God is joy. I've noticed it time and time again. I notice it in the baptism testimonies, I notice it in my own life. That afternoon when I gave my life to Christ, I did not hear a voice. I did not see a vision. I did not see a bright light. I felt unburdened. I felt lighter. I had a sense of joy that I had never experienced before.
And no wonder, that's what the angel over Bethlehem promised when he said, "Do not be afraid, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people." It's one of the first tale tell signs that somebody has been touched by the love of God, joy. Real joy, abiding joy. When the gospel first went to the ancient city of Antioch, we are told, "When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and all who are appointed to eternal life believed and the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit."
When the gospel went to Samaria, when Philip preached to the Samaritans and they believed the gospel. It says, "So there was great joy in that city." And the joy that God offers is not the joy that the car dealership promises or that the pillow manufacturers promise or that Preparation H will give you-- sorry, again for that analogy. God is not interested in just putting a little temporary smile on your face. He wants to deposit real joy, hope, love in your heart.
So the effect, the result of true love is true joy, and Jesus is the author of both. True love. True joy.
Speaking of true love, there was one young girl who just wasn't having a great experience in her dating relationships. They weren't working out, so she turned to a computer dating service in hopes that they would pick the right one, Mr. Perfect. She was very, very specific about what she wanted in her date. And she told the computer she wanted someone who liked people, was small, preferred formal attire, and enjoyed water sports.
So the computer put all of her wishes together, and sent her a penguin.
Oops. Not quite what she had in mind for Mr. Perfect. God knows exactly what you need, and sent you a Savior. Somebody who demonstrated his love for you in his sacrifice. And loved you when you were at your worst so that he could take you at your worst and turn you into his best. That's love. True love is when you discover that God in heaven, your creator, who did all this thought you were worth it.
When you realized that God thought you were worth all of this, you experience true love like you've never experienced before. You'll never find it on a human level. It might be good, might come close, but not like this. God's great love sacrificial, unconditional, incomparable, providing salvation from wrath and salvation from you forever.
Father, we want to thank you that you turn us into the best versions of ourselves. Redeemed men and women. People who are the object of your love, but your love is not based on us as the object, but on you as the subject. It is your nature, it is your character. You are love. You created us. You know the worst about us.
You've seen it all, when we're at our best, when we're at our worst. But because of what our great Savior did in taking the blast, in taking the blow, you save us from future wrath, and you save us from present ruin. You keep us on earth all the way to heaven.
Thank you, Lord that you knew exactly what we need. And thank you that you provided everything we do need and that you give us what true love really is. And with that love, a sense of joy. Lord, we have celebrated your love in so many different songs, even songs today. I think of that great hymn of the church, the love of God is greater far than ink or pen could ever tell. It reaches to the furthest star. It reaches to the lowest hell.
And some of us today, Lord, find ourselves doing pretty well. Others find us find ourselves in a pit of despair needing your strength, needing your courage, needing your love, needing your hope, needing salvation. If you're with us today, and you've never said yes to the Savior, and I mean that on a personal level, not on a formal, religious level. Not on a, I go to church, I've always believed in God level, but on a personal level where you have said, Lord, I know I'm a sinner, save me.
Then right where you're seated, would you say to him, Lord, I admit it. I've got nothing to hide. I'm a sinner. I have fallen short, forgive me. I believe in Jesus. I place my trust in him. I believe he came to this earth, I believe he died on a cross, I believe he shed his blood for my sin, and I believe you rose from the dead.
I turn from my sin, I turn from my past, and I turned to Jesus as my Savior. I pray that you will forgive me, and I am ready to receive and enjoy your great love, and the joy that love produces. In Jesus' name, Amen.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. How will you put the truths that you learned into action in your life? Let us know. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.