Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 5:6a “For when we were yet without strength,”
The words “without strength” mean helpless. Physically, it referred to disease-ridden individuals who had no hope of recovery. Paul is using the terminology here spiritually, referring to man’s total inability to rescue himself 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.
Fortunately, the Lord in mercy looked upon our helplessness and came to aid us. His actions 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 mother spent much more time training and helping my deaf sister than she did with me. That is the way 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 Arabs. Things were desperate. A sandstorm was tormenting them with winds that stung like fire. Food and water were almost gone. Suddenly, someone noticed that Jasmin was missing. His camel was riderless. Jasmin, who was weak physically and also mentally ill, had fled to the desert after killing a Turkish tax-collector. One of the Arabs said, “What does it matter? Jasmin was not worth half a crown.”
The Arabs pressed on, but 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 upon the sand. It was Jasmin, blind and mad with heat and thirst. He was being murdered by the desert. Lawrence lifted Jasmin upon his camel, gave him a few precious drops of water, and carried him eventually to safety. The Arabs were touched by it all. They were impressed that their lord, Colonel Lawrence, risked his life to save a man “not worth half a crown.”
You and I are “Jasmins.” We are not “worth half a crown.” We, too, were helpless, being murdered by our sin. But our Lord, Jesus, came here and lifted us up. He shed His blood that we might live.
Without His deliverance, our plight is hopeless. There is no way we can please God in our natural condition. Apart from salvation in Jesus, even our best actions are sinful. Evil men “cannot cease from sin” (2P 2:14).
The unsaved live in a constant state of sin. They cannot cease from sin. Their whole life is an atmosphere of evil–no matter what good deeds men do, rejection of Jesus more than negates them.
Incarnate God bled to death for ungodly men, yet they continue to reject Him. They refuse to receive Him as Savior and Lord. As long as they remain unreconciled to Him, they are in open rebellion against Him.
An unsaved woman is sinning when she makes the bed and cooks meals. An unsaved school teacher is sinning when he prepares and teaches his lessons. If they are lost, everything that firemen, engineers, and athletes do is sin. If you doubt this, turn to Proverbs 21:4b, which reads, “. . .the plowing of the wicked is sin.”
An unsaved farmer turns God’s soil and uses God’s sun to grow food, but lives in rejection of God’s living Son. The same principle applies to all unbelievers.
Yea, even the breathing of lost men is sin. They draw God’s air to keep their wicked hearts pumping. Our sin load is unbearable. No one can lift it alone. Only Jesus can bear it away. Apart from Him, all men are without strength.
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.
The Lord knows our weaknesses, and has condescended to heal us if we will only accept the prescribed cure. And what is this cure?
Romans 5:6b “. . .in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
The cure is found at the cross. Christ died for the ungodly. “Ungodly” means being unlike God. Men still retain the image of God, but it is twisted and gnarled. We have defaced the original imprint, and deformed God’s glory within us. We were beautiful, but became ugly. Nevertheless, Christ died for us. To die for another is the greatest expression of love we can comprehend; to die for the ungodly defies all comprehension.
I will never be able to understand the depths of His love for me, but I can understand that He died for me. I may never grasp His love, but I comprehend substitution.
Christ died for the ungodly. We do not need to be laborious and learned expounders of the Bible to proclaim this simple message. It is a plain truth that cries out for a simple explanation. Anyone can understand that Christ 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, this is a message that can be understood by all. Hence, every one of us should be telling it abroad. We can not all preach, but we can tell men that Christ died for the ungodly. It does not take talent to tell this good news.
Christ died for the ungodly. These are words we should be sharing with everyone. There is nothing difficult about it. Be bold in proclaiming it; it is indisputable fact. Tell your children, and your children’s children. Let it be the theme of your life.
Once an aged 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.” That is a worthy resolution for all of us to live by.
Tell it in your Sunday School classes. Announce it in every corner of the debauched cities. Go the slums and jails with this message, “Christ died for the ungodly.” When you see a wicked sinner, 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” (Spurgeon).
You may often hear a better messenger than me, but you 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. However, 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 that 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 which 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.