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Sermon #56 — Romans Series
Title: For Whom Did Christ Die?
Text: Romans 5:6
Subject: Substitutionary Atonement
Date: Sunday Morning — June 21, 2015
Reading: Psalms 22:1-21 and 40:11-17
I ask that you give me your careful attention as we consider this question – For Whom Did Christ Die? God the Holy Spirit gives us the answer in our text — Romans 5:6.
(Romans 5:6) For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Our text brings us immediately to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It sheds light on our former estate. It lets us see where we were and what we needed. Do we ask, “How did our Redeemer look upon us when he died for us?” The answer is clearly given. — “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Diseased and Dead
Thus the human race is described as a sick man, whose disease is so far advanced that he is altogether without strength. No power remains in his system to throw off the mortal malady, nor does he desire to do so. He could not save himself from the disease if he would; and he would not if he could. Man’s condition is often set forth in the Scriptures under the picture of weakness, helplessness, and disease.
Perhaps Paul had pictures in his mind’s eye of the helpless infant described by Ezekiel. It was a new born infant, aborted, cast off, and deserted, corrupt, polluted, and dead. It was left unwashed, unclothed, unfed, a prey to certain death, under the most painful and cruel circumstances, abandoned without hope. The poor child died in the open field, died with the barbaric cruelty that only abortion brings, murdered by its mother’s own hands, with none to pity it!
Or, perhaps, he is here picturing our race as Isaiah had pictured the nation of Israel. Its whole head is sick and its whole heart faint. — “A people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children that are corrupters…From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores: They have not been closed, neither bound up; neither mollified with ointment.” Hear me, unconverted men and women, such is your condition before God!
But our text also brings us glad tidings. For while man was in such a condition as I have described, the Lord Jesus Christ interposed himself for our salvation. — “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” — “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;” and that, “according to his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins.” — “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins!”
The very essence of Paul’s message in this 5th chapter of Romans is to show the great, indescribable display and commendation of God’s love in the sacrifice of his darling Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He shows us that the reason for Christ dying was not man’s moral excellence, but his own everlasting love. — “Where sin abounded grace did much more abound!” The people for whom Jesus Christ died were seen by him as the very opposite of everything pure, good, and holy. He came into the world to save those who were guilty before God.
In the words of our text, “Christ died for the ungodly.” Is there an ungodly soul here, anyone who is ungodly: dirty, helpless, vile, wretched, corrupt before God? Give me your ear. I have got good news for you. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died to save such people as you are. Trust him, even as I speak to you, for your eternal salvation. O my soul, dwell much upon this blessed fact: When I was an enemy to God, a sinner, and an ungodly man, Christ died for me!
“Great God! When I approach Thy throne,
And all Thy glory see;
This is my stay, and this alone,
That Jesus died for me!
How can a soul condemned to die
Escape the just decree?
A vile, unworthy wretch am I,
But Jesus died for me!
Burdened with sin’s oppressive chain,
Oh, how can I get free?
No peace can all my efforts gain,
But Jesus died for me!
My course I could not safely steer,
Through life’s tempestuous sea,
Did not this truth relieve my fear,
That Jesus died for me.
And, Lord, when I behold Thy face,
This must be all my plea –
Save me by Thy Almighty grace,
For Jesus died for me!”
Proposition: In this verse God the Holy Spirit shows us that while we were utterly helpless and lost in sin, the Lord Jesus Christ died, by divine appointment, to redeem us.
To begin, I want to show you THE DOCTRINE of our text. It is the glorious doctrine of the Gospel. Never did human ear listen to more astounding and, at the same time, more cheering truth than that which Paul declares in this simple statement. —– “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Angels desire to look into it. And if men were wise, they would study it night and day. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, himself, God over all and blessed forever, the infinitely glorious One, Creator of heaven and earth, stooped to become a man and die in the place of sinners, because of his great love. Christ Jesus, the thrice holy God, the pure-hearted man, in whom there was no sin, took upon himself the salvation of wicked men. That holy One of Israel, whose doctrine makes deadly war on sin, whose Spirit destroys evil, whose whole being abhors iniquity, and whose second advent will prove his indignation against every form of transgression, undertook the cause of fallen man. The Christ of God, though he had neither part nor lot in the fall and the sin which has arisen from it, has died to redeem us from its penalty. Like the Psalmist, he can cry, — “Then I restored that which I took not away.” This, my friends, is the doctrine of the Gospel. It is the doctrine of our text. Let me show you a few things that are plainly taught here.
At the very first glance of the verse, you have the answer to our question, for whom did Christ die. In verses 6, 8, and 10 Paul uses four words to describe the miserable condition of those for whom Jesus Christ gave his life a ransom at Calvary.
1. “Without Strength” — The Lord Jesus Christ died for those who were “without strength.”
This is the condition in which he found us. We were lame on both feet through a fall. We had fallen among two thieves, sin and Satan, who had beaten us, stripped us, robbed us, and left us for dead. In a word, we were weak. — We were legally weak. We had no strength to obey God’s holy law. We were morally weak. We were prisoners under bondage because of iniquity.
And we were spiritually weak.
Are there any in this house of worship today who are “without strength?” I have good news for you. Christ has all power to do for you what you can never do for yourself. His strength is made perfect in weakness. — “He is able to save unto the uttermost them who come unto God by him.”
2. “Ungodly” — The Lord Jesus Christ died for “the ungodly.”
(Isaiah 28:14) Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem. (15) Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: (16) Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (17) Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. (18) And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. (19) From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report. (20) For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it. (21) For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act. (22) Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth.
3. “Sinners” — Paul goes on to say that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” — That’s the third word Paul uses to describe those for whom Christ died: (1.) Those who are “without strength.” (2.) “The Ungodly!” and (3.) “Sinners!” ——— “This is a faithful saying, worthy of all acceptation, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).
“Physician of my sin-sick soul,
To Thee I bring my case;
My raging malady control,
And heal me by Thy grace.
Pity the anguish I endure,
See how I mourn and pine;
For never can I hope for cure
From any hand but Thine.
I would disclose my whole complaint,
But where shall I begin?
No words of mine can fully paint
That worst distemper, sin.
It lies not in a single part,
But through my frame is spread;
A burning fever in my heart,
A palsy in my head.
It makes me deaf, and dumb, and blind,
And impotent, and lame;
And overclouds, and fills my mind,
With folly, fear, and shame.
A thousand evil thoughts intrude
Tumultuous in my breast;
Which indispose me for my food,
And rob me of my rest.
Lord I am sick, regard my cry,
And set my spirit free;
Say, canst Thou let a sinner die,
Who longs to live to Thee?”
— John Newton
May God give you ears now to hear me. Your ungodliness, your irreverence, your exceeding sinfulness is the strongest argument you can use in coming to Christ (Psalm 25:11).
(Psalm 25:11) For thy name's sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great!
Cry to him, O Lord, I am only a poor sinner! But Christ came to save sinners. Your own dear Son died for sinners. O hear me, and have mercy upon me for Christ’s sake!
4. “Enemies” — Now, watch this fourth word by which we are described — “Enemies!” — The Apostle reminds us that, “when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (v. 10).
(Romans 5:6-10) For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. (8) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (5:9) Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (10) For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
In his holy justice, God was alienated from us all, because of sin. But his justice was satisfied and his anger turned away by the death of Christ for us. — We were enemies to God, but Christ’s shed blood, being sprinkled upon our hearts, has removed our natural enmity against God.
For whom did Christ die? He died “for us,” who were without strength, “for us,” the ungodly, “for us,” sinners, “for us,” enemies!
Now, if we were weak, ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God and of Christ, it cannot be supposed that the Lord Jesus Christ died for us because we were more noble or excellent than other men. Oh no, my brethren! The Lord Jesus Christ died for us because he and his Father loved us!
The Connection — Paul uses the word “for” to connect verse six with verse five. “Christ died for the ungodly,” because of God’s great love. — “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” — The source and foundation of all the blessings of the covenant of grace is the love of God. — Because God loved us, he sent his Son to die for us.
Our blessed Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to die in our place because he loved us.
If you would know the love of God, look to Calvary. The greatest, fullest, and most marvelous display of divine love is the substitutionary death of Christ.
“Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan,
Oh, the grace that brought it down to man,
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span,
“Could we with ink the oceans fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade, —
To write the love of God above
Would drain the oceans dry,
Not could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky!”
In Due Time
Another thing which this verse shows us is that Christ died for us at the appropriate time. — “In due time Christ died for the ungodly.” After a long course of human history had proved that man was incapable of saving himself, God sent his Son to die at Calvary, accomplishing eternal salvation.
The Lord Jesus Christ died at the time foretold by the prophets. — “When the fulness of time was come God sent forth his Son made of a woman, made under the law to redeem them that were under the law.”
“In due time Christ died,” — but only after it had been thoroughly demonstrated that man could do nothing to redeem himself.
But now at the time of God’s appointing, “Christ died!” — “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23). — This one “verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Peter 1:20).
There is one more thing that I would have you to notice carefully. May the Holy Spirit mark these words upon your heart, — “Christ died!” Here is the emphasis of our text. We rejoice to know that Christ lived a perfect and holy life, working out a perfect righteousness as our Representative. But, in itself, the life of Christ gives no comfort to our souls. It is the death of Christ in our place that commends the love of God to us and gives us hope of eternal life.
The name given to our Lord is very expressive. “Christ” means “the anointed One,” and indicates that he was sent on a divine errand. The Lord God said, “I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages” (Isaiah 49:8). —— “I have laid help upon One that is mighty; I have exalted One chosen out of the people…with whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him…My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips…His seed shall endure forever” (Psalm 89:19, 21, 34, 35, 36).
This is the crowning act of our blessed Savior — “Christ died!” — That Jesus Christ died is certain. His death was foretold in prophecy, typified by the sacrifices of the Jewish priests, and constantly spoken of by himself. The essence of the ministry of the apostles was the death of Christ. And this is the great article of faith. Now it is this great and gracious act of Christ which Paul points to as the crowning evidence of divine love.
Now, O my soul, rejoice in this, — Christ died in the place of sinners. “Christ died for the ungodly!” — The Lord Jesus Christ suffered in the place of the ungodly as a Surety to make satisfaction for sin. Jesus Christ did not die as a martyr, or as an example. He died as a Substitute to atone for our sins and to satisfy the claims of divine justice against us.
That is the doctrine of our text. And there are many things which must be reasonably concluded from Paul’s teaching in this text. So, in the second place, let me briefly show you SOME PRACTICAL AND ENCOURAGING INFERENCES from our text. I will make my inferences brief. But I pray that God the Holy Spirit will make them powerful and give them a lodging in your heart. — I know that the Son of God died for me, because I come to him as a weak, ungodly sinner, confessing my sin and trusting the merits of his blood.
1. It is clear that if Jesus Christ died in my place, I cannot die (John 6:39; 18:1-9). — Our Lord says to the law, you can have me, but my people must go free.
(John 6:39) And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
(John 18:1-9) When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. (2) And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. (3) Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. (4) Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? (5) They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. (6) As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. (7) Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. (8) Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: (9) That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.
2. If Christ died for me the law has no claim upon me.
If Jesus died for me, then I died when he died. And the law of God cannot demand a double payment for sin.
“From whence this fear and unbelief?
Hath not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men,
Condemn me for that debt of sin,
Which, Lord, was charged on Thee?
Complete atonement Thou hast made,
And to the utmost farthing paid
Whate’er Thy people owed:
Nor can His wrath on me take place,
If sheltered in Thy righteousness,
And sprinkled with Thy blood.
If Thou hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine:
Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine!
Turn then, my soul, unto thy rest;
The merits of thy Great High Priest
Have bought thy liberty:
Trust in His efficacious blood,
Nor fear thy banishment from God,
Since Jesus died for thee!”
— Augustus Toplady
3. It is also clear that you who are unconverted are in very great danger. — If God spared not his own Son when he stood before him, being made sin for us, he surely will not spare you if you bear your sin before him in the Day of Judgment.
4. Certainly, it is clear from our text that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only One who can deliver you from your danger.
5. If Christ died for the ungodly, then you are without excuse.
“Come ye sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready, stands to save you,
Full of pity, love, and power.
He is able, He is willing; doubt no more.
Come ye needy, come and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh,
Without money, come to Jesus Christ and buy.
Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream:
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him:
This He gives you; ‘tis the Spirit’s rising beam.
Come ye weary, heavy laden,
Bruised and mangled by the fall:
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all:
Not the righteous, sinners Jesus came to call.
View Him prostrate in the Garden;
On the ground your Maker lies!
On the bloody tree behold Him,
Hear Him cry before He dies
‘It is finished!’ Sinner, will not this suffice?
Lo, the incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood:
Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude;
None but Jesus, can do helpless sinners good!
Saints and angels joined in concert,
Sing the praises of the Lamb;
While the blissful seats of Heaven
Sweetly echo with His name! —
Hallelujah! Sinners here may sing the same!”
— Joseph Hart
Oh, may God help you now to trust Christ! If you despise him and rebel against his grace, eternal hell shall be your just portion!
6. If Christ died for the ungodly, then there is no hope for the self-righteous. — Until you are brought to realize that you are an ungodly sinner, you will never be saved.
7. Surely, we must conclude from our text that if we are now saved, converted people, it is the work of God. — We have nothing to boast of, no merit to claim.
“Boasting excluded, pride I abase,
I’m only a sinner, saved by grace!”
8. This doctrine, “Christ died for the ungodly,” should keep us from having a light view of sin. — Mark Immanuel’s five bleeding wounds, my brethren. For every wound of the Savior must be an argument against sin.
9. Once more, I say that Christ’s death for the ungodly is the best argument I know to persuade ungodly men to love Christ when they are saved. — The Savior’s dying love has overcome our hearts. Blessed Lord Jesus, Your love and Your blood have won my heart, I cannot help myself. I must give myself to You! — Oh, sinner, does Immanuel’s love now win you?
In the last place, I will endeavor to stir up our hearts to PROCLAIM THE MESSAGE of our text. Here is our message. It is a message of pure grace, a message of redeeming love, — “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Let it be our business as the Church of Christ to proclaim this message to immortal souls! — It is true, I am the preacher. But our ministry must be a united effort. I ask you to pray for me and support me, so that I may open my mouth with boldness to make known the mystery of the Gospel. But more than that, make it your business to proclaim this message. Use CDS, DVDS, bulletins, books, and tracts. Distribute them widely. And use your own mouths to speak of Christ’s redeeming love.
I am solemnly resolved that this shall be my constant message from this pulpit. It is my daily task to study and seek a message from God for your souls; so that, as often as we assemble together, I can feed your souls with the grace of God. Make it your business to be here, and to bring others in to hear the good news of the Gospel.
This is my only message for you who are God’s dear children. “Christ died for the ungodly.”
This is my only message for you who are without Christ. “Christ died for the ungodly.” What will you now do with this message?
Here is the love, mercy, and grace of God. – “Christ died for the ungodly.”
Here is our safety and security. – “Christ died for the ungodly.” Trusting him, we cannot die.
Child of God, my brother, my sister, keep the cross ever before you. Keep your hearts full of the cross.
Poor, needy, ungodly sinners, come to Christ! — He died; but now he lives. He died for such men as you are. He lives to save such as you are. Trust him now!
Now, “unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6).