Reconciled by Love- Romans 5:7-12

In our previous post, we examined what reconciliation is and how it was accomplished, We will now continue in our look at Romans 5 in order to discover the primary reason why God reconciled us to Himself in Christ. We begin in verse 7. Having just told us that “Christ died for the ungodly”, Paul then tells us that sometimes people will die for others, will give up their lives for others. The question arises then as to why Paul would mention this here, what has this got to do with the subject at hand, with reconciliation? The reason is that Paul has just given us the how of reconciliation, and he is now going to give us the why in verse 8. Paul tells us in verse 7 that people will almost never die for a “righteous” man, but will more often die for a “good” man. These are obviously different things, a righteous man and a good man are not the same thing. Righteous here is a legal term, while good is a relational one. One who is righteous is one who is “upright”, one who keeps the rules, one who is in good relationship to the law. One who is good is one who is in good relationship to others, to those around him, who treats others well. What Paul is telling us here in this is that it is human nature to be more willing to lay down one’s life for someone we have affection for, for someone we like, as opposed to someone we see as upright but have no particular affection for. The reason Paul mentions this here is that he is about to contrast two types of “love”. This necessitates a brief examination of the concept of love here. In the Greek language, there are four different words which are all translated as love in English, what some have called the four loves. This can make the entire concept of love very difficult and confusing, so we will begin here with an understanding of what love actually is. What does it mean to love someone? Basically, to love someone means to do what is in their best interest, to seek their good, to do what is best for them. All four “loves” are thus basically the same thing, and the difference in them is not in what they are (for they all involve doing what is in the other’s best interest), but in their object and motivation. The first of these four is storge, and it describes primarily the love of a parent for a child, and it is natural for a human parent to seek to do what is in their child’s best interest. The second is eros, and it describes romantic love, and it involves doing what we feel is in the other’s best interest because we desire a romantic relationship with them. The third is phileo, the love of affection. This love is love for someone we like, someone have affection for. It involves doing what we feel is in the best interest of someone else because we like them, we see them as somehow deserving of our love. This is the type of love Paul describes for us in verse 7, and the reason he does so is that he is about to contrast this love with the fourth type of love, the one he will describe for us in verse 8. This love is known as agape, a Greek word for love which takes on a new and unique meaning in the New Testament. In Greek culture, agape and phileo are essentially synonyms, they mean exactly the same thing and can be used interchangeably. At the time of the New Testament, phileo had become the dominant term, and agape was rarely used, so it was taken by the writers of the New Testament to describe a fourth kind of love, a kind of love which was foreign to Greek culture, a love never before seen. This is the term for love which Paul uses in verse 8, in which Paul tells us that Christ died for us “while we were still sinners”, that Christ died not for family members, love interests or good friends, but for His enemies. This is the new dimension of love first seen in Christ, and required a new word for love to describe it, so the New Testament writers took the Greek word agape and gave it a new meaning, using it to describe the love Christ showed for all of us, the love that caused Him to die on a cross for His enemies, the love which moved Him to do what was needed to reconcile man to God. So the reason for our reconciliation was love, and it was motivated by agape love, by love for enemies, by love never before seen, by love which is not possible apart from Christ, by love which is only found in Christ and can only be demonstrated by Christ through us. As John tells us, “we love because He first loved us”, and agape love is only possible when we allow Christ to love through us, to do what is in our enemies best interest, for this type of love is not possible apart from Him.

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