Last week we began a new section in Romans that runs from chapter 5:1 thru the end of chapter 8. In Romans 4 Paul showed us how Abraham was justified by faith apart from works. Justification is not a matter of Law, it is not a matter of works, it is not a matter of human effort. So, a natural objection that would come at this point is, "Paul is this method safe?" Is faith alone enough to secure us from God's wrath? So in 5:1-11 Paul deals with assurance. If you have trusted Jesus Christ you will have assurance. And this assurance will bring hope.
When I come to the living God as a guilty sinner who deserves judgment, trusting in Jesus Christ and Him alone for my redemption, I am engaged in an act of faith. I've never seen God. I've never seen this place called "heaven," I've never seen Jesus Christ. But by faith, those things which I cannot see become realities to me. They take on substance for me, and by faith, I gain assurance and conviction about things that my eyes cannot behold. So assurance comes from believing.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 NASB
Faith is a foundation to our hopes, it is a guarantee. Faith is of such a nature that it turns those things which are yet future into present realities. So certain, so sure are we that we shall receive what God has promised that it is as though they are already real. Faith gives us assurance. The verse goes on to say that faith is, "the conviction of things not seen." Though the blessings promised are not yet revealed, the man of faith is convinced of their reality.
So we hope, because we have assurance of what we believe. Hope vanishes if we do not have assurance. "Hope" has come to have a different meaning today than that which was originally used in the New Testament. Biblically "hope" indicates an absolute certainty about the future, an attitude of eager expectancy, of confidence in God and His ability to do what He has promised.
As we said last week, "The hope of the early church was the return of Christ, which would bring judgment on their enemies, and bring the resurrection of the dead.":
having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. Acts 24:15 NASB
The hope of Paul and Israel was the coming of Christ and the resurrection. Our hope is not the return of Christ, because it already has already happened. Camping made a fool of himself and many others by his predictions of what the Bible clearly teaches happened in the first century!
Since the Second Coming has happened, the question is: Do we as Preterists have hope? Let me ask this first, "Is hope important?" One writer expressed it this way: "A person can live 40 days without food, 4 days without water, 4 minutes without air, but only 4 seconds without hope." Hope is the power that keeps us going in the toughest times of life. It takes obstacles and transforms them into possibilities. Hope gives us the strength and courage we need to make the most out of life.
I read about an interesting scientific experiment that was conducted a while back. A group of Behavioral Scientists put some wharf rats in a tank of water, and observed them to see how long they would survive before drowning. The average time was 17 minutes. Then, they repeated the experiment, but this time they "rescued" the rats just before the point of drowning, dried them off, returned them to their cages, fed them, let them play for a few days, and then repeated the drowning experiment. This time, the average survival time for these rats increased from 17 minutes to 36 hours! The scientists explained that phenomenon by pointing out that the second time around the rats had HOPE. They believed that they could survive this, because they had done so before.
So, we see that hope is very important. We need to have hope. Without hope the trials of life will destroy us. So as Preterists, what is our hope? I think that our greatest hope, the thing that will carry us through the worst of trials and tribulations, is the hope of eternal life. Now you may be thinking, eternal life is not a hope, we have it now! You are right, eternal life is a present possession of all believers:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24 NASB
All believers possess eternal life from the moment they believe. So I know that we have it, but I also think it is a hope. Remember what I said hope is: "'hope' indicates an absolute certainty about the future, an attitude of eager expectancy, of confidence in God and His ability to do what He has promised." I see eternal life as a hope because I don't see it. I believe by faith that I have it, I'm assured of it, and this gives me hope that I will one day experience it.
For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. Romans 8:24-25 NASB
Paul doesn't say: You don't hope for what you have (I've said that a lot); he says, you don't hope for what you see. The word "see" in this text is from the Greek word blepo, which means: "to look at" literally or figuratively. Even though we have eternal life, we don't see it. When I trusted Christ I didn't experience the reception of eternal life, but I have the hope that when I physically die, I will go on living. When I die, I will see it. Because when I'm physically dead, I'll still be alive! So, I think it would be correct to say that eternal life is a hope. And this hope gives me great confidence in dealing with whatever trials, persecution, or disaster I face.
We ended last week with:
and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5 NASB
The Holy Spirit "was given to us" implies a completed and once for all action. This is the first specific mention of the Holy Spirit in the book of Romans. The gift of the Holy Spirit demonstrates that believers will be spared from God's wrath. The reception of the Spirit is an evidence of God's love. Notice what happens to Cornelius and the other Gentiles as Peter preaches the Gospel:
All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. Acts 10:45 NASB
The words "poured out" here are the same as in our text. The pouring out of His Spirit is the pouring out of His love. Now that leads Paul into a discussion here of the love of God. Verses 5-10 demonstrate how God's love gives us assurance and hope. The fact of God's love increases hope (5). The death of Christ for believers gives this hope an objective ground (6-8), believers can be sure that their hope will be realized, they will be saved from wrath (9-10). How do we know His love? How can we be sure that He has loved us? Well we know that from His death:
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6 NASB
In verses 6, 8, and 10 Paul uses four terms that are increasingly uncomplimentary and describe those for whom Christ died. He says we were "helpless," "ungodly," "sinners" and "enemies.. Not a very pretty list, is it? But those four words describe what you were by nature from the moment you were born. They also describe the spiritual state of every person in the world apart from Jesus Christ.
The word "helpless" actually means: "weak" and usually refers to a physical weakness of the body. Here the meaning is not physical, but spiritual. Paul is saying that as we stand before God, we are completely helpless to change our standing as "under the wrath of God."
Have you ever heard the expression "God helps those who help themselves"? This could be a mantra of Arminianism. The Bible nowhere teaches any such thing. The biblical view is radically different: "God helps those who can't help themselves."
Tom Holland writes, "The OT covenant communities in Egypt and Babylon were powerless until Yahweh intervened. Likewise, the NT covenant community was powerless in the kingdom of darkness, and in a condition only the coming of Christ, the Son of David, could reverse."
"At the right time"--in Galatians 4:4 Paul calls it, "when the fulness of the time came." The idea is: "when the time was right." Jesus came at just the right time in God's redemptive plan.
Did God tell His people when Messiah would come? Did those faithful believers have any idea as to when Messiah would show up? Yes! In Daniel, chapter 2 God tells about a statue that represents four kingdoms, and He says:
"You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them. Daniel 2:34 NASB
This stone was the Lord Jesus Christ:
"In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. Daniel 2:44 NASB
Daniel said "In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom..." As he interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream, he says that Nebuchadnezzar was the first of four kingdoms. It was in the days of the kings of the fourth kingdom that the eternal kingdom, which would take in all other kingdoms, was to be set up. Most agree that this was in the days of the Roman Empire. Christ was prophesied to come during the Roman Empire. It was the time "appointed by the Father."
"Christ died for the ungodly"--the second term is "ungodly," a strong pejorative term as Paul used it. Christ died "for" the ungodly, the word "for" is from the Greek word huper, meaning He died in behalf of, instead of, for the sake of the ungodly. Here is the doctrine of substitution--Christ dying on behalf of others.
Back in 4:5 Paul said that God "justifies the ungodly." Now if God justifies the ungodly, and Christ died for the ungodly, how can your failures at obedience diminish or change His love when it was not a godly person that He justified, or for a godly person that He died? The point here is: It was a love extended to us, not because we deserved it or earned it, but because we were ungodly.
The death of Jesus reveals God's love for us and assures us that we will be delivered from wrath:
For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. Romans 5:7 NASB
In the realm of humanity it is rare to find someone who is willing to die for someone else. How many people do you know that you are willing to die for? Your parents, your children, your husband or wife, and perhaps one or two very close friends--but that's about it. Most of our lists are probably pretty small.
We've all read those heroic stories where someone gives his life to save another. I read a story about a mining disaster. Two men were trapped in a mine. They had two oxygen masks, but one had been broken in the collapse of the walls. One man said to the other, "You take it. You've got a wife and children. I don't have anybody. I can go. You've got to stay." The one man voluntarily died so the other might live. When we hear a story like that, we feel as if we're standing on holy ground, and indeed we are, for such sacrifice is rare indeed.
46 year old James F. Kidd of Wheaton, Illinois was visiting his son who was stationed at Fort Bragg. They decided to try an Italian restaurant near the base. While they were eating a Fort Bragg soldier armed with three guns and shouting about President Clinton and homosexuals in the military shot people at random in a restaurant. When it was over, 6 people were wounded and 4 people had died--including James Kidd. During the attack he had shielded his son from the gunman. He died of a fatal shotgun blast to the back.
In September 2006, Navy Seal Michael Monsoor and his two teammates sought to thwart an attack by Iraqi insurgents. As the battle between the small team and the larger insurgent force continued, a grenade suddenly came out of nowhere, bouncing off of Monsoor's chest. He could have saved himself from the blast, but that would have left his teammates to certain death. In an act of sacrifice on behalf of his team, he jumped on the grenade and absorbed the blast so that his teammates might be spared.
The "good man" here could be an allusion to Jesus:
As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. Mark 10:17-18 NASB
In the definitive sense of that word, Jesus could not be "good" if He was a mere man. The Tanakh taught that no one was good except God:
They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one. Psalms 14:3 NASB
In Jewish circles goodness was seen as belonging only to God. Goodness was never attributed to a rabbi, but only to God. There is no instance in the whole Talmud of a rabbi being addressed as "Good Master." Only God was good, and that could mean only one thing. Jesus could not be good unless He was also God.
If Paul is alluding to Jesus here as the good man, He may be talking about the believers who were willing to die for Christ. Notice what he says in Romans 8:
Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." Romans 8:36 NASB
For a good man, for Christ, some may be willing to die. And after all Christ has done for us, this is not something unusual. Men may die for a loved one or a good man but:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NASB
"But God"--what God has done is far different, far beyond anything human love could attain, He died for sinners. Those examples we mentioned show us friends dying for friends and loved ones dying for loved ones. As great as that is, God's love is much greater. We can at least understand what those people did when they sacrificed themselves for those they loved. But God went far beyond what we would do. We would never think of doing what He did.
The wonder is not that Christ should die for us--though that would be wonderful enough. The wonder is that Christ died for us while we were still ungodly, still sinners, and still enemies of God! He didn't die for His friends. He died for His enemies. He died for those who crucified Him. He died for those who hated Him. He died for those who rejected Him. He died for those who cheered as the nails were driven in His hands.
Let's go back to Iraq with Navy Seal Michael Monsoor who dove on grenade for his teammates. Only this time let's say that he was captured by the Iraqi's. They beat him unmercifully. His teeth are broken, his cheekbone is shattered, his legs disfigured, his ribs cracked, his back permanently stooped from hanging upside down in mid-air. His captors torment him day and night, trying to break his will. Then a rescue operation is launched. As the American special forces move in, his captors surround him. Suddenly out of nowhere comes a projectile. It's an American grenade. It lands in the middle of the group. Just before it explodes, the Navy Seal throws himself on the grenade, taking the full force of the blast, dying in the process, but saving his Iraqi captors. Blown to bits, he dies so that those men who savagely beat him might be spared.
You might say, "That's crazy, who would ever do anything like that?" I know only One person who would do something like that. His name is Jesus Christ. He did something like that when He died for us while we were His enemies. Jesus Christ didn't die for His friends or those that loved Him, but "for enemies." How can you doubt for one moment His love? Can you question His faithfulness in your trials when He would die for you when you were His enemy?
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NASB
This is the first time in the New Testament where we are told that God loves us. The belief of our day that God loves everybody is a modern belief. The writings of the church fathers, the Reformers, or the Puritans will be searched in vain for any such concept. The fact is, that the love of God is a truth for the saints only. With the exception of John 3:16, not once in the four Gospels do we read of the Lord Jesus Christ telling sinners that God loved them. In the book of Acts, which records the evangelistic labors and messages of the apostles, God's love is NEVER referred to at all. The word love never appears in Acts. Does that seem odd to you? But when we come to the Epistles, which are addressed to the saints, we have a full presentation of the truth.
Who is the "us" referring to in Romans 5:8? It is referring to Paul and the recipients of the letter of Romans:
to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:7 NASB
God's love is restricted to the members of His own family.
"God demonstrates his own love toward us"--present tense, ongoing action. God demonstrates His love today through the past, historical, objective fact of the death of His Son for us.
So, do your present sins and failures and inadequacies diminish His love and care for you? You did not merit His love in the first place; so neither can you diminish it by your failures. God's love is not dependent on anything in you, because there is nothing in you worth loving. God's love for us in Christ secures our salvation forever. The argument that we find in Romans 5:8-10 is the most powerful argument with respect to assurance of our salvation that can be found anywhere in the whole of Scripture.
The death of Jesus is the proof of God's love. Sometimes in this man-centered world, people say, "Where's the love of God?" We see so much killing, so much heartache, so much tragedy, so much pain, so much anger. Where is the love of God? Look at the Cross--that is love!
Notice again the substitute character of Christ's sacrifice, "Christ dies for us."
His love for us provided that sacrifice for our welfare. For God to forgive and accept as righteous those that have broken His Law required that eternal justice be satisfied. He could not ignore our sin or let it slide or even accept partial satisfaction of justice. The full measure of eternal satisfaction must be met or none could ever be accepted by God. The righteousness of God stood in the balance. So God took the most severe measure possible. His sinless Son accepted our sins as though they were His own; and with that acceptance He bore God's wrath in full measure against us at the cross. No greater display of love could ever be shown! No greater price could ever be paid!
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. Romans 5:9 NASB
With this verse Paul returns to his theme of hope"we shall be saved from wrath." Paul uses here what is called an "a fortiori" argument. That Latin expression "a fortiori" means: "for a stronger reason." It is an argument from the lesser to the greater. An a fortiori argument is one with the form: "If this, than how much more that?" The argument may be stated thus: If God has done the greater, Christ died for us, He justified us by His blood; surely He will do the lesser, save us from the wrath of God.
We see use of an a fortiori argument in:
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Romans 8:32 NASB
God has already given us His best gift; how much more will He give us lesser gifts! If God sent His son to die for us while we were enemies, ungodly, sinners, how much more will He do for us now that we are His children and righteous? Because we share His life, we are eternally saved, eternally secure.
For if while 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. Romans 5:10 NASB
Here we see the fourth and worst term used to describe those for whom Christ died--"enemies." People are not only helpless to save themselves (v. 6), ungodly (v. 6), and sinners (v. 8), but they also set themselves against God and His purposes.
"While we were enemies"--think about it! Before you trusted Christ, you were one of God's enemies. So far we have seen that to be helpless means you can't change your position of being under God's wrath. To be ungodly means you live as if God does not exist. To be a sinner means you constantly try and fail because you keep on missing the mark. To be an enemy means hostility toward God and a fear of facing Him someday.
"We were reconciled to God"--reconciliation implies that two parties are estranged, and in this case, at enmity with each other. It is an adversarial condition. We were God's adversaries; God was our adversary. Reconciliation implies that every barrier to the relationship, everything that hinders it, has been removed.
We did not decide to reconcile ourselves to God. Instead, reconciliation is something accomplished by Christ: "through whom we have received the reconciliation." You only receive what has already been provided by Another.
Through Jesus Christ we, who once were enemies of God, are now called His friends. Through Jesus Christ we, who once were far away, have been brought near to God. We, who once were aliens and strangers, are now part of God's family. We, who once had nothing to our credit, are now declared to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus.
Now if when we were enemies when we hated God, He came to us and reconciled us to Himself; now that we have been reconciled and thus have become friends with God, "we shall be saved by His life." It's one of the most magnificent statements of the security of the believer in Jesus Christ that we have in all of the Bible. If anyone has any question about whether having believed in the Lord Jesus Christ you're safe and secure, if you'll just think of this text, that should ease all of your problems forever, because if He saved us when we were enemies, now that we are His friends, He surely will do something that is less; keep us in the salvation that we enjoy.
The writer of Hebrews put it this way:
Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 NASB
Jesus Christ saves forever! The word "save" here is the Greek word sozo. "The verb sozo has a wide range of possible meanings. It can mean: "physical healing, rescue from danger, spiritual deliverance of various kinds and preservation from final judgement." We must determine its meaning from its context. In this context in Hebrews, I believe that it is referring to preservation from final judgement.
Not only does Christ's priesthood provide "grace to help in time of need," it also keeps us secure in Him no matter how bad we mess up. In order to understand the eternal security of the believer (which is of utmost importance), it's imperative that we understand the Melchizedekian Priesthood. He saves us to the uttermost. Because of His work, we will never be lost.
The word "forever" is the Greek word panteles, which means: "to perfection." The only other New Testament use of this phrase is found in:
And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. Luke 13:11 NASB
The words "up at all" are panteles. She couldn't completely stand up. But just as Jesus by His power enabled her to stand physically, He can empower us to stand spiritually.
Christ is able to save for the duration of eternity as well as thoroughly. How long is a believer saved when he trusts in the person and work of Christ? Forever! What is left for him to do in order to be sure he is saved? Nothing! He is saved completely! This truth takes away any claim by any denomination that says we must have good works in order be saved. There is nothing left for us to do after we become a believer in Christ. This is possible only because Jesus Christ is an eternal priest, and this is why believers are eternally secure. Our salvation is secure as long as Jesus is alive. And since Jesus is alive forever, we shall be saved forever.
If God has moved you from enemy status to sonship through the death of His Son, if He has gone to that length to reconcile you to Himself, then you can be assured that you will be saved in the future by the life of Christ. It would be appropriate, and maybe even better, to translate that last phrase, "We shall be saved in His life," pointing to the believer's union with Jesus Christ.
And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Romans 5:11 NASB
Again we see the word "exult" in this text. The literal rendering here would be, "We shall be saved boasting." Those who have trusted in Jesus the Messiah are the true children of God, this is what it means to boast in God.
Grasping God's love for us in Christ and living in that love sustains us through every difficulty of life. Later Paul will tell us:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NASB
This is security! Our salvation is eternally secure; if God loved us when we were His enemies, He will care for us as His children. We have assurance, and this assurance gives us hope. And hope will strengthen us through every trial of life.
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