In the Nick of Time
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 55a This hope does not disappoint,
Christian hope will not disappoint us–not in life, not in death, not in the Day of Judgment. Our confidence for the future will never disillusion us. This is good, because few things discourage us worse than disappointment.
We often say, Dont get your hopes up. Setbacks hurt. We yearn for the dependable, for a direction we can turn toward to enjoy absolute assurance. Our search succeeds in Jesus. In Him we will never be let down, or disappointed.
We find more in Jesus than we dreamed imaginable. Israel wanted water and food God gave them a river from the rock, and manna from Heaven six days a week for 40 years. A boy who gave Jesus five loaves and two fish received in return twelve baskets full of food. The lame man asked for money God healed his legs instead (AC 3). God gives more than we expect, including a hope that will not disappoint.
Romans 55b Because Gods love has been poured out in our hearts through
the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Our assurance is not based on positive thinking, or the strength of our resolve. Rather, our confidence is rooted in Gods love for us. We will know there is no disappointment in Christian hope when we appreciate how much God loves us.
Poured out refers to gushing torrents. Gods love is a flood coursing through the heart, filling every part. Sadly, we do not dwell on it and enjoy it often enough.
We often find ourselves too busy being religious to take time to be holy. We are so engrossed in successful Christian living that we are too busy to bask in His love for us. We should regularly be still, commune with Him, and reflect on his love.
I want to sense this love, to know it in my heart. O Holy Spirit, pour out the love until I can hear the waves crashing against the wall of my heart. In this context, Thomas Goodwin, the great Puritan, challenged his people, Sue Him for it Sue Him for it Ask Him for it Dont give up The key to confidence is sensing Gods love.
Romans 56a For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment,. . .
How do we know for sure God loves us Because of what His Son Jesus did for us on Calvarys cross. Helpless referred to sick people who had no hope of recovery. Paul used the word in a spiritual context, to describe peoples total inability to rescue themselves from the devastating effects of the Fall. We know God loves us because Jesus came to help us when we could not help ourselves.
He came in the nick of time, at the appointed moment. The phrase refers to a strategic moment, the right second, a fitting time. God carefully chose the exact time for Christ to die. The crucifixion was an earthly event in time that took place at a heaven-appointed moment and has significance in eternity.
Three positive circumstances showed this truly was the appointed moment. One, a common government. Rome ruled. The world was largely at peace. Hence, there was freedom of travel from one part of the Empire to another. Such widespread open travel between nations was not experienced again until the late 20th century.
God used freedom of travel before. Surely He wants us to do it again. Dont waste this opportunity. Acts 16 can be more readily obeyed now than has been the case for over 16 centuries. How many countries have we taken the Gospel to Early believers were stewards of mobile freedom in their day. We are stewards of it now.
Two, Roman roads. To connect the regions of the Empire, the Roman army built roads. They were built so skillfully that many are still in use 2000 years later.
Their purpose was to give the army quick transport to a rebellion anywhere in the Empire. They turned into highways on which Christians carried Christs message to the ends of the Earth. The early believers were good stewards of transportation.
How many cars, trains, or planes have we ridden recently to carry out our assigned Kingdom mission How far would Christianity have spread if the early believers had traveled with the Gospel only as far as you and I have carried it
Three, a common language. Greek was almost universally spoken. Alexander the Great spread it across most of the known world. People from Europe to India knew Greek. This removed a difficult barrier to spreading the story of Jesus.
English, now the most spoken language on Earth, is the leading language of international discourse, the official language for aerial and maritime communication, the UN, and the International Olympic Committee. God gave early believers Greek. Has He maybe given us English to enable us to do a worldwide work for Him again
Several bankrupt influences also proved the appointed moment had come. By the time Christ arrived, the world should have been better able to appreciate its need for Him. Many centuries of human history had been allowed to elapse in order that the world might exhaust every strategy to accomplish its own moral deliverance.
God gave the human race plenty of time to work things out by themselves, but we failed miserably. By the time Jesus came, Earth was in a terrible predicament, unable to lift itself out of a hopeless, helpless condition. Our plight was deplorable and desperate. We were still helpless, a sick race in critical condition. For lifes real problems the ancients had found no help in any of these failed experiments.
One, the arts failed. Ancient Greeks founded Western culture, excelling in oratory, poetry, painting, and music. Greek architecture and sculpturing fascinate the modern mind. But morally it was all for naught. What good are the arts if they point us only to ourselves We cannot deliver us. We need help from beyond ourselves. The arts ultimately fail us if they do not point to the one Artist who can save us.
Two, education failed. Greeks were the first to study botany, medicine, physics, and zoology on a scientific basis. Greece produced the worlds first gifted historians and mathematicians. All this knowledge failed to save their civilization. Without God, education produces knowledgeable, well-schooled moral failures.
Three, government failed. Every form of government was tried in vain. Conquerors tried war Greece tried democracy Roman law influenced European law governments lifted the standard of living and promoted commerce, but all for naught.
The combined efforts of Israel, Greece, Rome, and every other government all failed to lift humanity from the muck and mire of immorality and cruelty. When Jesus came, the world was facedown in hopelessness because mankind had tried in vain every form of government they could invent to deliver themselves.
Four, philosophy failed. Greece produced the worlds best humanistic thinkers. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are a trilogy modern philosophers try in vain to excel.
Yet, even these three could not keep their country from dying of self-indulgent evil. What good are ideas if they do not lead us to the idea that only Jesus can rescue us
Five, recreation failed. To escape reality, societies often become excessive lovers of pleasure. Greeks were the first to hold athletic games, and to hunt and fish on a large scale for fun. Rome observed over 100 holidays a year.
Chariot races were held in Romes Circus Maximus, seating over 150,000. Spectators bet on charioteers.
People regularly spent much time at the gymnasiums, a system very similar to our modern day health clubs. Fun is not a panacea. Relaxation and mental diversion will not solve the serious problems of society. The old saying says many fish, not knowing its not the fish they are after. They long for something more and deeper.
Six, religion failed. Massive numbers of Greeks and Romans lost faith in their mythological religion, and turned to Oriental religions for spiritual aid and comfort. These beliefs also left them empty. Even Judaism, having Gods law and Gods word, became corrupt. Religion in all its forms had had ample opportunity, but had proven to be utterly powerless in lifting us up. Heres the primary difference between Christianity and other religious systems. Others are mans attempt to reach God Christianity is Gods attempt to reach man. Its about God becoming flesh to save us.
All these experiments failed to redeem humanity, but the sad truth is the main thing we learn from history is that we dont learn from history. Thousands of years of practice speak clearly to us, but we still try to save us. Useless schemes of yesteryear are constantly resurrected to fail again. Culture, education, government, philosophy, recreation, and religion have all been tried time and time again. They will not help.
Apart from the saving power of Jesus, the world will continue to grow worse. Our only hope for salvation is Jesus blood. A societys life can be good only as long as it adheres to Biblical principles. People try everything else, rejecting the fact Jesus died at the appropriate moment, the moment on which history and eternity hinge.