Understanding the Gospel
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

7 – The Love of God

There is no book in the whole of the Bible that so clearly and so masterfully explains the wonderful gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ than Paul’s epistle to the Romans.  In this letter Paul expounds the full counsel of God pertaining to our salvation.

  1. He has told us that we are desperately sinful.  He paints a very dark, dismal picture of mankind beginning with Romans 1:18 right up to Romans 3:20.  He concludes that by the works of the law no flesh, Jew or Gentile, will be able to save themselves because we are all under sin.  There is none good; there is none righteous.

  2. But, after painting this dark, dismal picture, he introduces us to the wonderful plan of salvation called the gospel.  He defines the gospel by the phrase, “the righteousness of God.”  It is a righteousness planned by God, promised by God, fulfilled by God; it is all of God and we are the recipients.  We have made no contribution; we are justified by faith without or apart from the works of the law.

    Romans 3:28:
    For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

Then he defends this gospel against the threefold arguments of the Judaizers who insisted that we are not saved by grace alone but that we had to add our circumcision or good works and keeping of the law.  This is a problem that still exists today.

Paul says none of our performance contributes towards our salvation.  It is the evidence of salvation but it carries no merit.  We are saved by grace alone.  But, he says, we are to be careful that we don’t allow this grace to be turned into cheap grace so that we take the good news of the gospel and use it as a license to sin.  In Romans 6 he says, “No, this is unthinkable.”

Then he explains to us, in Romans 7, that one of the greatest privileges of a Christian is that we are no longer under the law which tells us, “Obey, if you want to live or if you disobey you will die.”  We are no longer under this system.  We are under grace where Jesus says, “I know you can’t live the life that you want to.  Abide in Me, I in you.  Without Me you can do nothing.”

Under grace we have joy, peace, and assurance so that we can come boldly to God and call Him “Dear Father” with no fear and with a clear conscience.  We can do this not because of our performance but, because in Jesus Christ, we do stand righteous.

Then Paul tells us, in Romans 8, that God does not leave us alone to live the Christian life.  He knows that we still possess sinful natures, natures that are anti-God, against His law, not subject to the law of God.  So He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, the parakletos, the One that is by us to help, teach, comfort and guide us and to reflect in us the love of Jesus Christ.

Paul has expounded the gospel from every conceivable angle from Romans 3:21 to Romans 8:30 and now, in Romans 8:31, he is asking a question.

Romans 8:31:
What, then, shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?

What is the conclusion of the matter?  The conclusion is that God is on our side not because we are good but because His love is unconditional.  God is on our side and “If God is for us, if God is on our side, who can be against us?”

Paul is not saying that there won’t be somebody against us.  We might have a neighbor or even somebody in the church who is against us.  Paul is saying that, if God is for us, it doesn’t matter who is against us because God is the Creator of the universe.  He is the King of kings; He is the One who is in control; He is sovereign and He is on our side.

There are too many who think that Christ is on our side but not the Father.  They think that every day He pleads, “Father, look at My blood that I shed for them,” and the Father says, “Well, I’ll think about it.”  No, the Bible doesn’t teach that.  I don’t know where we got that idea.  The Bible tells us that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses.  That word trespasses means deliberate, willful violation of God’s will.

The greatest proof Paul gives that God is on our side is “He who did not spare.”

Romans 8:32:
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

The words not spare are the same words used in Genesis 22:16, where God said to Abraham, “You did not withhold your own son.”

Genesis 22:16:
...And said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,....”

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed three times, with drops of blood coming down His brow, saying, “Father, if it is possible, remove the cup.”  The cup wasn’t the cross.  It wasn’t the cross that Christ was recoiling from.  The cup was the full wages of sin against us that Christ was willing to take upon Himself.  The cup represented the juice of the grape.  Jesus said at the Lord’s supper, “This cup is My blood shed for the remission of sins.”

Matthew 26:28:
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

What is the cup?  In our day we use mechanical instruments to produce grape juice.  In the days of Christ, they put the grapes in a winepress and they squashed the grapes with their feet and legs.  They crushed those grapes until every drop of juice came out and was taken into the wine jars.  In Revelation 14, the Three Angels’ Message, we are told what happens to those who deliberately, persistently, and ultimately reject the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Revelation 14:9-10:
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice:  “If anyone worships the beast and its image [remember, the beast received his authority from Satan] and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.  They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.

The cup is the wrath of God against sin which He poured out on His Son Jesus Christ in order that we wretched, miserable sinners may live in heaven.  That is the cup.

In Matthew 25, when Jesus talks to the unbelievers, those who have rejected the gift, He will say:

Matthew 25:41:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire [not prepared for you, but] prepared for the devil and his angels.”

God never intended any human being to experience the wrath of God because “He spared not His own Son.”  Three times the Son cried to the Father, “Father, is there no other way that this human race can be saved?” and the Father said, “No, You have to go through.”  The Father was agonizing with the Son because they were together in this.

Romans 8:32:
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

If Jesus was not spared, but God delivered Him up for us all, how will He not graciously give us all things — not because we deserve it, but because He is love.  Why then are we doubtful about our salvation?

I joined the church at the age of 25 not because of the gospel, not because Jesus loved me, but because I was afraid of the Investigative Judgment.  I was told that my name would come up any time now and so, with trembling knees, I joined God’s commandment-keeping people.  I’m still looking for them.  Let’s stop fooling ourselves.  As long as there is jealousy and envy in the church, we are not God’s commandment-keeping people. because commandment-keeping people are not people who are mechanically obeying some rules.  God already has that in the Pharisees and He called them hypocrites.  Commandment-keeping people love each other unconditionally as Christ loved us.  Then God will have a commandment-keeping people.  God will not produce that by rules and regulations.  He will produce such a people when the love of God constrains us and we allow Christ to live in us.  We cannot produce that unconditional agape love of God.  It is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

There are too many who are living in fear because they are afraid of a judgment.  The purpose of the Investigative Judgment is not to find out who deserves heaven, because nobody deserves heaven.  The purpose is to vindicate the saints against the accusation of Satan who accuses them day and night before God.

In Romans 8:33-34 the question is asked:

Romans 8:33:
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.

Who will accuse you?  There is one Person who will never accuse you and it is God the Father, because He has justified you and God doesn’t speak from both sides of His mouth.  He doesn’t justify you on one hand and condemn you on the other hand.  God is on our side.

Romans 8:34:
Who then is the one who condemns?  No one.  Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

“Who is the one who condemns?”  It can never be Jesus Christ, because He died to remove our condemnation and, more than that, He is now at the right hand of God interceding for us because there is an accuser who accuses us day and night.  But, one day, the accuser is going to shut his mouth forever.  This is the purpose of the Investigative Judgment because I read in Daniel 7:22 that judgment was given in favor of the saints.

Daniel 7:22:
...Until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

The “holy people” [or the word “saints” in some translations] are not those who were good, because Paul calls the worst church in the New Testament, the Corinthians, saints.  We are saints because God looks at us as we are in His Son Jesus Christ and in Him we have never sinned.  Ephesians 1:3-4 tells us we are holy and without blame in Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:3-4:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

In view of all this, the question in Romans 8:35 is:

Romans 8:35:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

This love is not our love for Him but His love for us.  Then Paul gives us a list of experiences: “Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”  Why does he bring all this out?

Let me explain to you what happens when you face a crisis.  I am talking from experience.  My family and I had the “privilege” of being deported from Uganda under Idi Amin.  That meant that three times his soldiers tried to shoot me.  Then we had the “privilege” of working in Ethiopia during the Marxist revolution.

We were losing our young people — not by the practice of Communism, but by their ideology, which is extremely appealing — so I wrote a book against Marxism.  The President of the Union opposed me.  He said, “Don’t do it.  You are risking your life and the life of the church,” so I did not mention any names.  Five years later, when we were leaving Ethiopia, transferring to Kenya, we had to get an exit visa.

We went to the immigration office and the man made us sit on a wooden bench.  He had our American passports and a thick black book like a ledger book.  He kept looking at the pages and looking at our passports and our names.  After half an hour, I became impatient and I went up to him and I said, “What are you looking for?  Maybe I can help you.”  He said, “In this book is the name of every person who has opposed the Marxist system.”

Here I had published a book and I had spoken openly at the University and the public halls against Marxism.  I defied the Russian Communists there.  My wife said to me in Swahili, which they don’t speak in Ethiopia, “You should have listened to the President.  Now I go away as a widow.”

I said to this immigration officer, “What will you do to me if my name is there?” He said, “Oh, don’t worry.  We have ways of dealing with such people.”  I knew exactly what he meant.  We had just lost two Peace Corps personnel from America.  They disappeared.  They kill them and feed them to the hyenas.  A hyena has five hundred pounds jaw pressure.  Their bones are crushed; nothing is left of them.  The U.S. government said to the Ethiopian government, “Can you find these two men for us?  They are missing.”  The government said, “Yes.”  Three months later, they came back and said, “Sorry, we can’t find them.”  The U.S. government can do nothing about it.

So I knew exactly what he meant.  We were sweating, although it wasn’t drops of blood.  When you face a crisis your faith and your feelings part company.  My feelings told me, “You did not listen to the President of the Union; now you’ve had it.  God has forsaken you.  He doesn’t love you.  You’d better say good-bye to life.”  That’s how I felt — forsaken of God.  There was no evidence of His presence at that time.  But your faith remembers the promise, “I love you with an everlasting love.”  Your faith tells you, “I have written you on the palms of my hands.  I will never forsake you.”  One of those two — faith or feeling — had to win and I held onto my faith.

At the end of two hours of sitting on that bench, he closed that ledger book and he stamped our passports with an exit visa.  I turned to my wife and I said to her in Swahili, “Oh, you of little faith.”  But I was struggling, too.  That is what Paul is saying.  In the time of trouble, the issue is not sinless living; the issue is not food.

I remember when I first came to this country, one of my members said to me, “Why don’t you join the Wilderness Survival Club?” I said, “What for?”  He said, “You learn all the edible weeds for the time of trouble.”  All that the devil has to do is move you from the West to the East.  You won’t know the edible weeds there.  Remember, our bread and water will be sure.  In Luke 18:8, Jesus said what the issue will be in the time of trouble.

Luke 18:8b:
However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

Can God produce a people whose faith in Him is unshakable?

An example is in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians written from prison.  He was the pastor of Ephesus approximately three years.  Now he was in prison, not for doing something wrong, but for proclaiming Christ.  Notice he talks about himself:

Ephesians 3:1:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus [not of Rome] for the sake of you Gentiles....

He said he was there because God wanted him there, not because Rome had him.  But the members began to think like this:  “If God is not able to protect our pastor, the great apostle Paul, who is now languishing in a Roman prison, what hope is there for us lay people?”  Then their faith began to tremble.

In Ephesians 3:13, Paul writes to them:

Ephesians 3:13:
I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

In other words, “I am here because God wants me here.  Don’t be discouraged.  Don’t give up your faith.”

Ephesians 3:14-15:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

The believers in Paul’s day did not pray kneeling down.  They often stood up, raised their hands, opened their eyes and looked at heaven when they prayed.  But, when they were facing a crisis, they would kneel down.  Paul is saying, “I am in deep, earnest prayer for you people.”  His prayer is also meaningful to us today.

Ephesians 3:16-17a:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being [that is, your converted mind], so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

That statement is puzzling because he’s praying to God saying, “Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith (or through faith).”  Is he implying that they were unbelievers?  Isn’t Christ already dwelling in the hearts of the believers?  The answer is, “Yes.”  I looked at the passage in the original and I discovered there are two words for “dwelling” — one is katoikeo, one is paracheo.  One is to dwell permanently; the other one is to dwell temporarily.  I am dwelling in a place that is my temporary dwelling.  That is paracheo, and Christ dwells in your heart temporarily when you first become a Christian.  But what he is praying for is that Christ may dwell in your hearts permanently.  Since He dwells in our hearts by faith, then, for that to happen, your faith must be unshakable.

Verse 17 tells us how that happens:

Ephesians 3:17-19:
...so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love [two metaphors — one from botany, the other from architecture:  deep roots, firm foundation based on God’s love], may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

“The love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” is beyond human rationale, beyond human knowledge, because human love is reciprocal:  we love only those who are good to us.  But to understand the love of God — who loves us while we are still sinners — that is beyond knowledge.

John tells us in 1 John 4:8 that God is love.

1 John 4:8:
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Love is not one of God’s attributes; God is love, period.  Everything He does is in the context of His love.  Even His wrath and His judgment is in the context of His love, because God is love.

Now going to our passage in Romans.

Romans 8:35:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

Who can separate me from this love?  Yes, I may have to face persecution, distress, peril, sword.

Romans 8:37:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

We are not just conquerors, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us, because we are rooted and grounded in the love of God.  Perfect love will cast out fear.

Romans 8:38-39:
For I am convinced [convinced beyond any shadow of doubt] that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is [revealed] in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul is describing the love of God in the context of our salvation in Romans 5.  The interesting thing is that he defines the love of God not by comparing it but by contrasting it to human love because the two are opposites.

Romans 5:6:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless [the word he used is “helpless” or, in other words, when we were still incapable of saving ourselves], Christ died for the ungodly [not for people who are trying to be good but for the wicked].

Then in verse 7 he describes human love.

Romans 5:7-8:
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die [there are some human beings who have laid down their lives for a loved one].  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We were helpless, we were ungodly, we were still sinners, and He died for us.

Romans 5:9:
Since we have now been justified by his blood [by His death], how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!

God is on our side from beginning to end.

Romans 5:10:
For if, while we were God’s enemies [not only ungodly, not only sinners, but we were God’s enemies], we were [notice the verb is in the aorist tense — something that has already happened, unconditionally] reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

The gospel is not good news only.  It is unconditional good news.

God is on your side not because you deserve it or you are trying to be good but because He loves you with unconditional agape love.  When you are rooted and grounded in this love, you will be able to stand.  Yes, your knees will shake, you may sweat, but you will stand because you know in whom you believe and that He will not let you go.

It is my prayer that when the soon-coming crisis arrives, you will be rooted and grounded in the love of God and you will say with Paul, “I am persuaded that nothing will ever separate me from His love for me.”  [See Romans 8:38-39 above.]

God did not spare His own Son.  He delivered Him up for us all — not only while we were sinners and ungodly but while we were still His enemies.  Our human minds cannot comprehend such love, but His Word says so, declares so.  We know that, when Jesus hung on the cross, He was willing to say good-bye to life, not for three days, but forever, that we wretched sinners may live in His place.  May that love constrain us.  May we be rooted and grounded in this love and that, in the time when our faith will be tested, our understanding of His love will set us free from being the victims of fear and insecurity.  May we allow God to use us now to lighten the world with His glory is my prayer.

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