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Romans 5:6

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

For when we were yet without strength - The apostle, having pointed out the glorious state of the believing Gentiles, takes occasion to contrast this with their former state; and the means by which they were redeemed from it. Their former state he points out in four particulars; which may be applied to men in general.

    I. They were ασθενεις, without strength; in a weak, dying state: neither able to resist sin, nor do any good: utterly devoid of power to extricate themselves from the misery of their situation.

II. They were ασεβεις, ungodly; without either the worship or knowledge of the true God; they had not God in them; and, consequently, were not partakers of the Divine nature: Satan lived in, ruled, and enslaved their hearts.

III. They were ἁμαρτωλοι, sinners, Romans 5:8, aiming at happiness, but constantly missing the mark, which is the ideal meaning of the Hebrew חטא chata, and the Greek ἁμαρτανω . See this explained, Genesis 13:13. And in missing the mark, they deviated from the right way; walked in the wrong way; trespassed in thus deviating; and, by breaking the commandments of God, not only missed the mark of felicity, but exposed themselves to everlasting misery.

IV. They were εχθροι enemies, Romans 5:10, from εχθος, hatred, enmity, persons who hated God and holiness; and acted in continual hostility to both. What a gradation is here!

  • In our fall from God, our first apparent state is, that we are without strength; have lost our principle of spiritual power, by having lost the image of God, righteousness and true holiness, in which we were created.
  • We are ungodly, having lost our strength to do good; we have also lost all power to worship God aright. The mind which was made for God is no longer his residence.
  • We are sinners; feeling we have lost our centre of rest, and our happiness, we go about seeking rest, but find none: what we have lost in losing God, we seek in earthly things; and thus are continually missing the mark, and multiplying transgressions against our Maker.
  • We are enemies; sin, indulged, increases in strength; evil acts engender fixed and rooted habits; the mind, every where poisoned with sin, increases in averseness from good; and mere aversion produces enmity; and enmity, acts of hostility, fell cruelty, etc.: so that the enemy of God hates his Maker and his service; is cruel to his fellow creatures; "a foe to God, was ne'er true friend to man;" and even torments his own soul! Though every man brings into the world the seeds of all these evils, yet it is only by growing up in him that they acquire their perfection - nemo repente fuit turpissimus - no man becomes a profligate at once; he arrives at it by slow degrees; and the speed he makes is proportioned to his circumstances, means of gratifying sinful passions, evil education, bad company, etc., etc. These make a great diversity in the moral states of men: all have the same seeds of evil - nemo sine vitiis nascitur - all come defiled into the world; but all have not the same opportunities of cultivating these seeds. Besides, as God's Spirit is continually convincing the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and the ministers of God are seconding its influence with their pious exhortations, as the Bible is in almost every house, and is less or more heard or read by almost every person, these evil seeds are receiving continual blasts and checks, so that, in many cases, they have not a vigorous growth. These causes make the principal moral differences that we find among men; though in evil propensities they are all radically the same.
  • That all the preceding characters are applied by some learned men to the Gentiles, exclusively as such, I am well aware; and that they may be all applied to them in a national point of view, there can be little doubt. But there are too many correspondences between the state of the modern Gentiles and that of the ancient Gentiles, to justify the propriety of applying the whole as fully to the former as to the latter. Indeed, the four particulars already explained point out the natural and practical state of every human being, previously to his regeneration by the grace and Spirit of God.

    In due time Christ died for the ungodly - This due or proper time will appear in the following particulars: -

    1. Christ was manifested in the flesh when the world needed him most.
  • When the powers of the human mind had been cultivated to the utmost both in Greece and Rome, and had made every possible effort, but all in vain, to find out some efficient scheme of happiness.
  • When the Jews were in the lowest state of corruption, and had the greatest need of the promised deliverer.
  • When the fullness of the time came, foretold by the prophets.
  • When both Jews and Gentiles, the one from their jealousy, the other from their learning, were best qualified to detect imposture and to ascertain fact.
  • In a word, Christ came when his advent was most likely to promote its great object - glory to God in the highest, and peace and good will among men. And the success that attended the preaching of Christ and his apostles, together with the wide and rapid spread of the Gospel, all prove that it was the due time, κατα καιρον, the proper season; and that Divine wisdom was justified in fixing upon that time in preference to all others.
  • Died for the ungodly - Ὑπερ ασεβων απεθανε

    , He died Instead of the ungodly, see also Romans 5:8; so Luke 22:19. The body of Christ, το ὑπερ ὑμων διδομενον, which is given For you; i.e. the life that is laid down in your Stead. In this way the preposition ὑπερ, is used by the best Greek writers.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    For when … - This opens a new view of the subject, or it is a new argument to show that our hope will not make ashamed, or will not disappoint us. The first argument he had stated in the previous verse, that the Holy Spirit was given to us. The next, which he now states, is, that God had given the most ample proof that he would save us by giving his Son when we were sinners; and that he who had done so much for us when we were enemies, would not now fail us when we are his friends; Romans 5:6-10. He has performed the more difficult part of the work by reconciling us when we were enemies; and he will not now forsake us, but will carry forward and complete what he has begun.

    We were yet without strength - The word used here ἀσθενῶν asthenōnis usually applied to those who are sick and feeble, deprived of strength by disease; Matthew 25:38; Luke 10:9; Acts 4:9; Acts 5:15. But it is also used in a moral sense, to denote inability or feebleness with regard to any undertaking or duty. Here it means that we were without strength “in regard to the case which the apostle was considering;” that is, we had no power to devise a scheme of justification, to make an atonement, or to put away the wrath of God, etc. While all hope of man‘s being saved by any plan of his own was thus taken away; while he was thus lying exposed to divine justice, and dependent on the mere mercy of God; God provided a plan which met the case, and secured his salvation. The remark of the apostle here has reference only to the condition of the race before an atonement is made. It does not pertain to the question whether man has strength to repent and to believe after an atonement is made, which is a very different inquiry.

    In due time - Margin “According to the time” κατὰ καιρὸν kata kaironIn a timely manner; at the proper time; Galatians 4:4, “But when the fulness of time was come,” etc. This may mean,

    (1) That it was a fit or proper time. All experiments had failed to save people. For four thousand years the trial had been made under the Law among the Jews: and by the aid of the most enlightened reason in Greece and Rome; and still it was in vain. No scheme had been devised to meet the maladies of the world, and to save people from death. It was then time that a better plan should be presented to people.

    (2) it was the time fixed and appointed by God for the Messiah to come; the time which had been designated by the prophets; Genesis 49:10; Daniel 9:24-27; see John 13:1; John 17:1.

    (3) it was a most favorable time for the spread of the gospel. The world was expecting such an event; was at peace; and was subjected mainly to the Roman power; and furnished facilities never before experienced for introducing the gospel rapidly into every land; see the notes at Matthew 2:1-2.

    For the ungodly - Those who do not worship God. It here means sinners in general, and does not differ materially from what is meant by the word translated “without strength;” see the note at Romans 4:5.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    Christ died for sinners; not only such as were useless, but such as were guilty and hateful; such that their everlasting destruction would be to the glory of God's justice. Christ died to save us, not in our sins, but from our sins; and we were yet sinners when he died for us. Nay, the carnal mind is not only an enemy to God, but enmity itself, chap. 8:7; Col 1:21. But God designed to deliver from sin, and to work a great change. While the sinful state continues, God loathes the sinner, and the sinner loathes God, Zec 11:8. And that for such as these Christ should die, is a mystery; no other such an instance of love is known, so that it may well be the employment of eternity to adore and wonder at it. Again; what idea had the apostle when he supposed the case of some one dying for a righteous man? And yet he only put it as a thing that might be. Was it not the undergoing this suffering, that the person intended to be benefitted might be released therefrom? But from what are believers in Christ released by his death? Not from bodily death; for that they all do and must endure. The evil, from which the deliverance could be effected only in this astonishing manner, must be more dreadful than natural death. There is no evil, to which the argument can be applied, except that which the apostle actually affirms, sin, and wrath, the punishment of sin, determined by the unerring justice of God. And if, by Divine grace, they were thus brought to repent, and to believe in Christ, and thus were justified by the price of his bloodshedding, and by faith in that atonement, much more through Him who died for them and rose again, would they be kept from falling under the power of sin and Satan, or departing finally from him. The living Lord of all, will complete the purpose of his dying love, by saving all true believers to the uttermost. Having such a pledge of salvation in the love of God through Christ, the apostle declared that believers not only rejoiced in the hope of heaven, and even in their tribulations for Christ's sake, but they gloried in God also, as their unchangeable Friend and all-sufficient Portion, through Christ only.
    Ellen G. White
    Our High Calling, 131.3

    God will be to us everything we will let Him be. Our languid, half-hearted prayers will not bring us returns from heaven. Oh, we need to press our petitions! Ask in faith, wait in faith, receive in faith, rejoice in hope, for everyone that seeketh findeth. Be in earnest in the matter. Seek God with all the heart. People put soul and earnestness into everything they undertake in temporal things, until their efforts are crowned with success. With intense earnestness learn the trade of seeking the rich blessings that God has promised, and with persevering, determined effort you shall have His light and His truth and His rich grace. OHC 131.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Lift Him Up, 27.1

    And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:5, 6. LHU 27.1

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    Ellen G. White
    Lift Him Up, 353.1

    For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6. LHU 353.1

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    Ellen G. White
    Selected Messages Book 3, 315.3

    Will There Be a Certain Number?—Another question upon which we had some conversation was in regard to the elect of God—that the Lord would have a certain number, and when that number was made up then probation would cease. These are questions you or I have no right to talk about. The Lord Jesus will receive all who come unto Him. He died for the ungodly and every man who will come, may come. 3SM 315.3

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    Ellen G. White
    Lift Him Up, 353.5

    When we consider that Christ died for the ungodly while they were yet sinners, we are led to realize how willing and even anxious He is to bless us, that we may be a blessing to others (The Review and Herald, April 21, 1896). LHU 353.5

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