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God reconciling rebels – An excerpt by David W. Gooding

Therefore,
since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord
Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace
in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that,
but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does
not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through
the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the
right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a
righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died
for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more
shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we
were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled,
shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through
our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

(Romans 5:1–11, ESV)

“These are the words of the Holy Spirit and he’s about to really pull out the stops and have a big argument as he pours out the love of God into our hearts (v. 5). How does he do it? He does it here by a series of logical steps. It’s a logical argument. Sometimes we’re afraid of logic, aren’t we? We prefer to go via feelings. Today we feel good and think God has accepted us: we’re pretty decent. Tomorrow we come short and feel not so good. We’ve got a bit of indigestion, haven’t slept very well, our husbands have misbehaved and we’re feeling down in the dumps. We measure our security by our feelings and that is a very serious mistake. Our blessed Saviour here on earth was a true man and able to feel our human condition. But his love is not a question of the will-o’-the-wisp of emotion or feeling. His love is absolutely consistent because it is founded in the very character of God. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly . . . but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us What would you like God to give you? Go on, think of something big. Don’t have it small— like being given one planet to look after when you get home to heaven—think something big. Would you like a whole cluster of stars to look after? What part of the eternal city of Jerusalem would you like to be in charge of? The biggest thing that God will ever do for you, he has already done. It wouldn’t impoverish the almighty God to give you ten thousand galaxies; to him that would be a very small thing. The biggest thing he’ll ever do for you; he has already done. And you say, ‘What could that be?’ He gave his Son for you. Ponder it. Exactly when did he give his Son for us? Being such a great gift, surely it was after we’d improved considerably, ceased to be sinners and were making noticeable advances in our spirituality and holiness? Did God say, ‘I can see those folks are really improving and doing their best, so perhaps it wouldn’t be too extravagant of me at this stage to give my Son for them’? The whole point is: when was it, and what state were we in, in God’s way of looking at it, when he gave his Son for us? It was while we were still weak . . . while we were still sinners . . . while we were enemies (vv. 6–8, 10). Here is the Holy Spirit arguing with us—he has to do that sometimes, doesn’t he? When we prefer to trust our feelings, or anything else, rather than rest in the very unchangeable character of God, the Holy Spirit has to argue against our emotions and against our fear, and point us ever to this foundational thing: God gave his son for us while we were still weak. Sin is the same in one sense, but it has these different forms and symptoms. Sometimes it’s weakness, sometimes it’s ungodliness—lack of reverence for God or respect for man. Sometimes it’s missing the mark, sometimes it’s positive enmity against God. Yes, ‘God shows his love for us’ (v. 8). What else? I nearly said, it’s a humiliation for almighty God. Just imagine the figure. Have you ever had a salesman come to your door, and you didn’t want the brooms and the polishes? The poor chap needs to make a little profit and, rather than let you shut the door, he puts his foot in the door and you have to listen to what he has to say. He’s a commercial traveller, commending his wares to you. I find it astonishing that almighty God comes to commend his love to us. Just imagine it, my dear fellow believer. Almighty God is standing at the door of your heart, commending his love to you: praising his virtues and extolling his details. This is a picture of the Holy Spirit pouring out God’s love into our hearts. Since, therefore, we have now been justified The argument is this in verse 9. It was when we were sinners that we were justified; now that we are justified, do you think God will throw us out? What kind of a God would that be? He loved us while we were sinners, unjustified; now that we’ve repented and are justified by faith, will God sling us out? What kind of a love would that be? What inconsistency would that be in God? While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son It was while we were enemies that we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son (v. 10). As I think of it, I think of our Lord’s parable of the Wicked Tenants (Luke 20:9–19). The owner sent many messengers to reap the grapes and they got murdered or beaten and thrown out. At last he said, ‘I have one son, I’ll send him. Perhaps they’ll take notice of him.’ But they said, ‘This is the heir, come, let’s kill him,’ and they murdered him and threw him out of the vineyard. We are reconciled to God by the death of his Son—two magnificent words. God loved the very rebels that murdered his Son. He reconciled by the death of his Son those that caused him immeasurable grief. Now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life Well, if you’ve been reconciled, you’re not an enemy now, are you? We are all imperfect saints, but we’re not enemies of God any more (v. 10). Now that you are a child of God, will he throw you out? What kind of God would that be? It’s foundational to our progress in holiness that the Holy Spirit does his work in pouring out the love of God into our hearts to give us that assurance.”

David W. Gooding, The Holy Spirit: Three Aspects of His Work in the Believer: A Myrtlefield House Readable Transcript. (Belfast, NI: Myrtlefield Trust, 2018), 11-13. [Italics original.]