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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on October 29, 2017 under 2017 |

Preached Sunday, October 29, 2017 from Romans 5:6-10

Theme: Since the Father loved us while we were still sinners, how much more will He care for us now that He has declared us justified in His sight!

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

This coming Tuesday is an important one for followers of the Lord Jesus. It commemorates an event that none of us should ignore. October 31 will mark the 500th anniversary of the day when a German monk nailed a piece of paper to the door of the then ‘Castle Church’ in Wittenberg, Germany.

People will be flocking to that church—now called All-Saints Church—to commemorate that history-making event this week. But at the time, it didn’t seem like all that big a deal. Martin Luther—a relatively unknown professor of theology at the time—simply posted some things he wanted to discuss and debate with other professors and theologians. These things had to do with some strong disagreements he had with accepted Catholic doctrine—particularly over the Catholic church’s practice of the sale of indulgences (which were ways by which you could, for a certain price, reduce your own or someone else’s punishment for sin after death). The idea that someone could ‘buy’ forgiveness of sins from others, or the idea that other human beings could hold such spiritual power over their fellow man—was an idea found nowhere in the Bible. And Luther wanted to talk about his concerns with other scholars.

These ’95 Theses’ that Martin Luther was proposing for debate—written in Latin—were nailed to the door of the Castle Church on October 31, 1517. They were posted in the same way that someone might post any other notice on a community bulletin board. But someone hand-wrote a copy of these 95 points of debate, translated them into German, mass produced them on a newfangled contraption called ‘a printing press’, and spread these ideas throughout the land. It was that event—the nailing of those 95 Theses, and the subsequent copies that were made of them later—that marked the beginning of one of the most significant movements in all of human history: the Protestant Reformation.

* * * * * * * * * *

There were many things that happened as a result of the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago; and they happened through the labors of many other reformers who followed after Luther—some things good and some things not so good. But I would suggest to you that the importance of those reformers isn’t to be found in anything that they invented. Instead, their greatest contribution to us for good was that they re-discovered truths that had always been recorded for us in the ancient text of God’s word. And as more and more copies of the Bible began to be translated, and printed, and distributed to common people everywhere, those same truths began to be also re-discovered by more and more people; and all to the salvation of their souls.

To my mind, one of the greatest of those truths—and what I would argue was the most important truth that was re-discovered and proclaimed in the Protestant Reformation—is the great truth of ‘justification by faith’. What it declares to us is that sinners cannot be made righteous—or “justified”—in the sight of God on the basis of following religious rituals or ceremonies or rites; nor can they make themselves worthy of God’s favor on the basis of their good works and righteous deeds; nor (as most concerned Luther at the time) can they ‘buy’ forgiveness for the sins they committed against God from priests or kings or any other human being. Rather, someone is declared ‘righteous’ in God’s sight—that is, declared fully justified and 100% in His favor—freely; as a gift of God’s grace through faith in the death that Jesus Christ, the righteous Son of God, died in our place on the cross. Someone only needs faith in Jesus Christ to be ‘justified’ before God.

And I suppose some people might disagree with me on this; but I am confident enough to say it and stand by it: This doctrine—the great doctrine of ‘justification by faith’—is, in a very practical sense, the single greatest and most liberating doctrine the world has ever heard! There is no other doctrine that has more power to set people free in more ways than the doctrine of ‘justification by faith in Jesus Christ’.

If you will look across the history of mankind—all the way up to our present day—you will find that wherever in the world this great doctrine has been suppressed or hidden from people, they have themselves become oppressed and enslaved by other men. By suppressing it, people who were made in the image of God are thus deceitfully made into the debtors of other human beings for the salvation of their own souls. But wherever this great doctrine has been faithfully proclaimed, and in every nation or people group where the truth of it has been understood and preached and has taken root, people became free. So long as they embrace it and cling to it, people can no longer be kept under the debt of other human beings for their souls. Ruling human authorities—kings and governors—may have a limited temporal power over people; and justly so when that power is exercised in accordance with the clear teaching of Scripture. But their temporal authority is thus strictly limited; and the power over the souls and consciences of men is thus taken out of their hands. The word of God declares that people are made righteous in God’s sight as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone—and not in any way that is dependent upon the ‘say-so’ of other human beings.

As Jesus Himself—the Savior of humankind—declared; “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

And that, by the way, is why free people everywhere have loved this doctrine. And it is also why tyrants around the world have always hated it and have always sought to suppress it. This doctrine prevents people from being ‘beholden’ to man in any ultimate sense. I would argue that it is even the basis of our own freedom as citizens of the United States. Our freedom did not to us as a newly-conceived idea from out of the minds our founding fathers, nor does it even have its ultimate basis in our Constitution. Our founding fathers didn’t write that constitution—nor the Declaration of Independence that preceded it—in a historic vacuum. They were the products of a world-view they inherited from our Pilgrim fathers; and those Pilgrim fathers were heirs of the Protestant Reformation. And the greatest doctrine of the Protestant Reformation—drawn from right out of the blessed word of God itself—was that a human being is made 100% accepted in the sight of God our Creator as a free gift of His grace, received by faith alone in the finished work of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross.

I believe that’s why we ought to celebrate October 31—the 500th anniversary of the Reformation; and of the great re-discovery of the life-giving and soul-liberating doctrine of ‘justification by faith.’

* * * * * * * * * *

But is it true? Does the word of God truly declare such a great thing? Well, dear brothers and sisters in Christ; you know good and well it does! And there are lots of places we could go to in Scripture to confirm it. But this morning, I ask that you turn with me to the Book of Romans—the apostle Paul’s magnificent, divinely inspired treatise on the doctrine of ‘justification by faith’. Particularly, look with me at Romans 5.

In Romans, the apostle Paul had argued—from Chapters 1-3—that all of us are sinners in need of a Savior. But then, in the middle of Chapter 3, he demonstrated that the righteousness that comes from God is a free gift of grace to all who believe on Jesus—and that God is now both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).

Beginning with Chapter 5, Paul writes;

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:1-5).

What glorious words! And when did that love—which is confirmed in the heart of the believer through the Holy Spirit—first come to us? Was it when we were worthy of it and had earned it? Was it when we had done enough good deeds and observed enough religious rituals and ceremonies to deserve it? No! The timing of God’s love toward us in Christ is important to understand the greatness of God’s gracious, ongoing favor toward us. Paul goes on to say;

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when 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 (vv. 6-10).

* * * * * * * * * *

Consider from this, first …


Paul is making the case for the fact that our righteousness before God is not a product of our own efforts—or, indeed, from the effort of any other human being. It cannot be bought. It cannot be earned. It cannot be given or taken away or withheld or sold at the whim of other men; because it is out of the reach of any human being to achieve. But as Paul says, in verse 6, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”

What exactly does Paul mean when he says we were “without strength”? I certainly don’t believe he means ‘physical strength’; do you? Rather, I believe a good clue is found in what he had already said in Chapter 3. He had been writing about the Jewish people; who had possessed the written law of God—and yet, who had failed to keep it and who were not able to be made righteous in God’s sight by it. And then Paul wrote,

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”

“Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”

“The poison of asps is under their lips”;

“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:9-20).

What Paul meant, then, by our being ‘without strength’ was that we were without the ability to do enough to make ourselves acceptable before a holy God and to earn His favor through our own efforts. We are sinners who are fallen in the sin of our first father Adam; and everything that we do to try to work our way out of our sinful state ends up being tainted by our own sin. We can never pull ourselves out of our own problem; because we ourselves are the problem! As one great Bible teacher from the past has put it, we could no more make ourselves righteous in God’s sight than a man who was made out of water could climb out of the water on a ladder made of water.

But while we as members of fallen humanity were still without strength, ‘in due time’—that is, at the right time in the history of fallen humanity; and at a time that most demonstrated God’s amazing grace—“Christ died for the ungodly”. And can you see in that the affirmation of God’s justifying love? It could not have been earned; because we had no power to earn it. It could not have been awarded to us after we had proven ourselves worthy; because we could never prove ourselves worthy enough. It could not have been granted to us after we had first ‘cleaned-up our act’; because we were too filthy in our sins to be able to make ourselves clean. Rather—in mercy—Christ died on the cross for us when we were utterly ‘without strength’.

Look though this passage; and see what Paul says about our helpless condition. In the first half of verse 6, we were ‘without strength’. In the later half, we were ‘the ungodly’. In verse 8, we were ‘still sinners’. And in verse 10, we were God’s ‘enemies’. And it was then—while we were in such a state—that Christ died for us to take away our sin and bring us into God’s favor.

How then could there ever be anything we could do to be righteous in God’s sight—except to receive, as a gift of His grace, what He has done in love to bring us into His favor … and to thank Him for it forever?

* * * * * * * * * *

And just think of how greatly that justifying love has been put on display! Paul goes on to tell us of …


Paul points to a kind of every-day reality that we would all acknowledge to be true. He writes in verse 7, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.”

Some Bible teachers have supposed that Paul meant for us to see a difference between a ‘righteous man’ and a ‘good man’. A ‘righteous man’ would be someone who had lived, from the standpoint of other people, a righteous and just life. Such a person would have lived with relative moral integrity in comparison to others. And even if someone should find such a remarkable person, it would scarcely be imagined that someone else might lay down their lives for them. Yet perhaps in the case of someone who was ‘good’—that is, someone who was kind and merciful to others—it might be that someone would lay down their lives for them. Those who see a difference between those two things suggest that someone has a sense of justice to a ‘righteous’ man, but an even greater sense of sacrificial affection for a ‘good’ man.

But still; even for such outstanding persons, would someone be willing to die? We might think of our soldiers. They lay down their lives in service to us; and we are grateful for them. But they do it mostly for love of a nation and its ideals and its freedom—for a whole nation of individuals. They don’t necessarily do it for a particular individual who they admire and consider ‘righteous’ or ‘good’. It is true that it sometimes happens; and it’s remarkable when it does. But it is a truly rare thing that someone would lay down their lives for another single individual—particularly even an outstandingly righteous and good person. Certainly, it would be very hard to imagine that someone would ordinarily lay down their lives for a morally weak, ungodly, sinful enemy.

And that’s exactly what we were to God. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us,” as Paul says in verse 8, “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

What a great extent of love this is! Since it is beyond the scope of human merit; since it is great enough to reach down to save God’s weak, ungodly, sinful enemies, who then could ever make themselves worthy of it through their own efforts? And yet, who could possibly be so sinful that they were beyond the reach of it?

It is something, says Paul in verse 8, by which God ‘demonstrates’ His own love toward us—that is, something that puts it on clear display for all to see. As it says in one of the most beloved of all Bible passages:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17).

* * * * * * * * * *

And finally, then, consider …


You see; the impact of the doctrine of ‘justification by faith’ upon our salvation from the guilt of sin is only the beginning. It has implications that reach far beyond that to the whole of our being. Paul writes; “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (v. 9).

For the person who does not believe on Jesus and who rejects Him, the wrath of God is the greatest issue of their lives. As the Bible teaches, the person who does not believe on Him “shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). But having now been declared righteous in God’s sight by faith in Jesus, we never have to fear God’s wrath. God’s righteous anger for our sin has been ‘propitiated’—that is, ‘satisfied’—by the blood of Jesus. As Paul puts it in Romans 3:21-26;

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26).

That means that, if we are in Christ, we need never fear the wrath of God or eternal judgment. No human being can ever threaten us with God’s wrath, or manipulate us through the fear of eternal loss! What liberty!

You’ll notice that Paul used an argument ‘from the greater to the lessor’. The greater thing was to justify us and make us righteous in His sight through Christ. And now, having done that, “much more”—now being justified by the blood of Jesus—we shall be saved from wrath. And as we read on, we find that Paul uses another ‘from the greater to the lessor’ argument when he writes in verse 10, “For if when 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.”

Did you know that you and I are not only saved by Jesus’ death on the cross, but also by His resurrection from the dead? Having now been reconciled to God, His having taken the cause of enmity out of the way so that we can now have a relationship with Him in love. we shall be saved all the way, unto a glorious eternity, through the ongoing life of the one who died for us—who, as Paul puts it in Romans 4:25,

was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification (Romans 4:25).

Our justification in the sight of God is forever maintained by the one who shed His blood for it—our resurrected Savior; who now sits at the right hand of the Father on our behalf, and continually pleads His own blood on the cross for us; who, as the writer of Hebrews puts it,

is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).

And even more still; His life is the guarantee that we who believe on Him will be raised from the dead to share in His glory forever. As the apostle Peter puts it in 1 Peter 1:3;

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead … (1 Peter 1:3).

No wonder Paul says at the end of it all, “And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:11).

* * * * * * * * * * *

So; I believe we should celebrate the anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. But much more, we should celebrate and embrace the great doctrine that the reformation re-discovered and proclaimed anew to us; the doctrine of justification by faith—the greatest and most liberating doctrine the world has ever heard. It declares to us that if God would so love us when we were still sinners, then—having now been justified in His sight by the blood of Jesus—He will never cease to shower His favor on us in Christ.

We could do no better than to say with Paul—as he wrote at the end of Romans 8:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 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 (Romans 8:31-39).

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