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 loves. Some people would say that God is not a God of love. They look around at their lives and the world and see pain, suffering, tragedy, injustice, and they blame it all on God and say God is not loving! Such an assessment is based on a wrong perspective of the world and an earth-locked view of God.
To those who would question the validity of Christianity and or God’s love based on evil in the world, I would say look at soap. What? Yes, look at soap. We can say the same thing about soap. With so much soap in the world, why are there so many dirty people? Because you have to personally apply soap for it to be of any use. If you don’t use soap and wash up, you will remain dirty. And in the same way, Christianity and God’s love needs to be personally accepted and applied for it to be of any use to a person.
Solomon, arguable the wisest person who ever lived, grappled with the realities of this world in light of God’s sovereign position. Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes wrestled with the meaning of life. He divided the existence of heaven and earth with the words “under the sun.” And, as he examined the particulars of various realities “under the sun,” he came to the conclusion that living only for those things “under the sun,” was “vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” This wise man concluded meaning for our existence only comes as we look up, through the clouds of this world, to find the answer to our questions about meaning and purpose of life.
Even the wisest and one of the wealthiest men who ever lived, in his own mental strength and near limitless personal resource, fell short of understanding such things. We need to look up. We need to look toward God. But even then, we are limited and in a position of weakness. That’s because, “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Truly, 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. “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:10a). God is the Great Revealer. He wants to be known. He wants us to know Him and have a relationship with Him. That’s what eternal life is all about, knowing Him and Jesus who He sent (John 17:3).
But maybe you’re still hooked on the idea that God is this distant Despot. Maybe you’ve projected your experience with an earthly abusive or very flawed father onto a Perfect Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48). If that’s the case, then I’d like to share with you why you should want to know this God of the Universe. I’d like to share a bit about the God of Love. That’s because there are great benefits of knowing the God of love. “Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11). I hope and pray you come to experience that.
We know God because He has revealed Himself to us. And when He does that 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? If we don’t have the proper understanding and definition of God’s “love,” then such love is reduced to an unused bar of soap. What is therefore, God’s love? That question is answered in His word and as we look at His answer about His love, we will receive insight into some of those other questions about suffering in the world.
In Romans 5 verse 8 it states, “But God demonstrates His own love . . . .” The term “demonstrates” is a term used to describe how a merchant lays out his product before prospective buyers. The idea is the seller wants to present his product in the best possible light. In Romans 5 God lays out His love in the best possible light for us to see. Romans 5 provides us a clear picture, a detailed portrait of God’s love.
Notice too that the love God lays out for us to see is “His own love.” It’s 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. There are about fourteen words for “love” in the Greek. 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.” Agape love is the highest and most holy of all loves.
To understand “His own love” we have to turn to His own love letter to us, the Bible. And we have to turn to a particular part of His love letter, Romans 5:6-11 which reads:
- Romans 5:6-11 – 6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 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. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
When we turn to Romans 5:6-11 we see eleven aspects of God’s own love.
First, God’s own love loves us even when we are weak (Romans 5:6a). It says, “For when we were without strength . . .” 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. When we are unable to reciprocate God’s love, He 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. God’s love is strong for us when we are weak.
Second, God’s own love loves us even when we are ungodly (Romans 5:6b). It states, “. . . in due time Christ died for the 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. There is little to know sense of holiness. Hollywood personalities claim to be followers of God and yet indulge in and support sins God finds reprehensible and abominable such as abortion. God is of purer eyes than to look upon evil (Habakkuk 1:13). If a person entertains iniquity in their heart, God will not listen to them (Psalm 66:18). He reaches out to them calling them to repent. He calls them to come and reason with Him to discover how they can be cleansed from their sins (Isaiah 1:18). And this outreach by God is an act of His sovereign grace. Sinners don’t deserve God’s love, but God offers it to them anyway. That’s how great God’s love is.
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, nor taking God’s name in vain or using it inappropriately and observing a day of rest in the Lord (Exodus 20:1-11). There are many other sins on the vertical plain of relating to God. The ungodly break all of those laws of God. And yet He still demonstrates His love toward them.
Third, God’s own love loves in a way that 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.”
There’s something else here that needs to be mentioned. Romans 3 tells us as far as measuring up to God’s holy standard, “There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Unrighteousness can be defined as 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 (Exodus 20:12-17). And there are many other sins on the horizontal human plain of existence.
When you look at the problems in the world today, they shouldn’t be laid at the doorstep of God, 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.
Fourth, God’s own love loves even sinners (Romans 5:8a). God loves the unlovable. God loves those who don’t deserve to be loved. A sinner is a person born with a sinful nature. All humanity is born in sin. David was inspired to write, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Sinners are those who demonstrate their sinfulness by breaking the holy law of God. You don’t become a sinner by sinning. You sin because you are a sinner. That’s all of us. You might reply, “But I’m not a ‘bad’ person!” The issue is not that some people are good or not. The issue is no one is good enough to entre heaven. God’s standard is perfection; no sin at all (e.g. Matthew 5:48). That’s because sin is like cancer, it spreads and metastasizes. And it only takes a single cell of sin for it to take root and corrupt its host.
Furthermore, sin is painful. Sinners are those who cause pain to others. Sin is selfish and self-centered. Sin moves people to use others to get what they want. Sin is ugly. Sin produces ugliness. Sin is ruthless and merciless. Sin warps our way of thinking. Sin deceives us into thinking our sin is acceptable while sin in others is not. Sin, at its heart, is proud. God will not allow sin into His heaven. Sin must be dealt with.
Sinners miss the mark of God. Sinners are stained with the tar of sin. They have an indelible black mark of rebellion against God. God is not going to allow us to track black tar into His gloriously white carpeted heaven. But God loves sinners and He demonstrates His own love to them. He loves them enough to selflessly provide a solution to their black sin problem. His love does not rest on words alone.
Fifth, God’s own love is extreme (Romans 5:8b). 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. The spiritual aspect of Christ on the cross 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. ON the cross Jesus experienced the full brunt and extent of the penalty of sin; separation from His Father (e.g. Mat. 27:46; Ps. 22). I doubt anyone of us will ever truly be able to comprehend what that actually entailed. Only with the aid of the Spirit can we begin to tough the tip of the iceberg of understanding the cost of the cross.
Why the cross? God ordained the cross because our sin had caused a separation, a gulf, a deep and humanly impassable chasm between us and Him that we were helpless to cross (Is. 59:2). Out of love for us, He made a bridge from Him to us through the cross of Christ. Only Jesus can construct a way to heaven with two ties and three spikes. Only Jesus can bring us home. Only Jesus can bring us to God.
The cross paints a picture of God’s extreme love. It shows us God’s own love holds nothing back. God’s love goes all the way. 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 love is sacrificial in the supreme. God loves you and me supremely.
Sixth, God’s own love is substitutionary (Romans 5:8c). God demonstrates His own love in Christ on the cross “for us.” It is on the cross that in love God sent His only Son Jesus in our place, for us, to pay the just penalty for sin. God’s love does for us what we could not do for ourselves. He made Jesus sin for us that we could become righteous through faith in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). Eight centuries before the birth fo Jesus, God inspired the prophet Isaiah to write:
- Isaiah 53:4–6 – Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Now that, that is love.
Seventh, God’s own love is always “much more” (Romans 5:9a). No matter how deeply we come to understand God’s own love to be, no matter how experienced we get in His own love, it 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).
Eighth, 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 God’s 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.
Through the blood of Jesus, we are not merely pronounced not guilty. “Not guilty” means legally there wasn’t enough evidence to convict us though it possible we were indeed guilty. No, to be justified means we are pronounced innocent. Innocent means we are seen by the court as not having committed the crime. Think of that, through the shed blood of Jesus, our sins are passed away; it’s as though they never happened. Indeed, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Do you have a checkered past? Do you have regrets? Jesus provides a way to cancel all that sinful garbage out. And with it goes God’s just wrath on sin. We are saved from the wrath of God through faith in Jesus. That incredible benefit is the product of God’s love toward us.
Ninth, God’s own love provides reconciliation (Romans 5:10a). We were enemies, literally actively hostile toward God and yet He made a way for us to be reconciled or change from an enemy to an ally of God. This is freely offered to us by God’s grace. 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.
Tenth, God’s own love provides us a new way of life (Romans 5:10b). Verse ten ends, “. . . much more, having been reconciled, 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). In one of his inspired epistles he wrote the following:
- 1 John 4:7-12 – 7 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.
The only appropriate response to God’s own love is to love like God loves. Now on our own that would be impossible. But back in Romans 5 the apostle Paul was inspired to write:
- Romans 5:5 – 5 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.
Read that verse again. It says the hope we have in God is reliable, it won’t disappoint us. Why is this so? “Because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” 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.
Eleventh, 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.
How can we experience God’s love? How can we get to know 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 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 them. 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.
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. Jesus died on the cross in our place, paying our punishment for sin. God offers us salvation from our sins freely as a gift of His grace through Jesus’ death on the cross (Romans 6:23). 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 a 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).
God’s love provides a way to remove the sin that separates us from Him so that we can spend eternity with Him. That’s how much God loves you. When you love someone, you want to spend time with them. God loves us so much He made a way for us to spend eternity with Him. God really does love you.
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. But that would not be a bad way to spend the rest of our existence; experiencing, enjoying and expounding on His own love.