For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.


It is vital to any understanding of ourselves and our fellowmen that we believe what is written in the Scriptures about human society—that it is fallen, alienated from God and in rebellion against His laws!

There is plenty of good news in the Bible, but there is never any flattery or back scratching, and what God has spoken is never complimentary to men.

Seen one way, the Bible is a book of doom. It condemns all men as sinners and declares that the soul that sinneth shall die. Always it pronounces sentence against society before it offers mercy; and if we will not own the validity of the sentence we cannot admit the need for mercy!

The coming of Jesus Christ to the world has been so sentimentalized that it means now something utterly alien to the Bible teaching concerning it. Soft human pity has been substituted for God’s mercy in the minds of millions, a pity that has long ago degenerated into self-pity. The blame for man’s condition has somehow been shifted to God, and Christ’s dying for the world has been twisted into an act of penance on God’s part. In the drama of redemption, man is viewed as Miss Cinderella who has long been oppressed and mistreated, but now through the heroic deeds of earth’s noblest Son is about to don her radiant apparel and step forth a queen. This is humanism—romantically tinted with Christianity![1]

Knowing that his readers would want to know more about the quality and character of the divine love that filled them, Paul reminds them of the greatest manifestation of God’s love in all history, perhaps in all eternity: For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. While men were utterly helpless to bring themselves to God, He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us, notwithstanding the fact that we were ungodly and completely unworthy of His love. When we were powerless to escape from our sin, powerless to escape death, powerless to resist Satan, and powerless to please Him in any way, God amazingly sent His Son to die on our behalf.

Natural human love is almost invariably based on the attractiveness of the object of love, and we are inclined to love people who love us. Consequently, we tend to attribute that same kind of love to God. We think that His love for us is dependent on how good we are or on how much we love Him. But as Jesus pointed out, even traitorous tax collectors were inclined to love those who loved them (Matt. 5:46). And as theologian Charles Hodge observed, “If [God] loved us because we loved him, he would love us only so long as we love him, and on that condition; and then our salvation would depend on the constancy of our treacherous hearts. But as God loved us as sinners, as Christ died for us as ungodly, our salvation depends, as the apostle argues, not on our loveliness, but on the constancy of the love of God” (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974 reprint], pp. 136–37).[2]

5:6 In verses 6–20, Paul argues from the lesser to the greater. His logic is that if God’s love went out to us when we were His ungodly enemies, will He not much more preserve us now that we belong to Him? This brings us to the fifth benefit of our justification; we are eternally secure in Christ. In developing this theme, the apostle introduces five “much mores.”

The “much more” of deliverance from wrath (5:9).

The “much more” of preservation by His resurrection life (5:10).

The “much more” of the gift of grace (5:15).

The “much more” of the believer’s reign in life (5:17).

The “much more” of abounding grace (5:20).

In verses 6, 7, and 8 Paul emphasizes what we were (without strength, ungodly, sinners) when Christ died for us. In verses 9 and 10 he emphasizes what we are now (justified by Christ’s blood, reconciled by His death) and the resulting certainty of what the Savior will do for us (deliver us from wrath, preserve us by His life).

First we are reminded that we were weak, helpless, without strength, and unable to save ourselves. But at the predetermined time the Lord Jesus Christ visited our planet and died for men. And He did not die for good men, as some might suppose, but for the ungodly. There was no virtue, no excellence in us to commend us to God. We were utterly unworthy, but Christ died for us anyway.[3]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (p. 285). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1696). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


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