A Love Incomprehensible

A Love Incomprehensible

Studies In Paul’s Letter to the Romans
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Lesson 18: Romans 5:6-11

For what kind of person would you be willing to suffer? What if you were in a line at a store and a rude person pushed everyone else aside, and got in the front of those who had been waiting patiently? Would you be calmly willing to give up your place for such a person? I’m sure some would. What if someone held you up with a gun and took your money? Would you gladly do without what was yours for a person like that? Some would.

What if instead of suffering little things, you were asked to die for such people? Would you be willing to die to benefit someone who was rude, or a criminal? Would you be willing to personally die for an average citizen who hadn’t done wrong? What if the person was very noble and virtuous? would you die willingly for them?

Hardly anyone would be willing to die for a rude person, or for a hardened criminal. Some might die for an innocent person. Some may even die for a virtuous person. But all that fades into insignificance compared with what Christ has done for us.

In Romans 5:6-8, Paul used this illustration to explain God’s love.

Romans 5:6-8, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 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.”

Paul builds a careful case. When a man is called “righteous” it means he is not a law breaker. As he explained, hardly anyone would die for a person simply because he was not a lawbreaker. Christ’s love was so great that he died even for the unrighteous. Remember what Paul wrote about all mankind back in Romans 3:10, “as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one’.” Therefore, we are all criminals against God’s law. We do not measure up to being “righteous.” Yet such were the objects of God’s love.

Then he mentions “the good man”, one who is virtuous or noble in some way. Some, but not all, might even venture to die for such a person. But Jesus Christ died for us though we fall far short of this quality. Romans 3:12 says, “… There is none who does good, no, not one.” We are all unworthy rebels against God, enemies of the Creator, sinners against his law. Yet these too were the objects of God’s love.

That kind of love is truly Incomprehensible. There are many things in life that are beyond our full understanding. Some things are beyond us because we have no background in them. That is why some do not like certain sports, or appreciate some fields of science or history. It is why some get lost and bored over things that interest others. Some things are far too complex for us to understand. No one knows with certainty the actual nature of light or of gravity. No one can perfectly predict the path of a storm. There are diseases we do not know how to cure.

God’s love for lost humans is beyond our comprehension for a different reason. It is infinitely beyond our limited human nature itself to understand it. There is nothing in our make up that brings us close to understanding such an infinite love. A baby is more able to comprehend the details of quantum physics, than man is able to comprehend the love of God. Adults are many times smarter than a baby, but God’s mind and intentions are infinitely beyond the mind of any human. Psalm 139:6 shows the heart of the Psalmist as he thought about God, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.”

Though comprehension is beyond us, God made sure that this love was openly displayed for all to see. It was “demonstrated” to us, made conspicuous, by the work of Christ. Though we cannot fully appreciate its depths or understand its foundation, we are privileged to see it held up for us to behold. Paul’s reasoning here is to help us appreciate the greatness of God’s love.

Jesus told his disciples in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Then in verse 14, in words that applied this principle to himself, he made it clear what he would do. He said, “You are My friends … .” There is only one way to take it. His love for them was so great that he would die for them.

Later one of those disciples, the Apostle John, wrote, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16). Later in 1 John 4:9 he wrote, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”

The death of Christ for his friends was infinitely greater than anything we mere humans could do for a friend. It was this love that moved him to take on a human body and soul, and to take on our guilt. It was this greatest of all imaginable loves that led him to the cross to redeem his people.

In his gospel (John 3:16) John wrote words that are known and loved by so many, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV)

The world became so polluted by the rebellion of Adam and his race, that it is amazing that the holy God, who is the target of man’s offenses, would come to redeem any one from the human race at all.

The greatness of the giving of God the Son was not like a human father losing his son. God the Father would not “lose” his son, or become separated from him for a lifetime. This is often what we think of when a parent loses a child to death. The members of the Trinity were never really separated from one another as to their eternal and unchangeable nature.

What makes the Father’s sending his Son to die so great is different. Jesus came to take on the ultimate humiliation, and most extreme suffering possible. This one man would experience the horrors of the wrath of perfect justice. That which condemns the sinner to suffer in hell and agony forever, and which horribly offends the Creator, was collapsed into one man who paid it all in those hours on the cross. That suffering and agony is multiplied to include the countless numbers who are the Redeemed of God.

John 3:16 should not be taken to mean that he loved, and wanted to redeem, everyone in the world. That is not the point Jesus was making in John 3 as he spoke to Nicodemus. If he came to redeem all that are in the world, and even one person is condemned in the end, then Jesus failed. But nothing supports that. He fully succeeded in his work. This verse has to do instead with how great his love was, that he should love any of this world at all! The promise only addresses those who actually put their trust in the Savior. It is a very limiting verse.

R. B. Kuiper once said about John 3:16, “the point, then, is not that the world is so big that it takes a great deal of love to embrace it, but that the world is so bad, that it takes an exceeding great kind of love to love it at all.”

Contrary to the opinion of false religion, the Bible does not claim that God loves all humans. In this same book, Romans 9:13, Paul quotes from the Old Testament and writes, “Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.’ ”

It is neither loving nor true to tell all people that “Jesus died to save them”. We cannot know that about any individual person. The Bible tells us to call all to repent, and to trust in his death for sin. The message is to tell them what they ought to do because of God’s call to them. It is a sincere offer that either exposes the depth of depravity that makes them reject that offer, or demonstrates the work of grace that transforms the stubborn heart to see what it was blind to see.

If they truly turn to him and believe, then it become positively clear that they were redeemed by him. To imply to them that Jesus did what he could, then leaves its effectiveness up to them, destroys the idea of grace, and makes them out to be the lord’s of heaven instead of God himself. It makes up a different gospel. It wold be a lie about the most important message for a lost soul.

The gospel revealed in Scripture is not an easy message, nor is it popular. It is the truth. The Gospel is about the love of God that is so great, it is not about the choice of the person. We choose him because he redeemed us. He does not redeem us because we first chose him. First John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

At the precise time God had appointed, Jesus died not for the righteous or the good, for there is no one righteous or good. He died in place of the ungodly who would be enabled by grace alone to believe his message.

Wonderful results come from this redemption by the love of God.

Romans 5:9-11, “Much more then, 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.”

Here it says we are justified “by his blood.” Romans 6:23 summarizes what our sin deserves, “For the wages of sin is death…” The shedding of the blood of sacrifices represented the death of the sinner. Deuteronomy 12:23 says, ” … the blood is the life.”

When Jesus shed his blood, it fulfilled that for which the sacrifices stood. He poured out his blood until he died. This was to pay the penalty we deserve. In Hebrews 9:22 is says, “without shedding of blood there is no remission.”

The only just way to restore a lost human to fellowship with a holy God, is that the penalty be paid by God himself, by the Savior clothed in a true human nature, and having poured out his life to pay the price demanded by moral justice.

What moved God to do that for sinners? In verse five of this chapter Paul spoke of the love of God for his people. He began this next point in verse six with the word “for” showing the results of that love. This infinite and incomprehensible love of God moved the Savior to die for the unworthy.

The Bible speaks of us becoming “justified” from different points of view. They are not different messages. We see it from different directions to know its full beauty. Just as we turn an expensive jewel around to appreciate it from every angle, God’s word shows us the varied parts of our redemption.

We read in Romans 3:24 that we are justified “by God’s grace.”
This shows what motivated the work of Christ. It was not anything we have done or chose, but God’s own determination. It is God’s eternal, unchangeable, and amazing grace that moved him to redeem his people. In this sense, redeeming Grace and God’s redeeming Love, are hard to distinguish.

Here in Romans 5:9 we see that we are justified “by Christ’s blood”
This shows the means God used to pay the penalty for our sins. Justice was satisfied by a perfect and infinite substitute dying in our place. Our sins were paid for by him, one who deserved no punishment at all.

We are also told that we are justified “by faith.”
This is the means by which the redeemed person lays hold of the work of Christ. Faith is that confidence put into our hearts by the Holy Spirit that drives us to rest in the gospel. It is something one would not do if Christ had not died for him. It is something one will surely and willingly do if Christ did die for him.

These different sides of the work of justification help us to see the whole picture. Our faith reveals the grace of God which included us in the redeeming work of Christ.

If this great love moved him to restore enemies to fellowship by paying for their sins, then now that we are reconciled and made friends, it is much easier to be confident that we will be saved by his life. The promise goes way beyond just being saved from judgment. In Romans 8:29 we see that those same ones he justified he also promises to glorify.

We who are redeemed, are saved by Christ’s life in several ways.

His resurrection is a pledge of life to all who are justified by his grace.
The separation of spiritual death disabled our fellowship with God. The perfectly holy life of our Savior is credited to those who are redeemed. They stand clothed in his righteousness so that their fellowship with God is restored. Where there was death, there is now life. Beyond that, we have the promise of eternal life at the resurrection when our physical bodies are glorified and reunited with our departed souls to live in God’s presence forever.

Jesus said in John 14:19, “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.”

In Romans 8:11 Paul wrote, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

Christ, being raised again to life, continues to intercede for his children.
Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

In the final judgment, our Savior is the one who judges our case.
Matthew 28:18 Jesus said, “… All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

There could be no grater words of comfort and security. Our Savior did not just make a way for us to be redeemed from punishments. He actually saves us to live fully for all eternity in Christ. By paying for his people’s sins he made enemies into friends of God. Now living, he intercedes for them, promises to raise them to life everlasting, and assures them that he will be their comfort and joy all through this present life.

Paul says that we rejoice in God now. In verse 11 he adds that in addition to this work of redemption and promise, we “rejoice in God.” This is that victorious rejoicing that he mentioned back in 5:2. The reconciliation is ours now. It is a present walk with God, restored to fellowship with him. We who were once enemies are now made right with God. None of it is deserved or earned. It is all because of his gracious and amazing love. This is a good and worthy thing to stop to think about every day.

Oh the love that sets us free from our guilt, and adopts us into the family of God!

(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

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About Bob Burridge

I've taught Science, Bible, Math, Computer Programming and served 25 years as Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Pinellas Park, Florida. I'm now Executive Director of the ministry of the Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies

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