This article is an excerpt from Unvarnished Truth: Life’s Greatest Story, a six-week study in the Fall 2016 Bible Studies for Life. Learn more about this curriculum and preview one month for free at biblestudiesforlife.com.
What is one of your favorite rescues from history, film, or literature?
“It was a dark and stormy night.”
That sentence is considered the classic opening for a bad novel, but it is also a scenario you do not want to experience when you’ve been knocked off a boat in the Gulf of Mexico.
As a young man, I worked on an offshore drilling rig. On this particular “dark and stormy night” I was offloading materials from a supply boat. The small boat was being violently tossed in the waves, and a cable hit me and launched me overboard. The pounding waves carried me further into the dark waters of the Gulf. I drifted so far that I no longer could see the lights of the rig.
After two hours went by, I had given up hope of being saved. I was lost in the darkness and became gripped with fear. Suddenly, in the midst of the darkness a light burst through the turbulent waves—a boat equipped with a searchlight. When that light hit me, my hope was restored. I was saved!
Darkness, fear, separation, and hopelessness. That’s an apt description for being spiritually lost too. But we have hope.
Read Romans 5:6-8.
Let me get right to the point. Jesus is the light of the world; He dispels the darkness, removes all fear, reconciles us to God, and brings hope. Jesus did all of this through His death on the cross—and He did it for the least likely group most people would consider.
Paul notes three kinds of people:
1. The just person. Paul is not using a theological term at this point, but describing a person others see as morally upright or exemplary in his or her conduct.
2. The good person. This person is generous, kind, and loving toward others.
While the just person may never appear to do anything wrong, everyone simply likes to be around the good person. For that reason, it’s rare someone would die for the exemplary citizen, but he might dare to do so for someone who has been loving and caring.
3. The sinner. The ones Jesus died for are neither upright nor good. “Christ died for the ungodly”—and this title fits all of us.
Besides calling us “sinners,” Paul used two other words to describe us: “helpless” and “ungodly.” To be ungodly means we not only ignore God’s standard of righteousness for our life, but we also defy it. On top of that, we are helpless—utterly powerless to do anything about our sorry condition. We follow our own sinful desires, and we can do nothing on our own to remove the sin that separates us from a holy God.
But because of His great love for us, God came from heaven to earth in the midst of our helpless, sinful state, so that He could save us. Our salvation was neither an accident nor an afterthought. This was God’s plan from the beginning.
The apostle Paul placed great emphasis on the love and grace of God. Heroism might motivate someone to die for a good person, but only unmerited grace and unconditional love can drive a person to die for his enemies. Compelled by His amazing love, Christ did just that: He died for the helpless, the ungodly, the sinners.
Thankfully, the grace-filled, unconditional love of God is greater than our sinfulness—and the cross of Jesus is the ultimate proof of that love. He gives His love not because of who we are; as a matter of fact, He loves us in spite of who we are. God loves us because of who He is.
What emotions do you experience when you read these verses?
Why do we sometimes struggle to recognize we are helpless?
What do these verses teach us about God’s character?
Excerpted from Blake Gideon, Bible Studies for Life: Unvarnished Truth © 2016 Lifeway Press®. Used by permission.