For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. – Romans 5:6-8
Paul points out that we were helpless. We could not clean ourselves; we could not heal ourselves,; we could not save ourselves. But it was in that helpless state, when we had nothing to offer God, that God offered us life and hope beyond measure. It was “while we were still weak” that “Christ died for the ungodly.”
Paul’s emphasis here is that God’s favor and blessing were freely given, not earned. It’s an important concept. As soon as someone earns a wage, she or he has leverage over the employer. The boss owes the rightful wage. The employer is in debt to the employee. The unpaid wages are a liability. Such is not the case with God. God never owes anything. We never gain leverage over God. God is always in control and always in a position of power over us. God’s gifts to us are completely unearned and are freely given. That God chooses to give us our Lord Jesus Christ simply shows us God’s goodness, God’s intention to be reconciled at great cost with his creation. It was God’s decision; it was God’s gift – not earned by the creation but freely given by the creator.
And it’s not just that we didn’t earn righteousness. It is that we couldn’t earn righteousness. We were weak, utterly helpless, pitiful when Jesus Christ came to us and died for us. We had no claim, no hope, nothing to offer, and Christ gave his life to reconcile us to God.
The concept is unthinkable. There is no way to make sense of Christ’s action, Paul writes. I mean, most of us would not choose to die even to help a good person, a famous person, a worthy person. Surely we would not choose to die for someone who was no-count. Would you die to save a child-molester on death row in some God-forsaken prison? Of course not. It would make no sense to give a good life for a bad life, a worthy person’s life for an unworthy person’s life, a life of great worth for a life that is utterly worthless. No one would do that. Yet, that’s just what Christ did.
The only way it would make sense for Christ to die for us would be if he did so out of his great love for us. The only reason we might die for a no-count child molester on death row would be if that prisoner were our child. The only way we would even consider such an action would be if our love was great enough to trump reason.
And there it is. There is the gospel. God’s love trumps all reason. ”God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”
Oh, how I love Jesus! Oh, how I love Jesus! Oh, how I love Jesus, because he first (fully and perfectly) loved me. Amen.
A Bible study devotional by Gorman Houston