Summary: Even while we were helpless, sinful, enemies, Christ died for us.
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 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. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”
By way of introduction I’m going to do something that would probably incur the ire of my homiletics professors. But, they are all with the Lord now so they have to forgive me.
I’m going to go outside of our text, and you don’t have to turn there because I’m only going to refer to the specific wording of one verse and make some comments about it for the sake of laying the groundwork for our study today.
Listen to John’s Gospel, chapter 13, verse 1
“Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”
When John wrote that Jesus loved His own who were in the world and loved them to the end, in saying ‘the end’ he did not mean to convey the idea that something was ceasing to be, or that the duration or extent of something had run out – like coming to the end of a stretched-out rope.
John was communicating to his readers that the love of Christ for those who are His in this world was manifested, demonstrated, to the utmost degree.
In the historical sense that is what was about to happen after the disciples had their last Passover meal with the Master. He would be arrested, he would endure the mock trials and the torture at the hands of evil men, and then He would die for them.
This was the end, or the full manifestation of His love for them, says John. He loved them in His teaching, He loved them in His miracles, He loved them with His life, now He would demonstrate God’s own love for them – and for us who are His in this world – in His death.
It is the doctrinal teaching behind this statement of John’s that Paul laid out for us in Romans 5. I wanted to begin this way however, because it is so easy to go straight to these portions of Paul’s letters, specifically Romans, and get caught up in the teaching of the doctrines of Christianity, breaking down words, explaining theology, and forget the love.
Another potential stumbling point is the one of getting so focused on what was done for us, and what was provided to us, that we forget that this is really about Jesus Christ and God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. It is about the relationship of the eternal Triune God, and the incarnation and sacrifice of the Son for the ultimate glory of God.
It is our natural tendency, you know; to make things about us and focus on us and our benefits. I had to fight that temptation as I began to study and meditate on this sermon.
I caught myself thinking about all these things the Apostle says about us and realized that Paul is really teaching about the love of God demonstrated in and through His Christ.
Yes, there is much to teach about the sinful condition of mankind and the death that was overcome at the cross and the life that comes to us in the Spirit by the Grace of God alone through faith alone in the atoning work of Christ alone.
And we must learn those things, and we can and should rejoice in the Father’s great love for us, demonstrated through His Son.
But as we study these verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans, and we will go there in a moment, let’s be reminded first that ‘having loved His own who were in this world, He loved them (us) to the uttermost’. He loved in His teaching, in His miracles, in His life, and then to the farthest degree that anyone can love, He loved us in His death.
Let me interject one more thing here before we go on just to prepare you for the nature of this study today. Those who have been under my teaching know that I am not inclined to resort often to jokes or tear-jerking stories about puppies on railroad tracks or other shallow and emotion-evoking illustrations for my sermons.