Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 1 Study # 9
Thesis: The love of God is significantly distinct from the loves of men.
Introduction: Last Tuesday evening we looked into the implications which Romans 5:6 contains regarding the typical concept that men have of God as a cosmic bully. We saw that Paul posits the death of Christ for those who think that way -- which he calls the ungodly -- as absolute evidence that that perception of God cannot possibly be correct. The very fact that men have the time and breath to utter their antagonism toward God is evidence that He is not what they think Him to be simply because if He were, He wouldn't even give them time to spew out their ungodly words.
Another aspect of our study last week concerned the fact that it is with great difficulty that even believers really buy into the truth of the love of God. John plainly tells us that perfect love casts out all fear and the reality that all of us operate at some levels of fear is clear indication that we have yet to fully buy into the love of God.
Therefore, this evening we find that Paul deliberately enhances his thesis of God's commitment to us by means of the words in Romans 5:7-8. In these two verses, Paul sets forth his final argument for faith in the love of God. He does this by way of contrast. He "pits" the love of men against the love of God so that, by way of this contrast, men may begin to make progress into the love of God. This is our greatest need, so we are going to consider what the words tell us.
March 21, 2006
- I. The Enormous Contrast.
- A. On the human side...
- 1. Paul says that the difficulties of "death for a righteous person" are so great that we will probably never witness it.
- a. "Death" for a righteous person.
- 1) The "problem" of death is that it "finalizes" everything.
- a) The doctrine of "judgment" in the Scriptures rests entirely upon this concept.
- i. There is a "pre-judgment" period in which the application of "Justice" is suspended so that the "participant" can most fully develop as a person... growing, learning, choosing, acting, and solidifying the inner character.
- ii. Then comes "death". It seals off the development: no further "progress" or "regress" is possible.
- iii. The comes "judgment". It finalizes the future on the basis of the reality that has come to be.
- b) Since it is "death" that actually stops all development, it is "death" that finalizes everything even though it is "judgment" that officially recognizes the final reality and enforces it.
- 2) Deliberately choosing to "finalize" everything on the behalf of another is, perhaps, the most difficult decision possible to man.
- b. Death for a "righteous" person.
- 1) For Paul this is so "problematical" that it will never be seen. Why?
- a) "Righteousness" is so contrary to humanity that mankind, in its present state, simply cannot be moved to embrace it.
- i. Paul's view of "humanity" has already been spelled out in graphic detail in 3:10-18.
- ii. In this view of humanity, there is nothing of a commitment to doing what is right because it is right. The corruption of man consists entirely of an absolute commitment to only doing that which can be seen to bring profit to the doer. Righteousness requires an absolute commitment to doing that which is genuinely legitimate for others regardless of whether it can be seen as productive for the doer.
- b) The proof is in the reality that there was no one among the innermost circle of those who knew Jesus the best who was really willing to take His place at the point of death.
- 2) That it is so problematical that it will never be seen also indicates that not even that segment of humanity that has been redeemed and regenerated finds it in themselves to be willing to die for a "righteous" person in most situations.
- a) Clearly, if a thing will not be seen in real history, it must be so out of line with the human condition that even believers do not generally get to the point of this kind of personal sacrifice. This is a statement about the magnitude of the corruption that is in man -- a corruption so great that even the redeemed do not, as a rule, attain to this level of "righteousness" in actual practice.
- b) Paul's words are unambiguous: generally speaking, no one is willing to die in the stead of a "righteous" person.
- 2. He qualifies himself by allowing the possibility of one being willing to die for a "good" person.
- a. Having said that none are ever willing to die for the "righteous", Paul immediately acknowledges a less "rare" choice: a willingness to die for a "good" person.
- b. What is he saying?
- 1) What is the difference between a "righteous" person and a "good" person?
- a) A "righteous" person is notable for doing what is "right" -- no matter what the consequences are.
- b) A "good" person is notable for "dispensing benefits" -- showing mercy, being beneficent, meeting needs, being generally pliable and approachable.
- 2) When a "good" person's life is in danger, there are some who might be willing to step into that person's place and take his/her "death" upon themselves.
- a) Occasionally, even the wicked are so attracted to those who provide them with benefits that, when push comes to shove, they find themselves ready to "die" to preserve the "good" person's life.
- b) This is a complicated issue of "motivation", but Paul yet declares that we "might" find among men some who would die in the place of the "good". The question remains as to "why?" they are so motivated, but, whatever the motivation, it "might" sometimes exist in fallen man.
- B. On the divine side...
- 1. There is a deliberate "commending" -- a setting of things forth in such a way as to make the true nature of those things clear so that the best can be heartily embraced.
- 2. There is a deliberate, high-visibility, contrast.
- a. The "love" of God is the "of Himself love" -- i.e., His unique value system.
- b. This "love" is not "for" either the "righteous" or the "good".
- c. This "love" is "for" sinners.
- 1) This "love" for sinners is, obviously, not based upon what they produce for the God Who "loves" them. They are neither "righteous" nor "good" and their actions follow their essence. So, God does not "love" them because of what they will produce for Him.
- 2) This "love" for sinners is, just as obviously, rooted in God's essential nature by which He naturally values "others". It is essentially the character of God at the "person" level to only consider the "other person" in terms of what interests and desires "he/she" has. The question of His own interests and desires (as a contrasting set of interests and desires) never even comes into the picture. With God the question is never "What do I want?" but always "What do you need?"
- 3) But, this is not a "simplistic" reality. The "creation" of "persons" has inserted a new reality into the equation: undeveloped "personhood" that must be brought by great labor and enormous difficulty into "godliness". The very real potential of undeveloped personhood tracking off into "lovelessness" creates the possibility of "irremediable loss" -- the finally "loveless" being "lost" to the Kingdom of the "loving". Though God never asks "What do I want?", He also never "finalizes" a situation in which a second-party, "loving" person's true need is denied because of the "wants" of a third-party, "unloving" person. He will sacrifice Himself for sinners, but He will not finally sacrifice others for sinners. Even if all of those "others" are willing to be sacrificed (as Paul in Romans 9:3), God will not go there. The Father went there with the Son, but God (the Three-in-One) will never go there with those who are "other" than deity. And, even in the Father/Son willingness to sacrifice the just for the unjust, there was resurrection/restoration in the wings.