What is your motivation? Why do you do what you do as a follower of Jesus? Why do you present your body as a living sacrifice? Why do you strive to not be conformed to this world but be transformed instead? Motivations are important. This is why before Paul gets to the exhortations of Romans 12 and onward, he outlines gospel truths which should serve as a motivation for Christlike living.
The supreme motivation that Paul highlights is the love of Jesus. In our passage this morning, we’ll see Christ’s love and pray that it would bring us into deeper fellowship with and more faithful obedience to Him.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. – Romans 5:6
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
The word for is tied to what Paul has just said about how God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. What follows, then, is an explanation of how that is possible.
Paul points to our past state: while we were still weak, that is, while we were powerless to save ourselves. Then, just at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. What’s the right time? At just the right time in history, according to the immeasurable wisdom of God. There was no time earlier nor no time later during which it would have been more appropriate for God to do what He did.
Who are the ungodly? Well, based on Paul’s argument up to this point, it’s everybody, both Jew and Gentile, and therefore, every one of us.
Two verses later, Paul shows what this is meant to display. He says God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. O Christian, would you read that again? Would you not only read it, but memorize it and meditate on it and dwell on it all the day long?
The supreme display of God’s love for the Christian is that He died for us. And He didn’t die for us because we were worthy. He didn’t die for us because we were righteous and almost deserving of salvation. He died for us while we were still sinners. Will you bask in that for a moment? And for eternity?
This supreme display of God’s love is also the supreme motivation for obedience to Him. We are not as subjects under a brutal dictator. We are slaves of the God who is love Himself. So, when we struggle with obedience, when we struggle with temptation, this is the truth to which we must cling most closely. And even before that struggle, may we arm ourselves now and strengthen our defenses now by dwelling on this single truth: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
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