“A Love Like No Other”
(Romans 5:6-11 – Pentecost 4 – June 28, 2020)
Romans 5:6-11 – 6For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10For 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. 11And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Dear Redeemed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ:
Recently I heard a true story of a young couple who shared the Christian faith, as well as many goals and interests in life. They fell in love. But just when everything seemed to be going great and the future seemed so bright, she became sick with cancer. Yet in the midst of her hospitalization and rigorous treatment, the young man asked her to marry him. He promised to stand beside her no matter what. After that, she was miraculously healed. Then they were married. But while they were on their honeymoon, the cancer returned. Yet true to his word, the man stood beside his wife and their love stood the test to the very end.
That kind of love is awe-inspiring. It is a proven love that is willing to make selfless sacrifices for the good of another. How much more awe-inspiring is the kind of love we hear of in our text, God’s love for us in Christ. As we will see, it is “A Love Like No Other”: 1) It is a love which makes the greatest sacrifice; 2) It is a love which stands the test to the very end.
1) It is a love which makes the greatest sacrifice
For whom would you be willing to make the greatest sacrifice? Like that man I spoke of, as husbands each of us has vowed to stand beside his wife no matter what, even unto death. In this, we have the ultimate model in Christ, as Ephesians 5:25 say: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” It is not often that a husband is required literally to die for the sake of protecting and providing for his wife. But it is a reminder that the marriage vow includes, not only that we will be faithful unto death, but that we will lay down our lives along the way. In an enduring marriage, husbands and wives both make daily sacrifices, laying down selfish interests to serve each other’s good, even to the end.
This self-giving love extends through the family, as parents are willing to serve the best interests of their children. When necessary, fathers and mothers have been known to make the greatest sacrifice of their own life to save their beloved children from harm. But again, on a daily basis, such self-giving love shows as parents pray for their children and provide for them. We also think of the sacrifice children may make, for example, when they are willing to go out of their way to care for their aging parents to the end.
In John 15:13, Jesus extends such self-giving love outside the family as He says: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” As we approach Independence Day, we think of the many soldiers who have been willing to make the greatest sacrifice. A soldier may enter the line of fire to protect his comrades. How many have given their lives in the course of winning and protecting our freedom? Even on a daily basis, how many times do friends make sacrifices, laying aside their own interests to help one another?
For whom would you be willing to make the greatest sacrifice – spouse, children, family, friends? All these kinds of love are commendable. Yet in our text, we hear of a love like no other. It is the love of God that was willing to make the greatest sacrifice, not for those who were lovable or showed redeeming qualities, but for those who made themselves His enemies.
We read in verses 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.”
This describes how God found us by nature, as those who had fallen into enmity with Him. When it calls us “sinners,” the word means to miss the mark. In terms of shooting a target, we were supposed to be hitting a bull’s-eye every time, living in perfect obedience to God’s commandments without failure in every thought, word, and deed. To obey God’s commandments is to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30). But Romans 3:23 says: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In our relationship to God, how often have we missed the mark, devoting our heart, soul, mind, and strength to other loves more than God?
When it comes to human relationships, many imagine they follow the Golden Rule pretty well, doing to others as they would have done to them, even making great sacrifices. But God is not selective in this. When it comes to love, Jesus went beyond the strictest religious teachers and highest expectations of man when He said in Matthew 5:43-45: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
That is how God loves, even acting in the best interests of enemies. But we are not perfect in love like God. As sinners, we do not share His holy nature. In fact, it describes the condition in which He found us as “ungodly.” In Scripture, the ungodly are those turn aside from the truth of God, in an attempt to reject His rule over their lives. They follow their own wicked will, living as rebels against God, living as His enemies in sin (Romans 1:18 ff; 3:10-12; 8:7).
For whom might we be willing to make the greatest sacrifice? Perhaps for a spouse, a family member, or a friend? When a person sacrifices his life for another, it is because he sees some great value in that person. Even then such a sacrifice is uncommon, as it says: “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.”
Here we come to see the amazing love of God for us, a love like no other. For whom was He willing make the greatest sacrifice? Not for those who had made themselves righteous or good in His sight. Rather: “Christ died for the ungodly… God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (vs. 8, 10).
The divine Judge looked upon on a world of sinners, guilty of breaking His holy Law. God is perfectly just, so He knew the wages of sin must be paid, with the penalty of eternal death (Romans 3:23). The sinner must face His wrath and punishment. Yet God is perfectly loving, not wanting anyone to perish, but to be saved for eternal life. So what did He do? The divine Judge laid all the sins of the world, all the ungodliness of mankind, upon His own innocent Son. God sent His Son to the cross in place of each one of us to face justice in our place.
Jesus willingly made that greatest sacrifice with a heart of perfect love for you and me. He took all our sins and offenses, every way we have missed the mark and failed to love God and one another. He suffered the holy wrath of God against our sin as He was forsaken in our place. Even as Jesus hung on the cross, He looked upon mocking enemies, He looked upon the world of ungodly sinners, and He prayed: “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).
And for Jesus’ sake, God does forgive us. The divine Judge justifies us – pronouncing us not guilty in His sight, free of all charges and all condemnation, because Jesus took all that for us. God justifies us – declaring us righteous in His sight, because He looks upon us through His Son, who lived the perfect life of obedience and love, the perfect life God is now counting to us.
2) It is a love which stands the test to the very end
In this world, all too often there are heartbreaking stories of love that does not last. Friends part ways, families break up, spouses divorce. How good it is to hear awe-inspiring stories of self-giving love which stands the test of time. But here we have found a love like no other. It is the love of God that has been tested by the worst possible conditions and proven beyond doubt. It is the love of God that led Him to make the greatest sacrifice to save us for eternal life; it is a love that will stand the test to the very end.
Do you ever wonder if God loves you? Maybe sometimes even though we hear His Word of forgiveness, we don’t feel forgiven. Maybe we begin to dwell on how terribly we have sinned against Him or someone else. Maybe something bad happens to us, and we begin to wonder if it is because God is angry at us and has decided to punish us after all.
Even then, God’s love for you in Christ does not fail; it stands the test. We are assured of this in verses 9-10: “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.”
How could God still hold any wrath against us, after all He has done to reconcile us to Himself? He did not pay with the life of His Son only to say, “I didn’t really mean that!” or “My Son’s death was not really enough!” When God says, “For Jesus’ sake you are forgiven, I am no longer counting any sin against you,” it is forever true. His Word stands the test to the end.
If God gives such proof that we are saved through the death of His Son, how much more can we be certain that “we shall be saved by His life!” If Jesus had remained in the grave, we would have reason to doubt. A dead man could not have taken our sins away and saved us from death. But God has removed all doubt by raising Jesus from the dead. God has united us to the life of His Son, through Baptism and faith. He has put His Holy Spirit in our hearts, guaranteeing that He will stand with us to the end as our Savior, and we shall stand with Him in everlasting life.
Therefore, our text concludes in verse 11: “Not only that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” We rejoice in the love of God in Christ by which He has rescued us from our former enmity and reconciled us to Himself in perfect peace. It is a love like no other by which He has brought us into the closest relationship, as He now describes us as His friends, His children, and His holy Bride the Church. and in this relationship, His love will stand the test to the very end.
Are there are times when we feel lonely and forsaken? Yet we always have that “Friend who sticks closer than brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Jesus says: “You are my friends” (John 15:14). Remember Him who showed greater love than all in laying down His life for you. By that same faithful love, He says: “I will never leave you nor forsake you; I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20).
Are there are times when we worry for the well-being of ourselves and our loved ones? Yet we always have “Our Father, who art in heaven” (Matthew 6:8) who hears our prayers in Jesus’ name. Remember Him “who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.” By that same all-giving love, He will continue to provide for us and protect us as His children to the very end (Romans 8:32).
Are there are times when we feel unlovable, perhaps times when we have failed at love? Yet remember the heavenly Bridegroom whose love never fails. Remember Him who “loved the Church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). He has cleansed you by the washing of water and His forgiving Word. He presents you to Himself as His beloved Bride, holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Who shall separate us from the love of God in Christ? He who has vowed His faithfulness to us will keep His Word, no matter what. He will stand by our side in sickness and in health, in good times and bad. He will be with us to the very end. Even in death, He will hold us close to His heart; and He will be there to carry us through. He will bring us home, to His Father’s house, where we shall live with Him as a perfect heavenly family. As friends forever, we will share that wonderful love of God that is like no other, a love that lasts for all eternity.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.