“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. Some people would say that God does not exist. If they accept there is a God they would not even go so far as to describe Him as a “He.” This is due to the low view of scripture in the world today. This is not primarily a message on the existence or gender 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 or if they accept there is a God, that God is not loving! Such an assessment is not reasonable. Let me provide a similar line of thinking. Olay, Dial, Aveeno, Irish Spring, Ivory, Zest, and Dove are all companies that manufacture soaps. However, there are parts of the world where people are dirty, where soap is hard to come by. If we were to follow the rationale of those who deny God’s existence because of the existence of evil in the world, we would say because there are dirty people in the world, soap doesn’t exist! Thankfully, that’s not true. There is plenty of soap in the world. The problem is that some people either don’t have access to soap or those who do have access to soap, don’t use it. The problem is with the people not the product. Therefore, we might similarly say, the problem isn’t that God doesn’t exist, the problem is that people don’t accept Him as existing or follow His almighty instructions. God Almighty has said, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). I pray your ready to do some searching.
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. Even 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, to condescend and reveal it to us. And that is true of Himself too.
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 the love of God so that we can discover its richness. 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, 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, but God has condescended to our level and revealed a great deal to us about Himself, humanity, and the world we live in. 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 and lays out before us “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 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 is death 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 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 which 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. 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.
“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 show us about “His own love”?
First, God’s own love is superior to the best love the world has to offer (Romans 5:7). People may heroically give their lives for those they view as righteous or good, but God’s love goes beyond anything people in this world have to offer. No matter how sentimental, sacrificial, or love based a person’s love is, it doesn’t measure up to “His own love.” Loving does not save us from our sin. You can’t cancel the wrongs you have done by sacrificing in love. That degrades true love and makes it a filthy rag (Isaiah 64:6). We are not saved by works; no matter how good we think they are (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). The sinner can’t love enough to cleanse away their sin.
We just don’t measure up to God’s holy standard. “There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Unrighteousness is breaking the last six of the Ten Commandments: dishonoring parents; murdering or thinking hatefully toward others; committing adultery or having lustful thoughts; stealing; speaking untruthfully; and coveting. This kind of sin is at the root of the world’s problems. Humanity is the culprit. God, on the other hand, in His own love has made a way to overcome the sinful ills of this fallen world. When people shake a fist at God and blame Him for everything wrong with this world, they ought to look in the mirror and consider that all our problems and pains are due to the sinful decisions of humanity in rebellion toward God.
Any love shown by any person, saved or unsaved, is a product of God and His grace (James 1:17; 1 Cor. 15:10). Judgment or justice is getting what you deserve. We deserve the death penalty because of our sins. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. God has made a way to justly and judicially save us from our sins. He sent Jesus to die for us. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. We receive God’s loving solution to our sin problem in salvation. We receive God’s love poured into our hearts in regeneration (Rom. 5:5).
Second, God’s own love loves even sinners (Romans 5:8). God loves the unlovable. God loves those who don’t deserve to be loved. Sinners are those who have broken the holy law of God. Sinners are those who cause pain to others. Sinners miss the mark of God. Sinners are stained with the tar of sin. They have an indelible black mark of rebellion against God. But God loves sinners and He demonstrates His own love to them. And His love does not rest on words alone.
Third, God’s own love is extremely sacrificial (Romans 5:8-10). It states, “Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:8), “Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), “having now been justified by His blood” (Rom. 5:9), and “through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10). God doesn’t love with pleasant platitudes. God’s own love acts and goes all the way. God demonstrates His own love to all through the death of His Son Jesus on the cross. A crueler more painful death would be hard to find. It is the spiritual aspect of Christ on the cross that makes His death unmatched in severity. The perfect, sinless, blemishless Jesus, who had never experienced any sin or disconnect from the Father, went to the cross and experienced the full brunt and extent of the penalty of sin; separation from His Father (e.g. Mat. 27:46; Ps. 22). All the filthiness of the sins of humanity were dumped on Him. God did that on the cross. Our filthy sin created a chasm separating us from Him (Is. 59:2). He made a bridge that we might cross over to Him through faith in Christ. It wasn’t the nails that held Jesus to the cross, it was His love for us (Gal. 2:20). God’s own love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8). God’s own love always does what it takes to redeem the lost. God’s own love is substitutionary. The love of God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves (2 Cor. 5:21).
Fourth, God’s own love is always “much more” (Romans 5:9, 10). God’s own love is always “much more” than we conceive it to be. You can’t exhaust God’s own love. You can pray to know the “width and length and depth and height” of God’s love but there will always be “much more” for you to experience and know about it (Eph. 3:18-19). What benefits are there for us who experience God’s love?
God’s own love justifies us from sin by Christ’s blood (Romans 5:9b). Jesus paid the death penalty of sin for us to establish a just legal basis for forgiveness of our sins. The just penalty for sin is death and God’s wrath. But God in His own love provided a way to escape that wrath. The first 5 verses of Romans 5 indicate when we put our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior we are justified before God. That means through faith in Christ we receive a just legal status before God just-as-if-we-had-never-sinned. We are saved from the wrath of God through faith in Jesus. That incredible benefit is the product of God’s love toward us.
God’s own love reconciles us to Him (Romans 5:10a). We were enemies, literally actively hostile toward God. Yet He made a way for us to be reconciled and change from an enemy to an ally of God. This is freely offered to us by God’s grace; a gift. But such reconciliation doesn’t come cheap. It is the result of God in love sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross for us. This reconciliation is like a resurrection; like going from death to life in Christ.
God’s own love provides us a new way of life (Romans 5:10b). Verse ten ends, “. . . we shall be saved by His life.” God’s own love and its impact on us leads to a new way of life. Here we need to pause and consider our response to God’s own love. The apostle John is often referred to as The Apostle of love or The Apostle who Jesus loved (cf. John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20). John was inspired by God to write, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us (1 John 4:7-12). The only appropriate response to God’s own love is to love like God loves. We are not saved by loving, but the evidence of spiritual life, maturity and power is God’s own working in and through us.
How can we love like that? On our own it is impossible. But Paul writes, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). The hope we have in God is reliable. God’s love is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who dwells in the believer. That’s incredible! By the power of the Spirit, we can love like God loves. We can love the weak and the ungodly. We can love in a way that is superior to the world’s brand of love. We can love even sinners and love sacrificially. We can love to the end. We can love in a way that brings reconciliation between enemies. We can love in action, in life. And all of that is reason to rejoice.
Fifth, God’s own love is reason to rejoice (Romans 5:11). The incredible benefits of God’s love give us reason to rejoice in Him. We should sing the Hallelujah chorus with every breath of new life in Christ we take. Because of God’s own love we can enter into a personal eternal saving relationship with God Almighty! For that we should rejoice.
That is a small picture of God’s own love. Remember, it’s always “much more” than we think it is. We could spend a lifetime studying God’s own love and still not fully comprehend it. That would not be a bad way to spend the rest of our existence; experiencing, enjoying and expounding on His own love.
God’s love is not something we can coldly dissect in a laboratory. God’s love is not merely something we can study philosophically or even theologically. God’s love is best understood in relationship with Him. If you really want ot know what God’s love is all about and experience it to its fullest extent, you have to get to know God; you have to enter into a relationship with Him.
Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). The word “know” here is translated from the Greek term ginosko. The idea of this word “know” in the original language meant to become aware, perceive (as in “seeing is believing”), to understand, to be conscious of, to see something or someone as it/they truly are (not merely opinion or speculation).
When this word is used in the sense of knowing someone it means:
- To know someone personally
- To be personally acquainted with someone
- To trust someone
- To have a friendship with someone
- To have an intimate personal relationship with someone
It is possible to know personally the only true God and His Son Jesus Christ. In light of this the question arises, do you know Jesus?
The Good News is that we can have a personal loving relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Entering into such a relationship is as simple as ABC: Admit/Ask, Believe/Receive, and Confess/Call.
First Admit your sin and ask God’s forgiveness for your sins. Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). And we all have sinned and fall short of what it takes to enter heaven (Romans 3). We need to admit this truth before God. Once we admit our sin before God, we need to ask God’s forgiveness for our sins. This implies turning from our sins to God (i.e. repentance). This is humbling but necessary. We come to Him on His terms not our terms. We come humbly before God who is Awesome and Holy, but also graciously loving.
Second, believe in Jesus and His atoning work. Jesus and Jesus atoning work on the cross alone, not our efforts or works, is the basis for God’s forgiveness of our sins. The wages or consequences of our sin is death. If we continue living in our sin, persisting in our rejection of God, and die in our sins, we will spend eternity in a place called hell. Jesus Himself said, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). Those who choose to remain living in their sin will not inherit the eternal kingdom of God (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). But the wonderful news is that we can be saved from our lives of sin (1 Corinthians 6:11). When we receive Jesus as our Savior, all the old sin and past is put away, we are given a fresh start with God through Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful to change us (Romans 1:16). And the greatest of good news of the gospel is that God offers all of this freely as a gift of His grace to be received by faith in Jesus.
Jesus died on the cross in our place, paying our punishment for sin. God offers us salvation from our sins and the penalty thereof freely as a gift of His grace through Jesus’ death on the cross (Romans 6:23) and His resurrection (Romans 10:8-10). We are saved from our sins because of His work not our work. To believe, trust, or put our faith in Jesus as Savior is not a “work,” it is God’s grace working in us (Ephesians 2:8-9). Once we believe in Jesus and His atoning work, we believe and receive forgiveness for our sins based on Jesus and His work. God has a just basis to forgive our sins because of Jesus justifying work on the cross on our behalf. Jesus paid our death penalty on the cross for us. He’s the only One qualified to do that. Jesus took our sins on Himself on the cross and when we trust in Him and His work, He offers us His righteousness to be put to our account (cf. Isaiah 53; 2 Corinthians 5:21). God did this for us in Christ because He loves us. God is Love with a capitol “L” (e.g. John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:8 and 16).
Lastly, Confess and call. We confess our sins to God and receive His forgiveness (1 John 1:9). But we also confess Jesus to those around us; we tell others about Jesus; we call others to follow Jesus too. These are not works that lead to salvation. This is a fruit or evidence that salvation has genuinely taken place in us. The Bible states, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
All of this is the product of God’s love for us; for me and you. I encourage you to prayerfully examine the scriptures mentioned in this study. I especially encourage you to look up and think prayerfully about the scriptures I’ve listed toward the end of the study that show you how to enter into a loving relationship with the Lord Jesus. Just remember one last thing when it comes to the love of God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). That’s true. That’s God’s love. That’s God’s own love for me and for you. I hope you experience it first hand like I have. You’ll never be the same. God guide, save and bless you. In Jesus; name. Amen.