Posted by Daniel Sweet on March 31, 2017
“6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8
Stories of heroism appeal to us, especially when a person of privilege or strength willingly sacrifices for someone in need. No greater heroism has ever been displayed than the heroic efforts by Jesus Christ. Our situation was bleak. We were not good people, just needing a little help. We were absolutely helpless – we could not do anything to save ourselves. We were ungodly – we possessed no nobility at all, nothing to warrant someone laying down their life for us. In a word, we were sinners, having willfully rebelled against God by choosing our own way. The word for sin in scripture means to fall short of a goal. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Our aim and purpose in life is to see, experience, reflect, and delight in the glory of God. When we decide by thought, word, or deed to reject God’s standards and select our own path, we fail to accomplish the purpose for which we have been created. This failure or shortcoming is compared to an archer aiming at a target but shooting the arrow far short of the intended target. Our failure happens over and over again. The standard for the archer is the target. The archer’s failure to achieve that standard presents a serious indictment on the archer. The purpose of shooting the bow and arrow is to hit the target. The purpose of being human is to hit the target of God’s standards for us. Our failure to achieve the glory of God in each and every decision we make presents a serious indictment on us. We stand helpless, ungodly, and sinful before God.
…Meets Perfectly-Timed, Divine Love of Christ
Christ on the other hand is absolutely perfect. Like an archer that has never missed a bull’s eye, He spent His entire life achieving the righteous requirements of His Father’s Law. His motives, His speech, and His actions were all perfectly holy. Never has the contrast between two archers been so striking. The one archer shoots errant arrows over and over again. The other shoots direct hits on the target over and over again. The one is ungodly and helpless. The other is godly and powerful. Now that we have discussed the quality of each player in this drama, we discover two things about the death of Christ from this passage. First, the death of Jesus Christ was perfectly timed. “At the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” After generations of ungodly failure, when humanity felt the full weight of failing to achieve the righteous standard of God, God sent His Son. Paul uses the phrase “at just the right time” to communicate God’s perfectly timed sovereignty in the work of salvation. Christ came at the perfect moment in history, to a Jewish people struggling under Roman oppression with a Greek culture and language providing the means of spreading the message of Christ to the whole world. Christ also came at just the right time in moral history. For over a thousand years, the Jewish people struggled under the Law of God. Those generations of Jewish people demonstrated, what is true for all of us, that no moral law has ever reformed the heart of humanity. The Law is like a mirror. It reveals our flaws but it cannot correct them. At just the right time in human history and moral history, Christ came for us. The second observation from this passage is that we discover God’s motive for the work of salvation. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He loves us and willingly demonstrates His love by sending His righteous Son to rescue us from our sin. Imagine the extent of God’s love. If someone willing dies to save a good man, that is incredibly noble and sacrificial. Consider this, God’s love greatly exceeds even that lofty standard. God’s love reveals a unique and extreme sacrifice. Christ dies for the ungodly. God saves the ungodly. God loves the ungodly. His timing is perfect and His love is amazing.
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