Romans 5:1-11 “Boundless Love”
Summary: God’s love knows no bounds. It is capable of touching
What do you do after you have been set free? There is a story about how old fashioned circuses used trains elephants to stay in captivity. The elephant trainers begin when the elephant is young, and they wrap a chain around his leg and attach it to a peg driven in the ground. At such a young age, the elephant can’t escape. The elephant always has the chain wrapped around his foot. When the elephant is older and could easily rip the peg out of the ground the trainers wrap the chain around his leg and don’t even bother to attach it to a stake. The elephant still thinks its bound even though it is free. I know this is true, because in Zimbabwe, Rosie and I were at a safari lodge that game viewing tours from atop some fairly large African elephants. They lived overnight in a large pen, with railings they could easily knock over if they wanted to. I asked how they had been trained to stay there, and the keeper showed me the light chains around one elephant’s foot, and told me the same story.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for twenty-seven years in an island jail on Robbin Island, a few kilometres offshore from Cape Town. 27 years! On his release, he used his freedom to peacefully complete his lifelong struggle to remove the country from apartheid, then he established a new government and served as its president with dignity and honour.
Once we are set free there are many directions we can go. In our scripture for today, the great apostle Paul, writes to the Romans and instructs them on how they can now live with the freedom they have received by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This is a message about peace and hope.
##Peace and hope
5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul declares that we are free. Free from what? We have been set free by God’s love. In the first five chapters of his letter to the Romans, Paul has been laying the argument that we have been **justified** — placed in a right relationship with God. This justification is a free gift from God. We have done nothing to obtain it. If I have been justified then God treats me ‘just as if I’d never sinned’.
Now that we have been justified and set free, Paul proclaims (in verse one) that we have peace with God. But what is this peace? It is not simply the cessation of conflict, it is not just that we no longer rebel against God or that God, who can rightfully judge us, now will not judge us because of what Jesus did for us.
This peace is what we can call a “**shalom**” peace; it is a wholistic peace. The peace that we now have through Christ, is a peace which enables us to live in a vibrant, dynamic relationship God.
As Christians, who have been restored to a proper relationship with God, by grace and through our faith in Jesus Christ, the peace we can now enjoy, comes from Jesus — through the work of his life, his death and his resurrection.
This is so important to fully comprehend. Actually, I mean important to comprehend as fully as we can, right now, because I think that we spend all of our lives continuing tolerant more about the depth, the calibre, the purity, the generosity, of God’s grace and love.
We now have access to God’s grace, and we have hope because we can now share the glory of God. In other words, a close relationship with God is possible. Is that not an amazing thing?
Something else that is amazing, is that we so easily take this relationship with God for granted, satisfied with being an acquaintance, rather than a close friend.
Let me tell you a story that helps explain this. Imagine I have a dog, great little guy, a 4lb, teacup Chihuahua, called Samson. Really he is my wife’s doggie, and she is away for a few days, and Samson is lovesick. He spends his entire day and night in our bedroom, in some doggie blankets, placed on the floor beside where he normally sleeps. I’ve been gardening all day, and tired, I am taking a nap in the lounge. I doze off to sleep.
All of a sudden, I am awakened by this unanticipated and unmerited thud in my lap. Okay, I am a bit scared, because I am not used to being pounced on during some good REM sleep. It’s Samson. He has left his bed and taken a giant leap from the floor to the couch; right into … well let’s just say it was the most sensitive part of my lap.
What immediately comes to mind is he needs me for something. I wonder what it is, then I get it, he wants to go outside. I am not happy. He has wanted nothing to do with me since his mother left almost four days ago and he has woken me up from a much needed nap. Cheeky little fella, I think.
And then it occurs to me — this is exactly what we do to God. We don’t really involve Him in our lives very much, and then out of the clear blue sky, we jump in His lap and yap that we want something. We’ve not prayed to Him. Perhaps not even made to Church that often. And our Bible is pretty dusty.
Many of us do not fully understand that it is through prayer and his Word, we maintain a healthy relationship with God. Less like Samson, the 4lb, teacup Chihuahua, who keeps to himself until he wants something, and more like a doting child, hanging on every word and action of a father we know adores us.
When God does not hear from us, there is no joy for Him, and It is no different than my dog, coming out of our bedroom and visiting with me every once in a while.
NEEDS A SUMMARISING SENTENCE HERE
#GROWTH THROUGH TRIALS
Our freedom (which we have from Christ, of course) gives us the ability to overcome trials and to squarely face our hardships.
I think we all know that the most common question about God is **”so why do bad things happen to good people?”**
There is an assumption that when bad things happen, God is to blame. When bad things happen, it is God who allowed them to happen, and sometimes we can even start to wonder if God cares at all, because something bad has happened.
This kind of thinking, this questioning of God, is put to rest because we now have peace with God; because we have been made the recipients of God’s love.
Life has its challenges. There are plenty of occasions when we may rightfully celebrate good times and God’s blessings, but we all encounter times of trial and tribulation. We have all experienced times when it feels like the bottom has fallen out of our world, when it seems too hard to carry on, when disappointment or failure has paralysed our ability to carry on.
These are exactly the times when knowing we have peace with God; knowing that God is not the cause of our pain, we are able to simply **rest** in God’s love.
When we realise and then practise, focusing on God’s love for us and towards us, this enables us to open our lives up to the in-working of the Holy Spirit.
You see, the Holy Spirit can take situations we encounter and use them to produce endurance, character and hope. Changes in our lives are not necessarily pain free, but, when we focus on God’s love, and when we acknowledge we are in the palm of God’s hand, our fear is rendered powerless, and our hope remains. I’d like to read you a poem by Cindy Wyatt, titled ‘Hope In God’.
How wonderful it is to have an unshakable hope
When going through trials and tribulations it is our lifesaving rope
Without hope in God where would our lives be
They would be like a wandering ship lost out at sea
When our heart is aching amidst the darkest night
hope comes shining forth like a bright and glorious light
Without hope we would be lost in an ocean of despair
But God gives us his Word and assures us he is always there
When trouble is all around and our dreams seem to shatter
It is then we find that love, faith, and hope are the things that really matter
God will never fail us no matter what we face
He will always meet our need with his sustaining grace
Our hope comes from God’s word, that’s where it is found
We can meditate upon it and put our feet on solid ground
Hope is the only thing to cling to when we don’t understand
Jesus is always there to take us by the hand
Without hope we would have no place to go
But resting on God’s promises, we rejoice in the blessings that flow
How wonderful to rest in the promises in His wonderful book
If you ever get discouraged, just open it up and take a look
So, we have PEACE in Christ Jesus, but we also have HOPE, something to celebrate.
#CELEBRATION IN HOPE
In verse six, Paul suggests to us that God acted in love at the right time, even though we were still His enemies. If God acted in love toward us when we were still rebelling against God, then we can’t even imagine what God’s love looks like to those who have become restored to Him, who have received forgiveness and salvation by grace through the faith they place in Jesus Christ. This is worth a celebration.
Are there are times when we fear the future? For certain there are. The people to whom Paul was writing had a very uncertain future. We can often look at our future and wonder what will happen, where it is all leading to, what is happening in our world today — but Paul reminds his original readers, and now he reminds us that we have hope. The situation may not be resolved in the way that we would want, or at the time we want, but here is truth: we will be able to experience God’s love, be embraced by God’s love, and we will be strengthened by God’s love. In other words, we can be and we will be continually, set free by the love that God has for us.
So let me conclude then. The boundless love of God, truly sets us free. This freedom that we gain, is a gift from God, but it is not an insurance policy or guarantee for a trouble-free life, because we will have troubles. We will have tough times. We will have testing of our faith. But, at the same time, we discover that a door has opened to a more abundant life that is ours because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let me end with reminding us of those incredible words of Jesus found in John 10:10:
**I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.**