God’s Timing is Perfect

Romans 5:6-8

October 8, 2006 | Brian Bill

I love the honest answers kids give when they’re asked questions.  Listen to these responses to the topic of love.

When asked why love happens between two people…

  • “One of the people has freckles and so he finds somebody else who has freckles too.”
  • “No one is sure why it happens, but I heard it has something to do with how you smell…That’s why perfume and deodorant are so popular.”
  • “If you want to be loved by somebody who isn’t already in your family, it doesn’t hurt to be beautiful.”

When asked how to get someone to love you…

  • “Tell them that you own a whole bunch of candy stores.”
  • “Don’t do things like have smelly, green sneakers.  You might get attention, but attention ain’t the same thing as love.”

This past Wednesday I taught the older boys in AWANA.  In the midst of their squirming and punching and talking, I realized that I was just like they are when I was their age…if not worse.  The only difference is that I wasn’t as deep as they are.  Our topic was the importance of loving those who are near us and loving those who are difficult to be around.  We all agreed that the toughest thing in the world is to love our sisters!  Tune in to their responses when I asked them to tell me what they think about God’s love… 

  • “It’s a blessing.”
  • “It’s everlasting.”
  • “God loves sinners and believers.”
  • “God loves aliens, if there are any.”
  • “God’s love is not ordinary because He loves everybody.”
  • And one boy responded with tears in his eyes: “You just can’t explain it.”

It is tough to explain God’s love, isn’t it?  

We pointed out that when we’re going through tough times, it’s easy to wonder if God really loves us.  Romans 5:5 gives us an anchor to hold on to: “…God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”  God’s love “has been poured out like a river and is continually being poured out moment-by-moment.”  This morning we’re going to ponder the truths of Romans 5:6-8.  This is one of the clearest passages in all of Scripture about God’s love for losers like us: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

Our Terrible Condition

This passage describes our plight.  As we’ve been learning in Romans, we must first understand the bad news of our condition apart from Christ before we will embrace the good news.  Or to say it another way: We won’t be moved by the limitlessness of God’s love until we grasp the depth of our depravity.

1. We were weak. 

Verse 6 says that we were “powerless.”  To be “powerless” means that we can’t change our basic nature on our own.  The King James Version says, “without strength.”  This word was usually applied to the sick and feeble, to those who have been wiped out and weakened by some kind of disease.  It’s also used in the moral sense to denote an inability with regard to any undertaking or duty.  Our sin has made us spiritually sick.  Specifically it means that we have no power to come up with a plan of justification on our own – left to ourselves, no one is able to do even one small thing to please God or achieve salvation.  We are spiritually incapacitated.  Incidentally, that’s why efforts to improve our society based on outward change ultimately don’t work.  That’s also why “self-help” books don’t usually help.  We cannot change our basic nature by self-effort because at our core we are self-centered and selfish.  On top of that, we’re powerless in our strength to make lasting change.

2. We were wicked. 

The phrase “ungodly” in verse 6 means that we had no desire to change in the first place.  We were not only helpless, but also vile and obnoxious.  The word “ungodly” indicates that we were both irreverent and impious, and have deliberately withheld from God what is rightfully His.  Romans 3:18: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” It literally means that we have violated God’s standards.  This word means that we live our lives as if God does not exist and so we worship ourselves.  One commentator refers to the ungodly as “mighty in evil.”  Turn back to Romans 1:18: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men…”

3. We were wayward. 

The third truth is seen in verse 8 – we were “sinners,” meaning that we were desperately in need of a change that we couldn’t make and didn’t want to make.  Spurgeon captures our condition succinctly when he writes: “No power remains in his system to throw off his mortal malady, not does he desire to do so; he could not save himself from his disease if he would and he would not if he could.”  The word sin means “to miss the mark” and was used of an archer who takes aim at a bull’s-eye but ends up totally missing the target. No matter how careful he is, his arrow always falls short.  As sinners, we always come up short.  Turn back to Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Isaac Watts wrote that amazing hymn, “At the Cross.”  The original has this line: “should He devote His sacred head for such a worm as I?”  Worm is a strong word but that’s exactly how David described himself in Psalm 22:6: “But I am a worm and not a man…”  Some hymn editor changed this language because it seemed too strong.  It was cleaned up a bit so it now says, “for sinners such as I.”  Did you know that some denominations have changed this even more so that it doesn’t even use the word ‘sinners?’  Some newer hymnals now contain these words: “Should He devote His sacred head for such a person as I?”

As much as we try to make ourselves look better than we are, apart from Christ we are helpless, hopeless and horrible; undeserving, unbelieving and uninterested.  As ungodly, impotent and ugly sinners, we are indeed smelly before a Holy God.  And yet, in spite of our terrible condition, God loves losers just like us.

God’s Perfect Timing

Look again at the beginning of verse 6: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”  When Jesus lived on the earth, He operated with an acute awareness of divine timing.  Speaking to his earthly mother in John 2:4, Jesus said, “My time has not yet come.” Responding to His brothers’ sense of timing in John 7:6, Jesus said: “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right.”  On another occasion, in Mark 1:15, Jesus gets the green light from God the Father: “The time has come.  The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”  Later, in His prayer for His disciples before He died in John 17:1, Jesus cried out, “Father, the time has come.  Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.”  

While He is above time, He is working everything out according to His divine date book

As we think about God’s sense of timing, we must remember that He is eternal.  Time is one of the gifts that He has given to us, but the clock does not control Him.  The great “I AM” of Exodus 3:14 can be translated, “I am the God who always is.”  While He is above time, He is working everything out according to His divine date book.  

Did you know that the timing of the Incarnation was impeccable?  Please turn to Galatians 4:4: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law.”  The phrase, “had fully come” is a very eloquent expression in Greek.  It literally means, “The fullness of time had come.”  The idea is that something is complete and fully developed, like ripe fruit ready to be picked, or in our context, corn that is ready to be harvested. The expression is also used of a pregnant woman feeling labor pains, as she gets ready to deliver her baby.  The stage was perfectly set for the Savior to be sent.  Every detail was prearranged; every circumstance was perfect, and every event happened on cue.  When time itself was pregnant and ready to deliver, God sent forth His Son to be born and then to die, not as an accident, but as a specifically planned and perfectly timed event.

Let me make an application that ties back to our topic from last week.  Just as God worked out His plan perfectly at Christmas, Good Friday and Easter, He is wonderfully working out His purposes through the pain in your life right now.  Since He controlled the details surrounding the birth, death and resurrection of the Savior, is He not controlling the particulars in your pain?  Maybe your circumstances don’t look very good right now.  Will you trust His timing anyway?  Perhaps you’ve been angry with God because you’re hurting and you don’t like what’s happening.  It’s time to surrender to the Savior just like Mary did when she said, “May it be to me as you have said.”  It’s time to trust His timing.  Charles Spurgeon once said, “There are no loose threads in the providence of God…the great clock of the universe keeps good time.”  The “right time” also means that Jesus is offering salvation to us at the time of our greatest need.  And when the time is fully come in the future, He will keep all His promises to you.

God’s Incredible Love

God’s timing is perfect and His love is incredible.  This might be hard to hear but you are not a naturally lovable person – and neither am I.  Sin has infected our lives so much that it has distorted even the parts we think are beautiful.  Sin “uglyfies” everything it touches.  God loves us because He is love and because it’s His nature to love us even when we weak, wicked and wayward.  His love is greater than our sin, and He loves us in spite of our sin.  1 John 4:10: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  He loves losers just like us. 

If you find all this discouraging, remember this: If God loved you only when you were lovable, then when you stopped being lovable, God would have to stop loving you!  It’s better to admit the truth, isn’t it?  God loves the unlovely and sent His Son to die for the ungodly.  We can count on His love because it doesn’t depend on anything we say or do.

So what is the love of God?  How do we define it?  Human love is generally a response to the conditions and circumstances around us.  We love because someone pleases us or because they’re beautiful or because they have freckles and we have freckles.  By contrast, God loves us because that’s the kind of God He is.  Period.  Nothing in us causes Him to love us.  Matthew Henry has said that, “The great God not only loves His saints, but He loves to love them.”

We get angry and harbor hatred toward people who do bad things, don’t we?  It’s tough to be tender-hearted toward people who open fire on innocent children in our schools, isn’t it?   We’re at a loss to love when we hear of murder and mayhem.   For those of you who live in Pontiac, how did you feel when you heard of vandals slashing tires several weeks ago?  What happened inside you when you learned that some more vandalism took place last weekend when the words “He’s not real” were spray painted on the doors of a church in town?  It’s difficult for us to comprehend that God loves everyone, which includes vandals, villains, and vile people.  Our love doesn’t usually work that way, does it?

God doesn’t just love the beautiful or the good smelling people.  Why is that?  Because there really aren’t any beautiful people.  The smell of our sin is repugnant to a holy God and yet He loves losers just like us.  Now that we’ve established the truth about who we are, let’s look at God’s incredible solution to our impossible problem.  Let’s look at two questions from verses 7-8.

1. Who would you die for? 

Take a look at verse 7: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.”  As I’ve thought about this passage, I’ve wondered how many people I would be willing to die for.  It’s actually just a handful.  I would give my life for Beth, Emily, Lydia, Becca and Megan but probably not for our dog Charlie.   Everyone’s probably willing to die for a few people, but certainly not for those we don’t know, and for sure not for those who are weak, wicked and wayward.  This verse is telling us that God’s love is not like that; He went far beyond what we would do.  We would never think of doing what He did.

2. Who would die for you? 

This is a totally different question.  Do you have confidence that someone would step in and take a bullet for you?  Given the opportunity where you die or they die, how many would take your place?  Loved ones, I can tell you definitively that at least one person would do this because He already has.  Look at verse 8: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  The emphasis is on the fact that we were still sinners when Christ died for us.  

The key phrase is “But God…”  This is similar to Ephesians 2:4-5: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ…”  God took the first step.  He didn’t wait for us to turn to Him because He knew we never would.  The word “demonstrate” means to set together and was used of introducing or commending someone.  It has the sense of showing, proving, or establishing.  The wonder is not that Christ should die for us – but that He should do so while we were powerless, while were ungodly, rebellious sinners!   He didn’t die for his friends.  He died for his foes.  He died for those who crucified Him.

In the middle ages a monk announced that he would be preaching on the love of God.  As the shadows fell and the light ceased to come in the cathedral windows, the congregation gathered.  In the darkness of the altar he lit a candle and carried it to a picture of Jesus.  Without saying a word, he first illuminated the thorns on His head, then His two wounded hands, and finally the mark where the spear had entered the skin of the Savior.  He then blew out the candle and left the church.  There was nothing else to say.

The word “demonstrates” is in the present tense, meaning if you want to know how much God loves you right now, then go back to the Cross: If God loved me enough to give His Son to die for me when I was a spiritual loser, surely He loves me enough to care for me now that I am His child.  Having given such a priceless gift as His Son, He will most definitely give all else that is consistent with His glory and my good.  God’s love is inexhaustible, incomparable, and immeasurable.  And like the young man at AWANA said, “You just can’t explain it.”  Look at it this way.  “Lord, how much do you love me?”  “This much,” he said.  Then He stretched out His arms, bowed His head, and died.

Richard Halverson is quoted as saying, “There is nothing you can do to make God love you more than He already does.”  Let’s ponder that together.  We don’t get more love when we perform good deeds or when we do the right things.  Listen to the next part: “And there is nothing we can do to make God love us any less than He already does.”  That means that God doesn’t remove his love from us when we get a bit rebellious.  His love doesn’t diminish even when we ditch Him.  

We can leave here this morning loving the fact that God loves us but we must do more than that.  God’s love must lead to some actions.  1 John 5:3: “This is love for God: to obey his commands.  And his commands are not burdensome.”

Our Response to God’s Love

1. Be saved by your substitute. 

I want you to see something.  Look at verse 6: “Christ died for the ungodly.”  Now notice verse 7: for a righteous man.”  And I want you to see verse 8: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  This word in the Greek has the idea of a substitute and means “in place of, for the benefit of, on behalf of, and instead of.”  That means that Jesus died instead of us, taking the punishment we deserve.  You see, the gospel is not just “God loves you.”  The gospel message is this, “God loves you weak, wicked and wayward sinner, at the cost of His Son who died on your behalf.”  1 Timothy 1:15 captures why Jesus came: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst.” Until you can say like Paul that you are the worst sinner, you can’t be saved.  Have you called out like the man broken by the depth of his own depravity in Luke 18:13? “But the tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”

Friend, if you are still in your sins, you are weak, wicked and wayward and you are in great danger!  But here’s the good news.  You are in a good spot because Jesus loves losers just like you, and just like me.  In other words, you qualify for conversion.  Listen to these words in Ephesians 2:4-5: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.”  It’s time to cry out to Christ and ask for mercy.  Don’t put it off.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:2: “…Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

2. Fall more deeply in love with Jesus. 

One of the best ways to love the Lord more is to simply focus on the depth of your forgiveness.  Jesus said it this way in Luke 7:47: “…He who has been forgiven little loves little.”  For those of us who’ve been forgiven much, our understanding and experience of God’s grace and love should be high.  I was at a leadership conference years ago and heard Joe Stowell speak. He recalled that when he was president of Moody, people would often come up to him and ask what the most challenging part of his job was.  He would always give the same answer: “The most difficult part of my job is me.”  He then told us that he just turned 62 and that he continues to be tired of himself.  I don’t remember his exact words but he lamented his lack of love, his propensity for pride, and his frequent descent into discouragement.  And then he said this, “I’m really tired of me but the longer I live, the more I’m in love with Jesus.  I’ll never tire of His beauty, His indescribable attributes and His amazing grace.” Joe Stowell loves much because He knows he’s a loser apart from Christ.  

3. Let the love of God change your life. 

When we realize that we are worms apart from Christ, how can we not worship Him with everything that we have?

Max Lucado often repeats this stunning statement: “God loves you just the way you are…but He loves you too much to let you stay that way.”  Friend, don’t take God’s love for granted and don’t stop growing and serving and loving the Lord.  A full realization of what God has done for us in Christ is motivation to change the way we’ve been living.  When we realize that we are worms apart from Christ, how can we not worship Him with everything that we have?  When we own our sin, how can we not serve the Savior full throttle?  C.S. Lewis once said: “On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him.”

4. Demonstrate God’s sacrificial love for others. 

Someone has said, “Love at first sight is easy to understand.  It’s when two people have been looking at each other for years that it becomes a miracle.” 

Who is God calling you to love so that he or she will come home?   Who is God bringing to your mind right now?  Demonstrate God’s sacrificial love in such a way that God breaks through.  Don’t wait until she is nice to you or he cleans up his act or until forgiveness is asked for.  God didn’t wait for us to worship Him before He took the first step.  And in the process, you just may realize that some of the problem is you.

Would you close your eyes as I read this medley of Scripture over you?

Titus 3:3-8: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  This is a trustworthy saying.  And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.  These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. 

1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 

And from Romans 5:6-8: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

We began this morning by listening to what children have said about God’s love.  The real challenge is that since all believers are children of God, we must all grow in our love for God.  We are losers, but God loves losers just like us and He sent Jesus to die for us.  Listen to these closing words from 1 John 3:1-2: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?