Menu Keys

On-Going Mini-Series

Bible Studies

Codes & Descriptions

Class Codes
[A] = summary lessons
[B] = exegetical analysis
[C] = topical doctrinal studies
What is a Mini-Series?
A Mini-Series is a small subset of lessons from a major series which covers a particular subject or book. The class numbers will be in reference to the major series rather than the mini-series.
Romans 5:6-11 by Robert Dean
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 39 secs

God’s Love and the Atonement
Romans 5:6–11
Romans Lesson #057
April 12, 2012

The theme of Romans is the word DIKAIOO, the verb to be declared justified or declared righteous, DIKAIOSUNE righteousness. And Romans is really all about the idea of how do people become righteous in God’s sight. The previous chapters have focused on God’s free gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ and His death, that we received it by faith alone, and it is indicated by the prime example in the Old Testament of Abraham: Abraham believed God and it was counted or imputed to him as righteousness. Then as Paul develops that and begins to speak of the benefits of justification he talks about the fact in verse 1 that we have peace with God.

Looking down to 5:11 he doesn’t mention anything else about peace with God. And the whole concept of our peace with God is related to another theological word which is “reconciliation. That word we find is the very last word in verse 11. So this section from vv. 1–11 is an integral section building around this idea of our oneness or being brought together with God. This is indicated by threes two great words in the New Testament, peace with God—because we are justified—and reconciliation which means that there was enmity or hostility between man and God and now there is a restoration of harmony between man the sinner and God who is the righteous judge of the universe.

The word that was coined in English to express that concept is a word that really doesn’t have a counterpart in either Hebrew or Greek but it was just one of those words put together in English in order to communicate this restoration of harmony—the word “atonement”. It comes from an English attempt to put this together and if you break down the three syllables you have at-one-ment. That is brining the two who were at enmity with one another to a position of being united or being one. This really does speak of the atonement in that strict sense related to this concept of peace and reconciliation. The words atonement and reconciliation sort of sum up all that is accomplished by Christ on the cross. So we speak of the entirety of what He did on the cross as the atonement or reconciliation.

Those two ideas, peace with God ,Romans 5:1, and reconciliation, Romans 5:11, sort of bracket this section. So we know that that is what Paul is talking about, that one of the first benefits of justification is this fact that we are unified or united with God, because a sin penalty is paid for and through faith in Christ we have received the perfect righteousness of Christ. Now there can be harmony between God and the sinful creature because the sinful creature has now been given righteousness.

In Romans 5:5 Paul connects hope to the love of God that has been poured out by the Holy Spirit to us. It is an understanding of this love that is crucial for understanding God’s grace. The love of God has been poured out upon us. What exactly does that mean? And how are we to understand God’s love for us? God’s love for us is the foundation for grace. If we are ever going to get anywhere in the spiritual life we have to come to understand grace. And this is what Paul is beginning to explain in vv. 6–8. There is a lot in these verses that we need to understand but it all wraps around the understanding of God’s love and what happened at the cross. It is at the cross that we see God’s perfect picture of what love is.

In these three verses we see three terms that define a sinner, the unbeliever. He is without strength; he is called ungodly; he is called a sinner. Then in verse ten unbelievers are called enemies. All of these terms describe the unbeliever in different aspects of his position in relation to God. There are other words that we need to pay attention to: In v. 6 the word “for”, in Romans 5:7, righteous and good.

We use the English word “for” in different senses. In the Greek the two words “for” in v.6 and v. 7 are two completely different words and express two completely different ideas. The first word is GAR which always introduces either an explanation for something in the sense of giving the cause or reason for something, or in a logical argument it describes the basis or the foundation for something that has already been stated. So it could be translated “because,” or it could be translated in the sense of explaining more fully what has been stated before. It is important to understand verse 5 because verses 6–11 are really going to explain it in terms of its significance.

What has been articulated so forcefully by Paul in verse 5 is that hope doesn’t disappoint because the love of God has already been poured out upon us. Now we have to learn about it. We don’t learn about it when we get saved. We only come to really understand what happened after we are saved. Paul is trying to help us understand all of the wonderful things that we have in Christ and that God gave us at salvation and in justification and what those benefits are for us today. So he begins this explanation.

Romans 5:6 NASB “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” The phrase “when we were still” translates just one word in the Greek, and that word has the idea of when something was in a certain status and it continues to be in that status. So the state that we were in is the state described as being “helpless” or “without strength.” This is the Greek word ASTHENES and it literally means “without strength.” A person can be without strength in a lot of different ways. They can be without strength spiritually or morally, or they can be without strength physically. When the word is used to describe somebody who is without strength physically then it is usually translated “ill” or “sick.”

Of the uses of this word in the Gospels and Acts about 70 per cent of the time it refers to somebody who is physically sick or ill. But there are still a few times when, for example, when Jesus said that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak He used that same word and He was talking about a spiritual weakness or inability on the part of people because of the corruption of sin. So in the Gospels and Acts the primary use has to do with physical illness, but there is still about a third or so of the uses that refer to a spiritual or moral weakness.

In the epistles from Romans all the way through the rest of the New Testament those proportions shift so that about 70 per cent of the uses of this term relate to spiritual weakness or inability. This is the same word as used in James chapter 5 when it talks about “If any among you is sick let him call for the elders to pray.” There it shouldn’t be translated “sick,” it should be translated “if anyone is going through a time of spiritual weakness.” Remember, the theme of James is all about persevering in times of testing. In times of testing you just become spiritually tired and want to give up and so the solution is to call for spiritually mature believers to pray for you that you might endure during those times of spiritual weakness.

That is what it is talking about here, because it is talking about believers in their status before they were saved, when they were without strength. So it is talking about their spiritual condition and the sense that they are unable to do anything to rectify their problem. They are unable to save themselves, unable to perform righteousness, unable to do anything to bring about or to cause peace with God. They are also described here as ungodly as they are without God and without any orientation towards God and living like the world.

So Paul begins by focusing on the way we were, when we were continually in the status before salvation of being spiritually incapable of solving the sin problem.

Then he says, “in due time” or [NASB] “at the right time.” This is probably a reference to the same idea Paul had in Galatians 4:4 where Paul said “the fullness of the time” Christ came into the world, talking about the fact that God in His plan organized and prepared the world in such a way that Jesus came at a time when God had laid the foundation in terms of revelation in the Old Testament and it was the right time for him to come. So in due time “Christ died for the ungodly.”

When we get to that second English word “for” it is the word HUPER, which is used four times in these three verses. There are two prepositions in Greek for substitution, the other is PERI, which is used most of the time; HUPER is used many times for substitution, usually with a genitive case noun afterwards and it has the idea of doing something in place of or for someone else with the idea of substitution. It is the idea here of substitutionary death. Christ died as a substitute for the ungodly—ASEBES. This is the negative of EUSEBEIA, “godliness.”

There are three forms that this word takes in the New Testament—ASEBEIA, ASEBES, and ASEBEO, a verb form which is only used two times in the New Testament. The first form, ASEBEIA, id found six times in the New Testament and it is translated as “ungodliness” in four of those occasions and twice it is defined as “ungodly.” In every case except 2 Timothy 2:16 it is clearly used to describe unsaved men. In 2 Timothy 2:15 the translation is “Study to show yourselves approved unto God,” but in the NKJV and a number of other translation it is usually translated “be diligent to present yourselves approved unto God.” Because the Greek word that is used there SPAUDAZO has the idea of putting everything you’ve got into something. But in the context it has to do with studying the Word, so studying to show yourself approved unto God is a good translation but it has the idea of making this a priority and a focus in the life to be a good servant of God. Then the last phrase is “rightly dividing the Word of truth.” That is where we bring in the idea of the focal point for this diligence, and so that relates to the idea of studying.

But then there is a contrast in the next verse. Paul is talking to Timothy and he tells him first of all to diligently pursue the study of the Word so that he can accurately handle it. Then in verse 16 he says, “But (in contrast this is what you should not do) shun profane and idle babbling”—just the everyday nonsense of conversation that most people have on things that have no eternal value—“for they will increase.” This is a problem with the undisciplined tongue and loose mouth, which is what James chapter three is all about—“to more ungodliness.” So ungodliness is used here of the behavior of a Christian, but what it is saying in light of all of the other uses of ASEBEIA (which describes the behavior of either the unbeliever or the believer) is that if you don’t shun profane and idle babblings then those who engage in those things just end up producing behavior typical of unbelievers and the world. That is the focal point. This is the only time this whole word group is used to describe something that applies to a believer, but it is in the context of saying don’t act like an unbeliever.

The second form of the word, which is the word that we find here in the text, ASEBES, is also translated ungodly in most of its uses—eight of its nine times in the New Testament—and it is an adjectival form. But in almost every instance it is used of an unbeliever. It is Christ who does for the ungodly—unbelievers. This is an adjective that always describes unbelievers—1 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 4:18. In 2 Peter 2:5 it describes those who were destroyed in the Noahic flood; they were all unbelievers. Then the verb form, used twice in the New Testament—2 Peter 2:6; Jude 15—both are used to refer to those who were killed under God’s judgment at Sodom and Gomorrah.

So in Romans 5:6 we have a clear statement that Christ died as a substitute for the ungodly. In verse 7 Paul uses the word gar [gar] twice to show an explanation or illustration of what he has just said. He has just talked about substitution, that Christ died as a substitute for the ungodly. Now he is going to emphasize how unusual this is and how rare it is. Romans 5:7 NASB “For [gar] one will hardly die for [on behalf of or as a substitute for] a righteous man; though perhaps for [on behalf of] the good man someone would dare even to die.” The first “for” is an explanation, the next two are HUPER, the preposition for substitution. This is a contrast between righteous and good, or so it seems. In most cases in the New Testament the term “righteous” and the term “good” are used interchangeably or synonymously.

If that is the way Paul is using this he is stating, “on the one hand scarcely for a righteous man one will die.” Then he says, “perhaps,” and this would emphasize the rarity of it, “for a good man someone would even dare to die” (in a few rare cases this will happen). That is how some commentators take this.

Others see a distinction between righteous and good, righteous being a person who is in and of himself righteous, justified; righteous in that he has conformed to God’s standard. But the good man is someone who is doing good to others. He has more of a relationship with people, is more outgoing, and he does things for people. Someone who does things for people is more socially acceptable and involved. Somebody is going to die for him; nobody is going to die for the person who is morally upright. What Paul would be saying there is that there are these two situations, about the only two kinds of situations in which somebody might die for somebody else, but in both of these situations it would be a rare thing.

But however we understand this (and we are not sure which it is) they are both making the same point, and that is that within human experience of one human being giving their life for another this is an unusual and rare thing. This is why we give medals of bravery to people who give their life for other people. It is something that goes above and beyond the call of duty and something that is very heroic. John said that no man has greater love for his brother than that he laid down his life for him. So this is an unusual reality and is a demonstration of love. And that is exactly where Paul goes in his explanation in the next verse.

In Romans 5:8 he is contrasting God and God’s love as demonstrated at the cross with the expected behavior of human beings. NASB “But God demonstrates His own love toward us …” It happens when we are in antagonism and rebellion toward God and not doing anything that would gain God’s favour and make Him desire to save us, and God is going to demonstrate His love for us. The Greek word SUNISTEMI means to provide evidence of a personal characteristic or claim through action or demonstration. It is showing evidence of something. So what Paul says here is that in contrast to man’s modus operandi God demonstrates His own love toward us “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The word “love” is the Greek word AGAPE here. There are two words for love used in the New Testament. The broadest term is AGAPE; the more narrow term is the noun PHILOS. PHILOS emphasizes a more intimate love, a love that may involve more emotion whereas agape is a broader sense of love. The word “while” is the same word in the Greek as in verse 6 where it says “while we were still without strength,” emphasizing that continuing state of being, in that passage weak and in this passage now identified as sinners, those who have missed the mark. “Christ died for us” is, again, HUPER.

This verse is one that draws a parallel with John 3:16 and when we think about these two verses together they say the same thing. There are a couple of different ideas in John 3:16 that are not in Romans 5:8 but what there is is the same statement about God’s love. In John 3:16 are the words “God so loved.” People say “For God loved the world so much,” but that is not what it means. It is a Greek adverb there HOUTOS, which means “in such a way.” It is just another way of saying what Paul says in Romans 5:8, that God demonstrates His love. God’s love is not like our love and we have to understand that, and this is the starting point for understanding love. Paul emphasizes the substitutionary aspect of that.

This idea of substitution is inherent in everything that the Bible teaches about how man gets his sin forgiven. That is very much a part of the gospel. Substitution is really the most important idea in understanding the concept of unlimited atonement. Mark 14:24 NASB “And He said to them, ‘This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for [HUPER = on behalf of] many.’” The Calvinist who believes in limited atonement will say He didn’t say for all, He just said for many, because the “many,” the elect, are the ones who are saved. But “many” can also refer to all. For example, when John says that all the people in Judea and Galilee went out to hear John the Baptist does that mean that every single person living in Judea and Galilee went. Not necessarily. We use these terms in an exclusive or universal sense that covers every individual and also in a more selective sense. We have to look at other passages to get more precision.

Luke 22:19 NASB “And when He had taken {some} bread {and} given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for [HUPER] you; do this in remembrance of Me.’” Does that mean that Jesus only gave His body as a substitute for those eleven who were still left in front of Him? No. When Jesus said “the many” in Luke with regard to the cup He is not giving a definitive statement about the extent of the atonement, He is emphasizing it is substitutionary; it is given on behalf of others. John 6:51 NASB ““I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” John uses the term “world” is a number of different senses, and this is an extremely broad sense. The word refers to the inhabited planet and those who inhabit it. So here it is an extensive if not universal sense here where Jesus says, “I shall give for the life of the world.”

2 Corinthians 5:15 NASB “and He died for all, so that they who live [the number who believed in Him] might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”

1 Timothy 2:6 NASB “who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony {given} at the proper time.”

1 Timothy 4:10 NASB “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”

2 Peter 2:1 NASB “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”

1 John 2:2 NASB “and He Himself is the propitiation for [PERI] our sins; and not for ours only, but also for {those of} the whole world.”

Colossians 1:14 NASB “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” That term related to the forgiveness of sins there is further explained when we get into Colossians 2:12–14. Verse 13 “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions”—referring to a previous action. We know it is a previous action because it occurred at the cross. We see that in verse 14. He forgave you all trespasses because He had already wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, “which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” So it was at the cross that that certificate of debt is wiped out. That is expiation; it is the cancellation of that debt. So Christ died for all, the penalty is paid at the cross; not when you trust in Him.