God’s love demonstrated - today!
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)
When things seem to be going wrong, how do we know God loves us?
In the fifth chapter of his letter to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul is explaining the great benefits which come to those who’ve been justified - put right with God - through what Christ has done. We have peace with God, and access into a new realm of grace in which we now stand. We have been reconciled to him through the death of his Son. We have a glorious future hope to boast about.
In this new situation, the continued existence of suffering might make us wonder whether God really is treating us as his friends or not. Suffering challenges our assurance. Listen, then, to two things Paul says.
First, God has a purpose in our sufferings: …we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (verses 3-4). God is indeed working to make his people more like Jesus. When I meet Christians of great perseverance, character and hope, more often than not their experience has included a measure of real suffering, through which God has refined them. It is so very painful at the time, but an experience which God uses for his purposes in making us more like Jesus.
Secondly, Paul says that we need be in no doubt of God’s love for us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (verses 6-8).
Paul looks back to the cross and wonders at the fact that Christ died for the ungodly. The Apostle has already explained, earlier in the letter (3:21-26), that his death was a propitiatory sacrifice, done to save us. And here, Paul is marvelling at the fact that Jesus did this not for good people, but for sinners (would you or I die for a bad person?). This, then, demonstrates [amazingly!] God’s love for us.
Notice the surprise in this verse: the present tense! Paul does not say demonstrated but demonstrates. The death of Christ was a one-off event, but still, today, demonstrates God’s love to us. Our natural instinct is to base our assessment of whether or not God loves us on our present circumstances. “If it’s a good day, he loves me; if bad, he doesn’t.” But the cross is a permanent proof of the rescuing love of God for his people, at all times, irrespective of our circumstances, a proof for today. And can you think of a better proof than the giving of his Son?
All of us who, by God’s grace, have come, through Christ, into his family can be absolutely sure he loves us this much. In the light of this, our sufferings don’t stop being sufferings. But they should not make us doubt God’s love for us. Our Heavenly Father is using trials in our lives to bring about perseverance, character and hope. The cross assures us that he loves us more than we can possibly know.
This Good Friday, thank him for that!
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