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The Amazing Benefits of Justification - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Romans 5:1-11

  • 2017-02-05 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


If you've been around our church any time at all, you know that I have dabbled from time to time in oil painting. I had some lessons when I was out in Los Angeles and my dad was an artist, and so it's been something that I've enjoyed just dabbling in a bit and because of that have an interest in things artistic.

It was back in 2014 that a painting by one of the Italian Renaissance masters, one that was originally painted in about the year 1600, was discovered in one of the most unlikely places. It ended up being one of the art world's greatest finds ever and here's how it unfolded.

The painting was actually found in the attic of a French home, when the unsuspecting owners of the home had to call workmen to repair a leaking roof. To repair the leak, the workmen had to get into the attic, but as they got into the attic they realized that where the leak was coming from was actually hidden from view, that there had been built into the attic, a concealed space. And so, they had to break into that concealed space and access the place that had been sealed behind it, to repair the leak. And when they did that they were surprised to find what was obviously a very well done painting.

Well, it was, that was three years ago. Last year, in April of 2016, finally the valuation on that painting that had been found in their attic came in and it was valued at $136,000,000. Can you imagine? As, all of you are going to go check your attics now when you get home, as this family had enjoyed the comfort of their home, they had no idea that along with their home they had also gained another great benefit.

I think the same thing is true for us spiritually. You know, we all appreciate and treasure, rightly, our justification. I hope, if you came to this church unaware of what justification was, as we've walked through the first several chapters of Romans, I hope you have come to treasure the gift the justification is, it's at the heart of the gospel. It's when God declares a believing sinner to be righteous, not with his own righteousness, but with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, when He credits to us the perfection of Jesus Christ and treats us now and forever as if we had lived the perfect life that Jesus lived. We treasure that.

But many Christians, I'm afraid, often have no idea, like those homeowners, of the tremendous blessings that they inherited along with their justification. And it's those blessings that Paul is outlining for us in the beginning of Romans 5.

Now again, to set the context, last week we began to study the second major section of this letter. It runs from chapter 5 through chapter 8. I've entitled it The Gospel Experienced, the Security of our Justification. Paul wants us to have the assurance and confidence that we have been rescued and all that comes with that rescue and justification.

Now, the first paragraph of this section is about the immediate benefits of our justification. That's chapter 5 verses 1 through 11, the immediate benefits of our justification. Let's read it again together. Romans 5, beginning in verse 1,

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 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.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we will be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while 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 this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Now, when we come to chapter 5, Paul has finished explaining the doctrine of justification and that's why he begins this chapter, "Therefore, having been justified by faith." He says, since you believers in Rome have already experienced what I've just described, let me now explain to you the blessings that accompany that change in your position before God. In this very passage Paul identifies for us seven amazing benefits of justification.

If you are in Christ this morning, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, if you have repented of your sins and trusted in Him, all of these blessings are yours in Christ. But not only are they yours, God intends that this paragraph and these blessings comfort you, give you confidence and security, that's why they're here. He wants you to enjoy the work that He has done through His Son and Spirit in your life. So we're looking at these amazing benefits that accompany our justification.

Last week we noted that the first benefit that is ours because of justification is that we have peace with God. Verse 1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." We noted that God is actually at war with every unbeliever. He has declared war on them. That's why the Psalmist says, "God is angry with those in rebellion against Him every day." But for us, the war is over, "having been justified," having been declared right with God through the work of His Son, the war is over. That's why later in this paragraph he talks about our "having been reconciled to God." The war is done. Peace with God.

Secondly, we stand in God's grace. We saw this last week as well, we stand in God's grace. Verse 2, "through Christ also we have obtained our introduction by faith." Now, notice what we've been introduced to by Christ, "into this grace in which we stand." We stand in grace. That is, we are fixed in God's grace, we are secure in God's grace. It will never change for us. We will, in this life and forever, experience not God's wrath, not God's justice, but rather His grace, His kindness to those who deserve exactly the opposite. We stand in grace.

Thirdly, we noted last time that we hope in God's glory. Verse 2 says, "and we exult in hope of the glory of God." We rejoice in the certainty and anticipation of seeing God's glory. This is what theologians call the beatific vision. Do you understand Christian? This is true of you. You will see God, you will see the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. But not only will you see Him in His glory, but we have the hope, the certain expectation, of sharing His glory. You're going to be like Jesus Christ. Don't misunderstand what that means, you're not going to become a different person, you're going to still be you, but your character, your moral character, will be just like Jesus Christ's character. You'll think like He thinks, you'll behave like He behaved, you'll speak as He speaks. That's our hope, we will see and share the glory of God.

Now, that brings us today to a fourth benefit of our justification and another one of those unexpected blessings that we discover in the attic of justification, we rejoice in our trials. We rejoice in our trials. This is in verses 3 and 4. Notice verse 3. Paul says, "And not only this." Now, with that familiar expression Paul introduces us to his next point, "and not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations." Paul quickly turns from our future glory to our present circumstances, from our future hope to where we find ourselves today. One commentator writes this, "No sooner has the Apostle pointed to the glory of God as a light shining in the distance to cheer the believer on his course, than he thinks of the contrast between that bright distance and the darkness that lies around him here."

Paul knew there are hard issues and hard questions in the life that we have to live here. I mean, think about it, if our standing before God has changed, if we have peace with God, if we stand in His grace, if we live in hope of seeing and sharing his glory, then why does he allow Christians like that to face illness and persecution and all of the difficulties and troubles of this life, trials of every kind? What you need to understand is, here is one of the main lines of demarcation between true Christianity and false Christianity. Because if you listen to false teachers, you listen to the cults, many of them, not all of them, but many of them will promise you that if you will embrace their version of what they call the truth, that God is going to free your life of all trouble and difficulty, that you're going to be happy and healthy and wealthy and you'll have a wife like Victoria, you'll have your best life now.

Listen, that's never the message of the New Testament. Our Lord said this, this is what He promised, John 16:33, "In the world you will have tribulation." "In the world you will have tribulation." What is this word? Paul uses it here, tribulations, plural. The word tribulation means pressure. That's at its most basic form, it's pressure. It's used in secular Greek of the sledge. It was a large plank of wood on which they would stack rocks and then they would drag that sledge across the wheat to separate the husks and the chaff from the grain. The pressure exerted by that sledge, as it was dragged across the wheat, this word is used that way. It was also used of crushing olives to extract their oil. It was used of treading grapes to press out the wine. To give you some idea of the intense suffering that can be connected to this word, it is even used in the New Testament of a woman in labor.

Most of the time in the New Testament this word refers to all of the variety of external pressures that can afflict the believer in this life. It's talking about the inner distress we experience, not caused by minor inconveniences, the light turns red before you get through it, but rather through the serious hardships of this life. And Paul says, "we exult," that's the same word as in verse 2, "we exult in all the hardships and pressures of this life."

You see, the benefits that come with justification aren't just for the sweet by and by, they're for the nasty now and now; they benefit us today. Listen carefully, because we have been justified, because we have been declared to be right before God, even the troubles and trials of this life take on new meaning and purpose. Sadly, many Christians endure troubles in this life and they end up responding the same way that many in the culture around them do. Let me give you a little short list of a few of the common ways people are tempted to respond to trials, and they are wrong ways.

First of all, there's denial. Some people just want to stick their proverbial fingers in their ears and not think about it or hear about it or have anything to do with trials even though they are a reality in this life. I just want to be happy. They live in denial, the sort of Pollyannic approach to trials. There's a sort of popular saying that's circulating through the church and through the world, and I know how it's used, I'm not picking on anybody here, I just want to remind you that it's not true. When somebody is going through trials and you ask them how they are, and they say it's all good, it's not all good. That's just not true, that's a sense of denial.

Secondly, complaining is another wrong response. You see this in Philippians 2:14. If you really want to see examples of complaining in circumstances, go back and read the wilderness wandering accounts in Numbers, not a right way to respond to trials. Self-pity is a third common way people respond to trials. Poor me, I just can't believe this is happening, again. But poor me is a long way from James' pure joy. Ultimately, self-pity will lead to things like either resignation, oh well, nothing I can do, or it will lead to despair, discouragement, depression.

A fourth wrong response is anger and bitterness. A lot of people encounter the troubles of this life and they just get mad, and they're tempted to get mad at God. God, how could you, how could you let this happen to me? Or mad at the circumstances, mad at people, bitter, because it's happened. A fifth wrong response to the trials of this life is defiance. I don't mean at God here, I mean at the circumstance. This is a really popular, sort of, stoic response. Well, I'm just not going to let this beat me. It's kind of the British stiff upper lip approach.

Boyce recounts a James Cagney movie in which this attitude is displayed. James Cagney was a pilot flying missions to support the allied invasion of Europe in this film and they ran one mission over Europe and the plane was hit, and as they came back across the English Channel it became apparent the plane wasn't going to make it back to base, and so they started jettisoning everything that wasn't tied down, and then eventually they realized the plane wasn't going to have the altitude to clear the cliffs of Dover, they were going to crash. And so everyone else bailed out and Cagney's left alone in the plane at the controls. And in the movie as he realizes that he's actually going to crash and die, just as this cliff is approaching he opens the window and he looks forward and spits at the cliff and a few moments later the plane crashes into the cliff and erupts in flames. That's a defiant approach to life's troubles.

A sixth wrong response is hedonism. This is the person who says, you know what, I can't get rid of the bad things in my life so I'm just going to overload my life with what I see as good and pleasure, to outweigh the bad, enough pleasure to outweigh all of those negative things. And sometimes this comes in the form of the bottom of a bottle or some sort of drug.

But our response as Christians to the troubles of this life, Paul says, is to be very different. Notice what he says, we are to rejoice in our tribulations. Notice, Paul doesn't say in spite of our tribulations or in the middle of our tribulations, but because of our tribulations. Now, don't misunderstand here, Paul was not a masochist, he wasn't saying, you ought to say, oh good, more trouble, I'm so excited about that. No, not at all. He meant what the writer of Hebrews meant in Hebrews 12:11 when he writes, "All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." That's what Paul means.

We don't rejoice because we love suffering, we rejoice because of what we know is going to be produced by it, what God's going to do with it in our lives. Although our initial reaction to tribulation is grief and sorrow, we eventually come to rejoice in it because God uses it to sanctify us, to prepare us for heaven. We're not supposed to like trials, we're supposed to rejoice in them. That is, we're supposed to rejoice in what God does with them in our lives, what He accomplishes through them.

But how can that happen? Well, you need to understand that it doesn't happen automatically. It only happens by right thinking. Notice verse 3, he says, "we exult in our tribulations, knowing," underline that word, really important word, "we rejoice in our tribulations, knowing," what? Well, "knowing that tribulation brings about," or produces, "perseverance." The reason we can rejoice in our trials is because of what we know. The only way you will ever rejoice in the troubles of this life is if you rehearse what you know about God and how He's going to use them in your life.

Now, notice exactly what he says, "knowing that tribulation brings about," or produces, "perseverance." Now, that doesn't happen for everyone. In fact, for many people, trials bring them to anger and bitterness. John Calvin writes, "Tribulation provokes a great part of mankind to murmur against God, and even to curse Him."

So how does this happen? For the pressures and the trials of this life to have a positive effect in our souls, there have to be two things, there has to be a knowledge, a knowledge that God is God, He's in control, He's tracing those events upon our lives, that He's good, that He has a good intention behind them, and then there has to be faith. We have to believe that that's true. We have to believe in God. We have to believe that He's wise, there's no better plan. We have to believe that He's good, that He loves us and has our best interests at heart. We have to believe that He's powerful, that He's sovereign, that He's in perfect control. And when the pressures of life are mixed with that knowledge and with that faith, notice what Paul says, they produce perseverance.

Now, keep your finger here in Romans, but turn over to James 1. Because James says the same thing, James 1:2. In fact, this is how he begins his letter, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials." Again, he's not a masochist. He's saying, "Consider it all joy" because of what you know about how God is going to accomplish these things. Verse 3, "knowing that the testing of your faith," that God's behind these trials, He's testing your faith, and He intends a good result, "the testing of your faith," He intends, "to produce endurance." Mark that word endurance, that is the same Greek word that's translated perseverance in Romans 5, he's talking about the same thing.

So, what is this perseverance or endurance? Well, I don't often share Greek words with you because it's pointless in most cases, most of you don't speak Greek, but at times it's beneficial and this is one of those times. The Greek word here is hupomone; it's composed of two parts, hupo, you can recognize that, it's used in English, it means under and mone means to stay or remain. So, this word perseverance or endurance simply means to stay or to remain under.

Now, you have seen an illustration of this if you've ever watched the Olympics. Some of you, probably very few of you, have intentionally watched the sport of weightlifting, but many of you have perhaps come across it accidentally before you changed the channel or watched something else. It's really quite impressive. I mean, when you think about it, particularly at the heavyweight level. This massive mountain of a man comes out and he composes himself, and he looks down at this iron bar, or whatever it's made of, that has these huge weights on each end, a steel bar I guess, and has these huge weights on each end. And he composes himself and then he reaches down and grabs that bar and he snatches it to his chest and then he hesitates a moment, gets his weight under him and gets balanced and composes himself again, and then with all of his strength he pushes it up over his head, locks his arms in place, and you know it's heavy because the bar is bending. I've never had the bar bend, personally.

And so, he holds that bar and, but he's not done yet because the rules of weight lifting say that you have to hold it up there until the time has passed, several seconds; to be a valid lift you have to hold it. And so, what happens? He stands there with his arms locked, that weight pressing down on him, and this huge powerful man, his entire body begins to shake under the weight of that crushing amount of weight above him. And then he reaches the allotted time and he drops it. And if he has held it, if he's strong enough and continues to remain under that weight for the allotted time, then it's a valid lift and he has accomplished his goal.

That's the meaning of perseverance, to remain under. You build endurance remaining under the trial. Tribulation produces the ability to remain under the load and perseverance or endurance grows stronger, just as with your body, also with your soul, it grows stronger as it's forced to remain under longer and more weight.

Now, Paul adds, back in Romans 5:4, he adds, "perseverance," that ability to remain under, produces "proven character." When you remain under the trial, trusting God to act in His time, you gain proven character. Now, the Greek noun translated proven character is a very hard word to translate into English. It comes from a verb meaning, to test. Perhaps the best way to translate it is: you gain the quality of having been approved, you gain the quality of having been approved. Trials produce the ability to remain under, to endure, they strengthen your endurance, and that endurance produces one who has the quality of being approved. In other words, listen carefully, persevering under trial, remaining under the troubles and trials of this life, helps provide proof that we are truly Christians.

Jesus said this, didn't He? Remember, in the parable of the sower, or we call it the parable of the soils, about different kinds of human hearts into which the seed of the gospel falls, He describes one of those human hearts as the rocky soil. Don't think little pebbles, think a thin layer of topsoil and hidden beneath that layer of topsoil in the field was a slab of bedrock limestone, so there's just a thin layer of topsoil. The seed is planted, the farmer doesn't know this, the seed falls in that ground and it begins to sprout, and in almost that hothouse environment of the sun and the water and that thin soil, those just shoot up. In fact, initially they look healthier than any other plants in the field.

But then comes summer in Israel and the weather patterns change, the winds become off of the desert and the sun, the scorching sun, comes down, and those plants that look so promising wither and die. What was Jesus' point? His point was there are some hearts into which the gospel falls that appear to respond like genuine Christians, they're going to be the real deal and bear fruit, but then persecution comes and the troubles of this life, and cause the plant to die; it never was real faith. It's proven not to be real faith by the pressure, the troubles, the persecution that comes.

Well, the opposite is true. When we persevere in trials, when we remain under the trials in our lives and we stay faithful to Christ, we obey Him, we live in obedience to Him, we love Him, we don't question Him, and we continue to live like that, it produces confidence that we're the real thing, we have proven character. And by the way, the proof is not for God's benefit, He knows those who are His, it's for our benefit, to show us we're the real thing.

Now, keep your finger in Romans 5 but go back to James 1, because James includes a related fruit of endurance. Endurance in Romans 5 produces proven character, it proves to us that we're the real deal, we're really Christians, when we endure through trials. Here in James 1, James gives us another related fruit of endurance. Look at verse 4, "let endurance," same word, perseverance, "let remaining under the trial have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect." When that word is used of people it means mature. He's saying endurance in trials will help make you spiritually mature, "complete, lacking in nothing."

But listen carefully, the key to trials producing spiritual maturity in you is not how many trials you have, a lot of people have a lot of trials and it embitters them, it angers them, it does everything but mature them, the key is thinking rightly about the trials you do have. Notice again verse 3, "knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." It's thinking rightly about them. And when you think rightly about the trials and troubles in your life, then God uses them to help produce spiritual maturity, along with proving to you that you're really His. So, endurance then produces maturity and proven character.

Now, go back to Romans 5. Paul adds one more thing. Romans 5:4, he says, "and proven character produces hope." As we experience firsthand what God does for us and in us in the trials and troubles of this life, it's stirs up our hope for the future, that certainty that we're going to see God and we're going to be like God. Moo writes, now he's talking about trials here, "If met with doubt in God's goodness and promise, or bitterness toward others, or despair and even resignation, sufferings can bring spiritual defeat to the believer. But if met with an attitude of confidence and rejoicing that Paul encourages here, these sufferings will produce valuable spiritual qualities, including hope." And notice what Paul says in verse 5, "and hope does not disappoint." Our hope for that future, that bright future, will not disappoint us because it's proven to be the real thing under pressure.

But how does this happen? How can we benefit from life's troubles like this? How can we even come to rejoice in them? Well, not only because of what we know, as we've discovered, but because we are confident of God's love for us. Look again at verse 5, "hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit." I can glory in the pressures of this life because I know God uses them to build endurance, which in turn produces proven character, which strengthens my hope in the future, and that hope will never let me down. And all of that is true, this is where he's been building, all of that is true because I know my troubles don't come to me from the cruel hand of fate. I know my troubles come to me from the hand of a good and sovereign God, who is my Father who has set His love on me. That's beneath it all here.

Paul ends this section by making this same point. Turn over to chapter 8. Chapter 8 verse 18, he says, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Listen, I don't know what you came here this morning facing, I don't know what you are enduring right now, what troubles and trials of this life you find yourself in, but Paul says, whatever it is, it's not even worthy to be compared in the same sentence with the glories that you will one day experience. He says, we live in hope of that. That's what this whole section is about. We long for the future. Notice verse 24, "For in hope we have been saved." And that hope, of the future, enables us to look at our troubles here in the right way.

That's the context of verse 28, one of the most familiar verses in the Bible, "we know that God causes all things," including our suffering, our troubles, our trials, "to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Because whatever we're enduring here can't even be compared with the glory which will be revealed in us and to us. And all of that is true because of the love of God. Look at verse 35, "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation?" No, tribulation can't change God's love for me any more than it changed His love for His Son, whom He did not protect from the troubles and trials of this life. Look down at verse 38, "I am convinced that nothing," verse 39, "will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Listen, until our hope is realized we live in the confidence that God is using everything here for our benefit and we can rejoice in our hardships and our difficulties in this life because we know God is in perfect control. He has traced those upon our lives by His own sovereign will and purpose. He is using them for our spiritual good. He's building our spiritual muscles of endurance so that He can prove that we're the real thing to us, so that we can have a greater hope for the future. And whatever we face here pales in comparison to the glory that we will experience in the future. And none of that changes because of God's love for us.

Maybe you came here this morning neck deep in the troubles of this life. Listen, please understand, if you want to benefit from those you have to learn to think rightly about them. Study this passage, study James 1, understand what God is doing. Because if you don't think biblically about your trials, this is a very sad thought to consider, you will waste them. But you can learn to rejoice in your trials because of what you know, because of what you know about God, because of what you know about what He's doing through them, and because of what you know about the future that's yours.

Now, I just want to introduce a fifth benefit of our justification to you today. Number five, we are confident of God's love. We are confident of God's love. We see this in verses 5 through 8. Notice verse 5, "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." Paul finished his discussion about life's troubles and trials with the concept of hope. And we've learned that that word hope is not like the English word hope. The biblical word for hope is a certainty, an eager anticipation of what is absolutely coming. And the word hope here serves as a kind of hinge in the paragraph. It transitions from his previous point about the benefit of trials to a new point, and that is the confidence we can have in God's love for us. The reason we know that our hope in God cannot and will not ever disappoint us is because of the love of God.

Now, he's not talking here about our love for God, but rather God's love for us. That's obvious because he spends the next three verses explaining God's love for us. When we think of love, in the New Testament, who do we normally think of, beyond our Lord? What apostle? John, he's called the apostle of love. It's interesting though, you know, people think of Paul as this, sort of, cold, calculating, lawyer. But in reality, this word for love is used 116 times in the New Testament, 75 of those times it's used by the Apostle Paul. And Paul says, we are confident of God's love for us because God has revealed it to us directly.

Look at verse 5. He says, "the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." The moment of salvation, you received the Holy Spirit. He has taken up residence in you and with you, His abiding presence is forever with you, and at the moment of salvation the Holy Spirit did something in regards to God's love. Notice what it says, He "poured out." That describes something done extravagantly, lavishly. He "poured out" the knowledge of God's love for us, into our souls until our souls flooded with the knowledge of God's love for us.

By the way, that verb there, in the original language, highlights something that happened in the past, we gained this knowledge of God's love for us and it continues even now. And notice, it's a knowledge that came from the Holy Spirit. At the moment of salvation the Spirit acted directly upon our souls to convince us of God's love for us. If you're a Christian you know that, you experienced that. At the moment of salvation your heart was aglow with the reality that God loved you so much that He sent His Son and you were just amazed at that love. That was the work of the Spirit.

By the way, Paul makes this same point in Romans 8. Look at Romans 8:14, "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God." So we're talking about Christians, all Christians, verse 15,

have not received the spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but 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 the children of God.

This is what he's talking about. The Spirit convinced you of the love of God for you and taught you to cry out "Papa! Father!" just like a child to his earthly father.

Now, why was it important for the Spirit to assure us of God's love for us? Listen carefully, nothing will give you greater assurance of your salvation than grasping God's love for you, nothing. So the next three verses help us grasp God's love, they explain the nature of God's love for us. Look at verses 6 through 8, and I just want to touch on this today,

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

That paragraph may be the greatest statement about the love of God in Scripture. Paul explains the nature of God's love and all I want you to see today is just one point about His love, it is unconditional. God's love for you, believer, is unconditional.

Now, don't misunderstand, I'm not talking about the popular ill-conceived, flawed idea that God loves you just the way you are and that He never demands or produces personal holiness in the lives of those who are the believers in His Son. There are those who teach that. That is a patently unbiblical idea.

So, what do I mean?

This is what I mean when I say God's love is unconditional. In eternity past when God set His love on you and then in time when He demonstrated that love by sending His Son to live the life you should have lived and to die the death you should have died, when God did that it was not because of any condition in you. It was unconditional. All that motivated God to love you was His own character. God didn't look down and say, O boy, there's one I need. No, it's just like with the Israelites in Deuteronomy 7. God loved you because He loved you. That's it. It's because He made the choice, He made the decision. It was not conditioned on anything in you. And Paul drives that point home in this section by making it clear that Christ died for us when we were the worst of people.

Now, very briefly, just look at the character of the people for whom Christ died here in this paragraph. First of all, we were helpless. Helpless, verse 6, this word doesn't refer to physical weakness but moral helplessness. Theologians call it total inability. It means that we were utterly incapable of changing our relationship to God, changing our nature, changing our character, or doing anything that pleases God. The best way to summarize our moral inability is to say what Paul says in Ephesians 2:1, "we were dead." "We were dead." Those who are dead are completely unable to do anything, and morally and spiritually that was true of us, we were helpless.

Paul adds another word here to describe our condition, notice verse 6, we were "ungodly." This powerful term doesn't describe primarily wicked behavior, but rather an attitude toward God. Ungodliness is an attitude of either defiance and rebellion, on the one hand, or indifference on the other. It represents man as destitute of the fear of God, opposing God's rule, resenting His commands, or simply ignoring His claims. The ungodly man either openly rebels or simply ignores God as unimportant, which, honestly, I think is worse. With the ungodly there's no fear of God, there's no love for God, there's no true worship of God. Ungodly, that's what we were, helpless, ungodly.

A third word that describes the character of the people Christ saved is sinners. Verse 8, we were sinners. This familiar New Testament word pictures us as having missed the mark, we failed to keep God's law, we failed to measure up to His glory, we failed to arrive at His standard of perfection, we failed to conform to His image, we were sinners.

Now folks, look at those words. Those three words describe the reality from God's perspective of each one of us, we were helpless ungodly sinners. It's not a very flattering picture. But why does this matter, in a paragraph on God's love? Oh, it matters so much because it means that God didn't decide to set His love on you because of anything in you, but solely because of His own great heart. And because His love didn't originate with you, it wasn't caused by something in you, but only what was in Him, it will never, ever change. Because He decided in eternity past to set His love on those who were ungodly, helpless, sinners. And so, His love for you is forever.

I love the way the Psalmist puts it, he speaks of God's steadfast love as "from everlasting," meaning from eternity past, "to everlasting," meaning to eternity future. God's love, thank God, was not conditioned on anything in you or anything in me. We can be confident of it and that it will continue because it was all because of Him. Now, there are several other qualities of His love in this passage; come back in two weeks and we will discover them together. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for this amazing revelation of Yourself and of what we have in our justification, the benefits the blessings that come to us alongside of justification. Father, we thank You that we can rejoice in our tribulations, that our troubles and trials here matter, that You are behind them and that You use them for our good, and for our spiritual maturity and to advance us and to build our ability to remain under, our spiritual endurance, and that in turn proves to us that we're really Yours, that we're the real thing, and that strengthens our hope for the future. And all of that, Father, is built on our confidence in Your love. Thank You, O God, that You loved us when we were helpless ungodly sinners. That You loved us not because of who we are, but because of who You are. Father help us to live in the joy of that, even this day and this week.

And Father, I pray for those here this morning who have not yet come to personally know that. May this be the day when You seek them out, when they throw themselves on Your mercy and grace in Jesus Christ, and plead for You to forgive them because of His life and death and to make them right with You by His righteousness, even today. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.