“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8
We are continuing to study the fifth chapter of Romans. If you did not read the study about Romans 5:1-5, we invite you to click here to read it.
Romans 5:1 brings us to one of the greatest understandings as a child of God –
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Christians have been justified by faith and have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ! It is so important to understand and that, I believe, is why the Apostle Paul spent so much time in the first four chapters to bring his Roman readers to that point. Eternal salvation is by grace through faith, not of works.
That brings us to the next portion of the fifth chapter of Romans –
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
ετι γαρ χριστος οντων ημων ασθενων κατα καιρον υπερ ασεβων απεθανεν
ετι γαρ χριστος (eti gar christos) “yet indeed Christ”
The word eti reminds us that understanding is contextual. Verse six follows verse five and that context is important to our understanding what Paul wrote. Verse five reads –
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
The hope Paul mentioned in verse five refers back to the “hope” in verses 3 and 4-
“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
The word “hope” is elpida in the Greek and means “confident expectation, hope.” The hope that is produced by character, produced by perseverance, produced by tribulation, is something Paul told the Roman Christians they should “glory in.” He wrote that that kind of “hope” will not disappoint, will never let them down, “because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was give us.”
When people are saved by grace through faith, God unleashes a love-flood into our heart by the Holy Spirit who God gave us. The word “poured” (ekcheo) means “bestow liberally.” God “poured out” His unconditional love (agapé) into our hearts through the instrumentality (dia) of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit moves into our lives quickly and efficiently at the moment we surrender our pride and confess that we are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. The Holy Spirit cleanses us from all unrighteousness and places us into a unique position with God. We call that unique position “salvation.”
In verse six Paul went deeper into what he meant when he wrote “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He reminded the Romans, and all Christians, that there was a time when were “without strength” and “ungodly.”
οντων ημων ασθενων (ontōn hēmōn asthenōn) “of us without strength still” … asthenōn was used for someone who was weak physically or morally. Other English translations use the words “weak, powerless, helpless” to translate asthenōn.
κατα καιρον υπερ ασεβων απεθανεν (kata kairon huper asebōn apethanen) – “according to the right time for the ungodly died” … Jesus died for the ungodly at “the right time … Jesus was not early or late for His great sacrifice on the Cross … he was right on time and died for the asebōn (impious, lack of reverence, ungodly, wicked) .. Paul wrote in Galatians 4 that “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” … huper is a preposition that means “for the sake of, instead of, in behalf of” … Jesus died “on our behalf, instead of us” .. another way of saying that is Jesus took our place when He died on the Cross .. He died for my sins and your sins .. Jesus was sinless
“Not only was it the right time in terms of the sweep of history but it was the right time in the sense that we were powerless to break the chains of sin. We were unable to help ourselves. Bound by sin and destined for an eternity apart from God, no amount of struggle could free us from condemnation. It was for us ‘the right time’ for Christ’s atoning death … God did not wait until we had performed well enough to merit his love (which, of course, no one ever could) before he acted in love on our behalf. Christ died for us while we were still alienated from him and cared nothing for his attention or affection.” (Mounce, Robert, 2010, Romans. B&H Publishing Group)
Think about that for a moment. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, died for ungodly people – like you and me. That is one of the statements in the Bible that still stuns me after almost 50 years as a Christian. Jesus died for the “ungodly,” like me. I relate to what Paul wrote Timothy –
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy 1:15
I pray none of us will ever lose sight of who we were before God saved us and who, what and where we would be today without His love and grace.
“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.”
μολις γαρ υπερ δικαιου τις αποθανειται υπερ γαρ του αγαθου ταχα τις και τολμα αποθανειν
μολις γαρ υπερ δικαιου τις αποθανειται (molis gar huper dikaiou tis apothaneitai) “rarely indeed for a righteous man anyone will die” … molis means “with great difficulty” .. huper is the preposition we saw earlier that means “for the sake of, instead of, in behalf of” .. dikaiou means “a righteous” and refers to someone who has correct or right judicial standing, upright as if innocent of any crime or wrong .. tis apothaneitai means “anyone will die” ..
This is a contrast with what Paul wrote about Jesus Christ – “Christ died for the ungodly.” That’s what Jesus did for us. His sacrifice is far above what people do for people. Rarely would anyone give up their life for a “righteous” person.
υπερ γαρ του αγαθου ταχα τις και τολμα αποθανειν (huper gar tou agathou tacha tis kai tolma apothanein) “on behalf of though the good man perhaps someone even would dare to die”
Paul’s contrast continued with the possibility that someone would “dare” (tolma, “have courage, be bold”) to die for a good man (agathou, inherently, intrinsically good).
While rare for anyone to die for a “righteous” person, and while possible someone might die for a “good man,” Jesus Christ, in great contrast, died for the “ungodly.”
“Christ’s death for the ungodly assures us of God’s love; for the utmost that human love will do is far less.” Expositor’s Greek Testament
“The connexion is somewhat thus: ‘He died for the godless: a proof of unequalled love; for hardly will you find any one die for a just, a good, man; you may find such a case, but it will be rare.’—No marked distinction is meant between ‘just”’and ‘good.’ Justice and goodness are equally contrasted with godlessness and sinfulness here.” Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
“Therefore, according to Paul, though one would hardly die for the merely upright or strictly just man who commands respect, he might possibly die for the noble, beneficent man, who calls out affection. The article is omitted with righteous, and supplied with good – the good man, pointing to such a case as a rare and special exception.” Vincent’s Word Studies
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
συνιστησιν δε την εαυτου αγαπην εις ημας ο θεος οτι ετι αμαρτωλων οντων ημων χριστος υπερ ημων απεθανεν
συνιστησιν δε την εαυτου αγαπην εις ημας (sunistēsin de tēn heautou agapēn eis hēmas) “demonstrates however the of himself love to us” .. sunistēsin means “commend, prove, place together” .. what God demonstrates is His love (agapēn) for us.
“The word means here more than ‘to hold up to favorable view, to recommend.’ Denney says ‘How greatly is this utmost love of man surpassed by the love of God. He commends, or rather makes good, presents in it true and unmistakable character, … His own love toward us.’ Vincent comments, ‘Note the present tense. God continuously establishes His love in that the death of Christ remains as its most striking manifestation.” Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament, Romans, 1955, Wm. Eerdman’s Publishing Company
ο θεος οτι ετι αμαρτωλων οντων ημων χριστος υπερ ημων απεθανεν (ho theos hoti eti hamartōlōn ontōn hēmōn christos huper hēmōn apethanen) “God that still sinners being of us Christ for us died” .. hamartōlōn means “forfeit by missing the mark, depraved, detestable” ..
Think about that. God proved His love for us by sending His Perfect Son to earth to live a sinless life, then give up that perfect life for sinners (detestable ones) by dying the cruelest of deaths on the Cross to take their place so that many sinners would be saved from their sins.
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10
Jesus did not die for us because we were good. He died for us because we were bad. Jesus did not die for us because we were righteous. He died for us so God could make us righteous. Jesus did not die for us because we deserved to be loved. He died for us because of His great love us, even when we were undeserving and unlovely.
“Love is the voluntary placing of the welfare of others ahead of one’s own. It is action, not sentiment. Love is the mightiest force in the world. It is the ethical goal of human existence. God is love (1 John 4:16), and that determines the goal toward which all redemptive history moves. Mounce, Romans
“How greatly is this utmost love of man surpassed by the love of God. He commends, or rather makes good, presents in its true and unmistakable character (for συνίστησιν, cf. Romans 3:5, 2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 7:11; Galatians 2:18), His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, etc. ἑαυτοῦ is an emphatic His: His, not as opposed to Christ’s (as some have strangely taken it), but as opposed to anything that we can point to as love among men: His spontaneous and characteristic love. ἔτι ἁμαρτωλῶν ὄντων ἡμῶν: they are no longer such, but justified, and it is on this the next step in the argument depends.” Expositor’s Greek Testament
“The love both of God and of Christ is involved in the atonement. Its ultimate cause is the love of God, which is here in question. The love of Christ is evidenced by the fact of His death; the love of God is evidenced by the love of Christ.” Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
“The emphatic ‘his own’ is lost sight of in the Authorized Version. It is not in contrast to our love to God, but expressive of the thought that the love of God himself towards men was displayed in the death of Christ. This is important for our true conception of the light in which the mysterious doctrine of the atonement is regarded in Holy Scripture. It is not (as represented by some schools of theologians) that the Son, considered apart from the Father, offered himself to appease his wrath – as seems to be expressed in the lines, ‘Actus in crucem factus es Irato Deo victima’ – but rather that the Divine love itself purposed from eternity and provided the atonement, all the Persons of the holy and undivided Trinity concurring to effect it.” Pulpit Commentary
I want to restate the verses from this study. Please look at them again and again and again. Memorize them so you can meditate on them day and night. Hold them close to your mind and your heart. We see in these verses the great, great love of the Great Great God for each of us.
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
We will look at Romans 5:9-11 as we continue our special study of Romans – The Gospel of God.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.