Beginning in Romans 5, Paul details the benefits of being connected to God’s saving righteousness through faith.
- Hope for the glory of God
- Redemption of our sufferings
- Hope in our sufferings
In our text today, Paul expands on verse 5.
- “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
- Specifically, Paul has more to say about the love of God.
Romans 5:6–11 (ESV) — 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Romans 5:6–8 (ESV) — 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
A quick observation before we unpack these verses.
- Speaking of love, I love how Paul speaks of and understands God’s love…
- In context of God’s actions on behalf of His creatures…
- And not some flimsy sentimentalism or emotion.
God’s Love is Incomparable:
Paul wants us to see that God’s demonstration of His love in Christ is unique and incomparable.
- Paul shows this in at least one significant way.
- (1) God’s love was shown to us while we were “weak…still sinners” (vs. 6 and 8).
So to fully appreciate what Paul is doing we need to understand “asthenes” – translated as “weak”.
- The word generally has physical health connotations.
- It can often refer to having a debilitating illness – BDAG.
- This is an illness from which the sufferer is powerless to recover.
But, Paul is using the word in a different context than physical health.
- The context is our spiritual/ethical condition before God.
- We know this because he speaks of us as the “ungodly” (vs. 6) and “sinners” (vs. 8).
So, when Paul says we are “athenes”…
- He is describing the hopelessness of our spiritual condition as the “ungodly”.
- A spiritual condition from which we all suffer by default.
A condition that renders us spiritually debilitated.
- Powerless to remedy our illness.
- We can’t save or justify themselves.
Some translations try to capture this sense of “asthenes”:
- “powerless” – NIV.
- “helpless” – NET.
- “utterly helpless” – NLT.
Paul wants us to know it is these people – us – to whom God showed His love.
- A godless, utterly helpless, spiritually/ethically debilitated people under God’s wrath (vs. 9).
- As such, a people that did not deserve love from a holy God.
Tom Schreiner helps us here:
“Christ did not die for sinners because he detected in them an inclination toward God” – Tom Schreiner.
- Fantastically, it was quite the opposite.
- He died for us because we had none!
- This is the love of God!
Paul drives the point home further by saying…
- “Look, the world simply does not love this way”.
- “This love of God I am talking about is alien to the human existence”.
- “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die” – vs. 7.
- But Christ died for the “ungodly”!
Trinitarian Rabbit Trail:
I want to look closer at verse 8 before we move on to verses 9-11.
- “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Paul says “God” the Father shows His love for us – “theos” is God the Father.
- And the Father does so by the death of “Christ” (the Son).
Why not simply say…
- “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, he died for us”?
How does it make sense for person “A” to show his personal love to person “C” by sending person “B” to die for person “C”?
- Maybe “A” loves “C”, but he certainly doesn’t love “B”.
N.T. Wright, fortunately, makes the same observation.
- “What Paul says here makes no sense unless…”
- “…Jesus, in his life and death, was the very incarnation…of the living, loving God”.
He spells it out even more:
“If the death of the Messiah demonstrates how much God loves us, that can only be because the Messiah is the fully human being in whom the living God is fully present” – N.T. Wright.
John Murray helpfully points out…
- That grammatically, Paul is not talking about a mere expression of God’s love.
- Paul is talking about the actual love “of [God] Himself”.
In other words, for Christ to love is for God to love.
- “God shows his love…” – Romans 5:8
- “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” – Eph 5:2
- The same love.
If all of this isn’t so, then the Trinity has problems.
- But there is one other thing that makes sense of this for us.
- One other thing that drives home the reality of the Trinity.
Why does Christ revealing the love of God to us by His death mean He Himself is God?
First, we need to understand that Paul taught that God’s love (the Father’s love) is “in Christ”.
- Romans 8:39 (ESV) — 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- The language here is important – God’s love is “in Christ”.
Second, we need to understand that this parallels the idea of God’s “name” being in Christ.
- John 17:6 (ESV) — 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
- So in Jesus we find not just the love of God, but God’s name.
Paul speaks of the name as well:
- Romans 10:9 & 13 (ESV) — 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord…13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
- Confessing that “Jesus is Lord” saves.
- Calling on “the name of the Lord” that Paul just identified as Jesus, saves.
- Jesus is the “name of the Lord”.
So God’s love and God’s name are in Christ.
- Christ reveals and manifests each to us.
- Jesus is the name of the Lord.
- So what?
To bring it all together, we need to know that in the OT God’s “name” is a reference to Yahweh Himself.
- This is relevant because Romans 9:13 is actually a quote from the OT.
- Joel 2:32a (ESV) — 32a And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
- “Lord” here is Yahweh.
So what Paul has done is this:
- “Jesus is the Lord ” and He is the “name of the Lord”
- In Joel, the name of the Lord is literally the name of Yahweh.
So in identifying Jesus with Joel’s the “the name of the Lord”…
- He has identified Jesus as Yahweh.
We will close this rabbit trail with Michael Heiser.
“The Name and Yahweh were interchanged in Israelite theology, so that trusting in ‘the Name of Yahweh’ meant trusting in Yahweh. Likewise, trusting in the name of the Lord, who is Yahweh in the Old Testament quotation, is the same as confessing Jesus as Lord” – Michael Heiser.
So because Yahweh’s love and Yahweh’s name are in Jesus, He is Yahweh.
- And so Paul can sensibly say, “God shows his love…Christ died”.
BTW – A quick comment about “at the right time” from verse 6.
- Mark 1:15 (ESV) — 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
- Galatians 4:4 (ESV) — 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
Romans 5:9–11 (ESV) — 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Because of God’s incomparable expression of love in Christ…
- “We have now been justified by his blood” (vs. 9).
- Those connected to this saving activity of Christ are made right with God.
The result is that we are “saved by him”.
- Though salvation consists of a “saved to” and “saved for” dimension…
- Eternal life, new heavens/new earth, resurrection, glorification, etc.
- Paul here is speaking of its “saved from” dimension.
- The thing we are saved from is “the wrath of God” (vs. 9).
Paul then reflects back on verse 6 and reminds the “ungodly” that:
- “we were enemies” (vs. 10) of God.
And then he lays out a chain of logic…
- If, out of love, God reconciled the ungodly – his enemies – to Himself by “the death of his Son” (vs. 10)…
- How much more – now that we are reconciled – “shall we be saved by his life” (vs. 10).
The God whose love reconciles Himself to His enemies…
- Is a God whose love surely doesn’t stop there.
- God’s love is a how much more love!
So Jesus died to reconcile.
- But He was also raised to life!
- Because of this we are “saved by his life” (vs. 10).
A cool thing about verse 10 is how Paul plays two powerful themes off of each other.
- Reconciled by His death
- Saved by His life
What this drives home is that Christ’s death wasn’t just a means to an end – namely His resurrection.
- It was an end work of God in itself.
The EDNT puts it this way:
- “The subject of reconciliation for Paul is therefore exclusively God; it proceeds entirely from him, and it is entirely his work”.
- And the basis of reconciliation, it says, is “the atoning death of Jesus”.
The NT speaks of this elsewhere:
- Colossians 1:21-22 (ESV) — 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
- Hebrews 2:14 (ESV) — 14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,
Importantly, the fact that we are “reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (vs. 10)…
- Requires that we concede – as we saw earlier in Romans…
- That reconciliation is not possible if Jesus didn’t take upon Himself the wrath of God.
- Romans 1:18 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Peace with God does not come from life…it comes from death.
- Peace with God does not come from the withholding of God’s wrath…it comes from God’s wrath finding satisfaction upon Jesus.
All of this is why God’s love is so remarkable.
- Jesus shielded His enemies from the wrath of God.
- And the “enemies” connected to Jesus by faith are reconciled to God as a result.
Is it any wonder that Paul finishes up this section with this:
- “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11).
What an understatement!
- We are to rejoice or boast in God for what he has done.
- This is why Paul was so adamant about the following:
- Romans 3:27a (ESV) — 27a Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.
Throughout this text, Paul has held in tension two things.
- (1) God’s love – “God shows his love” (vs. 8).
- (2) God’s wrath – “wrath of God” (vs. 9).
Paul makes clear that by default humanity is under God’s wrath because we are…
- “the ungodly” (vs. 6).
- “sinners” (vs. 8).
- “enemies” (vs. 10).
But the love of God brings resolution to those connected to Christ by faith because we are:
- “reconciled” (vs. 10).
- “saved” (vs. 10).