by Michael Tolosa
On June 28, 1914, a young Serbian assassin walked out of a coffeehouse, pulled out his gun and shot into a car carrying Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne.
A month later, Austria declared war on Serbia. But because Serbia was allied with Russia, Russia joined the fight against Austria. However, Austria was an ally of Germany, so Germany declared war on Russia – and also France (for some reason). On the way to France, Germany invaded Belgium. Troubled by this, Great Britain declared war on Germany, and before long, most of Europe was embroiled in a fight that started with two relatively small countries.
The Great War (or World War I) lasted four and a half years, killing over 20 million people and wounding another 21 million.
On November 11, 1918, shortly after the United States entered the war, Germany was forced to surrender. An armistice had been declared. Armistice means an end to fighting – or truce. The fighting had ceased. There was peace.
The three most powerful Allied leaders from Great Britain, France, and the United States gathered at Versailles to decide on what penalties Germany, Austria and their allies would face. In addition to establishing a League or Nations, they carved up the map and redistributed the lands of the losing countries. They also came up with strict punishments specifically for Germany.
Germany had to give up huge amounts of its empire. They lost all their colonies. They were restricted to having an army no larger than one hundred thousand soldiers, only six battleships, and no air force or submarine fleet. They had to claim sole responsibility for the war (remember the whole thing started as a conflict between Serbia and Austria), and they had to pay over $32B in losses and damages to other countries. (Now remember, this was a hundred years ago. $32B was an overwhelming amount of money back then.)
The debt imposed on Germany made the country poorer and poorer, and its people more and more miserable. The crushing debt imposed on Germany destroyed their economy. Heck, they had to borrow money from American and British banks just to pay their debts to France and England! In a few years, the German people were desperate, fed up and willing to listen to anyone who promised revenge and a restoration of Germany’s former greatness. So when a young Austrian man named Adolf Hitler began calling for Germany’s return to glory, the people were eager to support him. They elected him as German Chancellor in 1932.
In September 1939 – roughly 20 years after the end of World War I – Germany started a second world war. This time roughly 70-85 million people died – four times that of the first war – about 3% of the world’s population. It was the deadliest military conflict in the history of the world.
So, despite the best efforts of Great Britain, France and the United States at the end of World War I, the peace they established was only temporary. While there may have been an armistice – an end of fighting, there was clearly no lasting peace or reconciliation between the two sides.
There’s a huge difference between armistice – an end to fighting – and reconciliation.
Which brings us to today’s passage.
If you would, please turn with me to the book of Romans chapter 5 verses 6-11. I’ll read it to you now…
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.Romans 5:6-11
Lord God Almighty,
We come to you today as former enemies who have been reconciled to You through Your great love and sacrifice. Lord, we praise you and thank you for that love.
Lord, help us to understand this passage in Romans. Speak through me, as I attempt to handle Your Word with accuracy and respect – and proclaim its meaning to the people in this room.
Give us ears to hear what You have to say through this passage. May we trust Your Word, believe it and apply it to our lives.
Thank you for bringing each individual here today. They are not here by accident. It was Your plan before the foundation of the world that they would be sitting here tonight to hear Your Word.
Speak to us now, I pray in Jesus’ name.
In our passage today, Paul gives the Roman believers hope that the peace we have in Christ is not just an armistice or temporary peace, but an everlasting peace and a total reconciliation between two former enemies.
We’re going to look at what Paul describes as the “weakness of man” and how, by dying for us “weak” sinners, Christ shows us his amazing love. We’ll look at why we can be sure of our salvation and rejoice because of it.
And I’m going to explain to you why. So, let’s dive right in and examine the weakness of man…
The Weakness of Man
First, look at how Paul describes us in verse 6… “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” In verse 8… “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And in verse 10… “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God…”
Why does Paul make a point to state that Christ died for us and reconciled us to God while we were still in a state of weakness, ungodliness, sinfulness, and animosity toward Him?
Let’s turn to Ephesians chapter 2, starting in verse 4…
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.Ephesians 2:4-9
Therefore, back to our passage in Romans chapter 5, the reason that Christ died for us while we were still weak, sinners, ungodly and enemies – while we were dead in our trespasses – is so that…
- God could demonstrate His love and grace, and
- He alone would get the glory.
Theologian R.C. Sproul said, “God did not wait for us to exercise our wills, incline ourselves to him, repent of our sins, or get ourselves in such a state that it would be appropriate to provide an atonement for us.”
The common theme between these passages is: God acts when we are helpless.
Let’s keep going now and look at the love of Christ…
The Love of Christ
Verse 7: For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—
What’s he saying there? Is he contrasting two different types of persons – one righteous, the other good? Or is he just using repetition to make a point? He’s saying that you might know a righteous person who’s a total jerk, and you would scarcely die for him, but if he was both righteous and good, you might perhaps die for him. In either case, you would likely not die for a righteous or good man.
Verse 8: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
If no one would die for a righteous or good person, you better be dang sure ain’t no one dying for a sinner.
But Christ did. Christ died for sinners like you and me. Why? Why did Christ die for us?
Remember what Ephesians says, “…so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (2:7).”
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)”
Will God’s plan be thwarted by you or anyone else? No!
The Assurance of Salvation
Verse 9 and 10: Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Pay attention to these words: justified, saved, reconciled. There is a chain here – one leads to another.
First, let’s look at the word justified. It says that we have been justified by His blood. What does justified mean? It means to be declared righteous. We are declared righteous by His blood.
But in verse 10 it says we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son. So at the death of His Son on the cross, two things happen: 1) we are justified, and 2) we are reconciled. What does reconcile mean? Well, it means that something has been exchanged. Our status has changed from being enemies of God to being His friends.
There is also an exchange that happens on the cross called imputation – big theology word there – imputation. As Jesus hung on that cross, our sins were imputed, or transferred, to Him, along with our “guilty” status. But in exchange, His righteousness and “not guilty” status was imputed or transferred to us. This reconciliation, or exchange of guilt status, is what justified us (or declared us righteous) and allowed Jesus to die in our place. God is just when He punishes Jesus for our sins, because Jesus took on our guilt – and the guilt of all He saved. And God is just in saving us, because we took on Christ’s righteousness.
In Romans 3:26, Paul says that God is both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Can God punish a righteous person? No, not if He’s just. Can He let an unrighteous person go unpunished? No, not if He’s just. In order for this whole salvation thing to work, God had to make His Son guilty and us righteous.
As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
So Jesus’ death accomplished two things: our justification and our reconciliation with God.
That was the hard part.
But now that we’ve been justified and reconciled, God will absolutely, 100% save you. Look at verse 10: For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
This is a no-brainer for Paul. Christ has already accomplished our justification and reconciliation with God. There is nothing keeping God’s wrath fixated on us. The next part is easy. Jesus took on our guilt and paid the penalty of our sin by dying on the cross. He defeated death, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. Victory has already been won for us!
Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Christ has already done the hard part. Your debt has been paid. You are now friends with God. There is now nothing keeping you from being with God in Heaven. God will save you!
Christian, do you believe this?
If so, rejoice!
The Joy of Salvation
Verse 11: More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Joy is the natural response of those who believe they will be saved. Some of us Christians go through life anxious about whether we’re truly saved or not. We look at the sin in our lives and wonder, “Am I really saved? Could God forgive a wretched sinner like me?” Some of us think that assurance of salvation is presumptuous or arrogant. “How dare you presume that God will save you!” Well, it might be presumptuous if our salvation depended on our own ability to obey God and live a righteous life – which we fail at time and time again. But our salvation isn’t dependent on us – it’s dependent on the perfect obedience, goodness and righteousness of Christ that has been freely given to us. There is no one more trustworthy than God. So, if He says He will save you, believe it and rejoice!
R.C. Sproul once said, “There is no room for the sourpuss in the kingdom of God.” Do you know some sourpusses in the church? Christians with one setting – anger with what they perceive to be sin all around them in the world, but never in themselves? Or on the flip side, Christians who are so distraught with their own sin, that they won’t ever lift their head out of their hands and experience the joy of their salvation?
I don’t know if it’s a Baptist or Presbyterian thing, but some of us need to learn how to lift our arms and shout for joy once in a while – and not just while watching football! You notice how excited we get when our favorite sports team wins — when WVU beats Virginia Tech — or our child scores a goal during a school sporting event – or when our preferred political candidate wins an election? Can we not get excited that the God of the universe has saved us from eternal damnation?
Can I get an amen?
Can I get an amen with arms raised?
Okay, we’ll work on that.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)
If you’re like me, and you have a tough time feeling and expressing joy, let me give you a great resource… You might want to write this down… It’s this book, the Bible. This book is made up of 66 smaller books. There’s a little book in here called Psalms. It’s a songbook made up of a bunch of songs written by King David, Moses and some other dudes. There are songs in here dealing with all sorts of emotions — anger, sorrow, confusion, impatience, praise and also joy.
“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
“May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you, may those who love your salvation always say, the LORD be exalted!” (Psalm 40:16)
“Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous and praise his holy name.” (Psalm 97:12)
If you struggle showing your emotions, read and mediate on the Psalms.
So, in closing, if you are in Christ, you can be sure of your salvation because:
- It doesn’t depend on you.
- God is going to demonstrate His love for you in this way in order to glorify Himself.
- If you are in Christ, you have already been justified and reconciled to Him.
So, how does this apply to your life?
First of all, as it says in verse 11, rejoice! That’s the application. Rejoice!
Secondly, because God sacrificed His own Son for sinners, be willing to sacrifice everything that is dear to you for the salvation of others. Prioritize evangelism in your life, even if it costs you time, money, resources, your reputation… and even your very life. Those who remain God’s enemies will experience His wrath. They aren’t covered by the righteousness of Christ. Don’t hate them; don’t ignore them; have compassion for them! Sacrifice everything dear to you for the salvation of others.
Thirdly, you should seek reconciliation with your enemies. Sometimes that’s a neighbor or a coworker or relative, and sometimes it’s your own spouse or kids. When you get into a verbal fight with your spouse, do you just try to defuse the situation, postpone the conversation, and sweep it under the rug? If you postpone the argument for the sake of peace, then eventually forget about it, does it solve the problem? Or does it just implement a temporary armistice?
Seek reconciliation, not just an end to the fighting.
If God just wanted to end hostilities between us, He could have just wiped us out. But He didn’t just want an armistice. He wanted reconciliation.
Can you imagine if, at the end of World War I, after Germany had been burdened with an overwhelming $32B debt, if France or another Allied country stepped in and said, “Germany, don’t worry about the debt, we’ll pay it for you.” Do you think World War II would have happened? I don’t think so. I think there would have been reconciliation.
Well, that’s what Jesus did for us. We were burden with an unpayable debt, and Jesus stepped in and paid it for us. He took our punishment onto Himself.
Now, if you haven’t placed your faith in Jesus, this sermon doesn’t really apply. You can’t be sure of your salvation, if you remain an enemy of God. You may be feeling – right now, as you sit here tonight – the overwhelming burden of your sin debt. Maybe you’re not actively fighting against God in your life – and are in a time of armistice. But the burden of sin will drive us to do one of two things:
- Either you will be like Germany and become bitter and angry and desperate – and reengage in a fiercer battle with God. A battle you can never win, that will result in more casualties each time, or…
- That burden will bring you to your knees, begging for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Something God is freely offering to you today.
Where will you go with your burden of debt? My hope is that you will bend your knee to Christ and lay your burden at the cross.
1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Don’t delay or put this off. Go to God in prayer tonight, confess your sins to Him and beg Him to take this burden from you. Repent – or turn away – from your sins and follow Christ. Read God’s Word and submit to it in every area of your life. Make peace with God today.
If you have any questions about how to do all that, come see me after the service. Or let’s schedule some time to meet and talk about it. There’s nothing more important than your eternal destiny.
You are amazing. Your love is so great and beyond explanation. You figured out a way to save us, your rebellious creation.
I don’t know why you love us. There’s nothing lovely about us, other than the fact in some small way we bare your image.
Lord, we’re sorry for our sins. We’re sorry that everyday we still choose our sin over following You. But we trust You when You say that You will forgive us when we confess our sins to You. So we confess them to you now…
Lord, we trust You when You say that You will save us, because we trust Your Word. And You alone are trustworthy. But help our unbelief when we sin and feel ashamed and doubt our salvation. Help us to trust in Your love even when we don’t feel lovely or lovable.
Lord, if there’s anyone here today that is still your enemy, I ask that You would open their eyes to that fact and bring them to their knees in repentance. Show them Your glory and love and draw them to You today. Let them ask for Your Son’s righteousness, and transfer their sins to Him. Take their burden of debt from them. And give them a reason to rejoice.
Be with us now as we depart this place. Keep us safe as we drive home tonight.
May we be a witness to the world of Your justice and love. May we give all we have to seek the lost. May we pursue reconciliation with our enemies. And may we rejoice in your salvation.
We pray all of these things in Your Son Jesus’ precious and holy name.
Thank you all for coming. I really appreciate it. Peace be with you.