Christ Died for the Ungodly
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 5:6b Holman “Christ died for the ungodly.”
Did He do this when we deserved it? No, He died for us “while we were still helpless” (RM 5:6a). “Helpless” referred to diseased individuals who had no hope of recovery. Paul used the term here spiritually, to refer to our total inability to rescue ourselves from the devastating effects of the Fall.
The reason Christ came to help us was that we could not help ourselves. We are utterly helpless in all spiritual matters apart from Jesus.
The Lord in mercy saw our helplessness and came to aid us. His acts toward us were like those of a mother who condescends most often to help a “weaker” child. A mother displays the most kindness where the need is greatest. My mom spent much more time training and helping my deaf sister than she did with me. This is as it should have been. My sister’s weakness was greater than mine.
Similarly, the Lord reached down to help us, the helpless ones. In 1915 Colonel T. E. Lawrence was traveling across the Sahara desert with a handful of men. Things were desperate. A sandstorm was tormenting them with winds that stung like fire. Food and water were almost gone. Suddenly, someone noticed Jasmin was missing. His camel was riderless. Jasmin, who was physically weak and mentally ill, had fled to the desert after killing a Turkish tax-collector. One of the men said, “What does it matter? Jasmin was not worth half a crown.”
While the others pressed on, Colonel Lawrence re-traced his steps. Alone in the blazing heat, at the risk of his own life, he went back. An hour and a half later, he saw something on the sand. It was Jasmin, blind and mad with heat and thirst, being murdered by the desert. Lawrence lifted Jasmin on his camel, gave him water, and carried him to safety. The others were touched by it all, impressed that their leader, Colonel Lawrence, risked his life to save a man “not worth half a crown.”
You and I are “Jasmins.” We also were helpless, being murdered by our sin. But Jesus came to lift us up, to shed His blood that we might live.
Without His rescue, our plight is hopeless. There is no way we can please God in our natural condition. Apart from Jesus’ salvation, even our best actions are sin. Unbelievers live in a constant state of sin. Their whole life is an atmosphere of evil; whatever good deeds they do, rejecting Jesus more than negates them.
Though incarnate God bled to death for them, ungodly sinners yet continue to reject Him. They refuse to receive Him as Savior and Lord. As long as they remain unreconciled to Him, they are in rebellion against Him.
Lest we believers be carried away with pride, let us remember that in ourselves and by nature we are no better than the lost. Our sins are cleansed and forgiven by Jesus’ blood, but the flaws of our old nature are still with us.
Even the best things we do are often defiled by ulterior motives. In the 17th century, Bishop Beveridge wrote, “I cannot pray, except I sin; I cannot preach, but I sin; I cannot administer, nor receive the holy sacrament, but I sin. My very repentance needs to be repented of: and the tears I shed need washing in the blood of Christ.”
God knows we are weak before He saves us, and knows we are still weak after He saves us. Nothing in our life astonishes or surprises Him. He made us out of dust and knows we can never be other than dirty on our own.
The Lord knows our weakness, and has condescended to heal us if we will only accept the prescribed cure. What cure? The one found at the cross.
“Christ died for the ungodly”, for people unlike God. People retain God’s image, but it is twisted and gnarled. We defaced the original imprint, and deformed God’s glory in us. We were beautiful, but became ugly. Nevertheless, Christ died for us. To die for another is the highest expression of love we can grasp; to die for the ungodly defies all comprehension.
We will never understand the depths of Jesus’ love for us, but we can understand He died for us. We may never grasp His love, but we can comprehend substitution.
“Christ died for the ungodly.” We do not need to be laborious, learned Bible expounders to proclaim this simple message. It is a plain truth that cries out for a simple explanation. Anyone can understand that Jesus suffered in place of sinners. Any teaching regarding the atonement that requires a Ph.D. to understand is not of God. Our message is simple.
Saved brothers and sisters, ours is a message that can be understood by all. Hence, all of us should be telling it. We cannot all preach, but we can say Christ died for the ungodly. It does not take talent to tell this good news.
“Christ died for the ungodly” are words we should share with every one. Nothing is difficult about them. Proclaim them boldly, as indisputable fact. Tell our children, and our children’s children. Let it be our life’s theme.
An elderly Methodist preacher said, “I cannot hope in the course of nature to stand up in the pulpit many more times, therefore, every time I preach now, I preach of nothing but Jesus Christ.” This is a worthy resolution for all of us to live by.
Tell it in your Sunday School classes. Announce it in every corner of our city. “Christ died for the ungodly.” When you see a flagrant transgressor, do not throw your proud head up in disgust. Refrain from a haughty spirit and bitter words. Remember, “Christ died for the ungodly.”
Spurgeon said, “I would not mind if I were condemned to live fifty years more, and never be allowed to speak but these five words, if I might be allowed to utter them in the ear of every man, and woman, and child who lives”.
We will never hear a better message than “Christ died for the ungodly.” There is no better news to tell or hear.
Our whole lives should be committed to speaking of Jesus Christ. God help us to cling to the cross, and live beneath its shadow. Once a lad named Richard was told to wait under a certain gateway until his father returned for him. The father forgot about the son and went home alone that night. As he entered the house, he was asked where Richard was. The father immediately remembered, and rushed to the gateway. Richard was still there, patiently awaiting his father’s return.
There is a lesson for us in this story. Richard’s simple faithfulness is worthy of being emulated by us. The Master has given us orders to stand at the foot of the cross till he comes. It is our duty to stay faithful to those truths that are the means of saving souls. We must continue to tell the old, old story until our tongues lie silent in the grave.
“Christ died for the ungodly.” Let the saved proclaim it, and let the lost believe it. Lost friend, do not wait until you are cleaner to come to Jesus. Your ungodliness is what makes your salvation possible.
A beggar needs to prove his own absolute destitution. He will never receive much charity if he wears a tuxedo and speaks of his rich uncles. As long as you cling to works and merit, you trample under foot the blood of Jesus. Confess ungodliness, and acknowledge His Substitution.