The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

His Own Love – Part 1

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

What is God’s love like? That’s an interesting question. It presupposes that God exists and that He loves. Atheists say that God does not exist. They are gathering momentum and rallying people to their view. Agnostics admit there is a Something or Someone out there, but don’t know what it, He or She is. These views are due to the low view of scripture in the world today. This is not primarily a message on the existence or nature of God. It is a message on the love of God.

Skeptics who accept there is a God frequently say if there is a God He is not a God of love. Critics of God look around at their lives and the world and see pain, suffering, tragedy, injustice, and they use such things as evidence there is no God. They turn a blind eye to sin as a cause of world problems. It’s more convenient and in vogue to blame God for the ills of the world. Their shout is, “God is not loving!” Such an assessment is based on a wrong perspective of the world and an earth-locked view of God.

Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes grappled with similar things and assessed the world “under the sun” as “vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” At the end of that book he learned you have to look up, through the clouds of this world to find the answer to your questions and the meaning and purpose of life. The wisest man who ever lived, in his own strength, fell short of understanding such things.

The only way to come to true understanding in anything and everything is for God to reach down to us. God condescend and reveals truth to us. We know God because He has revealed Himself to us. He reveals Himself through the inspired revelation of His word (John 1; Colossians 1; Heb. 1). When we look at God’s revelation of Himself we discover, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).

We know “God is love” because He has revealed that to us in His word. But what is God’s love like? In Romans 5 verse 8 it states, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In this one verse, examined in light of its context, shines a bright light on “His own love.” The love of God is a rich treasure. Let’s look at God’s love through that verse in its context.

“But God . . .” presupposes the existence of God. Look around you at the design and order of the universe and you see a wealth of evidence for the existence of God. Only the darkest skeptic who has been thoroughly indoctrinated in the religion of evolution can deny there is a God. A watch doesn’t just happen, it requires a watchmaker. A painting doesn’t just happen, it requires an artist. Cars, buildings, bridges, space crafts, computers, IPads, IPods, IPhones, and a host of other created things don’t just explode into existence on their own, they are all evidence of engineers who thought them up and constructed them. The orderly universe around us is the same. We didn’t just happen, God the Creator created us.

“But God demonstrates . . .” tells us not only does God exist but He communicates with His creation. The term “demonstrates” means to commend something, to approve it, to present it, to put together like a composition, to teach by way of comparison, to establish or exhibit something. The term was frequently used in society to describe how a merchant lays out his product before prospective buyers. The idea is the seller wants to present his product in comparison to his competitor’s product. God is not distant and unknowable. There are things we just don’t have the capacity to understand. God has condescended to our level and revealed a great deal to us. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). One of the greatest revelations of God to humanity is that He is not a wood or stone god, He is not unfeeling or cold, He is a God of love.

“But God demonstrates His own love . . .” tells us God reveals “His own love.” This is not just any love. The New Testament was originally written in Greek. There are many words in the original Greek of the New Testament that are translated with our single English word love. The word “love” in Romans 5:8 is a translation of the Greek term agape. Agape is used to communicate affection, charity, benevolence, good will, love feast, and love. These words are all good words but they don’t touch the surface of “His own love.” To understand “His own love” we have to turn to His love letter to us. We have to further examine “His own love” in the rest of this verse and its immediate context of Romans 5. When we do that we will see that God’s love, “His own love,” is special, it is holy. What makes God’s love different?

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners . . .” tells us we are the objects of God’s love. And we are not easy to love. That God loves us tells us a great deal about His love. We are described as “sinners.” A sinner is someone who is sinful or full of sin. A sinner has broken and is a breaker of God’s law. Lawbreakers deserve a just penalty and the penalty for breaking the laws of Holy God are His wrath (5:9) and death (Romans 6:23). You might think that harsh and unreasonable but look further from the passage about what a sinner is.

Romans 5:6a, describes sinners as being “without strength.” To be without strength here means to be impotent and powerless. God loves us even when we are feeble and weak. When we are at the end of ourselves and have nothing left in the tank to move on, God still loves us. He doesn’t yell at us when we’re weak. He doesn’t shout at us and say “Come on, suck it up, get up and get going!” No, even in our inherent human weakness, God still loves us.

Romans 5:6b tells us sinners are “ungodly.” The word “ungodly” means, destitute of reverential awe toward God or impiousness. If ever there was a word to describe people today, ungodly is it. People show little to no respect or reverence for the Creator of the universe. Almighty God, the Ancient of Days, the LORD, is viewed and addressed with little to no appropriate respect. Humanity disrespects God outright. An ungodly person is one who breaks the first four of the Ten Commandments. These four Commandments have to do with worshipping only God, not making idols or images of God, not taking God’s name in vain or using it inappropriately and observing a day of rest in the Lord. The ungodly break all of those laws of God. They break them regularly. And yet He loves them.

Romans 5:10 describes sinners as “enemies” of God. The word “enemy” in this verse describes someone who is hateful, hostile, oppositional, and at enmity with God. An enemy of God is someone who is in the camp of the devil (e.g. Eph. 2:1-3).

As such, sinners deserve the “wrath” or just outpouring of God’s anger and vengeance (Rom. 5:9). We have offended and rebelled defiantly against the Creator of the universe and the most Holy God Almighty. We deserve God’s just wrath (Jn. 3:36; Rom. 1:18; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6Rev. 14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1). And yet God has reached out in love to us. Incredible! Magnificent! Merciful! God’s own love!

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” These last words, “Christ died for us,” define God’s love. They show us the extent of God’s love. What does the context of this verse further show us about “His own love”? That is what we will consider in the second part of our study. Until then, let God wrap His arms around you with His own love.

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