May 28, 2023

The Evidence of God’s Love in Christ’s Death: Part 1 (Romans 5:6-8)

The Evidence of God’s Love in Christ’s Death: Part 1 (Romans 5:6-8)


Section #1 is Romans 1:1-1:17 and is the prologue to the book where the thesis of the letter is seen in verses 16-17 that says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Section #2 is from Romans 1:18-3:20 and is the proclamation of the bad news of our standing before God. Namely, all men are condemned as sinners by the Law of God. A man may compare himself to another man and believe he is good but when measured against God’s Law, all men will be found guilty, wicked, and rebellious. Paul goes as far to say in 3:10-12 “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Paul’s intention is to produce a sense of moral sobriety and spiritual doom. He’s eradicating any hope for a person to view themselves as good or justify themselves by works. He does this to drive people from self to the Savior where forgiveness and justification can be found by faith in Christ alone.

Section #3 is from 3:21-5:21 which is a multi-dimensional defense of Paul’s claim of justification by faith alone. He does this by leveraging the testimony of the Old Testament and primarily the example of Abraham being made righteous by faith in Genesis 15:6.

Here in chapter five, Paul has been showing us the results of justification. Namely, the blessings that come with salvation including peace, sanctification, and hope.

Today, we encounter one of the great verses of the New Testament. It’s great because of its counterintuitive nature. That is, it tells of Christ doing something that is contrary to our human nature.

The text says, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

When you look at the greater context, you can begin to make sense of what the Apostle is saying. Let’s back up to the middle of verse 5.

Paul says, “5 the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”  For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Paul is attempting to demonstrate that the evidence of God’s love is Christ’s death. Namely, if a person was trying to understand how they might recognize God’s love, Paul is saying it was seen most vividly in Christ’s death.

But Paul doesn’t only speak of God’s love in Christ’s death, he also emphasizes three criteria revolving around his death that amplifies God’s love.

He tells us:

  1. God’s love was shown in Christ’s death while we were helpless
  2. God’s love was shown in Christ’s death at the right time
  3. God’s love was shown in Christ’s death for the ungodly

As we will see, these three displays of God’s love intersect with three key doctrines of the Christian faith: The Doctrine of Total Inability, The Doctrine of God’s Sovereignty, and The Doctrine of Definite or Limited Atonement. My hope is to look at the immediate intention of Paul’s words and then show you how they relate with these larger biblical doctrines.

For while we were still helpless

One theologian said, “It’s hard to love the weak and powerless, but when those same people are also ungodly the idea of wanting to die for such a class of individuals is impossible to grasp.”

  • Your Bible might say “While we were without strength.” It’s important that we don’t project a false definition upon this word. The word is ἀσθενῶν and does not mean weak or frail in this context, the word literally means powerless to produce results.
  • Paul is saying that God accomplished something that we were powerless and unable to accomplish ourselves.
  • Secondly, Paul says, “while we were still helpless…” implying that we are no longer helpless. That is, Paul is giving us an insight to our spiritual state prior to Christ.
  • We were
  • The helplessness that Paul is referring to is a spiritual and moral helplessness. We had no ability to make ourselves righteous. But more than that, we had no interest in being righteous.
    • Paul just said in Romans 3:11-12 “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
    • In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul offers another insight to our spiritual state before Christ. He says, “And you weredead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest of mankind.
    • 1 Corinthians 2:14 speaks further to our helplessness that is unable. Paul says, “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
    • This is also why Jesus says in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…”
    • This is the helplessness in which Paul is referring to.
    • We live in a time where many people believe that the only thing stopping a pagan from being a Christian is the exercising of that pagan’s free will to choose Christ.
    • But the Scriptures do not teach this.
    • John 1:12-13 “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, evento those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
    • While we certainly choose Christ, we only do so because God, upon His own free will, has caused us to be born again giving us eyes to see and ears to hear whereby He restores our spiritual and moral faculties, and we obey the Gospel by faith.
    • This is the doctrine of Total Inability.
  • And this is important because Paul understands that in order to have a greater appreciation for the Rescuer, we must fully understand what we’ve been rescued from. That is, if we fail to see the magnitude of our helplessness we will also fail to see the magnificence of Christ.
  • It was not your choice or decision that saved you. It was God’s love being poured out upon you while you were still helpless.

at the right time Christ died

  • This could also be translated to “at the perfect time.”
  • Paul is demonstrating that Christ and His work on the cross was not early or late but that it happened exactly according to God’s sovereign timeline.
  • Matthew Poole said, “The world was prepared spiritually, economically, linguistically, politically, philosophically and geographically for the coming of Jesus and the spread of the Gospel.”
  • Throughout the Gospels, Jesus speaks about his timing, about how certain hours are at hand or hours that have not yet come.
    • Matthew 26:45 “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at handand the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.
    • (John 8:20) These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.
    • (John 12:27) “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.

The perfect timing of Jesus demonstrates the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. Now, our finite minds cannot grasp degree of sovereignty expressed in the Scriptures.

We cannot fathom as Isaiah 46:10 says that God “Declares the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

We cannot perceive that God orders every molecule and that He designs the height of every ant hill and the size of each bubble in a crashing wave. We cannot grasp that He is directing every breath and beat and thought and movement of every being that exists.

Because to have a God who says, “He works all things together for your good (Romans 8:28). And to have a God who says, “We have been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11). To have a God who works in all things is to have a God who is totally sovereign.

So, when Paul says, “at the right time Christ died.” We know that every prophecy foretelling His life, ministry, and death and every Old Testament sacrifice and offering symbolizing His coming slaughter—was meticulously and perfectly foreordained by God to come to pass at the exact moment in which they occurred.

In Acts 4:24-28, The early church prayed, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

A.W. Pink once said: “The sovereignty of God may be defined as the exercise of His supremacy. Being infinitely elevated above the highest creature, He is the Most High, Lord of heaven and earth. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases always as He pleases. None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him.”

But in our passage, Christ does not simply die. He dies for a particular class of people.

Our verse says, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

  • The Greek word for ungodly is often translated as “wicked”
  • Jesus died for the wicked.
  • Now a few important distinctions are to be made:
    • If Christ died for you, you were wicked. You weren’t mostly good and partly sinful. Whether you were four years old or forty years old, you were a self-ruling, God-hating, sin-loving person who broke the Law of God and deserves eternal death. The moment you forget that is the moment that you lose your appreciation for your salvation. As I said earlier, when you realize the degree of what you have been saved from, you will have greater appreciation for the Savior.
    • Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. That is, sin is the reason people die. But Christ had no sin and therefore his death was not a consequence of sin but instead a decision to lay down his life for His sheep.

John 10:14-18 “14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

  • What I want you to see is that Christ’s death accomplished a particular thing for a particular people.
    • The particular thing was the satisfaction of God’s wrath and the securing of redemption by His blood.
      • Hebrews 9:12 says, “he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”
      • When Christ’s blood is shed for a particular person, eternal redemption is secured.
    • The particular people were His sheep—those who God has chosen to save.
      • Namely, Christ’s blood did not secure redemption for all people but specifically for His people.
      • Matthew 1:21 speaking to the birth of Christ, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
      • Matthew 20:28 “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I bring this up because today, many evangelists tell people that “Christ died for your sins.” But this wording is never practiced by the Apostles.

So, the question becomes: Who is the ungodly in this passage? Is it everyone since everyone is ungodly? Did Christ die for every single person who ever lived? Was His blood shed for all people securing redemption? Or, was His atonement limited to a particular people?

Charles Spurgeon: speaks to this discussion and explains: “If Christ on His cross intended to die for every man, then He intended to save those who perished before He died on the cross. If that doctrine be true, that He died for all men, then He died for some who were already in hell before He came into this world. Once again, if it was Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to this theory, were bought with His blood.

“To think that my Savior died for men who were or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain. To imagine for a moment that He was the Substitute for all men, and that God punished both the Substitute and the sinners themselves, conflicts with all my ideas of Divine justice. That Christ should offer an atonement for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those very men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned for, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity that could ever have been imputed. God forbid that we should ever think thus of Jehovah, the just and wise and good!”

In short, what we believe is that Christ’s blood was shed to atone for the sins of a particular people—the elect. Now the elect is an innumerable number of people from every tribe nation and tongue. But Christ did not come to die for all, He came to die for His Bride the church.

Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

In John 17:9 Jesus demonstrates who He has in view to save when he prays, “I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.”

In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the elders in Ephesus, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” 

In the end, we have a loving God. We have a God who rescues us when we cannot rescue ourselves. We have a God who is never early or late and who works all things together for our good. But most of all, we have a God who sent His Son to die as our substitute securing our justification and redemption while we were ungodly.

Charles Wesley’s great Hymn says:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, should die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, should die for me?