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God’s Love Set Forth

Ernest Roe | Added: Jul 04, 2024 | Category: Theology


For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:7, 8).

God’s love. What can we say of that? It really seems presumption on the part of any mortal man to try and talk about the love of God. Oh, the love of God! We can never get far removed from this one thing about it, to start with – that the pure sovereignty of it is so attractive. In verse 7 you have two classes: the righteous and the good – God passes them by. In verse 8 you have the third class: the sinner (who he is we’ll try and talk about presently) – he certainly isn’t righteous, he certainly isn’t a good man. But God passes over the two that the world regard and respect, and might even die for, and picks up the sinner. Oh, the freeness of it! If only you and I could really get to the bottom of that. I know your heart because I know mine; I know your legal mind because I know mine. I may measure your corn by my bushel, and not be far out. You and I are nearly always looking for something in us, or something that we do. I don’t so much mean in outward works, but in such things as faith, hope, or love in exercise. And we argue thus, according to the legality of our mind, ‘If I believe better, if I love better, if I hope better’ – these inward works – ‘then I should believe God did love me!’ Well now, faith, hope and love have their sphere, but not in this matter, not in this matter of the love of God. Faith, hope and love, and similar graces, are all the effects of love – they’re not causes. When will you and I get clear of that legal spirit? I begin to think that we won’t get right clear of it till we are out of this body of flesh altogether. But I do beg of God to subdue it – not let it predominate. Because if it predominates, there’s no peace for you; there’s no joy. If you and I could only but look with a clearer, firmer, more steadfast eye to the love of God flowing like a river, free, with no conditions in it, no qualifications to call for from the individual in it! ‘I loved you freely. I loved you when a sinner.’ We make a lot of boast about our knowledge of the doctrines of grace. You’ll pardon me, won’t you? But I don’t see so much of the grace and the strength of it as I would like. We’ve got a lot of the legal note working about us still. Shame on us, who have been brought up as we have been brought up – with an open Bible, the ministry of the truth, and yet here we are still, grovelling in the dust with respect to ourselves. If only we could see – forgive my repetition, but I would like to be the means in God’s hand of killing this spirit a bit – this legal spirit of wanting to be, or to feel, something in myself fitting for God to love! Well, it’s free-willism, duty-faithism right to the bottom. In other respects you wouldn’t tolerate that for a minute – don’t tolerate it in your own heart! Begin at home; leave other people alone. We’ve got plenty to do if we look here. What we want therefore is the realisation of that beautiful word in Ezekiel, where you have it pictured to the full by God Himself. There’s the infant, cast out in its blood and filth – a most repulsive object, for even a man or a women to feel disposed to pass by such an object. ‘Well’, says God, ‘that’s you, my people. There you are. When I passed by, I didn’t ask you to pray, I didn’t ask you to believe in me, I didn’t ask you to feel anything, because I knew you were dead. When I passed by you, my time was the time of love.’ See? Sovereign, free. ‘And I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, live.’ Ah, now, that’s the start. Oh, the love of God! He never saw anything in us, and He never will see anything in us of ourselves to love. But He loves in spite of all that is there to the contrary. 

Having said that, see how this divine love of God operates: ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.’ Love in God must unfold. In a very much lesser way, of course, if there is love in an individual, he or she can’t keep it in the heart a secret. It must come out, and it will come out. Not so much in words but in deeds. Love will come out – little isolated deeds, perhaps, to begin with. Then it develops and, at length, it becomes so full in its manifestation that you can’t doubt it. ‘Let us not love in word only, but in deed and in truth.’ Well God did that! He so loved that He ‘gave his only begotten Son.’ He could not give less. If He had given all the celestial hierarchy, all the angels – and there are thousands upon thousands of them, and they have never sinned, and they are mighty in wisdom and excel in power. If He’d given the lot of them, it wouldn’t have done. No, it wouldn’t have saved us. And why? The angelic nature can’t make an atonement for man’s sin. We’re sinners – that’s got to be dealt with. So He sent, and gave His Son ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh.’ The flesh was real; the sin wasn’t. He had no sin. There’s the likeness of sinful flesh, but not sin in that flesh, nor any done by Him, of course. And so, as Christ appeared in this world, and appeared on the sacred page, incarnate, you have the final proof of the freeness of the love of God asking and wanting no qualification from the sinner. Here He is. He’s come to put things right, not to ask man in the least measure to put them right. He sacrificed himself: ‘Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.’ 

Now, this love is experienced. It’s not merely true what I have said, but it’s true that there are people who feel it. We read immediately before our text, ‘And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts’. Ah, that’s where we want it! What I have said – and more perhaps I might have said, had time warranted – is good and it’s the foundation. But oh, I want to feel it. Oh, to feel the love of God! Not because I want to feel it and then think that God loves me because I feel His love. No, He loves me without my feeling it. What is this thought of the Holy Ghost: ‘shed abroad’? There’s the idea of abundance. God doesn’t love you and me, fellow sinner, meagrely, stingily, as if He was afraid lest He should love us too much! No fear! No, all His very soul, if I may speak of God as having a soul – you know what I mean. The very being of God is in it. ‘God is love.’ What a wonderful word! As though the Holy Ghost through His servant John should say, ‘There’s nothing but love in God. It’s love in power, love in wisdom, love in justice, love in holiness’ – all His attributes are love. Even His wrath is loving wrath. His penal infliction of punishment upon sin and the sinner is love – love to His own honour, love to His own justice. ‘God is love.’ 

When this is ‘shed abroad’ in the heart, a second thing will follow. There’s the sensation of it. It moves your heart. There’s no sensation like it. Then you can say, as John says: ‘Hereby perceive we the love of God.’ We can see it; feeling it causes me to see it. One of its first fruits will be a sacred emotion of penitence. Ah, that love in your heart will break you. You can’t live in a wrong spirit against a man or a woman if the love of God is in your heart. You can’t do it; it will break it down. It will! You’ll have to go to God many a time about it and say, ‘Lord, put this thing right. I know it’s not right; put it right.’ And He can put it right by giving you and me a sense of His love. Similarly, if there’s any difficulty in the life or the pathway, why, this love of God felt in your heart makes you say, ‘That’s nothing!’ It pinches – ah, it may pinch the old flesh. It may curl you and me up with many a bitterness, but the love of God within says, ‘He’ll put it right. He’ll straighten it out. He’ll level that mountain and put that crook right.’ And bless His name, we know it’s so – because we’ve had it so. I’m not the only one – I say ‘we’. Why shouldn’t we speak what we know and are sure of? But when it comes to it, who am I that He should thus bless my soul? Ah, because He would, that’s all. Not because we’re better than another, but because He would

Now, He’s ‘commended’ this love, set it out, set it forth. I don’t know just what term to use to explain this word, ‘commendeth’. Perhaps if I used the word ‘exhibited’ it would be the nearest approach to the meaning of the word here, ‘commendeth’. He’s set it forth! Paul, when he speaks in the Galatian epistle, he says, ‘O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?’ The ministry of the Apostle was so vigorous, so strong, so profound, that it was as if he pictorially presented Christ crucified in front of them. So here, the love of God is pictured, set forth in its highest light. In what way? In that Christ died for sinners – ‘died for us’. 

There are five points; let me briefly put them before you. Who are the ‘us’? ‘Christ died for us.’ Well now, you look at verse 6 and you read, ‘When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.’ That’s the first thing about the ‘us’ for whom Christ died. They are ‘without strength’ – inability, unable to do a thing. How does that fit? I know how it fits the one that’s born again: it fits him down to a tee. Unfit, weak, unable. Let me add: it’s a sinful inability. Don’t you ever forget that! Some preachers make out inability excuses people. It doesn’t. We lost the ability in the Fall. God’s not to be blamed for that. We are to be blamed for losing the ability to please God. It’s a sinful inability. Remember that, my friend, always and ever. But it also means that I can’t do a thing to please God under the law – I am ‘without strength’ to keep the law. Don’t we prove that true, right up to today? Yet He died for such. If He didn’t, what would they do? Well, they would be lost, of course. 

Then you take a second feature of them in verse 6: ‘In due time Christ died for the ungodly.’ They’re unable and they’re ungodly, which word really means they’re irreverent. And their irreverence of God is the secret cause of all their wickedness. There’s no fear of God before their eyes, so they blaspheme Him and His ways, and His day, His word and His people, and everything that belongs to God. ‘Such were some of you.’ We’ve got it, this ungodliness here. Yet He ‘died for the ungodly’. You know, some people are afraid of letting the gospel be known. They build a brick wall round it about a hundred feet high with conditions and provisos until the real child of God can’t get a look into their gospel no-how. ‘Christ died for the ungodly.’ But they don’t remain ungodly, no. The Holy Ghost fetches them out, eventually, and they become godly, but prior to that – and that’s the point – He ‘died for the ungodly.’ You know, it’s music if you know your own ungodliness. 

Then there’s a third thing in verse 8, our text: ‘While we were yet sinners’. That really is a military term. It means, ‘aiming at the bullseye and not hitting it’ – ‘missing the mark’. Well, we were made for the glory of God – that’s the mark. We’ve sinned and come short. There you have the meaning of the word ‘sinner’. We have ‘sinned, and come short of the glory of God’. And it hangs on the soul sometimes very heavily, that I’ve never done a thing pleasing to God. Never. Here over 70 years and never done a thing right in God’s eyes. Some of you may be over 80, yet you’ve never done a thing right. It’s a solemn thing. Yes, but Christ died ‘while we were yet sinners’. Missed the mark all the time, but it didn’t stop Him from dying for us. 

Then there’s the fourth thing: we are ‘saved from wrath through him.’ We were once under the liability of the wrath of God. Now we’ve been delivered out of it and brought away from it. 

There’s yet the fifth, in verse 10: ‘For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son …’ Now, an enemy is one that is the possessor of hate. In the Biblical sense of the word it is so, at any rate. He hates God, he hates Christ, he hates the Spirit, he hates the gospel, he hates the word of God. And you say, ‘Yet he died for such?’ He did. What do you think to that now? Yes, ‘When we were enemies’ – ‘hateful, and hating one another’, says the Holy Ghost in another scripture. What a blessed gospel it is! ‘Christ died for us.’ Such people who are unable to do a thing, ungodly, sinners, under the wrath of God, enemies. What more could He do? He couldn’t do more! 

Paul is writing this letter ‘to all that be in Rome’ – not the Roman Emperor, not the Roman Senate, not the population of Rome – ‘To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints’. He ‘died for us’. And as sure as that is true, and you and I are brought by the Holy Ghost to love it, reverence it, eat it, drink it – oh man, don’t it tie your heart up to God! Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are in this blessed love, too! Each of them loving the sinner for whom Christ died. May He add His blessing – He has promised to: ‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.’ May He do it. Amen.