by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 1 Study # 8 Lincolnton, NC March 14, 2006
6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
1901 ASV Translation:
6 For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly.
I. The Major "Spiritual" Issue: God's Love For Us.
A. Paul declares the reality of God's love in contrast to anything "human".
1. The grammatical structure puts "Christ" at the front of the sentence and "died" at the very end. All of the associated ideas are stuck between Christ and His action.
2. The associated ideas...
a. "...while we were weak..."
1) The word used here typically indicates a fleshly illness or corrupt condition.
a) The man who was lame from birth in Acts 3:2 was characterized by this descriptive term -- not, technically, "diseased", but "corrupted in condition" in comparison to the norm.
b) In 1 Corinthians 1:25 Paul deliberately uses the word to address an "unreality": the "weakness" of God in contrast to the "strength" (ischuros) of man. This indicates that Paul's perception of the meaning of this word has to do with the essential "glory" of a person or thing -- its basic makeup in the context of some situation or circumstance. A person has "strength" if he has the ability to deal with the situation effectively and is "diseased" if he does not.
c) In 1 Corinthians 8:7 Paul uses the same word to describe a "conscience" that has false standards of "right" and "wrong" developed in it -- it cannot really be a guide because it is flawed.
d) Interestingly 1 Peter 3:7 says that the "wife" is the "weaker" vessel who needs "honor" (provision) in order to function properly.
2) The basic conclusion is that Paul used "weak" when he was attempting to build a picture of "inability".
b. The word translated "ungodly" is used in Jude 1:15 four times. It is a basic word of an aggressively anti-God attitude that characterizes humanity at the core level.
1) The issue here is that "ungodly" reveals the cause of the "weakness": it is, after all, man's attitude that keeps him from God. Even the Gospel has been corrupted into a kind of "don't 'fix' me, just 'fix' my destiny" kind of "feel good" message that, in this corruption, has no power to 'fix' anything.
2) Thus, the issue for man is the issue of what it takes to correct the attitude.
a) The very first of what it "takes" to correct the attitude is the perception of God's true attitude toward man: His very genuine love.
b) Beyond that beginning, there is a host of other issues required to "fix" what is wrong with man.
B. The major question is this: if God's "love" is real, why is there yet "condemnation"?
1. Since the theology of the Scriptures is that salvation is of God and that man's abilities under God are "grace-based" (see 1 Corinthians 15:10), it should be obvious that God "saves" men by taking an effective approach to him. But, if He does this for any man, why does He not do it for all men? Is His love for "the world" real?
2. Many have answered this question by saying that "love" is deliberately selective and not a reality for those "not chosen". This raises a significant question: does God not love His enemies? How can He command us to do so if He does not do so? If He does, how can He "love" and send His enemies into eternal destruction out of His presence?
a. This issue is resolved when we understand the multi-faceted reality of "love".
b. "Love" is real if the "lover" is willing to sacrifice himself on the behalf of the beloved.
c. "Love" does not cease to be real if the "lover" is unwilling to sacrifice others on the behalf of the beloved.
d. "Love" that refuses to sacrifice others is simply "relative": as long as there are multiple persons in existence who possess distinct (and contrary) agendas, "love" will simply have to "choose" which agenda to support and which to destroy. It is not "unloving" to destroy because love is and itexists in a contradictory universe in which diametrically opposed agendas exist. It is not unloving to move to eliminate the disunity. However, it is, clearly, not as loving to destroy as it is to sustain. Love is relative in a relational universe of a plurality of persons.
e. Technically, it would be "loving" to sustain the agenda of a contrary person, but it would be absolutely destructive of everyone else. Love cannot exist, however, in a one-person universe and the support of the agenda of a sinner would result in a one-person universe because, ultimately, only those who adhere to the agenda can be allowed to survive and only one person will adhere to the agenda of a sinner: the sinner whose agenda it is. Thus, "love" would destroy "love" if it supported a wicked agenda. Thus, "love" is what is behind "destruction": it eliminates the agendas of the wicked by destroying them so that the agendas of the righteous may flourish.
3. Others have attempted to establish the claim that "love" is tied to "free will"...the persons involved in the universe are "beloved" if they submit to the determined agenda and those are "hated" who refuse to submit.
a. There is little doubt that "love" is tied to the determined agenda.
b. But, there is enormous doubt as to whether the embrace of that agenda is governed by "free will". The bondage of man's will to his essential nature is a reality and, unless man can change his nature, the issue of submission to an agenda by "choice" is a myth. The doctrine of the Bible is that man must be "regenerated" before he has any capacity to "choose" the good. Without regeneration, the will of man serves his lusts and always "chooses" to be selfish.
4. The Biblical declaration is that those are preserved from destruction who "believe" in their status as "beloved" to the point of "reciprocity": they embrace the agenda of the Lover because it has become, by regeneration, their agenda also.
a. Faith is essential to "love" for without it love is rendered incapable (it does no good to affirm love to someone who disbelieves the affirmation and whatever good might come from being loved is canceled by the unbelief).
b. Faith is not about "choice"; it is about "evidence" and its power to convince.
c. Man's "ability" to "believe" is a matter of the question of whether the "evidence" is able to overcome his reluctance to release his grasp of the "contrary faith" by which he is living. The issue of the "release" of a grasp is not an issue of "free choice"; it is an issue of being overwhelmed by faith-producing evidence. "Freedom" ceases to exist in the presence of overwhelming love and faith...both of which exist beneath all "choice". We may talk all day long about the "freedom of choice", but the fact is that when "love" and "faith" come together in profound harmony, the "choice" that is made is nothing more or less than the acquiescence of "faith" to "love". It is not a "proactive" (free) choice, it is a "passive" surrender. It is a choice, but it is not "free".
C. What is the point of the declaration of the "love of God"?
1. At one level, there is little point since the declaration is simply "words strung together into sentences".
2. On another level, however, the declaration is an integral aspect of the convincing activity of God that rolls over the sinner's reluctance to embrace the good. Without the Spirit, the declaration is insignificant except to lay the foundation for judgment to come, but without the declaration, the Spirit has nothing with which to work in the convincing process. It is the Spirit Who pours out the love of God within us (verse 5), but it is by the declaration that He accomplishes this outpouring. Transformation does not bypass the mind (Romans 12:2), nor does it bypass the necessity of the "declaring word".
3. The wonder of wonders is that man's "bondage" (which includes his "will") is the greatest when he insists that it does not exist and is least when he acknowledges its reality in the context of the promises of God. [Man's greatest need is "blind loyalty" to the God Who made him.]