on Romans 5 :6
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!
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
2. 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.
3. When the Jews were in the lowest state of corruption, and had the greatest need of the promised deliverer.
on Romans 5 :6
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 asthenōn is 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 kairon. In 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.
on Romans 5 :6