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. – Romans 5:6-8
Two years ago, I came across a sermon from the Resolved Conference by Pastor Rick Holland of Grace Community Church entitled “Sinners in the Pierced Hands of an Angry God”. He based his message on this text and related it to Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. In thinking of how to finish off postings on the topic of God’s grace, this passage stood out as an important one because it encapsulates the entire message and meaning of what God’s grace truly is.
Simply put, God’s grace is shown to believers in the most ultimate and complete sense through Jesus’ death on the cross. If we are to understand grace as something we cannot earn, do not deserve, and can never repay, then we need look no further than Calvary to discover how God, through His Son, has given those who would believe in Him the ultimate gift of grace.
This passage says clearly that “while we were still helpless, Christ died for us”. Meaning that, Jesus did not die for “good people”. He died for those who were still enemies of the cross. He died for those in harsh opposition and rebellion to Him. My pastor Habib always quotes Martin Lloyd Jones in reminding us that we must “thank God for the ‘buts’ in the Bible”. In this passage, the word ‘but’ is an indication of a change or a contrast. We see that it is possible for human beings to give up their life on behalf of someone else when Paul writes, “For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die”. We even praise the sacrifice that men and women make during wars to give their lives up for their fellow soldiers or countrymen. We esteem that kind of sacrifice as a noble act. And yet, God demonstrates His love in a different way. In sending Jesus to die on the cross, God demonstrates a very different kind of love. He died not for “good” people who loved Him and who showed loyalty to Him. In fact, He died for people who were enemies, haters of God, lovers of evil. Can you imagine dying for a person who hates you or who has hurt you deeply? This is where the greatest picture of grace is shown. God has sent His Son to die as a sacrifice for those who did not seek Him. Jesus died for us in spite of our sin. Jesus says in Luke 5:32, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”.
As a believer, the greatest reminder of God’s grace towards us will always be in remembering continually that we are sinners that did not deserve God’s love or forgiveness. We need to remember that we were in opposition to God and did not seek after Him. In looking at Jesus and His sinless perfection, we are reminded that the spotless, sinless, lamb of God, took our place on the cross and bore the wrath that we deserved for our sin. For those who are not believers, the Bible calls you to examine your soul and to see that you too are a sinner, deserving of God’s wrath towards your sin.Romans 3:23 says “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord”. Yet, in spite of your offences to a Holy God, Christ has died for you and in believing in Him and His sacrifice on your behalf, and repenting or turning away from sin to trust in Christ, you will be saved. Romans 10:13 says, “for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved’”.
So in conclusion, in looking at Christ and His death on the cross, we see the greatest picture of grace ever demonstrated and are given the greatest reason to praise God and worship Him for His mercy towards us.
The words from an excellent song by Jordan Kaufflin called “All I Have is Christ” summarize the message of Romans 5 in a beautiful way.
“So as I ran my hell-bound race, indifferent to the cost, you looked upon my helpless state and led me to the cross. And I beheld God’s love displayed, You suffered in my place. You bore the wrath, you knew the shame, now all I know is grace.”