6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)
This passage in particular is not one which we might consider a traditional resurrection passage, but it is one that tells us not just of the historical account of the resurrection but also of the effects of the death and resurrection of Christ and how those events directly impact our lives.
Verses 6-11 are really introduced by verse 5, which says, “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.” And then verse 6 starts with “For,” which shows us that Paul is about to explain to us how it is that the love of God, mentioned in verse 5, has actually been poured out into the hearts of men and women. He will show us how God has demonstrated His love for people through the death and resurrection of His only begotten Son.
God does not, like we do at times, just talk about love. No, God demonstrates His love in the most radical ways. And the most significant way is through the sending of His Son and the brutal death of His Son. His love is shown in His wrath at the cross. Yes, that is what I said, His love was shown through His holy wrath at the cross, His holy wrath poured out on His only begotten Son. A holy wrath and a holy love, demonstrated at the cross! Wrath due to sin, yours and mine, and love demonstrated.
Who are the beneficiaries of such love? If His love has been or is being poured out into the hearts of people, then who are those that will receive it or be lavished with the love of God for now and for all eternity? Who will be showered with gifts of endless love and affection from the One who holds all the resources of the universe in His hand? Who are these? Who gets that? The wealthy, those with the highest IQs? Those who deserve it?
Will it be you? Could we insert your name into Romans 5:6-11? I want us to take a look at Romans 5:6-11 this morning by asking and answering three questions. And really, I want you to ask yourself these questions. So, ask yourself these questions along with me. Ready?
1. Was Jesus death effectual for me?
2. If so, what did His death accomplish for me?
3. What does His resurrection mean for me?
Did Jesus die for me and you? Or, for whom did Jesus die? Look at verse 6 – “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” And look at verse 8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What do we see about those for whom Jesus died? Jesus died for those who are without strength, the helpless (verse 6), and for the ungodly (verse 6), and for sinners (verse 8). Jesus died for helpless, ungodly sinners. And not only for those who fit into that mold and can be described in that way, but for those who also understand that they fit into that mold and can be described that way. And that is really important! Jesus died for helpless, ungodly sinners, for those who come to an understanding that they are helpless, ungodly sinners.
What does this mean to be without strength or helpless? It sounds like an awful position to be in, doesn’t it? To be without strength or helpless is to be in a sad position. It reminds me of a newborn baby. A baby who cannot yet talk, feed himself, even roll over. A baby who, without the aid of another, will lay there and perish. Or of a person in an operating room, unconscious under anesthesia, unable to do anything for herself, totally under the care of others. In the case of the newborn or the incapacitated person under the knife, if no one helps, he or she is doomed. And not only is it a sad condition to be in, but it also describes someone who cannot help themselves out of that position. It describes someone who is lost and totally unable on his or her own to recover. It is a desperate condition. Many will never believe they are in such a state. This is why the proud will not enter into heaven.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in an interview with the New York Times about his legacy, including his work on gun safety, said this: “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”
Paul in Ephesians describes the helpless sinner this way, his condition as being dead. Ephesians 2:1 – “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sin.” God’s time to help and save is when those that are to be saved are without strength, so that His own power and grace may be magnified the most. “For by grace you have been saved and that not of yourselves.” When God saves, when He rescues a sinner, it is clear that He did it.
No one says of the newborn, “Wow, you really cared well for yourself, pulled yourself out of that newborn stage!” Or to the patient under the knife, “Great job in there! You were terrific the way you managed your condition and got to a better place while in surgery.” No, it would be the caretakers, the mom, the dad, the surgeons who put their hand to the task and raised the child or repaired the body. Not the newborn, not the patient.
I love this description of those for whom God has compassion, from Deuteronomy 32:36, “For the Lord will judge His people and have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their power is gone. And there is no one remaining, bond or free.” It is when we rightly see ourselves as helpless and without strength before God that He will show Himself strong in us. Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” So long as we live believing that we can get to God on our own, then we are on our own. And on our own we are millions of miles away from Him. Seeing ourselves as helpless and without strength to get to God is good, it is a first step into His very presence.
Have you, have we come to a place of sheer helplessness before God and cried out to Him for grace and mercy as those who are ready, willing to give Him everything that we have, everything that we are?
Not only did Christ die for those who were without strength, but for those who were without strength and who were ungodly sinners.
Now I realize that I may not be doing much for your self-esteem this morning, but it is not your esteem that is important here, but the manifestation of God’s incredible love shown toward His people. And that has nothing to do with how highly we think of ourselves.
For whom did He die? Ungodly sinners. If we think of the purely helpless or those without strength, we might sometimes also use the word “innocent,” right? Poor, helpless, innocent people. And we might even have compassion on those who fit that description. But those whom God saves are not helpless and innocent. No, the people who are saved are not only helpless people who seem likely to perish due to their helplessness, but are also guilty and sinful people who deserve to perish. That is not a popular thing to say in our culture which often works so hard to argue that sin is not sin and all is permissible if it makes someone happy. People are not only weak and helpless, but they are vile and obnoxious and unworthy in any way to receive favor from a Holy God.
I don’t know how many people I have heard say something like, “I can’t come to God, to Christ because I am too bad, I have sinned to much, I am really, really bad and not worthy of God!” Have you heard that? Have you said that? Are you saying that now? Verse 10 says, “when we were enemies we were reconciled to God.” God has saved those who have walked in open rebellion against Him and who have committed high crimes against Him personally. It is personal to God. Yes, it is true, He has been personally offended by your sin and by my sin. This is not theoretical rhetoric. We have each offended God. Your sins are not more grievous than the sins of the person sitting next to you. You may say, “But you don’t know what I have done, you don’t understand how bad I am.” Well, that is okay, God does, and He saves His enemies.
We are all born with an inherited sin nature (Genesis 3) and we each actively sin (Romans 3:23, James 2:10). We are told that God can be grieved – ”grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.” When Christ spoke to Saul on the road to Damascus He said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” How personal is that? Jesus does not say, “Oh Saul, why are you going against some distant God way out there somewhere in the universe?” No, it is “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Do you see the personal nature of both the grieving of God and the persecuting of Him? God has saved those whose destruction could have glorified Himself by manifesting His perfect, holy justice. In other words, God would be just to have let all helpless, ungodly, offensive sinners – who have grieved and persecuted Him – perish for eternity. That would be justice. And yet in His love He saves His enemies.
7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)
Did Jesus die for you? Are you or have you been a helpless, ungodly sinner? Then far from being cast out of God’s presence, as we deserve, I would say there is great hope. Once we recognize, by God’s grace, that our state is such before God, we are well on our way to receiving His gracious salvation.
People stumble here for at least two reasons. They may never recognize themselves nor will they admit to their helpless state as sinners before God, and so they never humble themselves before God and cry out to Him, to the only One who can rescue them from eternal damnation. These are proud and self-righteous men and women who will die in their pride and self-righteousness – and face judgment. Our works apart from God are as filthy rags and they cannot lift us up into the presence and favor of a Holy God. The second reason people stumble here is sort of the opposite of the first. People look honestly at their lives, the history of their lives, and what they see is ugliness, acts deserving severe punishment, maybe a lifelong lifestyle of habitual evil acts, and they say, “God could never forgive me.” So they think themselves doomed. But what have we learned this morning? Christ died for whom? For helpless, ungodly sinners – and even of the worst kind! It is because our sin is so awful that Christ died for us, not because we sin little, but because we sin much.
Did Christ die for you? If you recognize your helpless state and your ungodly sin before Him. If you agree with God that your sin is real and you cry out to Him in repentance and believe in His death for you and embrace Christ as the sacrifice for your sin and take Him as your new Lord, then you will be saved! He died for you.
Let’s move on. I’ll cover these last two questions more quickly.
The second question was, “If so, what did His death accomplish for me?” Look at verse 9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” Paul mentions two things that Jesus’ death accomplished: justification and salvation from wrath.
To be justified means that our sin, the sinfulness of our lives that we have been talking of, our sin is pardoned. And the sinner, no matter how awful, is then accepted as righteous! The battle with God is over. The fight has ended, and is replaced with an everlasting, never ending righteousness before God. That becomes our legal position before God who judges the universe. When we recognize our sinfulness and believe in Christ our Savior we are immediately transported into this state of being justified. And all is done by the blood of Christ, by His sacrificial death. The blood of Christ had to be offered up, for “without blood there is no remission of sin” (Hebrews 9:22). Our sins are placed on Him at the cross and His perfect righteousness is wrapped around us, not as a cloth that can fall off, but as one secured to us by our God forever. If we commit a crime we are guilty, if we sin we are guilty, but if we embrace Christ that guilt is removed, it is gone, the penalty has been paid. We are justified not without cost, but at the greatest cost: the life of our innocent Savior. That is love.
Second, we have salvation from the wrath of God. To avoid the wrath of another person is good, but to be saved from the wrath of God is to have life, eternal life. It is to be saved from hell and damnation. But we need to remember that God did not just withhold wrath. No, His wrath was poured out. His wrath that we as believers deserve was poured out, it is just that it will not be poured out on us. It was poured out on Jesus. The sum total and intensity of eternal wrath that I deserve for my sins against a holy God was placed on Christ Jesus and endured by Him in His body. I cannot comprehend that. And not only my due punishment but yours as well, and every other believer who has or who ever will live.
And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
I don’t know how eternal punishment from millions of people can be placed on one person and endured by one person. But it was, and because it was we have been saved from God’s wrath if we belong to God in Christ.
What did His death accomplish for you and for me? By His death, and only by His death, we who believe have been transported into a position of favor with God, we have been justified before Him, not by our own merits but by the blood of Christ, and we have escaped the wrath of an all-powerful God. And that wrath has been replaced by loving kindness which God will lavish on us forever.
Lastly, what does His resurrection accomplish for me? In 1 Corinthians 15:17 we read, “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” If Christ did not rise then your faith is useless and you are still dead in your sins! How significant is the resurrection of Christ? Without it we would be without hope, without salvation. We would remain dead, enemies of God.
You see, apart from the resurrection of Jesus the whole gospel would be in question. The reason why this one fact is so essential is because Christ rested the validity of all His claims upon His resurrection. If anyone desires to discredit the Christian faith, of Jesus as the Messiah, then the key would be to discredit the resurrection. If He did rise, then He truly is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. If He did rise then His sacrifice has been accepted. If He did rise then God has been satisfied and pleased. And if He did not rise, then none of these things are true, and He would not have been who He claimed to be, and His blood would have ransomed no one. The resurrection of Jesus is essential to our faith and to our lives personally.
In our text in verse 10 we read, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” There is the resurrection, “His life.” The verse simply means this: If God had the power and the will to redeem us in the first place, by the death of Christ Jesus, then much more does He have the power and the will to keep us redeemed. If God brought us to Himself through the death of Christ when we were His enemies, then how much more will He keep us saved as His children by the life of His Son?
If Christ would have remained in the grave, He have been like every other false prophet, every other would-be savior. But the grave could not keep Him. He is risen, He is alive!
There is no uncertainty about our final salvation and eternal future because we have a living Savior who is keeping us in a state of reconciliation, that is, peace with God.
For whom did Christ Jesus die? For helpless, ungodly sinners, who recognize their state and trust Christ for salvation. What did His death accomplish? It justified sinners who believe and saved them from the wrath of God. What did the resurrection accomplish? It confirmed our faith and secures our salvation.
This is the love that Paul speaks of in verse 5 as he introduces this text, “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.”
If you do not know Christ as Lord and Savior, then having heard, today is the day of salvation. I would urge you, if you have not turned to Him by faith, that you would repent of your sins, recognize your ungodliness and sinfulness, and believe the gospel message that Christ has come, He did die for sin, and He was raised on the third day.
Jesus died on the cross but the grave could not hold Him. He is risen, He is alive, our Savior lives!