5/27/2020 8:43:54 PM
Sermon for Wednesday May 27 -- The Love of God (in Christ Jesus our Lord)
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“For I am convinced,” Paul says here. Paul is convinced that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God. It is not that the love of God is simply asserted as something that cannot be rejected, or that the love of God is an axiom that holds true just by definition. No, the love of God is something demonstrated, clear earlier in Romans: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this…while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” The love of God commends itself to us in the creation of the world, the gift of our own life, and the daily bread provided to us. The love of God is the thing that has convinced Paul, that nothing can separate him from that love: “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?” God spared not His own Son but lovingly gave Him up for us all, so that, flowing out of Christ’s resurrection, God graciously gives us all things, beginning with the Holy Spirit. “For I have been convinced…and remain so…that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The phrase “love of God” could be understood in two different ways. It could either refer to God’s love for us—where God is the subject and we are the object of His love, as we have seen so far in tonight’s sermon; or the phrase “love of God” could refer to our love for God—where we are the subject and God is the object of our love for Him. These two loves belong together, with God’s love calling forth faith and then also a love that responds in thanks and praise. “We love, because He first loved us.” It is true that our love for God is not perfect, as we confess each Sunday in the confession of sins: “we have not loved You with our whole heart.” Our love for God can be pulled thin by the stresses and demands of life. Our love for God can be tamped down by fear, worry, and anxiety. Our love for God can become anemic when we lack His Word, forego prayer, forget forgiveness, or become self-centered. Our love for God is re-enlivened when we hear again of His great love for us. God’s love is not dependent on the current circumstances, but traverses past, present, and future—His love for you begins in eternity before you even existed and will bring you into the life of the world to come, of which glory you cannot even imagine.
“Those whom God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom God predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” These words are not really a step-by-step chronology, but more of a multi-faceted gemstone that is to be enjoyed and treasured as it gleams with God’s brilliant love. It is true that God predestined you in love and in Christ Jesus (according to Paul in Ephesians 1) before the world began, it is in light of His love that He foreknew and predestined you for that salvation that is yours in Christ Jesus Whom God sent out of that very same love. You have received this salvation through God’s calling of you by the Gospel. Through the calling of the Gospel in the here and now you are confident in God’s foreknowledge and predestination of you in love and in Christ from eternity. God’s foreknowledge and predestination make it clear that this great work of God and His love is not dependent on your response of love or contribution to Him. The justification by God of you and me, the sinners, makes it crystal clear that this is God’s own loving and gracious work alone. In the resurrection of Christ and in the pure Gospel preaching God’s justification of the ungodly has been made known, announced, and effected. The glorification that is yet coming to us will be most glorious because of the mutual love between God and His saints. Though this is already happening now, we know that our love is frail and in need of constant support and enlivening. This responding love already now is a beautiful fruit of faith that trusts in God and His love. In glory and in the resurrection we will be seen to be more than conquerors…yes, Paul says we *are* in this mortal life already more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
I would like to go back to the verse before our epistle lesson’s first verse because it speaks of our love for God in the context of His love for us. This verse has been important to me because I have been using it with one of our members who lost her husband, but who has this verse as the confirmation memory verse given to her by Pastor Pfotenhauer some years back. This verse is also important because it speaks to our current situation in the world: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” We are still in the Easter season. Just think of it, if death itself, our great enemy because it is the enemy of love, has been made by God like a sleep or doorway into the life of heaven, the life where our love for God is not partial or frail, then yes, all things work together for the good of us who love the God who first loved us. If God has shed abroad His Spirit to work faith and its fruit of love, then our faith has great boldness because we have the Helper and Comforter even in the midst of distress and persecution, just like Jesus promised.