How do we know God’s love? How did He show us His love? Well the Sunday School answer is Jesus, God’s Son, came to earth and died on the cross for humanity. So what does that look like? What’s the big deal? Let’s walk through Romans 5:7-8 to get a better understanding.
I. Righteous or Good? v7
Paul starts these two verses by saying that most men are not willing to risk their lives for others. But there is more to that. He says, “for rarely will someone die for a just person…”. So what is a “just person”? A just person, other translations say “righteous man”, is someone who obeys the rules. They follow the Law and keep the Commandments. Their actions, attitude, and behaviour are correct and upright. However this person may be cold or follows the rules for the sake of following the rules.
What about the second type of person Paul mentions here in verse 7. “…though for a good person perhaps someone may even dare to die.” What does this “good person” look like? A good person is one who does all the things that the righteous man does, but goes further. This person will act out of love while following the rules, obeying the commandments, etc. This person just isn’t correct, they go beyond being correct. The good person will, because of love, do as Christ instructed in Matthew 5:40-41 “As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” The good person will go the second mile and not even think about it.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones illustrates the difference like this:
A man may play the piano correctly, strike the right note every time, and keep the right time, and yet all you can truthfully say about his playing is that it is just correct. But there is another man who plays the piano and plays the same piece; yet you realize at once that there is something more. He is an artist, he puts life into the performance, he does it in such a way that it moves you and thrills you. The first man was quite correct, but he lacked this extra something that the second man has got. That is the kind of difference between a righteous man and a good man. (Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 5: Assurance, p.121, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, ©1971)
First we need to realize that throughout the rest of this chapter Paul is talking about the doctrine of assurance (being sure that your salvation is true and secure in the Lord) to believers. So here, early in the chapter he is reminding these believers of the glory of salvation and in the previous chapter he discussed the glory of justification (the declaring of God that a sinner is righteous before Him because of Christ’s work on the cross). In the previous verse he discussed that scarcely someone might die for a just or righteous person and someone more likely would risk their life for a good person. “You do not find people laying down their lives for a man who is just righteous or correct; but people love a good man and are so attached to him that they say, ‘I would die for him’ (Lloyd-Jones, p.121)”.
Are you good or are you righteous? Well without Christ, before God we are neither. Without Christ we are the third type of person Paul describes in verse 8.
II. Sinner! v8b
Paul continues his argument here by starting with two of the sweetest words in all of Scripture, “But God”. “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” Such a wonderful verse that should make any believer rejoice and praise God! We are going to look at the second part of the verse first. Paul says that Christ died for us while we were sinners. What is a sinner? A sinner is the exact opposite of the good person and the just person. The word gives itself to moral failure. A sinner has missed the mark and come short, they are an offender without any righteousness.
Paul spend most of the first three chapters of Romans describing the sinful nature of every person on Earth. Those who have never heard of God: sinners. “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,” (Romans 1:18). God’s chosen people: sinners. “For circumcision benefits you if you observe the law, but if you are a lawbreaker, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh. On the contrary, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart — by the Spirit, not the letter. That man’s praise is not from men but from God.” (Romans 2:25,28-29) Those who have heard and turned away: sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23) The fate of sinners? Eternal separation from God in a place of eternal torment. What is the remedy for such a disastrous state for humanity? God’s offer of salvation. “They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed.” (Romans 3:24-25) The fact is that as believers we were sinners before God, but the wonder of justification is that though we may fail and still sin while we are live in this world God sees us as righteous and holy.
III. God’s Love = Christ’s Death v8a
“But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” Christ’s death was the only way for humanity to be saved. But humanity is so sinful that the there is nothing we can do to make God save us. We cannot save ourselves. We can do no work to change God’s mind or change our stance before Him. God had to act. God put the salvation of humanity on His own shoulders, this burden was His to bear. Why? Because God loves us. We are created in His image, and God loves His creation. God word’s clear, there be a time of judgement on the earth and every person will stand before God to be judged as a sinner or as follower of Christ. “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
Let’s look what Christ endured to on the cross for our salvation. John 19 gives the account of some the beating (flogging or scourging) as well as the crucifixion of Jesus.
Let’s start with the flogging. Roman flogging was part of the crucifixion, however in the Gospel of John we see that Pilate sent Jesus to be flogged before he passed judgement and gave in to the Jewish leaders. This may have been a way to appease the mob and get out of actually condemning a man he didn’t want to execute. However this didn’t keep the soldiers from mocking Jesus and beat Him cruelly.
The Roman flogging used “a short whip with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals. For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions” (https://www.cbcg.org/scourging-crucifixion.html).
“Deep lacerations, torn flesh, exposed muscles and excessive bleeding would leave the criminal ‘half-dead.’ Death was often the result of this cruel form of punishment though it was necessary to keep the criminal alive to be brought to public subjugation on the cross. The Centurion in charge would order the ‘lictors’ to halt the flogging when the criminal was near death” (http://www.bible-history.com/past/flagrum.html).
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”
(Isaiah 53:5 NKJV) Christ was beaten in, probably, the worst way devised by sinful man. After Jesus received this beating the soldiers looking to mock Him before Pilate called for Him again, and knowing Jesus was accused of calling Himself a king placed a purple robe on His back, then placed a crown made of thorns on His head.
“The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a preshock state. Moreover, bleeding from the skin particularly from the capillaries around the sweat glands from severe stress had rendered his skin particularly tender. The physical and mental abuse meted out by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the lack of food, water, and sleep, also contributed to his generally weakened state. Therefore, even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus’ physical condition was at least serious and possibly critical” (https://www.cbcg.org/scourging-crucifixion.html).
After this beating He was lead away to the actual crucifixion. The following is from an article on cbcg.org:
It was customary for the condemned man to carry his own cross from the flogging post to the site of crucifixion outside the city walls. He was usually naked, unless this was prohibited by local customs. Since the weight of the entire cross was probably well over 300 lb. (136 kg), only the crossbar was carried. The crossbar, weighing 75 to 125 lb. (34 to 57 kg), was placed across the nape of the victim’s neck and balanced along both shoulders. Usually, the outstretched arms then were tied to the crossbar. The processional to the site of crucifixion was led by a complete Roman military guard, headed by a centurion. One of the soldiers carried a sign on which the condemned man’s name and crime were displayed. Later, the sign would be attached to the top of the cross. The Roman guard would not leave the victim until they were sure of his death.
Outside the city walls was permanently located the heavy upright wooden post, on which the crossbar would be secured. To prolong the crucifixion process, a horizontal wooden block or plank, serving as a crude seat, often was attached midway down the post.
At the site of execution, by law, the victim was given a bitter drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall) as a mild pain reliever. The criminal was then thrown to the ground on his back, with his arms outstretched along the crossbar. The hands could be nailed or tied to the crossbar, but nailing apparently was preferred by the Romans. The nails were tapered iron spikes approximately 5 to 7 in (13 to 18 cm) long with a square shaft 3/8 in (1 cm) across. The nails commonly were driven through the wrists rather than the palms.
After both arms were fixed to the crossbar, the crossbar and the victim, together, were lifted onto the post. Next, the feet were fixed to the cross, either by nails or ropes. Nailing was the preferred Roman practice. Although the feet could be fixed to the sides of the post or to a wooden footrest, they usually were nailed directly to the front of the post. To accomplish this, flexion of the knees may have been quite prominent, and the bent legs may have been rotated outward.
When the nailing was completed, the sign was attached to the cross, by nails or cords, just above the victim’s head. The soldiers and the civilian crowd often taunted and jeered the condemned man, and the soldiers customarily divided up his clothes among themselves. The length of survival generally ranged from three or four hours to three or four days and appears to have been inversely related to the severity of the scourging. However, even if the scourging had been relatively mild, the Roman soldiers could hasten death by breaking the legs below the knees.
The horrid death on a cross was an excruciating death. What Christ did to provide the only way of salvation for humanity was to die in one of the worst of forms of execution in the ancient world. This is why Paul in Philippians 2 says “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
God’s love for humanity and His desire to save His creation from the curse of sin was to send Jesus, His own Son, to die a horrendous death at the hands of sinners. The only way to God is accept this gift of salvation.
If you don’t know if you have accepted God’s gracious gift of salvation then follow this link for an explanation of how you can know for certain from Dr David Jeremiah or this link to walk down the “Romans Road” on biblegateway.com.