Recently Added
to Exposition of Romans:

3:9–20—Conclusion: OT confirms that humanity is under sin’s power
(January 26th 2019)
5:1–11—God’s love is both outwardly displayed and felt in the heart.

We have seen that the peace of God is a major theme of the first 11 verses of Romans 5. An even more significant theme is hope, which we will get to later. But we can’t overlook God’s love, which makes its first appearance in this epistle. Indeed, if it were not for the love that God put on full display at the cross we would have neither peace nor hope.

The dual expression of God’s love
God is a unity and God’s love for humanity is uniform. God is not a respecter of persons; he does not show more love to some people than to others. But God’s love does have a dual expression. It is both demonstrated objectively (verse 8) and experienced internally (verse 5). We can’t have the latter without responding to the former.

Paul says in verse 8 that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The cross demonstrates God’s self-giving love as an objective fact of history. Then in verse 5, Paul speaks for himself and other believers who have received God’s love by faith: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

At the Passover meal with his disciples the night before his crucifixion, Jesus blessed the cup, saying, “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Jesus’ blood was poured out on the cross for the love of God to be poured into our hearts.

Love that must be experienced
The objective aspect of God’s love is evident to everyone. God at the cross has made known his love for every man and woman, boy and girl, of every ethnicity, nation, and creed, no matter what they have done, as seen in the fact that Christ’s death expresses God’s mercy and compassion on human beings who are “weak” and “ungodly” “sinners” and, for further emphasis, his “enemies” (verses 6, 8, 10).

But God, in addition to demonstrating his impartial love as an objective fact, also wants human beings to experience his love. As Douglas Moo points out, “a cold, sober, historical interpretation that indeed God ‘loved the world’ on the cross is of little benefit to a person until that love is experienced, is received, by faith in Christ.”

On the other hand, to experience God’s love, a person must respond to the objective fact of Christ’s death. God’s love enters the heart only through the cross. To settle for a sentimental love of God that leaves out the cross—a bloodless love—puts a person at risk of God’s wrath. Moo says, “An emotional feeling of God’s love, in itself, is little comfort to the person who is lost, condemned, doomed for hell.”

God’s love in our heart
The Greek verb “pour out” conveys an abundance of supply that will never run out, and it is used several times of the Holy Spirit. Peter on the day of Pentecost quoted the prophet Joel regarding God’s promise to “pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17), and Paul uses the same verb of the Holy Spirit in Titus 3:6.

We believers struggle for words to describe our experience of God’s love, but we cherish the sensation of his love and would never want to be without it. Warmth of assurance, comfort, peace, confidence, relief, serenity—all imparted by the Father’s embrace of our heart through the Holy Spirit. It’s so wonderful we have to share it with others just as he does with us.

God’s love is not human love
We all admire a person who will sacrifice his or her life to save another from a burning car or a raging river. Paul acknowledges these noble acts of self-sacrifice in verse 7: “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die.” Paul appears to distinguish a person who is morally “righteous” but can be cold and distant from a person who is good-natured, kind, and likable. More likely will someone give up his life for a benevolent person.

We are far from good people in the sense God measures good, but God in his grace so loved us as to become one of us and die for us.