Calvary Road Baptist Church

"CHRIST DIED FOR THE UNGODLY . . . US"

Romans 5.6-8

 

Ruth and Marla had agreed to meet at the diner so they would be on neutral ground. Although they had been friends for a very long time, they both recognized that they had volatile personalities and were given to outbursts of emotion. Meeting in a public place was the best thing. Why did they meet at the diner for lunch? To resolve a problem. To settle a dispute, actually. Ruth had taken as much of it as she could handle before being overcome by rage and hurt. How in the world could Marla treat her that way? How could she be so cruel? Didn’t Marla remember that it was only two years ago that Ruth had befriended her, and found her a job, and gave her a place to stay until she could get on her feet? But now, as Ruth sat at the table waiting for Marla, knowing that Marla would be fashionably late, as she always planned very carefully to be, she wondered. Just then Marla approached the table and sat down. Their greetings were chilly. Their postures were rigid. Their smiles were stony. Their faces were disconnected to make sure they did not betray their feelings to each other.

Marla spoke first. “Well, I’m here Ruth. What, precisely did you want to talk about? You seemed rather upset on the phone.” “Upset? Did I seem upset? Marla, what I was, and what I am, is absolutely furious and terribly hurt,” Ruth said, fighting back the tears. “How could you do that to me? After everything I’ve done for you since we’ve become friends. Will you please tell me what possessed you to destroy our friendship in that way . . . after all that I’ve done for you?” Marla, in a flash, went through a mental check list. Purse and coat still in her lap. Feet still directly under her chair. Then she abruptly stood and looked down at Ruth, saying, “But what have you done for me lately?” and flew toward the exit. “What have you done for me lately?” Folks, there are an awful lot of relationships that end on that note. There are friendships that break up, marriages that end, and memberships in Churches that end with the unexpressed question, “What have you done for me lately?”

Did you know that there are a tremendous number of discouraged believers who have that attitude toward God, as well? “God, I’m mad at you. I’ve betrayed our relationship. I’m not going to acknowledge you as my Master anymore because you haven’t done anything for me lately.” Don’t get me wrong. People don’t actually say that to God. They usually don’t even think that in those precise words. The words that usually come to mind go something like these: “God doesn’t love me.” My friends, such thoughts as those are common. Such thoughts as those are also blasphemous. Such thoughts as those are wrong. God does love you, every one of you. And the greatest proof that God presently loves you, personally, is the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Please turn at this time to Romans 5.6-8. When you find that passage please stand for the reading of God’s Word:

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

7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

The past death of Christ proves the present love of God. Let’s see how this is shown in God’s Word.

IN ROMANS 5.6 WE SEE A DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST’S SACRIFICE

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

There are three phrases in this verse which describe for us the very simple statement that “Christ died”:

First, there is the phrase “while we were yet without strength.” This is not so much a description of what the Lord Jesus Christ did on Calvary’s cross as it is a description of what we were like when He did what He did on Calvary’s cross. Please take note of the word “without strength.” It translates a word that means impotent, powerless, and anemic.1 The Apostle Paul does not so much describe us as being spiritually weak, per se, as he describes us as being weak, impotent, in every conceivable way. We have, when you properly analyze things, weak bodies, weak minds, weak moral fiber, and weak resolve. Think about it for a moment. When you get through slapping yourself on the back with the “I can do anything” attitude that so many people cultivate, recognize that the real truth is that we cannot do much of anything.

Next, there is the phrase “in due time.” This phrase refers to an appropriate time, a fitting time, a good time. In Galatians, Paul writes that “in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son.” Well, “in due time” that Son Who was sent forth “in the fullness of time” also died on the cross of Calvary. The Apostle Paul indicates here, to correct the errant thinking of some people, that Christ’s death took place at the right time. There were some heresies floating around as Paul writes this letter. Some people thought that Christ’s crucifixion was a bitter defeat for God. Still others, and perhaps this is why Paul uses the word “Christ” for the first time alone here in his letter to the Romans, thought that Jesus and Christ were not the same. They said Jesus was the man and Christ was the Spirit Who departed from Jesus, the man when the crucifixion took place. Well, Paul took care of that nonsensical heresy. He indicates here that it was Christ Who died, not some empty shell of a man named Jesus who was indwelt by or overshadowed by the Christ until the time of his death. And it happened according to God’s timing.

Finally, there is the phrase “for the ungodly.” What does it mean to be “ungodly?” One man wrote that “ungodly is not properly defined by comparisons with ordinary respectability.” If that is the way ungodliness is to be defined, then almost no one is ungodly. However, if we understand it in the light of God’s holiness and God’s intended pattern of life for human beings, then we realize that everyone who is without Christ is ungodly. Jesus Christ, then, died for people who were so weak we could not help ourselves in any way, at the precise time that God planned, and He did it all for people who were so undeserving as to be properly labeled ungodly.

IN ROMANS 5.7 WE SEE A DESCRIPTION OF MAN’S SACRIFICE

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.”

We are here given two hypothetical situations to consider that seem clumsy to the English reader:

First, there is the situation where a person contemplates dying on behalf of a righteous man. Not counting the fact that when a man dies for another man he at best only prolongs that man’s life by an undetermined number of days, Paul reminds us of what we already know. It is a cold day in May before anyone will give up his life for someone who is perceived to be righteous, someone who is perceived to be upright and upstanding, a pillar of the community. Oh, the plaques, the wreaths, the inscriptions, the monuments, the ribbons, the medals, the trumpets, the parades, the ceremonies, and the bag pipes that are turned out to persuade men to contemplate dying for what they perceive to be a righteous man.

Then, there is the situation where a person contemplates dying on behalf of a good man. What is the difference between a righteous man and a good man? I am not sure there is any real difference. I suppose the difference that Paul may be alluding to has to do more with perception than reality. It is possible for a person to be perceived as being righteous without having the emotional attachment that you would have if the man were perceived to be good. Perhaps righteous is the absence of negative qualities and goodness has to do with the presence of positive qualities. Almost no one will die for a righteous man. On rare occasions, there are those who have the courage to die for a good man. The point being? When men are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice it is rare, and then it is only for those men who are thought to have merit. No thought to dying for a bum or a thief given here. We are talking about the way real people behave. We are seeing described for us man’s conditions for sacrifice.

Finally, IN ROMANS 5.8 WE SEE THE DEMONSTRATION OF GOD’S LOVE

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The word “commended” means to demonstrate. The Greek word is sunisthsi, and Adam Clarke writes, “God hath set this act of infinite mercy in the most conspicuous light, so as to recommend it to the notice and admiration of all.”2 There are two questions for us to address: Exactly what is God demonstrating? Exactly how is God demonstrating it?

First question: What is God demonstrating? Do not lose sight of the fact that God is demonstrating, in our day, right now, something that, even in Paul’s day, occurred at a point in time in the past. The question is, what is it? It is a question of emphasis. Some are of the opinion that God is demonstrating to us His love. Others are of the opinion that God is demonstrating His love to us. And what is the difference? The difference is the emphasis.3 Is the emphasis on the fact that God is demonstrating something to us, something He wants us to take note of and admire, which happens to be His love? Or is God demonstrating something to us, which happens to be His love to us? I think it is the latter. God is demonstrating in the most undeniable way that can be imagined that He loves us, that He has love for us, that He is loving us. So emphatic is the construction in Greek that had the King James translators been southerners they might very well have translated the phrase in this way: “But God commendeth His Own love for us.” Therefore, God is showing in the most powerful manner conceivable that He loves us. Not that He loved us. That He loves us.4

Now, for the second question: How is God demonstrating His love for us? Christ died for us, that is how. But not only that He died for us. That He died for us while we were yet sinners. Think about that for just a moment. God’s love for us, His love for sinners, is so powerfully shown in the death that Christ suffered that it continues to testify of God’s love after the fact. How can that be? Sure, God showed His love at the time, when Christ died. But how can Christ’s death still demonstrate love later on? I think there are two answers to that question: First, the demonstration of love was of such magnitude that its impact and effectiveness would last for all eternity. And second, nothing has changed. God is the same as He was and man is the same as he was when Jesus Christ died. Whatever was shown at that time is still true today because nothing has changed. Men are still sinners in need of a Savior and undeserving of God’s love. Nevertheless, He shows (not shown, but shows) His love for us by Christ’s death on the cross of Calvary.

My friend, there are times when things are tough. There are times when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost. There are times when you feel as low as a snake’s belly on grass. You think that no one loves you. And you do not think God loves you as well as you do think that God does not love you. And you may feel both in your heart from time to time. But acknowledge that it is not true.

Sure, your best friend in the world may turn on you at a time of need and say, “What have you done for me lately?” But remember, Proverbs teaches us that “he that giveth gifts hath many friends.” Friends are bought with the currency of attention and generosity and affection.

So, though it may be painful, it is also true and understandable that some of your friends will turn on you, and some of your loved ones will no longer love you. This happens when they unethically and immorally rescind the unspoken agreement you have with them. That has happened numerous times in my life. I like someone. I love someone. I befriend someone. I pour my heart out to them and minister to them and help them and console them and patiently wait on them. And then one day they just walk out of my life and never set foot in Church again. I illustrate to point out that I understand how it works.

But there is One Who shows you how much He loves you. How nice that sounds in Romans 5.8: “But God.” God loves you so much that He shows it by sending His Own Son to die for your benefit. He sent His Son, not after you had turned over a new leaf, not after you had repented of your sin. He sent His Son while you were weak. He sent His Son while you were ungodly. He sent His Son while you were a sinner.

Surely that deserves a response.

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1 Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 142-143.

2 Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol VI, (New York: Abingdon Press), page 68.

3 C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle To The Romans, Volume I (ICC), (Edinburgh: T & T Clark Limited, 1975), page 265.

4 William Hendricksen, Exposition Of Paul’s Epistle To The Romans, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981), page 173.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org