When Christ Died For Us
1. We were without strength (v. 6), in a sad condition; and, which is worse, altogether unable to help ourselves out of that condition—lost, and no visible way open for our recovery—our condition deplorable, and in a manner desperate; and, therefore our salvation is here said to come in due time. God’s time to help and save is when those that are to be saved are without strength, that His own power and grace may be the more magnified, Deu. 32:36. It is the manner of God to help at a dead lift,
2. He died for the ungodly; not only helpless creatures, and therefore likely to perish, but guilty sinful creatures, and therefore deserving to perish; not only mean and worthless, but vile and obnoxious, unworthy of such favour with the holy God. Being ungodly, they had need of one to die for them, to satisfy for guilt, and to bring in a righteousness. This he illustrates (v. 7, 8) as an unparalleled instance of love; herein God’s thoughts and ways were above ours. Compare Jn. 15:13, 14, Greater love has no man.
- One would hardly die for a righteous man, that is, an innocent man, one that is unjustly condemned; every body will pity such a one, but few will put such a value upon his life as either to hazard, or much less to deposit, their own in his stead.
- It may be, one might perhaps be persuaded to die for a good man, that is, a useful man, who is more than barely a righteous man. Many that are good themselves yet do but little good to others; but those that are useful commonly get themselves well beloved, and meet with some that in a case of necessity would venture to be their antipsychoi—would engage life for life, would be their bail, body for body. Paul was, in this sense, a very good man, one that was very useful, and he met with some that for his life laid down their own necks, (Romans 16:4). And yet observe how he qualifies this: it is but some that would do so, and it is a daring act if they do it, it must be some bold venturing soul; and, after all, it is but a peradventure.
- But Christ died for sinners (v. 8), neither righteous nor good; not only such as were useless, but such as were guilty and obnoxious; not only such as there would be no loss of should they perish, but such whose destruction would greatly redound to the glory of God’s justice, being malefactors and criminals that ought to die. Some think he alludes to a common distinction the Jews had of their people into ndyqym—righteous, hsdym—merciful (compare Isa. 17:1), and rssym—wicked. Now herein God commended Hhis love, not only proved or evidenced His love (He might have done that at a cheaper rate), but magnified it and made it illustrious. This circumstance did greatly magnify and advance His love, not only put it past dispute, but rendered it the object of the greatest wonder and admiration: "Now my creatures shall see that I love them, I will give them such an instance of it as shall be without parallel." Commendeth His love, as merchants commend their goods when they would put them off. This commending of His love was in order to the shedding abroad of His love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. He evinces His love in the most winning, affecting, endearing way imaginable. While we were yet sinners, implying that we were not to be always sinners, there should be a change wrought; for He died to save us, not in our sins, but from our sins; but we were yet sinners when He died for us.
- Nay, which is more, we were enemies (v. 10), not only malefactors, but traitors and rebels, in arms against the government; the worst kind of malefactors and of all malefactors the most obnoxious. The carnal mind is not only an enemy to God, but enmity itself, Romans 8:7; Col. 1:21. This enmity is a mutual enmity, God loathing the sinner, and the sinner loathing God, Zec. 11:8. And that for such as these Christ should die is such a mystery, such a paradox, such an unprecedented instance of love, that it may well be our business to eternity to adore and wonder at it. This is a commendation of love indeed. Justly might He who had thus loved us make it one of the laws of His kingdom that we should love our enemies.
II. The precious fruits of His death.
1. Justification and reconciliation are the first and primary fruit of the death of Christ: We are justified by His blood (v. 9), reconciled by His death, v. 10. Sin is pardoned, the sinner accepted as righteous, the quarrel taken up, the enmity slain, an end made of iniquity, and an everlasting righteousness brought in. This is done, that is, Christ has done all that was requisite on His part to be done in order hereunto, and, immediately upon our believing, we are actually put into a state of justification and reconciliation. Justified by His blood. Our justification is ascribed to the blood of Christ because without blood there is no remission Heb. 9:22. The blood is the life, and that must go to make atonement. In all the propitiatory sacrifices, the sprinkling of the blood was of the essence of the sacrifice. It was the blood that made an atonement for the soul, Lev. 17:11.
2. Hence results salvation from wrath: Saved from wrath (v. 9), saved by His life, v. 10 When that which hinders our salvation is taken away, the salvation must needs follow. Nay, the argument holds very strongly; if God justified and reconciled us when we were enemies, and put Himself to so much charge to do it, much more will He save us when we are justified and reconciled. He that has done the greater, which is of enemies to make us friends, will certainly the less, which is when we are friends to use us friendly and to be kind to us. And therefore the apostle, once and again, speaks of it with a much more. He that hath digged so deep to lay the foundation will no doubt build upon that foundation.
- We shall be saved from wrath, from hell and damnation. It is the wrath of God that is the fire of hell; the wrath to come, so it is called, 1 Th. 1:10. The final justification and absolution of believers at the great day, together with the fitting and preparing of them for it, are the salvation from wrath here spoken of; it is the perfecting of the work of grace.
- Reconciled by His death, saved by His life. His life here spoken of is not to be understood of His life in the flesh, but His life in heaven, that life which ensued after His death. Compare Romans 14:9. He was dead, and is alive, Rev. 1:18. We are reconciled by Christ humbled, we are saved by Christ exalted. The dying Jesus laid the foundation, in satisfying for sin, and slaying the enmity, and so making us salvable; thus is the partition-wall broken down, atonement made, and the attainder reversed; but it is the living Jesus that perfects the work: He lives to make intercession, Heb. 7:25. It is Christ, in His exaltation, that by His word and Spirit effectually calls, and changes, and reconciles us to God, is our Advocate with the Father, and so completes and consummates our salvation. Compare Romans 4:25 and 8:34. Christ dying was the testator, who bequeathed us the legacy; but Christ living is the executor, who pays it. Now the arguing is very strong. He that puts Himself to the charge of purchasing our salvation will not decline the trouble of applying it.
3. All this produces, as a further privilege, our joy in God, v. 11. God is now so far from being a terror to us that He is our joy, and our hope in the day of evil, Jer. 17:17. We are reconciled and saved from wrath. Iniquity, blessed be God, shall not be our ruin. And not only so, there is more in it yet, a constant stream of favours; we not only go to heaven, but go to heaven triumphantly; not only get into the harbour, but come in with full sail: We joy in God, not only saved from His wrath, but solacing ourselves in His love, and this through Jesus Christ, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the foundation-stone and the top-stone of all our comforts and hopes—not only our salvation, but our strength and our song; and all this (which he repeats as a string he loved to be harping upon) by virtue of the atonement, for by Him we Christians, we believers, have now, now in Gospel times, or now in this life, received the atonement, which was typified by the sacrifices under the law, and is an earnest of our happiness in heaven. True believers do by Jesus Christ receive the atonement. Receiving the atonement is our actual reconciliation to God in justification, grounded upon Christ’s satisfaction. To receive the atonement is,
- To give our consent to the atonement, approving of, and agreeing to, those methods which Infinite Wisdom has taken of saving a guilty world by the blood of a crucified Jesus, being willing and glad to be saved in a Gospel way and upon Gospel terms.
- To take the comfort of the atonement, which is the fountain and the foundation of our joy in God. Now we joy in God, now we do indeed receive the atonement, kauchoµmenoi—glorying in it. God hath received the atonement (Mt. 3:17; 17:5; 28:2): if we but receive it, the work is done.
Adapted and formatted for blog usage from Matthew Henry's Commentary posted online HERE.