Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)
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.
This passage from Romans 5 is still as powerful today as it was when the Apostle Paul penned it for the Church. Verse 8 is quite profound, and it gives us a clear understanding of the depth of God’s love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us … the ungodly … those without hope of salvation! Indeed, Jesus was crucified because we are all sinners! “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23)
Psalm 14:2-3; Psalm 53:2-3; Romans 3:11-12
The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. 3 They have all turned aside. They have together become corrupt; there is none who does good … No, not one.
God saw our condition … our state of darkness … our need for salvation! But we are assured: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Cf. John 3:16) “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:9-10) And as Paul concluded: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Cf. Romans 8:38-39)
God has manifested, demonstrated, and confirmed His love for us! The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us! (Cf. Romans 5:5) How could anyone ever doubt the love of God? The love of God provided His own Passover Lamb as a sin offering for us! You can readily see this presented and prophetically revealed in Genesis 22 which tells the story of when God tested Abraham with the sin offering (sacrifice) of Isaac (his first-born and only son of Sarah) on Mount Moriah. The narrative reveals the intense faith Abraham had in God … a faith demonstrated by a sincere love and trust in God such that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son in obedience to the command he had received:
Genesis 22:6-13 (NIV)
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram (behind him) caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
But unlike Isaac, who was bound by his father and then placed on the altar for sacrifice, Jesus was willing to die. Indeed, it was for this purpose that He was sent by His Father. And Jesus was not bound and then placed on the cross of sacrifice; He was nailed to it after He had been violently abused, brutalized, and humiliated. And here is the explanation that Jesus gave before the betrayal and trial and execution ever occurred:
John 10:14-18 (NIV)
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
A thought just came to mind. There is a song by a band named Foreigner entitled: I Want to Know What Love Is. The chorus goes: “I want to know what love is, I want you to show me. I want to feel what love is, I know you can show me.” If a person made this his/her prayer to God, I believe God would respond: “I have shown you what love is. You can know what love is. You can feel what love is. I have demonstrated my passionate, everlasting love to you and for you. I have made known my love for you. His name is Jesus!” The Apostle Paul prayed that believers would know this love:
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)
16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He (God) may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Yes, we can know the depth of His love … even though it surpasses our comprehension…. The Apostle John affirms this same knowledge:
1 John 4:10-16 (NIV)
10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
Indeed, “God has delivered us from the power (dominion) of darkness and transferred (brought) us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He (Jesus, the Son) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Cf. Colossians 1:13-15) And this is the reason for the cross. Jesus is the revelation of the heart of God: of rescue … of redemption … of resurrection … of reconciliation. God sent His Son to accomplish ALL of these things because He loves us! Yes, the cross of Christ was ordained! It was commanded by the Father. It was His will. The Lamb of God was slain before the foundation of the world. (Cf. Revelation 13:8) And what does He require? A Response. Repentance. Reformation. He says to us: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Cf. Romans 12:2) And, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when He is revealed. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. Instead, just as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct;for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:13-16)
We remember the cross because it is an eternal symbol of God’s love for His creation. We remember the cross because it is where Jesus was sent by the Father to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins … even the sins of the whole world. (Cf. 1 John 2:2) We remember the cross because there is, therefore, now no condemnation for our sins. (Cf. Romans 8:1) But I pray we are reminded: “Jesus Himself bore our sins in HIS Body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” (Cf. 1 Peter 2:24) As Paul asked: “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Cf. Romans 6:2) And Paul exhorted: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Cf. Colossians 3:2-4)
I truly want us to remember the purpose of the cross … the crucifixion … that God would send His Son to die for us. I believe the purpose is evoke a response; and I think Paul articulates the response that God desires from each of us quite well:
Romans 6:1-14 (NRSV)
1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 The death He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
So, I will close with this passage:
Luke 9:23-24 (NIV)
Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.