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The Gift of Love

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 5:6–8

We do not, and cannot, earn God’s love. Instead, we can rest in the assurance that He is a God who loves people who are helpless sinners and His enemies. His love is a gift, not a reward.


The lyrics to a great hymn of the faith were actually found written on the walls of an insane asylum more than 100 years ago. The old institutional buildings were being torn down when this poem was discovered—and what an unexpected place to find such deep lyrics of faith.

F. M. Lehman had composed several stanzas to a hymn he was composing for his church, and when he learned about these lyrics—and read them—he added them as the final stanza to his hymn.

These have become some of the most famous lyrics in hymn history, yet just imagine it—they were scratched on an asylum wall by an anonymous poet:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Tho’ stretched from sky to sky

Wow! What a tremendous expression of the depth and the breadth of God’s love. How do you wrap your arms around a subject so vast as God’s love? Well, let me break this subject down into three questions: First, what kind of people does God love? Second, what kind of love does God give us? And third, how do we respond to this kind of love?

Well, we are sailing back into Romans chapter 5 to answer these questions; and here is the first question again: What kind of people does God love?  Paul writes here in verse 6, “For while we were still weak [helpless], at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

So, God loves helpless people. The Greek noun is asthenēs, which refers to someone who is powerless. Obviously in this context, it speaks of a man or woman as powerless to please God, helpless to appease God. We sometimes speak figuratively of someone who is too weak to lift a finger. Well, that is the picture here. We cannot please God because we are ungodly and utterly helpless.

But let me tell you, this is the good news. God does not give His love to people who think they deserve it; He does not save people who are convinced of their spirituality; He does not redeem people who show signs of potential. No! He loves and redeems those who are spiritually dead, spiritually helpless, morally ungodly, admittedly sinful—people who know they are unable to lift a finger to save themselves.

Paul tells us that God loves sinful people. He writes down in verse 8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

The word “sinners” here translates the Greek word that means one who misses the mark. A sinner, then, is not necessarily someone who has gone far astray into really wicked living. Every person is a sinner because everybody misses the mark—the target—which is the holiness of God.[2]

We tend to think of sinners as those really bad people. My roommate in college, who cheated his way through school—now he was a sinner. That woman who works in the cubicle next to me—you ought to hear what she does on the weekends. Let me tell you, she is a sinner!

But the Bible assigns this word to all of us! Paul wrote earlier in chapter 3, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (verse 23). We all come short. We all miss the mark. We are all sinners.

Yes, that is the bad news! But the good news is this: If you are a sinner, then you qualify for salvation. You are one of the people God loves. You just have to admit you are a sinner.

Now to my Christians friends, be careful here as well. If you think you deserve God’s love because you are faithfully living for Him, you will never feel totally secure in Him because you know you could still be even more faithful. So, you will be afraid that you might do something, or not do enough, to deserve His love. Well, you did not deserve it to begin with, and you never will.

Why? Because you are helpless, you are sinful, you missed the mark, and you keep missing the mark of holiness before God.

So, discover what Paul is actually saying here—the answer to the first question. What kind of people does God love? He loves helpless, sinful people. Is that you? Then you qualify!

Now Paul answers the second question: What kind of love does God give?

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. (verses 7-8)

The kind of love God gives is the kind that dies for helpless, sinful people like us.

Here is the final question: How should you respond to this kind of love? Well, first, you receive it! It is a gift! Paul will write in the next chapter, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23).

Paul does not want us to miss it—he says eternal life is not only a gift, but it is a free gift.

I am convinced that there are many people reading this right now who do not have the gift of God’s love through Christ. Why? Because they are trying to pay for it. They are going to show God that they deserve it. They are going to earn it over a lifetime. They are convinced that God loves them because they are worthy of His love. Does that describe you?

Have you been listening to Paul? God demonstrates and delivers His love to sinners, His enemies, helpless people who cannot shoot straight in life—they keep missing the mark of holiness!

You do not pay for a free gift. You do not try to earn it—you just unwrap it and thank God for it.

I find it fascinating that Romans 5:8 is the verse that sparked the great Welsh revival of 1904. Evan Roberts was a young believer who was listening to an evangelist named Seth Joshua preach on this text—“But God shows his love for us.” He was so moved by this verse that he began to weep and literally fall down before the Lord as he prayed. Later he would write, “What bent me over was that God would commend His love for humanity when there was nothing to deserve that love.”

For the next thirteen months, Evan Roberts prayed that revival would come to the country of Wales, there in the United Kingdom of Great Britain. He sensed that God wanted him to challenge the teenagers in his church, and he called a special meeting. The meeting lasted until midnight and marked the beginning of a continuous revival. The church doors were not closed night or day for many months, and from that chapel revival spread like wildfire. When it finally subsided, more than 100,000 people had come to faith in Christ, professing Him publicly in baptism and joining the church.

What brought such a movement of God’s Spirit? The truth of this text—that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Do you need a revival today? If you are an unbeliever, receive God’s free gift of love. For those of you who have received it, rely on it. It is a guarantee from God! It is His gift and His guarantee. Paul will later write that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39)—nothing!

And let me tell you, nothing means just that—absolutely nothing can remove the gift you have received, the gift of God’s love.

[1] James Montgomery Boice, Romans: An Expositional Commentary, Volume 2 (Baker, 1992), 540. Frederick M. Lehman’s hymn is entitled “The Love of God.”

[2] Ralph Earle, Word Meanings in the New Testament (Baker Book House, 1974), 160.

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