“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8 is one of the standard verses included in most Scripture memory systems. And what a verse it is! It conveys one of the most incredible truths in the entire Bible. But, like all popular verses that we tend to memorize apart from the larger context in which they are found, this one deserve to be understood in it’s broader story—which we find in Romans 5:1-11. In this passage, Paul, like a skilled lawyer, makes a powerful and persuasive theological argument, which in a nutshell, is described in Romans 5:1-2:
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”
What Paul is arguing is that we have peace with God, not just inner calm and serenity, but literally, the mutual hostility between God and man has ended because of God’s grace, his unmerited favor. That peace was unilaterally brokered through God’s love, which justified us—a once-and-for-all legal settlement—by Christ’s sacrificial death. And all we did was to accept God’s offer of peace through faith!
Now that was a mouthful. Maybe it seemed a little clunky and convoluted. Perhaps it was a little much to wrap you mind around. But after reading and reflecting on it over and over, I find that it is quite funny. Not funny in the sense of ridiculous—although getting credited with righteousness before God through Christ’s account is a pretty ridiculous equation. Not just funny in the sense of foolish—although the idea of being right with God apart from good works and human effort is the height of foolishness to the human mind. And not just funny in the sense of odd—although it is certainly odd that God would go to such great links to prove his love by loving that which was completely unlovable—as Romans 5:8 declares.
No, I’m talking funny in the sense that what God has done for you and me is so undeserved, and we are such unlikely candidates for his grace, that the only response we and can rightly offer in return is to fall on our knees, undone by love, overflowing with gratitude and giddy with joy!
These first eleven verses are so amazingly profound that no commentary I or anyone else can offer will really do them justice. So I want to recommend that you simply read and re-read them until the Spirit who inspired them illuminates them to you in a fresh way and brings you into a true and deeper understanding of what it took to justify you, and what it means for you to stand in peace and grace in God’s presence.
I have a sense that when you really begin to understand this—although I’m not sure you will ever really and fully “get” what God has done for us—you will probably fall on your knees in inexplicable laughter, or dumbfounded silence or unrestrained tears—because all those responses are appropriate when you grasp even to the slightest degree the amazing grace and the deep love of God for you—and the incredible, ridiculous lengths he went to prove it.
If you are ever in one of those moments where you need proof of God’s love, just go back and look at the cross. I think you’ll find all the proof you need.
“Mercy for the sinner, help in the hardest place, everything for nothing, that is grace!” ~C.C. Beatty