After a great song set focused on the work of Christ (Come Thou Fount, The Power of the Cross, When I Survey, There Is a Fountain, and You Are My All in All), a pastoral intern named Garrett gave his testimony of faith in Christ. Then, Mark Dever began his message. (Personal Note: I have been really looking forward to this message, given the text and subject matter. The Lord has used it powerfully in my heart already.)
Text: Romans 5:8-10
- Two powerful statements in v. 8 followed by two powerful rhetorical questions in vv. 9-10
- Just before our verses in v. 2, Paul backs up the joy with his confidence.
1. The Future Benefits of Christ’s Substitution (9b-10)
- Paul is arguing from the greater to the lesser.
- At the mention of wrath, I have to make sure we have all noticed the word at the end of v. 9: God is a God of wrath
- His wrath is God’s commitment to oppose those who oppose Him. How do we oppose Him? By breaking His law.
- When will we experience God’s wrath? This idea of final judgment is how we understand final salvation.
- If someone asks you if you are saved, you can say “no” in this future sense. It’s not that you won’t be; it’s just that you haven’t been yet. We’ve not yet stood before the Judge.
- Believers will not experience the wrath of God but we will be saved. This is our great assurance.
- Richard Sibbes meditated on this: “When our sins are set in order before us, the sins of our youth, middle, and old age, our sins against conscience, against the law and gospel, against examples, vows, promises, resolutions, and admonitions of the Spirit and servants of God; when there shall be such a terrible accuser, and God shall perhaps let the wounds of conscience fly open and join against us; when wrath shall appear, be in some sort felt, and God presented to the soul as 'a consuming fire,' Heb. 12:29, no comfort in heaven or earth appearing, hell beneath seeming ready to revenge against us the quarrel of God's covenant, Oh then for faith to look through all these clouds! to see mercy in wrath! love in correction! Heb. 12:6, life in death! the sweetness of the promises! the virtue and merit of Christ's sufferings, death, resurrection, and intercession at the right hand! the sting of death removed, 1 Cor. 15:55, sin pardoned and done away, and glory at hand!”
- According to the Bible, there is a God and this God is good. This is bad for us because of our sins. So what will you do? How will you prepare? Our hope is in the risen Christ.
- We should draw on this hope of a wonderful future to help us to endure now.
- When I have gone through my darkest days, I remember that God is on His throne. And I get to be there one day with Him.
- Our churches should be marked with a confident joy.
2. The Present Benefits of Christ’s Substitution (v. 8b-9a, 10)
- It’s amazing in every aspect: that He should do that for us!
- This love is unknown in human experience.
- His death was an offensive, obscene death.
- Rome used crucifixion only on the lowest class of criminals.
- How is Christ’s death effective to us today? Fact and faith must come together.
- Faith is worthless, absolutely w/o power, apart from Christ as its object.
- Ex. 34:6-7, How could God respond this way to the golden calf situation and claim to be loving and merciful while still not leaving the guilty unpunished?
- Our being justified is only because of Jesus’ death.
- Jesus was our Substitute; it’s what we deserved.
- The crucifixion was at the center of Paul’s theology.
- It has also secured reconciliation for us (v. 10). We cannot miss the centrality of the cross.
- What a deep breech must have existed between God and us because of our sins!
- By Christ’s death, God satisfies His own wrath and invites us to drown our enmity in His vast, amazing love.
- Justification includes pardon and return. Reconciliation includes the spanning of the breech and the restored relationship.
- You will never find an answer from a secular psychiatrist or any other human relationship. You must trust in the One who died for the sins of you and me.
- In your work, are you known as rigid and ill-tempered or as a peacemaker? In your marriage, do you keep grudges? In your family, do you bring people together after a grievance? Which pictures best reflect what Christ has done for you?
- No one else is going to bring this message to the world. God has made us indebted to Him; we owe our whole selves to Him with no alternative.
3. The Timing of Christ’s Substitution (v. 8, “while we were still sinners”; v. 10, “when we were God’s enemies”)
- When God says in 4:5 that He justifies the wicked—you should underline those 4 words. This is why we are not Roman Catholics.
- Here in 5:8, Paul calls us “sinners.” It’s a good word to use to describe us.
- Not only such as we’re useless but such as we’re guilty and obnoxious.
- To think that we were enemies of God is a frightening thought. We were opposed to the Triune God. We opposed His Gospel, His people. We were justly the objects of divine wrath.
- Sibbes: “If we had all the creatures in the world to help us, what are they but vanity and nothing, if God be our enemy!”
- Think about these two images: sinners and enemies.
- Christ did not come to die as our substitute after centuries of appealing to Him. He came and died while we were still sinners and when we were God’s enemies. Can you imagine?
- Why would Paul want to put us down in this way? Is he trying to denigrate or discourage us? No, he is telling the truth. God’s love is not based on anything in else, nothing we have done, nothing lovely in ourselves. It is all of God’s grace. What God gives us is contrary to our merit, to what we deserve.
- If there will ever be salvation for you or me, it must be by God’s grace, His unmerited favor and kindness.
- He didn’t wait until we had cleaned ourselves up, till we deserved His gift. He came when we were all His enemies.
- I think we have trouble understanding this. If God has so treated us when we were His enemies, what does that tell us about how we should treat those who have wronged us? Husband, when was the last time you asked your wife to forgive you? Children, when was the last time you asked your parents to forgive you? We must be the ones who ask for forgiveness.
- We have got to let go of the mentality that we have basically pleased God by our works this week.
- This should fuel our evangelism. There’s no 4-step process whereby we get people saved. We don’t prepare people for salvation. It is God’s work. We speak to people on His behalf.
- The only righteousness among us tonight is the righteousness of Jesus Christ!
4. The Point of Christ’s Substitution (v. 8a)
- All of this was to confirm, to manifest, to make known God’s love for us.
- There is no reason to doubt His love for us.
- God is out to show His own love. (John 3:16)
- Love is the supreme Christian virtue, the greatest commandment—but did you ever wonder why it was? Because that’s the way God is.
- The “but” at the beginning of v. 8 reminds us that His love is greater than the people of vv. 6-7.
- How do you react to such news of God’s love.
- Not only is God love but He will be known as a God of love.
- Let’s go back to our own churches and ask “who there do you not love?” This has great moral and ethical implications for us.
- The whole point of Christ’s substitution is for us to know and display that God is love and what His love is like.
- Most powerfully it assures us of God’s love and forgiveness
- In your job, how do you conduct yourself?
- Pray that God will help you to keep this in focus in the days ahead.
- In a fallen world, love requires having a long perspective. That long perspective takes in what God has done in Christ.
- Have you found this already in your marriage, in your home? These are meant to be pointers to God’s love.
- We want people to be reconciled to God, but until they do, be a little picture, a little display, however imperfect, however humble of God’s love.
- Valley of Visions – “Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy, cast off that I might be brought in, trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend, surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best, stripped that I might be clothed, wounded that I might be healed, athirst that I might drink, tormented that I might be comforted, made a shame that I might inherit glory, entered darkness that I might have eternal light. My Savior wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes, groaned that I might have endless song, endured all pain that I might have unfading health, bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem, bowed his head that I might uplift mine, experienced reproach that I might receive welcome, closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness, expired that I might for ever live."