Summary: Our fallen condition demands that God must provide a Saviour if we will be saved. We cannot redeem ourselves.
“While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
It is a common myth that one can be good enough to satisfy the righteous demands of Holy God. How often have you heard someone assert, “God will weigh my good deeds against my bad deeds, and I will be allowed into Heaven?” The one making such a statement frequently asserts, “I never killed anyone. I never robbed anyone. I never did anything terrible.” In making such assertion, they thoughtlessly claim that they have met the standard of perfection set by the infinite God.
It is doubtful that such people actually think before making these absurd claims. People who actually think, rather than simply talk, would realise that if they are perfect they will never die. Death is a stunning reminder that we are not perfected. The Apostle will shortly stress this point when he writes, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” [ROMANS 5:12-14]. Though we who are Christians now possess eternal life in Christ the Lord, we know that we must nevertheless set aside the flesh. Our days on this earth are numbered. Therefore, we seek to “number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” [PSALM 90:12].
Let’s tease apart what the Apostle has written so that we will be prepared to encourage friends and family members to consider the mercies of our God, and so we may grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
OUR CONDITION — “While we were still weak… While we were still sinners… While we were enemies…” The Apostle will not let us dismiss what we were. He ensures that the reader that we begin our journey toward new life in a dreadful condition. At the outset, let’s establish a truth—an uncomfortable truth. None of us will ever be good enough to satisfy the righteous demands of the Living God. God is perfect; man is fallen and imperfect.
Let’s begin with an “innocent” child. Of course, the child is born in sin. It doesn’t mean that the child is a dreadful sinner seeking to rebel against the grace of God, but it does mean that the child is born into a fallen race with all the deficits of that fallen condition. The child is from the moment of conception disposed to all the ills that can and do befall mankind. Thus, though they are not rebels against grace, even little children are subject to death.
During the days that I was preparing for post-doctoral studies, I received an invitation to conduct studies at a major medical school on what are called “inborn errors of metabolism.” These are most often metabolic conditions resulting from a deficit in one enzyme. Since these conditions represent serious deficits, they commonly result in death. Frequently, the deaths resulting from the failure of one of the systems in view occur at a very young age. I recall a lecture I attended on one occasion, in which the lecturer stressed the point that the children with the particular deficit he was studying were frequently among the most beautiful children one could ever expect to see. His contention was emphasised with pictures of beautiful children. As the disease progresses, the accumulation of toxic by-products transform these lovely children into hideous caricatures of what they once were. The disease is a dreadful sentence that inevitably leads to death.
Listening to the lecture, I thought of how the accelerated progress of the disease, ensuring that these children would die between six months and one year after birth, was a parable of our lives. We are born with a deficit, and as time passes the toxic accumulation of sin only accelerates the inevitable death. Ultimately, death reduces the beautiful woman to a wizened hag. It transforms the strong man into a weakling that needs assistance to transfer from bed to chair. It reduces the powerful individual to one who begs for consideration.