But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:8-11 (NLT)
In recent years, there has been a push to make the Church, and even the gospel it seems, more relevant. The theory behind the subject of contextualization is that often times we need a new wrapper in order to reach people, but we must never change the message of the gospel. This is so important especially as we seek to connect with the millennials and people of different cultures. While adapting the context to fit the audience is real good thing, have you noticed that in some cases the message is even shifting. For example, the Church has been labeled as an old frigid condemning institution. In an attempt to change that image, you may have heard some substitute the word “seeker” instead of the word “sinner” when referring to those who have not yet accepted Jesus as Savior. Some preachers feel the need to place a major emphasis on grace. One such preacher once said that on the cross, Jesus absorbed God’s anger and that now, God was no longer angry. I had been saying for years that to hear some tell it these days, God had been rehabilitated and sent to anger management class, but this preacher took it to another level. In our passage, we who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior now have been made friends with God, but what about those who have not accepted him?
Our passage reveals that while “we were still sinners,” God “showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us.” That is good news! Because at one time or another, all us have sinned and were sinners (Rom. 3:23). Now that we have been “made right” by the blood of Jesus, we should be certain that we will be saved from God’s condemnation or wrath as the KJV puts it. That is grace and believe me it’s amazing! But nowhere in that passage did it say that God was no longer anger; it just said we should be certain that we are save from it. The second thing we should be certain about, is that now that we our “friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies,” we should be certain that we shall be saved through the life of his Son. While this is really good news, we must proceed with caution here and be careful not add things that aren’t there. Now even though God initiated the whole plan of salvation, God’s unmerited favor, or grace, while I was still his enemy, did that mean God and I were automatically friends? Just because God did all this while I was still in my rebellion, did this amazing grace automatically make me saved? No, I think we would all agree that it still required of me to acknowledge that I was a sinner, repent, and call upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Rom. 10:13, John 3:16). Otherwise, we would be guilty of preaching universalism which means just that, what Jesus did on the cross saved everyone and all are going to heaven. That is not what this verse said at all.
Even though God’s marvelous plan of salvation is made available through his amazing grace, we must activate it. In verses one and two of Romans 5, we learn that we have been justified by faith, and now that we have, we have peace with God. This was not the case before you released your faith in God’s marvelous plan. Secondly, we learn that through Jesus we now have access by faith into this grace where in we now stand. You or I did not have access to this grace before we released our faith in the plan. Now that we have done so, this grace is keeping us and by it we are standing. Paul said, “I am what I am by the grace of God” (1 Cor. 15:10). That being the case, let me ask the question again, just because God did all this while I was still a sinner in rebellion, does that automatically mean that I was his friend, or no longer an enemy, before I accepted Christ. Does that mean, I was automatically going to heaven if I had died in my sins? No. The truth is that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). But also we know that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The perishing option is still on the table! We must accept God’s marvelous plan to avoid it.
We also must conclude that God still has enemies even though he initiated the way back to him while we still sinners, while we still his enemies. If a person refuses God’s plan to be reconciled with him, then they are still unreconciled (2 Cor. 5:20). If they refuse to be reconciled, then they are still his enemy and will perish unless they change their course. Thank God for they way he has made back to him through Jesus Christ! For those of us who have accepted God’s new deal, we now enjoy peace with God, a wonderful new relationship with him. And this is all “because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” Next time we sing that wonderful song, “I am a Friend of God,” let’s remember that this came at a great price and that there are still enemies of God out there that need to be reconciled.