“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”—Romans 5:8.
I shall have nothing new to tell you; it will be as old as the everlasting hills, and so simple that a child may understand it. Love’s commendation. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s commendation of himself and of his love is not in words, but in deeds. When the Almighty God would commend his love to poor man, it is not written, “God commendeth his love towards us in an eloquent oration”; it is not written that he commendeth his love by winning professions; but he commendeth his love toward us by an act, by a deed; a surprising deed, the unutterable grace of which eternity itself shall scarce discover. He “commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Let us learn, then upon the threshold of our text, that if we would commend ourselves it must be by deeds, and not by words.
If we would commend our religion to mankind, we cannot do it by mere formalities, but by gracious acts of integrity, charity and forgiveness, which are the proper discoveries of grace within. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” “Let your conversation be such as becometh the gospel of Christ;” and so shall you honour him, and “adorn the doctrine” which you profess.
The first commendation of love, then, is this—that “CHRIST DIED FOR US”; and as the whole text is double, so this sentence also contains a twofold commendation There is a commendation of love in the person who died—Christ; and then in the act which he performed—“Christ died for us.”
When sinful man erred from his Maker, it was necessary that God should punish his sin. He had sworn by himself, “The soul that sinneth it shall die;” and God—with reverence to his all-holy name be it spoken—could not swerve from what he had said. He had declared on Sinai that he would by no means clear the guilty; but inasmuch as he desired to pardon the offending, it was necessary that some one else should bear the sufferings which the guilty ought to have endured, that so by the vicarious substitution of another, God might be “just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly.” Now, the question might have arisen, “Who is he that shall be the scapegoat for man’s offence? Who is he that shall bear his transgressions and take away his sins?”
The second part of the first commendation lieth here, that Christ died for us. It was much love when Christ became man for us, when he stripped himself of the glories of his Godhead for awhile, to become an infant of a span long, slumbering in the manger of Bethlehem. It was no little condescension when he divested himself of all his glories, hung his mantle on the sky, gave up his diadem and the pleasures of his throne, and stooped to become flesh. It was moreover, no small love when he lived a holy and a suffering life for us; it was love amazing, when God with feet of flesh did tread the earth, and teach his own creatures how to live, all the while bearing their scoffs and jests with cool unangered endurance. It was no little favour of him that he should condescend to give us a perfect example by his spotless life; but the commendation of love lieth here—not that Christ lived for us, but that Christ died for us. Come, dear hearers, for a moment weigh those words. “Christ died for us!”
Consider the circumstances which attended his death. It was no common death he died; it was a death of ignominy, for he was put to death by a legal slaughter; it was a death of unutterable pain, for he was crucified; and what more painful fate than to die nailed to a cross? It was a long protracted death, for he hung for hours, with only his hands and his feet pierced—parts which are far away from the seat of life, but in which are situated the most tender nerves, full of sensibility. He suffered a death which for its circumstances still remain unparalleled. It was no speedy blow which crushed the life out of the body, and ended it; but it was a lingering, long, and doleful death, attended with no comforts and no sympathy, but surrounded with scorn and contempt. Picture him! They have hurled him on his back; they have driven nails through his hands and his feet; they have lifted him up. See! They have dashed the cross into its place. It is fixed. And now behold him! Mark his eyes, all full of tears; behold his head, hanging on his breast. Ah! mark him, he seems all silently to say, “I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint; I am brought into the dust of death.” Hear him, when he groans, “I thirst.” Above all, listen to him, whilst he cries, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” My words cannot picture him; my thoughts fail to express it. No painter ever accomplished it, nor shall any speaker be able to perform it. Yet I beseech you regard the Royal Sufferer. See him, with the eye of your faith, hanging on the bloody tree. Hear him cry, before he dies, “It is finished!”
Our second point was this: “God commendeth his love towards us,” not only because Christ died for us, but that CHRIST DIED FOR US WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS.”
Consider how many of us have been continual sinners. We have not sinned once, nor twice, but ten thousand times. Our life, however upright and moral it has been, is stained by a succession of sins. If we have not revolted against God in the outward acts which proclaim the profligate to be a great sinner, yet the thoughts of our heart and the words of our lips are swift witnesses against us that we have continually transgressed.
Men, brethren, and fathers, he did not die for you as those who have committed but one fault, but as those who were emphatically “sinners;” sinners of years’ standing; some of you sinners with grey heads; sinners who have persevered in a constant course of iniquity.
Note again, he has died for us, although our sins were aggravated. Oh! there are some of us here who are great sinners—not so much in the acts we have performed, as in the aggravation of our guilt. I reckon that when I sin, I sin worse than many of you, because I sin against better training than many of my hearers received in their youth. Many of you, when you sin, sin against faithful ministers, and against the most earnest warnings.
When you sin against the convictions of your consciences, against the solemn monitions of your pastors, you sin more grossly than others do.
When we were sinners, we were sinners against the very person who died for us. “Tis strange, ‘tis passing strange, ‘tis wonderful,” that the very Christ against whom we have sinned died for us. If a man should be injured in the street, if a punishment should be demanded of the person who attacked him, it would be passing strange if the injured man should for love’s sake bear the penalty, that the other might go free; but ‘twas so with Christ. He had been injured, yet he suffers for the very injury that others did to him. He dies for his enemies—dies for the men that hate and scorn him. There is an old tradition, that the very man who pierced Christ’s side was converted; and I sometimes think that peradventure in heaven we shall meet with those very men who drove the nails into his hands and pierced his side. Love is a mighty thing; it can forgive great transgressors.
Further, to illustrate my text, let me remark again, that inasmuch as Christ died for sinners, it is a special commendation of his love for the following reasons:—It is quite certain that God did not consider man’s merit when Christ died; in fact, no merit could have deserved the death of Jesus. Though we had been holy as Adam, we could never have deserved a sacrifice like that of Jesus for us. But inasmuch as it says, “He died for sinners,” we are thereby taught that God considered our sin, and not our righteousness. When Christ died, he died for men as black, as wicked, as abominable, not as good and excellent. Christ did not shed his blood for us as saints, but as sinners. He considered us in our loathsomeness, in our low estate and misery—not in that high estate to which grace afterwards elevates us, but in all the decay into which we had fallen by our sin. There could have been no merit in us; and therefore, God commendeth his love by our ill desert.
Christ died for me when I had no power nor will to lift my voice in prayer to him. It was entirely unasked.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible