God Loved You When You Were Unlovable
The book of Romans is the most theologically rich Book in all of Scripture. The apostle Paul is writing to Gentile believers in Rome. These people are new, Not only to Christianity, but to the one true and living God in general. He begins the book by talking about the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, and he explains that no one is free from guilt before God. Many Jews thought coming Messiah would come only for them. They were looking for a political Messiah that would free them from Roman oppression.
The Jews thought that since they were a part of God’s people from an ethnic standpoint, that they were automatically included as the children of God. However, Paul explains in chapter 2 different law condemns the Jews just like it does the Gentiles. And in chapter 3 he reiterates the point that the Law condemns both Jews and Gentiles alike. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. He goes on to explain that we are not justified by our works, but we are justified by faith alone. In chapter 4 he points out that the Old Testament saints were not justified because of their works, but they were justified by their faith.
And that takes us up to chapter 5 in which the apostle explains the results of our justification in Christ. Over the next three weeks sermons will be geared toward answering this question: what does a Resurrection mean to me? The answer to that question from Romans chapter 5:6-11 is that God loves you when you were unlovable. In these few versus the apostle Paul lays before us our individual identities apart from Christ. Following that he explains what Christ did to remedy that on our behalf, and he also makes sure that we understand the implications that has for each of us. Let’s talk for a minute about your identity before Christ - Unlovable.
My Identity Before Christ - Unlovable
My Identity Before Christ - Unlovable
The apostle Paul was never one to be accused of soft-pedaling the gospel. Let me explain what I mean by that. Soft peddling the gospel is what you hear so often in our world today. It’s talking about how God loves you just as you are, and he’s okay with your sin as long as you’re happy. In fact, if you’re truly soft-pedaling the gospel, you’re not even going to mention sin. You’ll talk about God’s love, God’s forgiveness, and how God wants the best for you. And all of those things are true. God does love you. He will forgive. And he does want the best for you. But he gets determined what is the best for you. It’s his standard, not yours.
And that is where the problem comes in. We live in a day and age where no one is willing to be told they are wrong. No one wants to be told that what he thinks or what she believes is incorrect. No one wants to be told their behavior or actions are wrong. We live in a day and age where people want to believe that as long as you do more good than bad and as long as you’re nice to others, you’ll go to heaven when you die. In fact, there’s very little, if any, talk of a literal place called hell today.
One of the great dangers of living in the Bible Belt is that churches are jam packed with people who have no mark of being Christians on their lives other than the fact that they attend church once a week, if that. No obedience, whatsoever. No desire for obedience. No relationship with Christ. No seriousness about God. This is it. You’ll come to church, you’ll check the box, and you’ll call yourself a Christian. And I want to lovingly tell you that if there is no obedience, no desire for obedience to the Word of God, then you should not count yourself as a Christian. You should consider yourself lost, and in danger of damnation. And some of you may be thinking that’s a little harsh, but how cruel would it be for me to simply pat you on the back and let you continue to be deceived when damnation is at stake.
In describing our identity before Christ, the apostle Paul lays bare before us who we really are. He describes us in four different ways in this passage. He begins in verse 6 by saying that we were helpless. The most helpless being on the planet, oddly enough, is a human baby. They can’t walk. They can’t talk. They can’t defend themselves, and they can’t flee from danger. In fact, they don’t even know what danger is until they are taught. They are completely helpless, and left on their own they would quickly die. That’s the image Paul is conveying about you and me, about all of humanity, in our natural state. In 3:23 Paul says that we have all sinned. In chapter 6 he will explain that the sin, which we have committed, deserves punishment. And we are helpless. We’re helpless to avoid sinning, and we’re helpless to atone for our sins.
Paul goes on to say in verse 6 that, not only are we helpless, but we are also ungodly. If you tell someone they’re helpless, they may not get too offended. But try telling them they’re ungodly. You’ll get called judgmental, self-righteous, and a host of other names. But that’s the exact description that Paul gives. Again, what Paul is saying about us is that we are separated from God by our sins.
The next descriptor Paul uses is found in verse 8. Sinners. You are a sinner. I am a sinner. That is our identity apart from Christ. Thursday morning before I left to come to the office I used the words “no” and “stop” and “get down” and “put that back” what seemed like a thousand times; although, I’m sure it wasn’t more than 5 or 600 times. Every time I turned around, and many times right in front of my face, my precious, sweet baby boy was doing whatever he wanted, even though he knew what he was doing was wrong. That is an excellent description of you and me. We are sinners. We’re born that way. You’re not a sinner because you sin; you sin because you are a sinner. We’re stopping at verse 11 today, but if you read verses 12 and following, later on, you’ll see that Paul says we are born with a sin nature because of Adam.
Our sins make us guilty before God. But they make us more than just guilty before God. The last mark that Paul uses to describe our identity apart from Christ, which is found in verse 10, is that, in our natural state, we are enemies of God. In Colossians 1:21 Paul says that those without Christ are alienated from God, hostile towards him, and engaged in evil deeds. In Ephesians 2:3 he calls those without Christ “children of wrath.” You do not want to be the enemy of God. Jesus said that we don’t need to be afraid of man who can kill only the body, but, rather, we need to fear God who can kill both the body and the soul.
Again, you won’t see Paul soft-peddling the gospel. Listen again to what he is saying about the identity those who have not repented of their sins and placed their faith in Christ, and, therefore, have no personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You are helpless. You are ungodly. You are a sinner. And you are the enemy of God.
If we are ungodly sinners who are the enemies of God and helpless to change that fact, then we need someone else to come in and help us out, or we’ll have to add hopeless to that list of characteristics. Our identity before Christ is unlovable. So what changed? John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Did something change that made us go from unlovable to lovable? The answer is actually no. And that is the remarkable and beautiful truth of the Gospel. Paul tells us our identity before Christ, but he also tells us the actions of God in Christ.
The Actions of God in Christ
The Actions of God in Christ
While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Nothing changed on our side of things. You didn’t do something to become lovable. You didn’t turn over a new leaf and live a life of sinless perfection. You weren’t even born when this happened. At the right time Christ died. What does that mean, “at the right time”? In Galatians 4, Paul said it this way: “When the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son…” The right time. The fullness of time. Think of it this way, it happened at a time when no other time would have been the right time. In other words, God had a plan from before the foundation of the world to redeem mankind. Christ was to come, but it had to be at a certain in history in order for prophecies about the Messiah to be fulfilled. This was the right time.
Jesus life, death, burial, and resurrection fulfilled more than 300 prophesies given in the Old Testament about the coming Savior. Let me explain how amazing that actually is. Since the prophecies were given, the probability of any 1 person fulfilling 8 of the prophecies is said to be 1 in 1017, or 1 in 100 quadrillion. And that’s just 8 of them. Peter Stoner said that is the equivalent of filling the state of Texas with silver dollars 2 feet deep, marking one of them with a red X on it, dropping a blindfolded man in the middle of the state and having him wander through the coins and by blind luck pick out the one with the red X on it. And again, that’s just 8 of the more than 300 prophecies fulfilled by Christ. Christ came at just the right time.
But not only did Christ come, he came to die in our place. Both verses 6 and 8 say that Christ died for us. He died for the ungodly sinners while they were still ungodly sinners. This is what separates Biblical Christianity apart from every other religion on earth. Every other religion, including many that claim to be Christian, have a path for you to reach God by good works. Whether it’s through the 5 Pillars of Islam, the 8-fold path of Buddhism, through works like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Sacraments of the Catholic Church, and so on. Those are all about things you have to do in order to reach God. But what the one true and living God, the God of the Bible did sets Biblical Christianity apart.
God sent His son into the world, not to judge the world, but that through His death the world may be reconciled to Him. Our sin separates us from God. It creates a chasm to wide for us to cross. So God bridged the gap. And while we were still helpless, while we were still sinners, while we were dead in our trespasses and sins Christ came and he died. Verse 7 says that one would hardly die for a righteous man. I love y’all, but there are very few of you I would die for. And let’s lean into that thought for a moment. If someone came in here with a gun to shoot you, out of pure reaction I may jump in front of you to save you, but that’s not what Paul is talking about.
Think of it like this: I’m on the way home from church today and Charity and I get in an argument. I’m right and she’s wrong, I’m telling it that way so you’ll know it’s a made up story, but let’s say I’m right, she’s wrong and she’s upset about it. We get home and she grabs a gun and kills me. She goes to court, is found guilty and sentenced to death. She’s guilty. She did it. And now she’s going to die. How many of you would say, “I know she’s guilty, and I’m completely innocent, but I’ll die in her place. Kill me and let her go.”? That’s closer to what Paul is talking about. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. Jesus was sinless, yet he died a criminal’s death, the death you and I deserve. He was righteous, yet God poured out His wrath on Jesus at the cross, the wrath that was reserved. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Jesus died in your place, and in doing so He made it possible for us to be reconciled to the Father. To reconcile literally means the exchange of hostility for a friendly relationship. Remember your identity before Christ? A helpless, ungodly, sinful, enemy of God. There is great hostility between us and God in our natural state, but through the death and resurrection of Christ that hostility has been turned to love. Wrath has been replaced with grace. We have received what we don’t deserve instead of what we do deserve. God, through the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, through His death in our place, God’s actions through Christ have brought us into a new, right relationship with God. We’ve looked at our identity before Christ, and the Actions of God through Christ, Now I want you to see your identity because of Christ – Redeemed.
My Identity Because of Christ - Redeemed
My Identity Because of Christ - Redeemed
In verse 9 Paul says that we have been justified through the blood of Christ. I love the word “justified.” The word justified is a legal term. It means to declare someone righteous. Another was to explain it is to think of it like a pardon. If you’re in prison there are several ways you can get out. One is to have your sentence commuted. When your sentence is commuted you no longer serve the sentence for your crime, but the crime is still on your record. However, a pardon makes it where you no longer serve the sentence, but it goes a step further and it erases the crime from your history. It’s as if it never happened.
In Christ you have a new identity. The old you no longer exists. The sins that condemned you no longer exist. God didn’t tuck them over to the side in case He needed to bring them up later. The psalmist tells us that as far as the east is from the west, that how far away our sins have been removed. If you have been redeemed, your sins no longer exist because in Christ you have been justified. God no longer looks at you and sees your sinfulness He sees Christ righteousness.
Being justified means being made righteous. And to be righteous means to be in a right relationship with God, and that is something that can only happen through Christ. In Matthew 5 Jesus said that the only way someone could get to heaven was that if his righteousness exceeded that of the Pharisees. These were men who keep the law better than you or I ever could. So how would it be possible for us to achieve a righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees? The theological term is “imputation” or “imputed righteousness.” To impute means to charge to the account of another. This is probably my favorite theological term., and here’s why: When something is imputed to you, or credited to your account, it’s not something you have earned. When we talk about imputed righteousness we are talking about God taking the righteousness of Christ and imputing it or placing it on me, and at the same time taking my sin and imputing it to Christ. Luther called this “The Great Exchange.” I got Christ’s righteousness, and He got my sinfulness. That’s enough to make a Baptist shout. I don’t deserve it, I didn’t do anything to earn it, but God demonstrated His own love toward you, and me that while we were still undeserving, unlovable sinners, at the right time, Christ died in our place.
You were unlovable, but God the actions of God in Christ gave you a new identity. Through the resurrection of Christ, God loved you when you were unlovable. What are the implications of that statement for you? It means one of two things for you depending on where you stand spiritually, whether you are a follower of Christ or not. (At this point I’ll get the rose back. Hopefully it will look rough). Do you remember how this rose looked before we began? Most people see themselves that way. More good than bad, and if there is a heaven, surely they’ll go because they are better than Hitler or that guy down the street.. But that’s not the picture the Bible paints. The Bible says that you and I are like this rose. We’re tattered, broken, falling apart. And even though this rose looked good to begin with, it wasn’t connected to the rose bush anymore, which means it was dead, even though it didn’t look like it.
If you are without Christ, meaning you have never repented of your sins, and you have never trusted in Christ as your Savior, then you are like this rose. Maybe you look good on the outside like it did at the beginning. Maybe you’re broken and falling to pieces. Either way, without Christ, you’re dead spiritually, and according to the Bible, those who are dead spiritually will spend their eternity separated from God in a literal place called hell.
That’s the bad news. But the good news of the resurrection, what the resurrection means to you is that even though your are dead in your sins, even though you were born an enemy of God, Christ died so that you could be redeemed. Christ rose so that you could be set free. If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. God loving you when you were unlovable has great implications for you if you are not a follower of Christ.
If you are a follower of Christ, the implications for you are great as well. 1 Corinthians 6 says that you are not your own. Christians, you have been bought with a price. That’s what redeemed means. It means to buy back. If you are a Christ follower, Jesus has purchased you with His blood. That means you belong to Him. So the implication for you, as one who was loved when you were unlovable, is that you are no longer a slave to sin, but you are now a slave to Christ. That means you are to live a life of obedience to Christ. You should be growing in your relationship to Him. You’ll be serious of God and His Word. You’ll do more than go to church; you’ll be the church.
God loved you when you were unlovable. What is your response going to be?