A Free Cure (Romans 5:1-11)
Passage: Romans 5:1–5:11
The Best News Ever
A Free Cure
October 16th, 2011
Way of Grace Church
I. The Cost of a Cure
Listen to the opening paragraph from a recent article:
“In Uganda, in a hospital in the capital Kampala, 14-year old Vincent is being treated for cryptoccocal meningitis, contracted as a result of AIDS. Underweight, frightened and wracked with pain, he is one of literally millions of AIDS orphans across Africa who will die in the next 10 years unless life-saving antiretroviral drugs become more widely available. But at current prices, the drugs are just too expensive for most African countries.”
Which do you think is worse, being told there is no cure for your condition, or being told there is a cure, but you just can’t afford it?
But did you know your tax dollars are making a difference in all this? Back in 2004, then President George W. Bush created a program that today raises seven billion dollars a year to make these life-saving medications available to those who cannot afford them. And yet sadly the program cannot keep up with the spread of the disease. But for the millions already treated, this American program has meant the difference between life and death. For those infected who cannot afford these medicines, news of this Amercian gift must have sounded like the best news ever.
But did you also know that all of us find, or have found ourselves in a similar circumstance?
As we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks, the Bible tells us that every person who has ever lived, every person who is living now, and who will live, every person is spiritually sick. And even though we have tried all sorts of things to cure ourselves, to fix ourselves, we have and will always fail. Why? Because we always misdiagnose ourselves.
But our Creator’s diagnosis, God’s diagnosis of our condition has confirmed our true illness: sin. Sin has infected us from head to toe, body, mind, and spirit. And the disease of sin is always fatal. In fact, it has already has killed us spiritually, it will kill us physically, and eventually, it will kill us eternally, in the “second death” mentioned in Revelation 20.
But let’s be clear, the words “sickness” and “disease” should not be taken to mean that we are simply innocent victims in all this. Sin is not something you simply ‘catch’ like a cold. The disease of sin is the result of self-infection. As we saw last time, each of us chooses to reject the truth about God, to resist the worship that He deserves, to replace God with the idols of our heart, and then to live according to our rules and not God’s.
As we talked about last week, while all of this bad news is hard to hear, thankfully, it is what we must hear in order to understand and embrace the best news ever given to our world.
So let’s see how Paul takes us from the ‘bad news’ to the ‘good news’. Last week we talked about God’s clear diagnosis in Romans 1:18-32. This week, let’s look together at Romans chapter 5.
II. Afterword as Foreward (5:12-17)
Now, I’d like to spend most of our time looking at Romans 5:1-11. But let’s actually begin by looking at the verses that immediately follow the first eleven verses. Let’s turn the epilogue or ‘afterword’ into the ‘foreword’.
Look with me at Romans 5:12-17, and consider what it teaches us about our sickness and God’s cure. Verse 12:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…[skip down to verse 15]…  But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.  And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.  For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:12, 15-17)
In verse 12, Paul is reminding us about this disease of sin and its deadly consequences for all of us. But notice the repeated emphasis in verses 15-17. Five times Paul stresses that the cure for this disease is a FREE GIFT. Five times he uses that phrase!
But how do we define this “free gift”? If we unwrap it, what do we find in the box? Well, this is precisely why we need to back up and look at verses 1-11.
III. The Passage: “Peace with God” (5:1-11)
Listen to what Paul tells us here about this “free gift”, about God’s cure for our spiritual sickness. Romans 5, verse 1…
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)
Before we dig into these verses, let me very quickly mention that Paul’s explanation of the best news ever actually began in chapter 3, verse 21. But here in chapter 5, Paul not only touches on the specifics he’s given in the last two chapters, but he also begins to talk about the significance of that news for your everyday life and my everyday life in this world.
Now, here’s how I’d like to work through this section in 5:1-11. Instead of going back through the passage line by line, I’d like to focus instead on five ‘word groups’ that we discover in these verses.
These groups are made up of words or phrases that reveal to us the five central strands, or central ideas, that are interwoven in order to give us the passage we just read. And we can think about all these threads or strands in light of the “free gift”, in light of the cure that all of us so desperately need.
1. The Cure’s Need
The firstword group has to do with The Cure’s Need. This group contains the following words or phrases: weak (v. 6), ungodly (v. 6), sinners (v. 8), wrath (v. 9), enemies (v. 10).
We see from these words that Paul wants to remind us in this passage about the argument that he already laid out in Romans 1:18-3:20. The reason we need a cure so desperately is because we are desperately sick.
What’s interesting about the first word in our word group, the word “weak” in verse 6, is that this Greek term very often refers to physical illness. In fact, Paul uses it this way in five instances throughout his letters. But here, the weakness Paul has in mind is a spiritual weakness. We are without strength when it comes to honoring God and obeying God. This is why Paul can label us as “ungodly” (v. 6) and “sinners” (v. 8).
But in case those descriptions of the sickness of sin tilt our thinking toward the side of passivity, Paul also describes us with the very active term “enemies” in verse 10. Those who are self-infected with the disease of sin are enemies of God! In every instance where we choose our way over God’s, in every instance when we neglect to do what is right, in every instance when our mind is filled with worldly pride and not the praises of God, we are in active combat against God.
Thus, if something is not done to end hostilities, we will be rightly condemned and swallowed up by the “wrath of God” (v. 10). But listen to the ‘good news’ in light of this bad news…
2. The Cure’s Cost
The second word group is related to The Cure’s Cost. This group contains the following words or phrases: Christ died (vs. 6, 8 (including death in v. 10)), blood (v. 9), his life (v. 10).
Did you know last year the National Cancer Institute had a budget of $5.1 billion dollars? Did you know that the average cost to bring a new medication to the market is anywhere from $55 million dollars to well into the hundreds of millions? These are expensive cures or attempts!
But did you know that the cure we need so badly came with an incalculable price tag? As the terms in this word group make clear, the cost for our cure was the death of Jesus Christ; the death of God’s own Son. The Apostle Peter expressed this beautifully in I Peter 1:18, 19.
…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:18-19)
So the Roman cross on which Jesus died is central to Christianity, not because there was something particularly special about that piece of wood, but because of the fact that on it, Jesus died. And through His death, he secured our cure. He became our cure.
But let’s not forget verse 10: 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. Even though Jesus died on the cross, death could not hold Him. This is why Paul sums up the gospel, the best news ever, this is why he sums it up like this:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…(1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
But we have to ask, how does a man dying and coming back to life provide us with a cure?
3. The Cure’s Work
Well, the third word group that we find in this passage has to do with this very question: how does it or what is The Cure’s Work. This group contains the following words or phrases: justified (vs. 1, 9), peace (v. 1), saved (v. 9), reconciled/reconciliation (vs. 10, 11).
Everything Paul has said up to this point in the book of Romans can be summed up in the opening words of verse 1: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith… This is the amazing truth that Paul explains in detail in 3:21-4:25. That’s why there’s a “therefore” at the beginning of chapter five, at the beginning of verse 1!
What does it mean that Christians have been “justified”? Well to speak in legal terms, it means we have been acquitted [SCREEN PROMPT]. It means the charges have been dropped; it means the Judge has struck his gavel down and declared us to be innocent.
But how is that possible if we are not innocent; if we are in fact guilty as “ungodly” “sinners” and “enemies’ of God? Or to put this in medical terms, how can Christians be declared “healthy”, if we are in reality still sick?
Well that’s where the cross comes in. When Jesus died, He took God’s verdict for our sins upon Himself. Jesus took the horrible consequences of our disease upon Himself.
And as one who was completely innocent, and completely “healthy” (spiritually healthy), Jesus was able to die in our place, and thus set us free. But that’s not all! If we belong to Him through faith, then now, we can claim is His innocence as our own before God. His healthy vital signs our now placed in our chart! Isn’t that amazing!?!
The robe of His rightness and innocence has been placed over us. It is now covering all our stains. We are safe in Him, because disease of sin and the bitterness of death have no power over Him…He has defeated them!
Therefore we are “saved by Him from the wrath of God.” (v. 9) We are reconciled to God! After years of estrangement because of our animosity and our stubbornness and our rejection, we have been reconciled to God! The relationship has been made right! And if we were to go on to chapter 8, we would discover that Christ’s work has also brought about our adoption. We are now children of God, and no longer the orphans of sin.
And this amazing cure is summed up in the astounding phrase from verse 1: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Peace. Peace with God. I like how the writer James White explains this:
“I have an abiding certainty of acceptance by God. Do you? Not a temporary state where things are all right. I am talking about real peace, the kind of peace the Bible describes. Peace with God! Most of us have heard the Jewish term shalom and know it means “peace”. But shalom means much more than that. Shalom is a full, rich term that speaks of wellness, health, and rightness of relationship. It does not mean merely the lack of conflict—it goes far beyond that.” (James White)
Let’s be clear here: Paul is not talking about our experience of peace… he’s not talking about experiencing the peace of God…he’s talking about the reality of peace…the reality of peace with God. Our experience of that reality comes and goes. But the reality itself is certain and unchanging.
Do you have peace with God? If you belong to Christ, you do…and it’s all because of Jesus.
4. The Cure’s Consequences
But look at what else this cure does in us. The fourth word group we see in this passage is related to The Cure’s Consequences. This group contains the following words or phrases: rejoice (vs. 2, 3, 11), hope (vs. 2, 4, 5), Holy Spirit (v. 5).
When we talk about being justified or being acquitted by God because of Christ, we might think that all of this is limited to our status before the High Court of heaven. But it isn’t. Yes, we are declared innocent, we are declared healthy because of Christ. But something else happens to us when we receive God’s cure.
After God declares us ‘healthy’ because of Christ, He then begins to make us ‘healthy’ through Christ. How is this possible? Because Jesus’ death and resurrection has made it possible for (v. 5) God’s love to be poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
And what does God’s Spirit do in our hearts? He begins to work out the ‘healthiness’ of Jesus through our lives. He begins to make our vital signs look like the vital signs that Jesus has placed on our chart! This is justification leading to what we’d call sanctification.
And what do those new vital signs look like? Through the power of God’s spirit, we are able to rejoice (v. 2, 3, 11), even to rejoice in our sufferings…because we know that God is using them to produce hope! (vs. 2, 4, 5) Hope in what? Hope in the glory of God! (v. 2) Hope in the fact that we will one day stand in God’s glorious presence, because we now have peace with God.
God not only wants to reconcile us to Himself. He wants to make us like Himself!
5. The Cure’s Freeness
Here’s the last thing we need to see in this passage: the fifth word group we discover in these verses has to do with The Cure’s Freeness (the fact that it’s free). This group contains the following words or phrases: faith (v. 1, 2), grace (v. 2), God’s love (vs. 5, 8).
The greatest cure ever known to man, because it deals with the great disease ever known to man, this amazing cure that was achieved at a cost beyond calculation, this cure is made available to us as a “free gift”.
What does it mean that God’s cure is a “free gift”? Well, it means God gives us this cure because of His grace (v.2). Remember what grace is: Grace is the favor that God freely gives in order that we might get the exact opposite of what we deserve and God might get all the credit.
This Cure of cures is not something we deserve. God is under no compulsion to give us this cure. He gives it purely as a “free gift”.
The fact that God’s cure is called a “free gift” also comes from the reality that we can only receive this gift by faith (vs. 1, 2). This emphasizes the fact that there is nothing we can do to earn this cure. We cannot be nice enough people, we cannot do enough good deeds, we cannot go to church enough, or give enough money to charity, or learn enough about the Bible, or be cool enough, or smart enough, or clever enough, or likeable enough to EVER earn God’s cure.
This is precisely the contrast Paul explained in the last chapter, chapter 4. He wrote:
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes [there’s faith…believes] in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace… (Romans 4:4, 5, 16a)
God’s cure is not given to us because we deserve it. In fact, we deserve the exact opposite. Verse 8: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In the same way, God’s cure is not given to us because we earn it.
Like so many suffering in Africa because they cannot pay for the help they need, we could never pay for the medicine of Christ. But we can receive it as a gift!
God gives this gift because of His grace…because of His incomparable love. We see that clearly in verses 5 and 8. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
IV. How Does It Sound to You?
Now, I know that we’ve covered a lot of ground today. I know there’s a lot to think about (amazingly, we’ve just scratched the surface of this passage). But in light of everything you’ve heard this morning, and even in light of the first two messages in this series, I have to ask this one question: how does all of this sound to YOU?
Does it sound like THE BEST NEWS EVER?
How could it not? This is news of a cure for your sickness. This is news of a pardon for your death sentence. This is news of sight for your blindness. This is news of forgiveness for your sins, and peace for your fighting, and freedom for your slavery, and hope for your despair, and acceptance for your alienation, and love for your longings.
This is news that has to do, not only with now, but with forever!
How does all of this sound to you?
If you are not convinced that you are spiritually sick (that there’s something wrong with you), or if you are not convinced that God’s diagnosis of your condition is correct (that somehow, a tweak here and tweak there will fix things), if you do not believe these things…this will not sound like the best news ever. It will sound like some religious, pie-in-the-sky gobbely-gook.
But this morning I plead with you using the words of Paul in another letter: Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (II Corinthians 5:20)…this very morning, because of His grace, through faith…be reconciled to God! Believe these things.
And if you have believed these things, then remember what Paul told us in verse 2: 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.
Christian, do you where you’re standing? Are you looking down at where Christ has planted your feet? Do you live and speak and feel and desire and plan and bless and rest in the reality that you are now standing in the grace of God? Could there be a better place to stand?
And if you recognize where you’re standing, are you rejoicing? Are you filled with hope? We not only need to receive the best news ever, we also need to walk in it. We need to remind ourselves of it every single day; every hour! It changes everything. That’s not overstating it.
Let’s pray and ask God to help us receive His cure and walk in it each day!