For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:6-8
For many people, the truth that God loves them is hardly newsworthy. If I was to approach a stranger in the street with the good news “God loves you!”, he might respond by saying, “Well, of course He does! He’s a nice guy, I’m a nice guy! Why wouldn’t He?”
Yet as Paul describes the gospel in his letter to the Romans, he doesn’t begin with the message of God’s love but by announcing: “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18). Since we might not think we are particularly ungodly or unrighteous, Paul then spends three chapters outlining God’s legal case against us and concludes that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Although all are guilty before God, all can avail of the same offer of having God apply His righteousness to our account because Jesus paid our penalty on the cross. In this way, God can uphold His standard of righteousness and still forgive guilty sinners (Romans 3:24-26).
What would motivate God to do such a thing? It is only in chapter 5 that Paul finally points to the wonder of God’s love for us. As the famous hymn says, it truly is amazing grace that saved a wretch like me! Jesus told the self-righteous Pharisees of His day, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13) but since Christ died for the ungodly, praise God, I qualify! In fact, the only ones who don’t qualify are those who, like the Pharisees, refuse to acknowledge that they are sinners! Since God knew there was no way we could ever save ourselves through our own strength or earn His favour through our own righteousness, God sent His Son to die for the ungodly. Paul speaks here of the death of Christ rather than the death of Jesus. He typically uses the name “Jesus” to draw attention to our Lord’s humanity but “Christ” to draw attention to Him as the anointed King, the long-awaited Messiah. And while it is proper to speak of Jesus dying for us, Paul also wants us to know that the death of Jesus is the death of the royal Son of David (Romans 1:1-4). Jesus is a not a King who conscripts soldiers to fight and die for Him, but a loving King who gives His life to save all who come to Him in faith!