The Valentine

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:1-11 AV)

Bouquets of roses… boxes of chocolates … candle-lit dinners … heart-shaped greeting cards: such is the stuff of Valentine's Day. Everybody gets into the act - toddlers and teachers, lads and lasses, housewives and husbands all try to strike a spark, fan a flame and bask in the glow of human love.

Human love! Too bad it doesn't always last. The intensity of a courtship, a wedding, a honeymoon can't go on forever - it wasn't meant to. Such memorable days make a great send-off to a rather more measured, manageable pace along the path of married life. Too many put too much stock in the grand gestures of love. Only a stupid pines with the pop song:

You don't sing me love songs,
You don't send me flowers anymore!

Only a fool heads for divorce to Bob Dylan's lyrics:

I don't know where we went wrong,
But the feeling's gone, and I just can' get it - back!

Human love! Too bad it often isn't real. How many young girls have anxiously kissed a frog in the hopes of finding a handsome prince, only to face a mule… a pig… a mouse … a weasel… or a rat! Joni Mitchell sang for many when she crooned:

I've looked at love from both sides now, From win and lose, and still, somehow
It's love's illusions I recall - I really don't know love at all!

Human love fails us so often, so badly, because it's human: flawed by the Fall, and stymied by sin. We are without God, and “God is love.” Without God, without hope in the world, we really don't know love at all - we have never tasted nor seen that the Lord is good. That is why the Christian alone knows “what love is all about.” Listen to “the disciple whom Jesus loved”:

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins… And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world… And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us... God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him… We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:10, 14, 16, 19.)

Listen to “the chief of sinners” whom Jesus saves:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Eph. 3:14-19)

This love transcends everything human love could ever claim or show. For when we ask, “Does God love me?” the Bible declares, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9) And when we ask, “How much does God love me?” the Bible answers, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

Calvary is the Valentine of heaven to earth. So we sing:

Beneath the Cross of Jesus, I fain would take my stand:
The shadow of a mighty Rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

O safe and happy shelter! O refuge, tried and sweet!
O trysting place, where heaven's love and heaven's justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch the wondrous dream was given,
So seems my Saviour's cross to me a ladder up to heaven!

This is the point Paul makes in Romans 5:1-11. At Calvary alone, we see the reality to which human love too often gives but illusions. Here, love is blind (5:6-8); here, love is all you need (5:1-5); here, love conquers all (5:9-11).

Love is Blind (5:6-8)

Nowhere is love blinder than in the logic of God's love.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Cor. 1:27-29). “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (5:6)

Paul's argument in these verses develops and delineates the thought.

“Scarcely for a righteous man will one die” (7) It's a fact few will face, but true. So warped is our conscience, such is our over-weening self-conceit, that we despise anyone whose conduct highlights our own wickedness or faults. Whoever stood up for the geek in the school-yard against the bully? “Cain … was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.” (1 John 3:12)

“Yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” (7) This is the commonplace of all human compassion. Our noblest heroism goes no higher than the premise that “like likes like.” Our Canadian veterans, six decades on from Normandy or the Netherlands, still weep over the graves of their fallen comrades ever linked as brothers in arms, tested by war. “Lovely and pleasant in their lives… in their death they were not divided.” “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (2 Sam. 1:23; John 15:13).

To the carnal mind all this makes sense. But Calvary makes no sense to the carnal mind. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (8) Out upon the checkerboard of the universe, in the cosmic chess-match of good and evil, the King took checkmate to save a rook! “We were yet sinners” - “ungodly”, “without strength”, “enemies” (6, 10). We were “all under sin” from top to toe as Paul spells it out in 3:9-20. Then, “in due time” heaven's Valentine came to such as us, the very children of hell - “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Real love is always its own reason. You men know that. When your wife, your sweetheart asks you, “Honey, why do you love me?” Would you offer this reply? “Well, dear, back then I could see about four girls with potential as a Missus. So I worked out a little comparison chart, see? Now, some of those girls did outdo you on looks and charm, but you more than made up for that on money management, cooking skills and temperament - no doubt about it, you came out with the top score!” Talk like that deserves the doghouse! No, no, no; the only real answer is simply, “I love you, dear, because I love you.” The doctrine of the election of grace is really no more than a grown-up view of God's love.

Could any love be more blind? Of old Jehovah told His chosen people: “The LORD … set His love upon you … because the LORD loved you” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). His love is its own reason.

Love is All You Need (5:1-5)

“Love is all you need!” The Beatles never knew what they sang about; believers do. Paul revels in the “unsearchable riches of Christ” which that love bestows upon us, which meets our every need.

All we need to face God is here; all we need to face life is here.

Here is peace with God: “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”(1). Through the doing and dying, the righteousness and Blood of the Saviour, God declares and receives all who trust Christ, not only as pardoned, but as though they were perfect. Our past is past!

Here is access to God: “through whom also we have access into this grace wherein we stand” (2). We have letters of introduction to stand with grace and favour in the courts of heaven's high King as His adopted children. Years ago, President John F. Kennedy was in the midst of a cabinet conference in the Oval Office of the White House. Just before things got under way, his toddler son “J.J.” burst into the room and scrambled into the President's lap as he sat in his famous rocking-chair. To everyone else in that room, JFK was the most powerful man on earth; to “J.J.” he was “Daddy.” So with us: “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12) Our present is secure!

Here is hope from God: “we… rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (2). As with a certified cheque in hand, we look forward to so much: “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven” (1 Peter 1:4); “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:3); “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:4) “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:43) Yes, “as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9) Our future is bright!

Once I heard a Christian teacher, a principal in Yorkshire schools. His agnostic colleague could barely stand to attend the religious assemblies in which he held forth the Gospel to the pupils. Passing by him, the agnostic would snarl, “Caw, it's all pie in the sky when you die!” With a wide smile he sang back, “Oh yes, and there's beef on the plate while you wait!”

That same love enables us to face life, even at its worst, with hope: “not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (3-5)

Two sets of railroad tracks trace the coastline of Wales. Both cover the same valleys, the same hillsides, traverse the same rivers, and pass the same towns. Yet one carries the northbound trains to the bracing air and high mountains; the other carries southbound trains to the sooty cities and slag-heaps of the mines. The only difference is - direction. So with life: Christian and pagan, saved and lost face all the same challenges, afflictions, sorrows and pains. Sin impels the lost to bitterness hell-bound ; love draws the saved heavenward to holiness.

Surely every ransomed child of God can sing with Asaph:

Whom have I in heaven but thee?
and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
My flesh and my heart faileth:
but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. (Psalm 73:25-26)

Love is all you need.

Love Conquers All (5:9-11)

“Love conquers all!” Not all who say so, do so. Human love cannot deliver on such a promise. When couples bargain pre-nuptial contracts, you know it can't. When the prospects for an enduring marriage are no better than the toss of a coin, you know it can't. When so many are content to “co-habit” rather than commit, living on stand-by, ready to run, you know it can't.

But Paul leaves us in no doubt about the divine love. As George Matheson sang, this is “Love that will not let me go”. If that love could reconcile us when enemies, it will deliver us as justified saints from wrath (9). If the blood and death of God's eternal Son could justify us, so much more shall the power of His risen, endless life, as He intercedes for us, save us to the uttermost (10-11).

Such is this love, that Paul can reason into rapture on the heights of this Epistle, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39).

Have you been to Calvary? Have you seen there the Valentine of our Prince and Saviour to sinners? Have you received the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord — the love that saves, that cleanses, that keeps, that never fails?

Come to Jesus now, and trust Him; He will take you in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse. Forsaking all others, cleave only to Him; love, cherish, honour and obey Him - and forever ye both shall live!