For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.…
The apostle establishes this point by means of two reasons —
I. THE GREAT LOVE WHICH GOD HAS ALREADY BESTOWED ON MAN. This is seen in —
1. The unworthiness of the object.
(1) "Without strength." In this expression the apostle is probably accommodating himself to the natural disposition of the Romans. Rome was a mighty empire, and its motto was "power." Their highest notion of goodness, as the word "virtue" indicates, was strength. Hence Paul represents the gospel as "the power of God." Nothing was so detestable in their eyes as weakness. And what a helpless man was in the estimation of the Roman, that — universal man — was in the sight of God. There was nothing to evoke the Divine complacency, but everything to repel.
(2) "Ungodly." There was not only the destitution of what was holy, but also the absence of desire for any good.
(3) "Sinners." When God is banished from the thought, as suggested by the word "ungodly," His place is usurped by unworthy rivals. The higher principles of the soul are made subordinate to the lower. Disorder prevails; and to God, who in the beginning commanded the chaotic earth to wear its present aspect of beauty, nothing could be more repelling than the huge disorder reigning in the human soul bent on fulfilling the desires of the flesh.
(4) "Enemies." Here the apostle reaches the climax of his reasoning. All the unworthiness of man must be attributed to his enmity against God. In this man is a sad exception to everything else Which God has made. In nature, God's will and power are coextensive. But man disobeys and resists his Maker. The very power which was given him to hate sin is so perverted that it is used against God Himself.
2. The greatness of Christ's sacrifice. With reverence we would say, that to redeem man was not easy even to God. It required an infinite sacrifice to remove the curse connected with sin. And for this purpose "God spared not His own Son." Now, if God bestowed such an incomparable love upon man when he was "without strength," "ungodly," sinful, and inimical towards Him, surely He will not withhold any blessing from man when he is reconciled to Him, and adopted to His family again.
II. WHAT CHRIST'S LIFE IN HEAVEN IS DOING, CONTRASTED WITH WHAT HIS DEATH HAS DONE.
1. However important we may regard the death of our Lord, we must not consider His life in heaven of secondary moment. Apart from this life His death would not avail us. But the apostle asserts that the death of Christ effected our reconciliation to God. And shall we doubt the power of His life? Nay; the good work which He hath begun on our behalf will be fully consummated.
2. Besides, the nature of Christ's work in heaven is a pledge for the final safety of the believer, "He liveth to make intercession for us." His intercession is the completion of His sacrifice, and perpetuates the efficacy of His atonement.
Parallel VersesKJV: For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.