Past, Present, and Future Assurance
Topic: Expository Passage: Romans 5:6-11
We all know that security is essential to any strong relationship. A strong marriage demands the assurance that I love you no matter what, and I’m not going anywhere. Children desperately need the assurance of parental love. The fact that so many children are not secure in their parents’ love is a big reason why so many of them feel lost and are broken, angry, and depressed. I could give plenty of other examples. Security is essential to strong friendships, to a healthy church culture, and many other relationships.
Therefore, it’s stunning how absent assurance is from most religions. Assurance certainly wasn’t a part of the Greek religion of Paul’s day. Instead, Greek religion was one long game of manipulation between the gods and men to get what each wanted. There’s no certainty either in Buddhism or Hinduism. Islam teaches that no one can be assured of how their final judgment will turn out. Catholicism also denies any possibility of assurance.
It's tragic because there’s no way I can truly relate to God as my Father if I don’t know that he loves me and that he will love me forever. Assurance transforms worship, prayer, spiritual growth, and my view of death and eternity. Paul understood this; therefore, assurance is one of the most important themes of Romans 5–8.
Our text for today is a wonderful contribution to the discussion and a wonderful comfort for every believer (read). This passage is built on 3 glorious reasons for assurance that God has given his children. The first reason is…
I. We know God loves us (vv. 6–8).
Remember where we are in Romans. 5:1 declares to Christians, “We have been justified by faith.” Verses 1–5 follow by listing 5 benefits of justification. The last benefit is that the Holy Spirit assures the believer of God’s love. Paul says, he “pours out” God’s love to us. This ministry is an amazing blessing.
But vv. 6–8 follow by declaring that God has given us an even greater reason to be assured of God’s love. God proved it in the cross. So, what is so amazing about the love of God? These verses meditate on the wonder of God’s love as it is displayed in the cross. To appreciate this incredible love, Paul says that we must see it with a clear understanding that…
We are unlovable. Paul makes this point with three painful descriptions of how God found us.
First, v. 6 says that God loved us “while we were still helpless.” A good illustration for helplessness is a newborn baby. A newborn cannot do anything for himself. He can only see a few inches away, he is completely immobile, and he has very little mental capacity. About the only power a newborn has is to cry—to alert and sometimes to annoy you into helping.
But he can’t do anything to meet his needs. He can’t go get food, and he can’t feed himself. He can’t dress himself or keep himself warm. A newborn has no chance at survival without help.
In a similar way, this verse says that we are all spiritually helpless. We are born slaves to sin. We cannot please God, and we cannot reasonably dream of measuring up to the standard of perfection that God demands. No one likes to see himself as helpless, but that’s what we are spiritually. We had nothing to offer God.
Second, v. 6 describes us as “ungodly.” Most people are willing to admit they are imperfect, but no one likes to think of himself as ungodly. But that’s how God found me. I was not like God. In fact, I hated God, I did not worship God, and I rebelled against his authority.
Third, v. 8 describes me as a “sinner.” Most people don’t mind admitting they sin occasionally, but they refuse to see themselves as sinners, where sin is an essential aspect of their character. But God says we are sinners. We don’t just make occasional mistakes that are out of character; instead, sin is very much in character. Sin, not godliness shapes our hearts.
So, there’s nothing about us that an infinite and holy God should find attractive. But what is so amazing about God’s love is that God didn’t turn away from us in our helpless, ungodly state. Instead, v. 6, 8 emphasize the fact that God loved us while we were still in this helpless condition.
Let me try to illustrate how incredible this is. Let’s suppose that while you are shopping tomorrow, you come across a 75-year-old homeless man in a wheelchair asking for money. Your heart hurts over his condition, and you decide to talk with him.
But as you begin talking, you find out quickly that, not only is he in a wheelchair, his mind is basically gone. He is a bit of a jerk, and after talking to him for a minute, you realize that he has that he has brought this on himself. He can’t walk because his knees were shattered in a gang fight, and his mind is dull from years of drug use.
You should feel bad for him, and you might give him a few dollars for lunch, but most people aren’t lining up to die for a guy like that. Why would you die for someone who has brought so much suffering on himself?
Yet God’s love is incredible because he loved us “while we were still helpless” and “while we were yet sinners.” He didn’t wait for us to get our lives fixed, and he didn’t ask us to prove ourselves worthy before he would be gracious. No, God loved us while we were still helpless, ungodly, sinners. That’s amazing. And then v. 7 contemplates how unique this is by noting that…
Sinners sometimes love the lovable (v. 7). Verse 7 notes that at times people are willing to give their lives for someone else. Specifically, they are willing to die for the “righteous” and the “good.” These terms are similar in meaning though slightly different. A “righteous” person is someone who does what is right. It could be your neighbor who quietly lives a good life and does nothing to irritate you or the old lady down the street who goes to church every Sunday and spends the rest of her week tending her yard.
Occasionally someone may be willing to die for a righteous person. If a young child is riding a bicycle down the street and is about to get hit, sometimes a stranger may jump in front of the car to save the child. Firemen will risk their lives to pull a family out of a burning house.
We are moved by these kinds of stories because, as Paul notes, such love is rare. It’s just not that often that you hear about someone giving his life for another individual, even a righteous individual.
Then Paul adds that it is somewhat more understandable for someone to give his life for a “good person.” This term probably refers to someone who is good like the first individual but as well someone with whom you have a close connection. It would not just be a nice old lady, but it would be your grandmother. Parents will sometimes run into a burning house to rescue their children. Husbands will stand up to a thief and give their lives so that their families can escape.
And these kinds of stories are generally considered to be the pinnacle of human love. We write books and make movies about them because giving your life for someone you love is maybe the greatest act a human valor. But we celebrate such things because they are rare.
In sum, v. 7 notes that we are rarely willing to give our lives for others, and even when we do, we give our lives for good people. Not many people are lining up to give their lives for the homeless man I mentioned earlier. And I certainly wouldn’t give my child’s life for that man. It goes against everything that we are.
But this leaves us with a problem because in comparison to God, we are more like the homeless man than an innocent child. If God were like us, he would never sacrifice his Son for us. But praise the Lord that God isn’t like us!
God loved the unlovable. Not only did God love us “while we were yet sinners,” Paul says that God “demonstrated” this love through the death of his Son. He proved his love through definitive action.
“Died” is a simple verb, but it represents an incredible act of God. John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” I can’t imagine giving my son’s life for anyone else, but God loved us enough to give his Son to us.
And Jesus really suffered in the cross. He was brutally beaten, and he endured maybe the cruelest form of execution man has ever devised. And he bore the wrath of God against the sins of humanity so that the Father had to turn his back on Christ.
And this fact stands for all time as a powerful demonstration of God’s love. And this demonstration provides us with a wonderful assurance. If you were to ask many people if God loves them, they will say, “I feel like God loves me.” But I don’t just feel like God loves me or hope that God loves me. I know that God loves me because he proved his love on the cross.
Maybe you’ve never come to grips with the reality of vv. 6–8. Maybe you’ve spent your whole life hoping God loves you and trying to earn his love. Please see that you can’t earn it. You are a helpless, ungodly, sinner. But that’s okay, because God’s love is not based in our worth but in his generous nature. And he proved it in the death of Christ.
Stop trying to earn God’s love and just rest in his generous kindness. If you put your faith in Christ, you can receive the salvation he provided on the cross, and you can be adopted into God’s family. Please receive him today.
Or maybe you are a Christian who came into the service today doubting God’s love for you. Maybe you failed him this week, and you are burdened with guilt. Or maybe you are having a hard time seeing God’s love through the fog of suffering. Look to the cross and be assured that God’s love never changes. We don’t always know what God is doing, but we always know that he loves us. Come to Jesus and rest in him. The love of God is a wonderful reason for assurance. The 2nd reason for assurance is…
II. We know we will reach heaven (vv. 9–10).
Verses 9 and 10 both make an argument from the greater to the lesser. The logic of both verses is that if God has already done the more difficult work, we can be certain that he will complete the easier work. In both verses the easier work is salvation from the wrath of God at the last judgment and entrance into the glory of heaven.
So, these verses offer wonderful assurance regarding our eternal destiny. So, the first great work that God has already accomplished for those who are in Christ is…
God justified us. The last couple months we have talked a lot about justification. Hopefully, you have a firm grasp on what it is. But even if you understand it well, don’t ever lose sight of how great a miracle it is.
We are all born into the world as helpless, ungodly sinners. But through the shed blood of Jesus, God satisfied his own just wrath against our sin. Therefore, when I put my faith in Christ for salvation, God applied the blood of Christ to my account so that he justly declared a terrible sinner like me, “not guilty.”
Therefore, even though my sin deserves God’s eternal wrath, I will never face condemnation. Justification is an incredible miracle of God. Don’t ever lose sight of that no matter how familiar the concept may be. The 2nd great work that God has already accomplished for those who are in Christ is…
God reconciled us. While v. 9 talks about salvation in terms of a courtroom, v. 10 talks about it in terms of a relationship. It begins with another sobering description of who we are apart from Christ. We are “enemies” of God.
No one likes to think of himself as God’s enemy, but the Bible is clear that this is how we enter the world. We saw in 1:21–23 that the unbeliever refuses to worship God for who he is. He would rather worship animals than Creator God. 1:30 describes unbelievers as “haters of God,” and 3:11 states, “There is none who seeks for God” apart from divine intervention. So, you were born hostile to God.
As a result, there is a sense in which the feeling was mutual. “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day” (Ps 7:11). Of course, God’s indignation is not crankiness or evil. Instead, he is “a righteous judge.” The only proper response to our sin is wrath. So, a lot is at stake in that little phrase, “While we were enemies.” Sinners and a Holy God are enemies of each other.
But while there was nothing I could do to resolve the conflict, God could, and God did. God reconciled us to himself “through the death of His Son.” Reconciliation is a wonderful gospel word.
Colossians 1:19–22 explain the idea well when they state, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure…through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross…And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death.”
Isn’t that beautiful? God hasn’t just eliminated the legal penalty for my sin; he has also provided a relationship to himself. Robert Peterson states, “Reconciliation is peacemaking. It involves God’s taking the initiative to make friends out of his enemies.” That’s incredible. We sang last Sunday, “Once your enemies, now seated at your table.” We are members of God’s family. We are friends of God.
So, vv. 9, 10 mention two incredible past works of God for all who are in Christ. We are already justified and reconciled. And Paul reminds us of these incredible works to assure us that God will surely accomplish a 3rd, future work.
God will surely save us. Notice the future assurance that these two great works bring in vv. 9 and 10. You might be a bit confused by these statements because we normally associate salvation with the time of our conversion. And that’s totally fine. Ephesians 2:8 states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” That’s looking back to the moment we were born again.
But the Bible also talks several times about a future salvation. That’s what our text is doing. When the NT describes the future salvation of people already converted, it is looking ahead to the final judgment.
The Bible teaches that in the end everyone will stand before God, and he will welcome some into eternal heaven, and he will condemn others to eternal fire. It’s obviously a very important day for all of us. There’s nothing in life more important than being ready for that final accounting.
And if your theology does not include a doctrine of assurance, there’s no way you will not dread this coming day, unless, I suppose, you are delusional and very cocky. But praise the Lord that the Bible includes the doctrines of eternal security and assurance, and these two verses are a great example.
How can I know that I will be saved in that day and welcomed into paradise? I know because God has already accomplished the more difficult works of justification and reconciliation. If God has already declared me “not guilty,” and he has removed all hostility between us and replaced it with friendship, then how could he possibly turn me away at the end. I know I will be saved.
So, yes, the Christian life is filled with many uncertainties. I don’t know what challenges are ahead, and I can’t really trust myself. But I can trust the sovereign purpose of God to save his people.
So, when Satan tempts you to fear or doubt, remember what God already did in justification and reconciliation and be assured that he will bring you to heaven someday. Then let that assurance shape all of life. Live for eternity. Lay up treasures in heaven. Do not fear or be intimidated by the evil forces of this world. Rest in the promises of God.
And if you are not saved, be reconciled to God. You can face your judgment one of two ways—as God’s enemy or as his friend. The consequences are eternal. Please believe on Christ and be reconciled to God. If you do, you can face that day, not with dreadful fear, but with confident expectation. Praise the Lord for that assurance. The 3rd reason for assurance is…
III. We know God as our Father today (v. 11).
Explanation: In other words, the benefits of Christ’s death are not just in the past and in the future. Christ’s death also gives us confidence and joy in the present (read).
This is actually the third time this verb appears in the passage. Verse 2 said that we “exult in hope of the glory of God,” and v. 3 said that we “exult in our tribulations.” Finally, we “exult in God.”
I said 2 weeks ago that this verb pictures a firm confidence which leads to joy or boasting. But that probably leaves us wondering what does it mean to boast in God, especially in this context about the gospel?
The answer is that vv. 1 –11 have painted a beautiful picture of a secure, confident relationship to God. God loves us. We are at peace with him, and we are near to him. We have strength to overcome every trial, and we know that we will be with him in glory.
Therefore, I can boast in God meaning I can boast in my relationship to him knowing it is secure and my boasting will not be brought to shame.
Salvation is not like junior high dating. I remember one of my high school classmates telling me once that she had 14 different boyfriends in junior high. That’s crazy isn’t it? You feel bad for that scrawny 13-year-old boy who boasted to his buddies about Heather being his girlfriend only to see her walk down the hall on his buddy’s arm. You should be very hesitant to boast about your relationship to someone who is so finnicky.
But Christian, you can boast all you want about your relationship to God because you have been reconciled to him through the Lord Jesus Christ. And God will never despise the work of his Son. If you are in Christ, God is your Father. You are his child, and nothing can ever change that.
And this is certainly solid grounds for boasting! Glory in your Redeemer. Worship God for the gift of the gospel. Give thanks for Christ with each other. And tell the lost that God is your Father, and he can be their Father too if they believe on him.
Aren’t you thankful for the doctrines of eternal security and assurance? If you struggle to feel secure in your relationship to God, please believe what God says and let it work down deep into your soul. God loves his children, and he will not abandon us. Let’s all rejoice in the assurance we enjoy. But don’t let that security lead to apathy. Instead, be amazed at who God is and all that he has done and then pursue him as your greatest treasure as the only one worthy of your complete devotion.