Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 5:6 “For when we were yet without strength, in
due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Introduction: Let us take a close look now at what Paul might have had in mind when he said Christ died “in due time.”
The phrase refers to a strategic moment, just the right second, a fitting time. God carefully chose just the exact time for Christ to die. The crucifixion was an earthly event, but it took place at a heaven-appointed time and had eternal significance.
Two sets of factors can be analyzed to show the truth of this statement, “In due time.”
I. POSITIVE FACTORS
A. A COMMON GOVERNMENT
Rome was in control. The world was largely at peace. Hence, there was freedom of travel from one part of the Empire to another.
When Christ lived, about 54 million people lived in Roman lands. The Roman army had built roads and bridges which opened up access between all the villages and towns of the Roman world. These roads and bridges were built so skillfully that many are still in use 2000 years later.
The Roman army built these roads, of course, for their own use. Their ultimate purpose was to provide the army quick transport to a rebellion anywhere in the Empire. However, these roads became highways on which Christian missionaries carried the message of Christ to the ends of the Earth. Rome provided the freedom of travel and the highways.
B. A COMMON LANGUAGE
The Greek language was almost universally spoken. Alexander the Great had spread it across most of the known world. People from Europe to India knew Greek. This removed a difficult barrier in the way of spreading the story of Jesus.
II. NEGATIVE FACTORS
By the time Christ arrived, the world should have been better able to appreciate their need for Him. Many centuries of human history had been allowed to elapse in order that the world might exhaust every device to accomplish its own moral deliverance. God gave the human race plenty of time to work things out by themselves.
Man failed miserably. The world was in a terrible predicament, and altogether unable to help itself out of that condition. The world’s plight was not only deplorable, but also desperate.
The race as a whole could be diagnosed as a sick man in an advanced stage of disease. No power remained in our system to throw off our spiritual sickness. We were truly “without strength.”
The combined talents of Judea, Greece, and Rome had all failed to lift humanity from the muck and mire of immorality and cruelty. The world was prostrate in hopelessness because mankind had tried in vain every means they could invent to deliver themselves. For the real problems of life they found no help in. . . .
The ancient Greeks were the founders of Western civilization. Their society made tremendous cultural strides. They produced the world’s first great writers, including Sophocles, who wrote tragedies, and Aristophanes, who wrote comedies.
The Greeks perfected oratory, and excelled in poetry, painting, and music. Greek architecture and sculpturing still fascinate the modern mind. But it was really all for naught. The society lost its moral fiber and faded away.
The ancient Greeks were the first people to study botany, medicine, physics, and zoology on a scientific basis. Greece produced the world’s first great historians and mathematicians. Euclid developed geometry, and Hipparchus invented trigonometry.
But all this knowledge did not salvage the race. Without God, education produces knowledgeable fools and smart demons.
I fear that America felt at one time that public education would become our national messiah. But now the dream is fading, and we are returning to reality.
Every form of civil government had been tried, but all had failed. Conquerors had tried war to achieve order, but in vain; the Romans even tried peace–commerce flourished and the standard of living rose–but this, too, floundered. The Greeks tried democracy, but it passed away.
Roman law provided the basis for much of present European law. But what advantage is there to legal enactments when a Pontius Pilate can crucify a Jesus of Nazareth?
Theoretically, the Roman Empire was built on three principles–justice, tolerance, and a desire for peace. But in reality, the result was usually cruelty, destruction, and oppression. For instance, prisoners of war were often sentenced to work in the mines, and were never allowed to see the light of day till death.
Greece produced the world’s greatest humanistic philosophies. It is amazing how little variety has been produced in philosophical circles since the days of Stoics, Epicureans, Skeptics, and other Green societies.
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are a trilogy modern philosophers try in vain to excel. And yet, even these three were avowed homosexuals, and watched their societies rot in the squalor of that evil.
To escape reality, societies often become excessive lovers of pleasure. The ancient Greeks were the first to hold athletic games. They were also the first to hunt and fish on a large scale for recreation.
By the time of Caesar, the Romans observed more than 100 holidays a year. Chariot races were regularly held in Rome at the Circus Maximus, which seated over 150,000. It was the practice of spectators to place bets on their favorite charioteers.
The masses regularly spent much time at the baths, which were usually huge establishments that included gymnasiums. The concept was very similar to that of our modern day health clubs.
Finally, however, even the recreation became evil. The baths fostered homosexuality, and the Circus crowds began to lust for human bloodshed.
Fun is not a panacea. Relaxation and mental diversion will not solve the serious problems of society.
The Greeks and Romans turned sour on their mythological religion. Masses of them turned to various Oriental religions for spiritual aid and comfort. But these beliefs also left them empty.
Even Judaism, the persuasion that had God’s law and God’s word, had become corrupt. Ritualism and traditionalism had destroyed its vitality, as they always do to true religion.
Religion in all its forms had had ample opportunity, but had proven to be utterly powerless in lifting man’s condition.
Conclusion: Yes, all these had failed to redeem humanity. But the sad truth is that the main thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history. One has said, “Those who know not history are doomed to repeat it.” May I remark, “Those who do know history are also doomed to repeat it.”
Man is still trying to save himself. The useless methods of yesteryear are constantly being resurrected to fail again. Culture, education, government, philosophy, recreation, and religion have all been tried time and time again. They will not help.
Apart from the saving power of Jesus, the world will continue to grow worse and worse. When are we going to learn that man’s only hope for salvation is the blood of Jesus? When are we going to learn that a society’s life can be good only as long as it adheres to Biblical principles? Men are trying everything else, and that explains why:
– There were an estimated 30 million to 55 million abortions worldwide in 1980;
– 45 nations, a fourth of the world’s countries, are now fighting wars;
– Modern societies can produce men like Hitler and Stalin, and there will be others in the future;
– In America, Jerry Falwell can be castigated while beer magnates are venerated as heroes.
In due time, Jesus died. At other appropriate moments in history, God has intervened with His Holy Spirit to sweep through nations with revival. Let us earnestly pray that God will do it again soon.