What does Romans 5:6 mean?
ESV: For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
NIV: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
NASB: For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
CSB: For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.
NLT: When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.
KJV: For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Paul, writing in the previous verse, urged his readers to be confident that our hope in God will never be disappointed or put to shame. Why? Because God loves us. More specifically, He has poured His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Paul pictures God's love for us as something we carry with us all the time, not merely the feelings of a distant deity.
Now, in this and the following verses, Paul provides evidence of God's love for us. First, Christ died for the ungodly, which Paul clearly defined in earlier passages as all of humanity (Romans 3:10, 23). This sacrifice was made while we were still weak, or "powerless," or "helpless," depending on the translation. This comes from the Greek word asthenōn, which implies something feeble or sickly. Nothing about us earned this salvation. It was entirely offered on the basis of God's grace, and at just the right moment.
This huge idea is key to the good news—the gospel—which Paul preached all over the world. First, it shows that God, the Father, and Christ, the Son, are so closely connected that Christ dying for us is evidence of God's love for us. Together with the Holy Spirit, mentioned in the previous verse, the three are mysteriously united as one God.
Second, God proved His love for us by acting first. He didn't make arrangements with us ahead of time, or wait for us to become strong and godly and worthy of being saved. He loved us and took action to save us while we were still helpless to save ourselves because of our sin.
Third, God showed His power by sending Christ to die for us at exactly the right time. Jesus arrived, lived, died, and was resurrected at the moment in history when His action would accomplish the most good for God's plan. God's timing, too, was motivated by His love for all of us godless people.
Romans 5:1–11 describes the amazing benefits that come with being declared righteous before God by faith in Christ's death for our sin. God has made peace with us. We stand in His grace, and we rejoice in the sure hope that we will share in His glory. Our suffering brings growth, which leads to even more potent hope. God has proven His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We are saved from God's wrath and reconciled to God in Christ.
Romans 5 begins by describing some of the benefits that come with being declared righteous by God because of our faith in Christ. We have peace with God, and we stand in His grace. We rejoice both in the hope of God's glory and in our temporary suffering. We have hope that will not disappoint, because God has already proved His love for us. Paul then compares the work of Adam in bringing sin and death into the world with the work of Christ in dying for sin in order to offer God's free gift of grace to all who believe.
After proving that all men are guilty of sin and incapable of earning salvation, Paul explained how faith—not works—is the means by which God declares us righteous. Romans 5 begins with a powerful, joyful revelation of all that comes with being justified in God's eyes by our faith in Christ. We have peace with God. We stand in God's grace. We have hope for eternal glory and meaning in our current suffering. God has proven His love for us in the death of Christ for our sin while we were still sinners. Adam introduced sin and death to the world, and they continue. Christ, though, by dying for our sin brought God's grace to all who believe. The next chapter begins by refuting a common misconception about salvation by grace through faith.
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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