Is This Too Good to Be True?

Familiarity, as they say, can breed contempt. But a certain kind of familiarity—a fresh experience of even familiar biblical truths—can produce a few things that we all need more of: joy, hope, peace, and so on.

For example, consider a single verse of Paul’s letter to the Romans:

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (8:32)

Many Christians are familiar with this verse, and for good reason. In just a handful of words, Paul gives us a bold summary of the gospel. It contains both a statement of what God has done and a promise of what he will do on behalf of believers. Both are staggering in their implications and, as such, deserve a closer look.

First what God has done: Paul says that God “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all.” He is of course referring to Jesus, God the Son, whom the Father loves perfectly, unreservedly, and with a depth that you and I can barely begin to imagine. There is nothing or no one that the Father loves more. Jesus is inestimable in his eyes.

And yet, Paul says, it is his Son that God gave up. For whom? For us. Sinners. Rebels. Traitors. That is what we are, every one of us. Paul elsewhere makes it clear that, in doing this, God was not responding to some heroic show of goodness and worth on our part. Quite the contrary: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5, emphasis added; see also Rom. 3:9-28). Precisely when we were at our worst, God loved us to the extent that he gave up the one who always pleases him perfectly.

And to what did he give him up? To the horror of death on a cruel instrument of torture. And even more improbably, to the full measure of his own wrath against our sin—not for any deficiency on his part, but to satisfy the punishment we fully deserve. Only since I’ve had kids of my own have I wondered how painful that must have been not just for the Son, but also for the Father.

And yet it happened. That it did so stands as an eternal, unfathomable witness to the depth of God’s love and commitment to his people. Do you want to know the extent of God’s love for you when you believe the gospel? Look no further than the fact that, completely graciously, he gave his beloved Son for you.

It’s this act that also makes sense of subsequent promise that Paul proclaims in the latter part of the verse. It is a classic argument from the greater to the lesser: if God is willing to do this for you, what will he withhold? Paul’s point isn’t that God will give you anything that you could ever want. Given our limited perspective and fallible desires, that wouldn’t be consistent with his love for us. No, Paul means that God will give us everything we genuinely need for our good.

This God will do. And he will do it graciously, in spite of the fact that we still don’t deserve his favor. He will give, not reluctantly, but in a manner consistent with the fact that he constantly, genuinely seeks our good. And ultimately, he will give us for all eternity what we really long for, what we were really made for: himself. 

Do you see? Do you and I really see what an incredible passage this is? Do you see what peace comes from knowing that God is “for us”? Do you see the joy and hope we can have when we understand his ongoing provision and the ultimate goal for which that grace is given?

I’m tempted to say that, if we’re not struggling to believe these things to be true, then we haven’t really grasped what Paul is saying. May he give us all the grace to do just that.

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