When Christ Died For Us

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Romans 5:6-11

INTRODUCTION: When did Christ die for you? I don’t mean historically. We all know Christ died on the cross about two thousand years ago. But that’s not what our passage this morning is talking about. Rather, this passage answers a different question: “When Christ died for you, what were you like? What kind of person were you?” What kind of persons did Christ die for? The wealthy and privileged? The righteous and religious? The good, the bad and the ugly? What kind of persons did Christ die for? What were we like when Christ died for us?

The Bible gives us four answers to that question in today’s passage. The Bible says Christ died for us:

    1) when we were powerless,
    2) when we were ungodly,
    3) when we were sinners, and
    4) when we were God’s enemies.

You will notice there’s a progression in these terms from bad to worse. We were not only powerless, we were ungodly. And we were not just ungodly, we were sinners. And we were not only sinners, we were God’s enemies.

I. Christ died for us at just the right time. (6a)

We’ll get to those four descriptions in just a moment, but first I want to look at something else the Bible says about when Christ died for us. The Bible tells us Christ died for us at just the right time. Look at verse 6 where Paul writes: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) What does Paul mean when he says that Christ died at just the right time?

Elsewhere Paul tells us that God sent Christ in the fullness of time. We read in the book of Galatians: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)

When we say Christ came in the fullness of time, we mean that Christ’s coming was the central event in all of human history. All prior time looked forward to this event. All time following looks back to it. God sent his Son at the perfect time, the time that he had appointed before all time, the time that he and Jesus had decided together before the world even began. “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son.”

But there is a different way we should understand “at just the right time” here in Romans 5. The right time was when we were powerless, ungodly, sinners and enemies of God. This was “just the right time” for Christ to die for us. Why is that? Two reasons come to mind.

    A. We were at our deepest point of need.
      – Luke 5:31-32

First, because we were at our deepest point of need. If Christ had waited for us to improve ourselves, well, he would still be waiting, wouldn’t he? If Christ had waited until we got our lives all pulled together, if he had waited until we had learned to resist sin and follow God’s laws perfectly, he would never have died. Besides, his death would not have been necessary then. The whole purpose of his death was to bring us forgiveness. As Jesus said to the Pharisees of his day: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

    B. This was the greatest demonstration of God’s love.
      – John 3:16

And a second reason why this was the right time – that is, the time when we were powerless, ungodly, sinners and enemies of God – is because this was the greatest demonstration of God’s love. If God loved us so much that Christ would die for us when we were in such a state as Paul describes, then we may have full confidence that God loves us in the present and in the future as well.

John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) We were at our deepest point of deepest need, and this was the greatest demonstration of God’s love. Christ died for us at just the right time.

II. What were we like when Christ died for us?

    A. Christ died for us when we were powerless (6b)
      – John 6:37,44; Ephesians 2:5

Let’s look a little closer now at this perfect time when Christ died for us. What were we like when Christ died for us? Christ died for us first of all when we were powerless. Romans 5:6 says: “When we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)

The word translated “powerless” in this verse is a word that means “without strength.” It sometimes means “weak or sick,” such as in Matthew 26 where Jesus told his disciples: “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) However, in this verse it refers to moral frailty rather than physical frailty. It’s not that we were physically weak. Rather, we were spiritually weak. We were powerless to resist sin. We were powerless to do right. We were powerless to help ourselves.

Jesus said in John 6: “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37) But he also said: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44) In other words, we did not even have the strength to come to Christ for salvation. God the Father had to draw us. Apart from the drawing influence of the Father, no one would come to Christ.

Paul puts it this way in the book of Ephesians: “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:5) You can’t get much more powerless than dead! When we were dead in our sins – with no spiritual life in ourselves, no desire for God in ourselves, no spiritual interest in ourselves – that’s when God made us alive in Christ. Some people say God helps those who help themselves, but the Bible tells us God helps the helpless. Christ died for us when we were still powerless.

    B. Christ died for us when we were ungodly (6c)
      – Romans 1:21

Secondly, Christ died for us when we were ungodly. Back to Romans 5: “When we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)

The word translated “ungodly” here means “without reverence or worship.” The emphasis here is not so much on wickedness or evil, but rather a wrong attitude towards God. It’s what Paul talked about earlier in the book of Romans: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him.” (Romans 1:21)

So not only were we powerless, we were ungodly. We had no desire to worship God, no desire to serve him or glorify him as God. Basically, Paul is saying that we had a bad attitude towards God.

How about you? Do you have a bad attitude towards God? Do you seek to push him out of your life? Do you lack the desire to worship and glorify your Creator? Do you think it’s impossible for you to change? Take heart! When we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Christ can still save you. He can overcome your weakness. He can give you a new attitude.

Notice the word “for” in that phrase: “Christ died for the ungodly.” When the Bible says Christ died for us, it means not only that he died in our place but also for our benefit. What a contrast! Jesus Christ – the only one who truly worshiped God the Father in spirit and in truth – this same Jesus died for the ungodly. He died for people like you and me, who had bad attitudes, and who were powerless to help ourselves.

    C. Christ died for us when we were sinners (7-8)
      – Romans 3:23; 1 John 4:10

1) Christ died for us when we were powerless. 2) Christ died for us when we were ungodly. 3) And then thirdly, Christ died for us when we were sinners. Back to Romans 5, look at verses 7-8: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7-8)

Paul sets up another contrast here. He contrasts Christ’s willingness to die for sinners with our unwillingness to die for anyone. Anybody here willing to die for someone else? Any volunteers today?

Paul says: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man.” Those words “very rarely” refer more to the difficulty for us to do such a thing than the actual rareness of occurrence. In other words, Paul is saying it’s a hard thing to do. Not many have the strength or courage to die for another. You could translate verse 7 this way: “Only with great difficulty would someone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.”

You might wonder, what’s the difference be between the righteous person and the good person in this verse? Obviously, there is a good deal of overlap, but the distinction would be this. The righteous person is an innocent person, a person who does not deserve to die. He is one who has been unjustly accused. Goodness, however, refers to a person’s dealings with others. The word translated “good” here is a word that means “pleasant or useful.” The good person shows warmth and kindness to others in his personal relations.

So, the full thought of the verse is something like this: “It’s very difficult to die for someone else, even for an innocent person who doesn’t deserve to die, although you might possibly dare to die for someone who been kind to you in the past.”

Now, if it’s hard to die for a righteous person or even a good person, then what about those who are neither righteous nor good? What about those who deserve to die? Or those who have been unkind to you? Would you die for them? It would take a lot of love to die for even a righteous or a good person, but it would take even more love to die for an unrighteous person or for someone who was not a good person.

And yet that’s exactly what God did for us. Look at verse 8 again: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) The word “sinner” here means someone who has fallen short or missed the mark. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We have all missed the mark of God’s perfection. We have all fallen short of God’s standards. In other words, when Christ died for us, we were neither righteous nor good; we were sinners.

Notice Paul says here in verse 8: “God demonstrates his love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) The cross was not only a demonstration of Christ’s love for us. It was also a demonstration of God the Father’s love.

Some people have this misplaced idea that God was the one who was mad at us because of our sin, and it was Jesus who loved us so much that he came to die on the cross. In other words, they view God as angry, and Jesus as loving. But Romans 5:8 tells us that Jesus’ death on the cross was a demonstration of God’s love for us. God the Father willingly sent his own Son, his only Son whom he loved so dearly, to die on the cross for our sins.

How did God show his love for us? Not just that Christ died. Not just that Christ died for us. But Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Christ, the perfect, sinless, spotless Lamb of God died for sinners. 1 John 4:10 says: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

    D. Christ died for us when we were God’s enemies (9-11)
      – John 15:15

What were we like when Christ died for us? 1) Christ died for us when we were powerless. 2) Christ died for us when we were ungodly. 3) Christ died for us when we when we were sinners. And then fourthly, 4) Christ died for us when we were God’s enemies.

Back to Romans 5 now, look at verses 9-10: “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:9-10)

Christ died for us when we were God’s enemies. This means that sin is not only a failure, a falling short of God’s will. But it is also rebellion. It is a refusal to do God’s will. It’s not that we want to do God’s will and fall short. We fall short because we don’t want to do God’s will. And so, we were enemies of God.

As God’s enemies, we were not only hostile towards God, but we were under God’s judgment and wrath. That phrase “God’s enemies” captures both our hostility towards God, and God’s hostility towards our sin.

These last verses address the believer who has placed his faith in Christ but is still fearful of God’s judgment on the last day. Do you ever wonder about the final judgment, about whether God will admit you to heaven? If you were to die today, do you know for certain whether you would go to be with God in heaven? Do you have assurance of your salvation? Or do you fear God’s wrath?

God’s wrath refers to God’s righteous anger towards sin and his just punishment of sin. Apart from Christ we are all under God’s wrath. We are all sinners justly deserving eternal punishment for our sin. But Paul says that if your faith is in Christ, then you have been justified by his blood. And if you have been justified by his blood, that is, if you have been declared righteous in God’s sight by Christ’s death for you on the cross, how much more will you be saved from God’s wrath through Christ! Now that’s assurance!

Verse 10 states the reason for this assurance in unequivocal terms. “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10) Paul’s point is this: if Christ died for us when we were still his enemies, how much more will he save us now that we are his friends! If God already showed us the ultimate act of love when we were still enemies, how much more will God save us now that we have been reconciled, now that we have been restored to friendship with God! This is an incredible truth! Christ died for us when we were still God’s enemies.

On September 29, 2006, Navy SEAL Michael Monsoor was on a rooftop in Baghdad with three Iraqi soldiers and two other SEALs when a grenade suddenly flew out of nowhere and bounced off his chest onto the roof. Now Monsoor probably could have escaped, but then the other soldiers would have been killed or injured. Instead he jumped on the grenade, and he took the full force of the blast for them. He was killed by the explosion, but he saved the lives of the five other men. (Source: Navy SEAL paid ultimate price to save buddies)

We are rightly amazed at this man’s bravery and sacrifice for his friends. But Christ didn’t die for his friends. Christ died for his enemies. People, that is unheard of. Such a concept would revolutionize warfare. It doesn’t make any sense. How can anyone die for their enemy? And yet that’s what Jesus did. He took the full force of the blast of sin for us, and he did it while we were still God’s enemies.

That is the incredible, amazing love of God. And if Christ died for us when we were enemies of God, now that we have been reconciled through faith in Christ, how much more shall we be saved from the wrath to come! We may have full assurance of our salvation when our faith is in Christ.

And so, Paul concludes in verse 11: “Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:11)

Yes, we used to be God’s enemies. But now we are his friends. Jesus said to his followers in John 15:15: “I have called you friends.” (John 15:15) We used to be under God’s terror and wrath. But now we rejoice in him, because we have received reconciliation. We are at peace with God, a peace which God himself provided at the cross and which we received at our salvation.

We rejoice in God! Christianity is a joyful religion. Why? Because we have received forgiveness and reconciliation. We have been brought back into relationship with our great and loving God.

CONCLUSION: Very rarely will someone die for a good or righteous man. But Christ died for us when we were still powerless, ungodly, sinners and enemies of God. And if God did all this for us when we were still his enemies, how much more will he save us from the wrath to come now that we are his friends through Christ Jesus our Lord. Praise God! Rejoice in Him!

Let me leave you with three brief words of application in closing:

    1) Christ died for you when you were without strength:
           – have compassion on the weak.
    2) Christ died for you when you were still a sinner:
           – forgive those who sin against you.
    3) Christ died for you when you were still God’s enemy:
           – love your enemies and pray for them.

© Ray Fowler

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By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org

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