The Gospel of Our Salvation

(Rom. 5:6-11)

Part 1

Romans 5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while 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. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

The gospel is a message concerning two primary issues: the spiritual condition of human beings and God’s response to that condition. One of the chief aims of Paul in the book of Romans is communicating the fact that all people, Jews and Gentiles, come into the world alienated from God. We all have inherited the corrupt nature of our father Adam.

In response to man’s need, God set in motion a plan of redemption by which the human race would be rescued and delivered from condemnation through the work of Jesus Christ. The entire Bible is about this unfolding decree of God whereby He appointed us to eternal life.

The passage above comes from a section where the apostle is explaining how Christ served as our Savior. Having established the fact that all people are in need of the Savior because all people are, as I said earlier, alienated from God, Paul takes up the matter of our common Redeemer. God has appointed only one way of salvation and that is through His Son.

Please notice how Paul begins this section of his letter to the Romans. He describes a sinner’s condition at the point where the ministry of Christ becomes relevant. While we were still helpless, Christ died for the ungodly. (v.6) The first phrase of this verse speaks to the spiritual condition of man. We were “helpless.”

The context confirms that Paul is speaking of our status before God as we come into this world. He is addressing the results of man’s fall into sin. As a race, we were left “helpless.” Paul uses a Greek term (asthenes) that means” to be weak, sick, feeble, without strength.” Remember that Paul is not speaking of our physical condition, but of our spiritual condition. He is teaching that the sinner is incapable of delivering himself from the judgment of God. We do not have the ability to overcome the effects of man’s corruption due to the fall of Adam.

Adam was our representative and his conduct had immediate and critical consequences for all of those human beings who would descend from him. Right at the beginning of human history, therefore, mankind was confirmed in a spiritual state that left him estranged from God and liable only for God’s judgment.

Notice how Paul describes us, in our fallen state, as this passage continues. In verse 8, he refers to us as “sinners.” This is the simplest and most prevalent term used to identify fallen man in his relationship to God. While God is holy, man is unholy. God is unmarked by sin, but we are corrupt in every facet of our existence.

In the next verse, Paul refers to us as being “saved from the wrath of God through Him.” (v 9) If we are saved from the wrath of God in Christ, that means that we existed under the wrath of God prior to our deliverance. Apart from Christ, we are not in neutral territory, so to speak. From the point of Adam’s disobedience, every human being is conceived in a state of separation from God.

At no time during our lives do we escape the sentence of judgment that hangs over us. As Paul has already stated, the only way of escape is for us to have a Substitute to receive that judgment in our place. That Substitute, as already stated, is Jesus Christ.

The wrath of God does not disappear, nor is it simply set aside. The wrath of God must fall upon sin and all transgressions against a holy God must be atoned for. That is what happens for us in our Savior. In Christ, the necessary and unavoidable justice of God finds its fulfillment in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. And those represented by Christ, just like those represented by Adam, receive the benefits of what He attained.

One other descriptive term of man in sin is found in verse 10: “[W]hile we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” It is an unsettling thing to think of ourselves as enemies of God. He made us and yet we are declared to be hostile toward Him. We fall into a category of hopelessness because no enemy of God can ever overcome Him. God’s enemies are always defeated and destroyed because there is no wisdom or power in all the universe that can successfully contend with the wisdom and the power of God.

To be an enemy of God, therefore, is to be doomed. It is to have no hope of deliverance, no hope of escaping the inevitable wrath that a righteous God must inflict upon His enemies. It is not difficult to understand why Paul begins this passage by saying that we were “helpless.” There was nothing we could do to change our condition. Compounding this frightening truth is the fact that a fallen man has no desire to be reconciled to God, no desire to serve his Maker, and no desire to please God. (cf. Rom. 3:10-18)

Theologians use the term “depravity” to describe fallen man’s spiritual condition apart from Christ. This word means that there is no aspect of our nature that has gone untouched by sin. There is only one way of salvation and that is through Jesus Christ. By receiving His work as our own, our sins are paid for and we are granted eternal life in Him. In the Savior, God’s condemnation falls on Him as our Substitute.

With Christ as my personal Savior, God accepts His work on my behalf. As my Redeemer, Jesus was nailed to the cross where He suffered and died in my place. He paid the price necessary for me to be reconciled to God. When God came to this world in the flesh, He gave himself as a sacrifice of infinite worth. His death atoned for my sin.

Before I continue, let me emphasize that what has been said so far about man apart from Christ is true of everyone. Paul is not speaking about exceptionally wicked people only, he is speaking about all people. The helplessness Paul mentions applies to every human being, past, present, and future. Absolute helplessness is the state of all people—every man, woman, and child—outside of Christ.

If you will meditate on these disturbing truths about your spiritual condition, you will find great comfort and joy in the other aspect of the gospel that I mentioned earlier, namely, God’s response to our need. While we were still helpless, Paul writes, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Consider the implications of that opening verse. Christ died for us while we were in a state of estrangement from God. We did not love Him, nor did we have a desire to please Him, as I noted before. Christ did not die for us after we began to make an effort to reach God.

Christ did not come along and help us find our way back to our Creator. Jesus Christ came for us and delivered us while we hated Him and wanted nothing to do with the righteousness of God.

The word that is used to describe this act of selflessness on the part of our Savior is grace. Grace refers to God showing the unworthy sinner mercy even when that sinner was an enemy. Grace is seen in God’s willingness to receive the work of His Son in our place. Grace is in operation when the sinner receives the blessings of redemption without any demands made upon him.

Above all else, therefore, we must keep in mind that the gospel is a declaration of God’s grace toward us in Christ. We did not deserve deliverance from God’s judgment, nor could we ever achieve deliverance from God’s judgment on our own. It had to be done for us and it had to be done without requiring anything of us because we had nothing to give in exchange for the salvation of our souls.

While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (v. 6) God responded to our need by taking our guilt from us and placing it on the back of His own Son. And then, bearing our sin Himself, Jesus Christ, the blessed Lamb of God, gave His life as a payment for our transgressions. God in the flesh came to us in our misery. This was His response to our horrible dilemma. We had nothing to entice Him, nothing to give Him, yet He came from heaven to earth to save us.

A second aspect of God’s response to our need is found in verse 8 where Paul says that the coming of Christ for us was a demonstration of God’s love toward us. Talk about God’s plan of redemption and Christ’s work of atonement can become quite technical and, to a degree, academic. This is because we have to have absolute precision in our interpretation of these matters.

We must always, however, work within the context of God’s love. Christ’s ministry on our behalf was grounded in the love of God. The truths that we hold dear as believers, the joy that we experience in worship and fellowship with one another, the peace we have when contemplating our security in Christ—all these wonderful elements in our Christian experience are aspects of God’s love for us.

God loves us; therefore, He did not require us to answer for our rebellion against Him. His love revealed itself in His plan for our deliverance, which, as we know, involved Another taking our place. The love of God was not only declared to us, it was manifested, Paul writes, in the Person of Jesus Christ.

The love of God can be observed. It is not just a concept. God’s promises are followed by His actions. While walking the earth, Jesus referred to His mission many times. He taught His disciples that He was the promised Messiah who had come to deliver them from their spiritual bondage. And Jesus went to the cross to fulfill the things He had promised. I will say again, therefore, that the love of God can be observed.

As I conclude part one of this study, I want you to personalize the teaching of the apostle. I want you to think about the fact that you were helpless—helpless when it came to escaping that dreaded sentence of condemnation. You would still be under that judgment were it not for Christ. Without Him, your spiritual condition would never change.

You will never know the displeasure of God. You will never experience even a taste of his righteous judgment. You will only know the peace of God, the comfort of God, the patience of God, and the forgiveness of God.

If you have embraced Christ as Savior, then all of God’s displeasure with you was transferred to Him on the cross. And His righteous judgment was directed away from you and to His own Son. And what is true for you, is true for all those who have believed God’s promise of salvation in Christ. Together, we praise God for His saving love. Together, we worship Him each week and strive to live for His glory each day. We live a truly blessed life. We know God, we know His Son, and we know where we are going.

If you hear these words, but realize that they do not describe your life, you can change that today. God offers salvation to all who will receive it. It is a gift in the most magnificent sense of the term. You may call upon the Savior even now and ask Him to save you, to fill your heart with joy, and to grant you eternal life.

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