Is it ever possible to become too familiar with a person whom you love? Is it ever possible to become too familiar with a truth that you cherish? Sadly, most of us would admit that there are times when we similarly take our Lord Jesus for granted. And there are times when we take the biblical gospel for granted. Our hearts tend to think that the gospel is old and boring or that it is only for seekers. Often, the gospel is trivialized and we don’t stop to think about the reality that Jesus died on the cross for sinners like you and me. This is dangerous for our souls because it leads to pride. But, a healthy antidote to such pride is being reminded by Scripture of the truth of who we really are. This helps us cherish the wonder of the gospel throughout our lives, so that we never become too familiar with it.
After clearly explaining the gospel in the first 3 chapters of Romans and showing that justification has always been by faith in chapter 4, the Apostle Paul speaks of the peace, access, and joy that we have because of Jesus, in verses 1 to 5 of chapter 5. In verses 6 to 11, he explains how this joy is founded on the bedrock of God’s love towards us in Christ, in spite of who we really are. In this article, we shall reflect on our unworthiness by considering three phrases that Paul used to describe our Christless reality.
We Were Weak (vs.6)
The rest of the verse clarifies that what Paul has in mind is that we were ungodly. In other words, we were not spiritually strong. We were not good at heart. We were not desperate for God. We were never earnest. We were ungodly and unable to do anything to save ourselves from the certain wrath of God. But praise God that, “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Anything that we are now is not based on who we were or what we did, it is only based on what Christ did on the cross for us. Isn’t He wonderful? What right do weak, ungodly people have to be proud? How could we be so ungrateful as to take Christ’s death for granted?
We Were Sinners (vs. 7)
Paul goes on to say that God’s love is incomprehensible because Christ died for us when we were still sinners. He reasons how it would’ve been believable for a person to die for a righteous or a good person; but God, in His great love, pours out this love by dying for sinners. We were not innocent or morally neutral. We were not just slightly mistaken. Regardless of how decent we think we were, we had completely missed God’s standard of righteousness. We were sinners. As Jonathan Edwards put it, the only real contribution we made to our salvation was our real sin against the God of heaven. And yet, “Christ died for us.” Praise God for his unfathomable love!
We Were Enemies (vs. 10)
Paul further says we can be sure of God’s favour towards us in the future because of how he has dealt with us in the past. He says we were reconciled while we were enemies. Stop and think about that word and the picture it paints – enemies. We were not God’s friends or allies. We were not even neutral. We were enemies. We were in rebellion against God. We sought to do harm to God and worked against his purposes. At heart, we wanted to dethrone God and wanted to be the masters of our own destiny. We like to think of ourselves as good people, but that is not what God thought of us. When God saw us, he saw enemies. How can it be possible for God to show his love to such treacherous people? And how can we, now that we are reconciled with God, forget what we were when God made peace with us through the death of Jesus?
The Apostle Paul lived a life completely devoted to the gospel because he never got over the fact that God had saved him. He always understood the gospel as being related to him and his sin. That is why he writes to Timothy: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15). Paul was not being dramatic when he called himself the foremost of sinners. He understood that his sins against the holy God of heaven were signs of his ungodliness and enmity. And because he understood the depth and reality of his sin, he never wandered away from the gospel of grace.
May God save us from thinking we deserved to be saved. May we always remember that it is God’s grace that saves wretches like you and me. May God save us from forgetting that we were once weak, sinful enemies of God who deserved to spend eternity away from God’s gracious presence. May God help us to daily delight and rejoice in the wonderful gospel and to live our lives as sinners saved by grace. And may we spread this glorious gospel of our wonderful God to those who are still weak, sinful enemies of God.