A Sermon (No. 1191)
Delivered on Lord’s-Day Morning, September 6th, 1874, by C. H. SPURGEON, At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
“…Christ died for the ungodly.”—Romans 5:6.
In this verse the human race is described as a sick man, whose disease is so far advanced that he is altogether without strength: no power remains in his system to throw off his mortal malady, nor does he desire to do so; he could not save himself from his disease if he would, and would not if he could. I have no doubt that the apostle had in his eye the description of the helpless infant given by the prophet Ezekiel; it was an infant—an infant newly born—an infant deserted by its mother before the necessary offices of tenderness had been performed; left unwashed, unclothed, unfed, a prey to certain death under the most painful circumstances, forlorn, abandoned, hopeless. Our race is like the nation of Israel, its whole head is sick, and its whole heart faint. Such, unconverted men, are you! Only there is this darker shade in your picture, that your condition is not only your calamity, but your fault. In other diseases men are grieved at their sickness, but this is the worst feature in your case, that you love the evil which is destroying you. In addition to the pity which your case demands, no little blame must be measured out to you: you are without will for that which is good, your “cannot” means “will not,” your inability is not physical but moral, not that of the blind who cannot see for want of eyes, but of the willingly ignorant who refuse to look.
While man is in this condition Jesus interposes for his salvation. “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly”; “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” according to “his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins.” The pith of my sermon will be an endeavour to declare that the reason of Christ’s dying for us did not lie in our excellence; but where sin abounded grace did much more abound, for the persons for whom Jesus died were viewed by him as the reverse of good, and he came into the world to save those who are guilty before God, or, in the words of our text, “Christ died for the ungodly.”
Now to our business. We shall dwell first upon the fact—”Christ died for the ungodly”; then we shall consider the fair inferences therefrom; and, thirdly, proceed to think and speak of the proclamation of this simple but wondrous truth.
First, here is THE FACT—”Christ died for the ungodly.” Never did the human ear listen to a more astounding and yet cheering truth. Angels desire to look into it, and if men were wise they would ponder it night and day. Jesus, the Son of God, himself God over all, the infinitely glorious One, Creator of heaven and earth, out of love to me stooped to become a man and die. Christ, the thrice holy God, the pure-hearted man, in whom there was no sin and could be none, espoused the cause of the wicked. Jesus, whose doctrine makes deadly war on sin, whose Spirit is the destroyer of evil, whose whole self abhors iniquity, whose second advent will prove his indignation against transgression, yet undertook the cause of the impious, and even unto death pursued their salvation. The Christ of God, though he had no part or lot in the fall and the sin which has arisen out of it, has died to redeem us from its penalty, and, like the psalmist, he can cry, “Then I restored that which I took not away.” Let all holy beings judge whether this is not the miracle of miracles!
Christ, the name given to our Lord, is an expressive word; it means “Anointed One,” and indicates that he was sent upon a divine errand, commissioned by supreme authority. The Lord Jehovah said of old, “I have laid help upon one that is mighty, I have exalted one chosen out of the people”; and again, “I have given him as a covenant to the people, a leader and commander to the people.” Jesus was both set apart to this work, and qualified for it by the anointing of the Holy Ghost. He is no unauthorised saviour, no amateur deliverer, but an ambassador clothed with unbounded power from the great King, a Redeemer with full credentials from the Father. It is this ordained and appointed Saviour who has “died for the ungodly.” Remember this, ye ungodly! Consider well who it was that came to lay down his life for such as you are.
The text says Christ died. He did a great deal besides dying, but the crowning act of his career of love for the ungodly, and that which rendered all the rest available to them, was his death for them. He actually gave up the ghost, not in fiction, but in fact. He laid down his life for us, breathing out his soul, even as other men do when they expire. That it might be indisputably clear that he was really dead, his heart was pierced with the soldier’s spear, and forthwith came there out blood and water. The Roman governor would not have allowed the body to be removed from the cross had he not been duly certified that Jesus was indeed dead. His relatives and friends who wrapped him in linen and laid him in Joseph’s tomb, were sorrowfully sure that all that lay before them was a corpse. The Christ really died, and in saying that, we mean that he suffered all the pangs incident to death; only he endured much more and worse, for his was a death of peculiar pain and shame, and was not only attended by the forsaking of man, but by the departure of his God. That cry, “My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” was the innermost blackness of the thick darkness of death.
Our Lord’s death was penal, inflicted upon him by divine justice; and rightly so, for on him lay our iniquities, and therefore on him must lay the suffering. “It pleased the Father to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.” He died under circumstances which made his death most terrible. Condemned to a felon’s gibbet, he was crucified amid a mob of jesters, with few sympathising eyes to gaze upon him; he bore the gaze of malice and the glance of scorn; he was hooted and jeered by a ribald throng, who were cruelly inventive in their taunts and blasphemies. There he hung, bleeding from many wounds, exposed to the sun, burning with fever, and devoured with thirst, under every circumstance of contumely, pain, and utter wretchedness; his death was of all deaths the most deadly death, and emphatically “Christ died.”
But the pith of the text comes here, that “Christ died for the ungodly”; not for the righteous, not for the reverent and devout, but for the ungodly. Look at the original word, and you will find that it has the meaning of “impious, irreligious, and wicked.” Our translation is by no means too strong, but scarcely expressive enough. To be ungodly, or godless, is to be in a dreadful state, but as use has softened the expression, perhaps you will see the sense more clearly if I read it, “Christ died for the impious,” for those who have no reverence for God. Christ died for the godless, who, having cast off God, cast off with him all love for that which is right. I do not know a word that could more fitly describe the most irreligious of mankind than the original word in this place, and I believe it is used on purpose by the Spirit of God to convey to us the truth, which we are always slow to receive, that Christ did not die because men were good, or would be good, but died for them as ungodly—or, in other words, “he came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Observe, then, that when the Son of God determined to die for men, he viewed them as ungodly, and far from God by wicked works. In casting his eye over our race he did not say, “Here and there I see spirits of nobler mould, pure, truthful, truth-seeking, brave, disinterested, and just; and therefore, because of these choice ones, I will die for this fallen race.” No; but looking on them all, he whose judgment is infallible returned this verdict, “They are all gone out of the way; they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Putting them down at that estimate, and nothing better, Christ died for them. He did not please himself with some rosy dream of a superior race yet to come, when the age of iron should give place to the age of gold,—some halcyon period of human development, in which civilisation would banish crime, and wisdom would conduct man back to God. Full well he knew that, left to itself, the world would grow worse and worse, and that by its very wisdom it would darken its own eyes. It was not because a golden age would come by natural progress, but just because such a thing was impossible, unless he died to procure it, that Jesus died for a race which, apart from him, could only develop into deeper damnation. Jesus viewed us as we really were, not as our pride fancies us to be; he saw us to be without God, enemies of our own Creator, dead in trespasses and sins, corrupt, and set on mischief, and even in our occasional cry for good, searching for it with blinded judgment and prejudiced heart, so that we put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. He saw that in us was no good thing, but every possible evil, so that we were lost,—utterly, helplessly, hopelessly lost apart from him: yet viewing us as in that graceless and Godless plight and condition, he died for us.
I would have you remember that the view under which Jesus beheld us was not only the true one, but, for us, the kindly one; because had it been written that Christ died for the better sort, then each troubled spirit would have inferred “he died not for me.” Had the merit of his death been the perquisite of honesty, where would have been the dying thief? If of chastity, where the woman that loved much? If of courageous fidelity, how would it have fared with the apostles, for they all forsook him and fled? There are times when the bravest man trembles lest he should be found a coward, the most disinterested frets about the selfishness of his heart, and the most pure is staggered by his own impurity; where, then, would have been hope for one of us, if the gospel had been only another form of law, and the benefits of the cross had been reserved as the rewards of virtue? The gospel does not come to us as a premium for virtue, but it presents us with forgiveness for sin. It is not a reward for health, but a medicine for sickness. Therefore, to meet all cases, it puts us down at our worst, and, like the good Samaritan with the wounded traveller, it comes to us where we are. “Christ died for the impious” is a great net which takes in even the leviathan sinner; and of all the creeping sinners innumerable which swarm the sea of sin, there is not one kind which this great net does not encompass.
Let us note well that in this condition lay the need of our race that Christ should die. I do not see how it could have been written “Christ died for the good.” To what end for the good? Why need they his death? If men are perfect, does God need to be reconciled to them? Was he ever opposed to holy beings? Impossible! On the other hand, were the good ever the enemies of God? If such there be are they not of necessity his friends? If man be by nature just with God, to what end should the Saviour die? “The just for the unjust” I can understand; but the “just dying for the just” were a double injustice—an injustice that the just should be punished at all, and another injustice that the just should be punished for them. Oh no! If Christ died, it must be because there was a penalty to be paid for sin committed, hence he must have died for those who had committed the sin. If Christ died, it must have been because “a fountain filled with blood” was necessary for the cleansing away of heinous stains; hence, it must have been for those who are defiled. Suppose there should be found anywhere in this world an unfallen man—perfectly innocent of all actual sin, and free from any tendency to it, there would be a superfluity of cruelty in the crucifixion of the innocent Christ for such an individual. What need has he that Christ should die for him, when he has in his own innocence the right to live? If there be found beneath the copes of heaven an individual who, notwithstanding some former slips and flaws, can yet, by future diligence, completely justify himself before God, then it is clear that there is no need for Christ to die for him. I would not insult him by telling him that Christ died for him, for he would reply to me, “Why should he? Cannot I make myself just without him?” In the very nature of things it must be so, that if Christ Jesus dies he must die for the ungodly. Such agonies as his would not have been endured had there not been a cause, and what cause could there have been but sin?
Some have said that Jesus died as our example; but that is not altogether true. Christ’s death is not absolutely an example for men, it was a march into a region of which he said, “Ye cannot follow me now.” His life was our example, but not his death in all respects, for we are by no means bound to surrender ourselves voluntarily to our enemies as he did, but when persecuted in one city we are bidden to flee to another. To be willing to die for the truth is a most Christly thing, and in that Jesus is our example; but into the winepress which he trod it is not ours to enter, the voluntary element which was peculiar to his death renders it inimitable. He said, “I lay down my life of myself; no man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.” One word of his would have delivered him from his foes; he had but to say “Begone!” and the Roman guards must have fled like chaff before the wind. He died because he willed to do so; of his own accord he yielded up his spirit to the Father. It must have been as an atonement for the guilty; it could not have been as an example, for no man is bound voluntarily to die. Both the dictates of nature, and the command of the law, require us to preserve our lives. “Thou shalt not kill” means “Thou shalt not voluntarily give up thine own life any more than take the life of another.” Jesus stood in a special position, and therefore he died; but his example would have been complete enough without his death, had it not been for the peculiar office which he had undertaken. We may fairly conclude that Christ died for men who needed such a death; and, as the good did not need it for an example—and in fact it is not an example to them—he must have died for the ungodly.
The sum of our text is this—all the benefits resulting from the Redeemer’s passion, and from all the works that followed upon it, are for those who by nature are ungodly. His gospel is that sinners believing in him are saved. His sacrifice has put away sin from all who trust him, and, therefore, it was offered for those who had sin upon them before. “He rose again for our justification,” but certainly not for the justification of those who can be justified by their own works. He ascended on high, and we are told that he “received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also.” He lives to intercede, and Isaiah tells us that “He made intercession for the transgressors.” The aim of his death, resurrection, ascension, and eternal life, is towards the sinful sons of men. His death has brought pardon, but it cannot be pardon for those who have no sin—pardon is only for the guilty. He is exalted on high “to give repentance,” but surely not to give repentance to those who have never sinned, and have nothing to repent of. Repentance and remission both imply previous guilt in those who receive them: unless, then, these gifts of the exalted Saviour are mere shams and superfluities, they must be meant for the really guilty. From his side there flowed out water as well as blood—the water is intended to cleanse polluted nature, then certainly not the nature of the sinless, but the nature of the impure; and so both blood and water flowed for sinners who need the double purification. To-day the Holy Spirit regenerates men as the result of the Redeemer’s death; and who can be regenerated but those who need a new heart and a right spirit? To regenerate the already pure and innocent were ridiculous; regeneration is a work which creates life where there was formerly death, gives a heart of flesh to those whose hearts were originally stone, and implants the love of holiness where sin once had sole dominion. Conversion is also another gift, which comes through his death, but does he turn those whose faces are already in the right direction? It cannot be. He converts the sinner from the error of his ways, he turns the disobedient into the right way, he leads back the stray sheep to the fold. Adoption is another gift which comes to us by the cross. Does the Lord adopt those who are already his sons by nature? If children already, what room is there for adoption? No; but the grand act of divine love is that which takes those who are “children of wrath even as others,” and by sovereign grace puts them among the children, and makes them “heirs of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ.”
To-day I see the Good Shepherd in all the energy of his mighty love, going forth into the dreadful wilderness. For whom is he gone forth? For the ninety and nine who feed at home? No, but into the desert his love sends him, over hill and dale, to seek the one lost sheep which has gone astray. Behold, I see him arousing his church, like a good housewife, to cleanse her house. With the besom of the law she sweeps, and with the candle of the word she searches, and what for? For those bright new coined pieces fresh from the mint, which glitter safely in her purse? Assuredly not, but for that lost piece which has rolled away into the dust, and lies hidden in the dark corner. And lo! grandest of all visions! I see the Eternal Father, himself, in the infinity of his love, going forth in haste to meet a returning child. And whom does he go to meet? The elder brother returning from the field, bringing his sheaves with him? An Esau, who has brought him savoury meat such as his soul loveth? A Joseph whose godly life has made him lord over all Egypt? Nay, the Father leaves his home to meet a returning prodigal, who has companied with harlots, and grovelled among swine, who comes back to him in disgraceful rags, and disgusting filthiness! It is on a sinner’s neck that the Father weeps; it is on a guilty cheek that he sets his kisses; it is for an unworthy one that the fatted calf is killed, and the best robe is worn, and the house is made merry with music and with dancing. Yes, tell it, and let it ring round earth and heaven, Christ died for the ungodly. Mercy seeks the guilty, grace has to do with the impious, the irreligious and the wicked. The physician has not come to heal the healthy, but to heal the sick. The great philanthropist has not come to bless the rich and the great, but the captive and the prisoner. He puts down the mighty from their seats, for he is a stern leveller, but he has come to lift the beggar from the dunghill, and to set him among princes, even the princes of his people. Sing ye, then, with the holy Virgin, and let your song be loud and sweet,—”He hath filled the hungry with good things, but the rich he hath sent empty away.” “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” “He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” O ye guilty ones, believe in him and live.
II. Let us now consider THE PLAIN INFERENCES FROM THIS FACT. Let me have your hearts as well as your ears, especially those of you who are not yet saved, for I desire you to be blessed by the truths uttered; and oh, may the Spirit of God cause it to be so. It is clear that those of you who are ungodly—and if you are unconverted you are that—are in great danger. Jesus would not interpose his life and bear the bloody sweat and crown of thorns, and nails, and spear, and scorn unmitigated, and death itself, if there were not solemn need and imminent peril. There is danger, solemn danger, for you. You are under the wrath of God already, and you will soon die, and then, as surely as you live, you will be lost, and lost forever; as certain as the righteous will enter into everlasting life, you will be driven into everlasting punishment. The cross is the danger signal to you, it warns you that if God spared not his only Son, he will not spare you. It is the lighthouse set on the rocks of sin to warn you that swift and sure destruction awaits you if you continue to rebel against the Lord. Hell is an awful place, or Jesus had not needed to suffer such infinite agonies to save us from it.
It is also fairly to be inferred that out of this danger only Christ can deliver the ungodly, and he only through his death. If a less price than that of the life of the Son of God could have redeemed men, he would have been spared. When a country is at war, and you see a mother give up her only boy to fight her country’s battles—her only well-beloved, blameless son—you know that the battle must be raging very fiercely, and that the country is in stern danger: for, if she could find a substitute for him, though she gave all her wealth, she would lavish it freely to spare her darling. If she were certain that in his heart a bullet would find its target, she must have strong love for her country, and her country must be in dire necessity ere she would bid him go. If, then, “God spared not his Son, but freely delivered him up for us all,” there must have been a dread necessity for it. It must have stood thus: die he, or the sinner must, or justice must; and since justice could not, and the Father desired that the sinner should not, then Christ must; and so he did. Oh, miracle of love! I tell you, sinners, you cannot help yourselves, nor can all the priests of Rome or Oxford help you, let them perform their antics as they may; Jesus alone can save, and that only by his death. There on the bloody tree hangs all man’s hope; if you enter heaven it must be by force of the incarnate God’s bleeding out his life for you. You are in such peril that only the pierced hand can lift you out of it. Look to him, at once, I pray you, ere the proud waters go over your soul.
Then let it be noticed—and this is the point I want constantly to keep before your view—that Jesus died out of pure pity. He must have died out of the most gratuitous benevolence to the undeserving, because the character of those for whom he died could not have attracted him, but must have been repulsive to his holy soul. The impious, the godless—can Christ love these for their character? No, he loved them notwithstanding their offences, loved them as creatures fallen and miserable, loved them according to the multitude of his loving-kindnesses and tender mercies, from pity, and not from admiration. Viewing them as ungodly, yet he loved them. This is extraordinary love! I do not wonder that some persons are loved by others, for they wear a potent charm in their countenances, their ways are winsome, and their characters charm you into affection; “but God commendeth his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” He looked at us, and there was not a solitary beauty spot upon us: we were covered with “wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores,” distortions, defilements, and pollutions; and yet, for all that, Jesus loved us. He loved us because he would love us; because his heart was full of pity, and he could not let us perish. Pity moved him to seek the most needy objects that his love might display its utmost ability in lifting men from the lowest degradation, and putting them in the highest position of holiness and honour.
Observe another inference. If Christ died for the ungodly, this fact leaves the ungodly no excuse if they do not come to him, and believe in him unto salvation. Had it been otherwise they might have pleaded, “We are not fit to come.” But you are ungodly, and Christ died for the ungodly, why not for you? I hear the reply, “But I have been so very vile.” Yes, you have been impious, but your sin is not worse than this word ungodly will compass. Christ died for those who were wicked, thoroughly wicked. The Greek word is so expressive that it must take in your case, however wrongly you have acted. “But I cannot believe that Christ died for such as I am,” says one. Then, sir, mark! I hold you to your words, and charge you with contradicting the Eternal God to his teeth, and making him a liar. Your statement gives God the lie. The Lord declares that “Christ died for the ungodly,” and you say he did not, what is that but to make God a liar? How can you expect mercy if you persist in such proud unbelief? Believe the divine revelation. Close in at once with the gospel. Forsake your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall surely live. The fact that Christ died for the ungodly renders self-righteousness a folly. Why need a man pretend that he is good if “Christ died for the ungodly?” We have an orphanage, and the qualification for our orphanage is that the child for whom admission is sought shall be utterly destitute. I will suppose a widow trying to show to me and my fellow trustees that her boy is a fitting object for the charity; will she tell us that her child has a rich uncle? Will she enlarge upon her own capacities for earning a living? Why, this would be to argue against herself, and she is much too wise for that, I warrant you, for she knows that any such statements would damage rather than serve her cause. So, sinner, do not pretend to be righteous, do not dream that you are better than others, for that is to argue against yourself. Prove that you are not by nature ungodly, and you prove yourself to be one for whom Jesus did not die. Jesus comes to make the ungodly godly, and the sinful holy, but the raw material upon which he works is described in the text not by its goodness but by its badness; it is for the ungodly that Jesus died. “Oh, but if I felt!” Felt what? Felt something which would make you better? Then you would not so clearly come under the description here given. If you are destitute of good feelings, and thoughts, and hopes, and emotions, you are ungodly, and “Christ died for the ungodly.” Believe in him and you shall be saved from that ungodliness.
“Well,” cries out some Pharisaic moralist, “this is dangerous doctrine.” How so? Would it be dangerous doctrine to say that physicians exercise their skill to cure sick people and not healthy ones? Would that encourage sickness? Would that discourage health? You know better; you know that to inform the sick of a physician who can heal them is one of the best means for promoting their cure. If ungodly and impious men would take heart and run to the Saviour, and by him become cured of impiety and ungodliness, would not that be a good thing? Jesus has come to make the ungodly godly, the impious pious, the wicked obedient, and the dishonest upright. He has not come to save them in their sins, but from their sins; and this is the best of news for those who are diseased with sin. Self-righteousness is a folly, and despair is a crime, since Christ died for the ungodly. None are excluded hence but those who do themselves exclude; this great gate is set so wide open that the very worst of men may enter, and you, dear hearer, may enter now.
I think it is also very evident from our text that when they are saved, the converted find no ground of boasting; for when their hearts are renewed and made to love God they cannot say, “See how good I am,” because they were not so by nature; they were ungodly, and, as such, Christ died for them. Whatever goodness there may be in them after conversion they ascribe it to the grace of God, since by nature they were alienated from God, and far removed from righteousness. If the truth of natural depravity be but known and felt, free grace must be believed in, and then all glorying is at an end.
This will also keep the saved ones from thinking lightly of sin. If God had forgiven sinners without an atonement they might have thought little of transgression, but now that pardon comes to them through the bitter griefs of their Redeemer they cannot but see it to be an exceeding great evil. When we look to Jesus dying on the cross we end our dalliance with sin, and utterly abhor the cause of so great suffering to so dear a Saviour. Every wound of Jesus is an argument against sin. We never know the full evil of our iniquities till we see what it cost the Redeemer to put them away.
Salvation by the death of Christ is the strongest conceivable promoter of all the things which are pure, honest, lovely, and of good report. It makes sin so loathsome that the saved one cannot take up even its name without dread. “I will take away the name of Baalim out of thy mouth.” He looks upon it as we should regard a knife rusted with gore, wherewith some villain had killed our mother, our wife, or child. Could we play with it? Could we bear it about our persons or endure it in our sight? No, accursed thing! stained with the heart’s blood of my beloved, I would fain fling thee into the bottomless abyss! Sin is that dagger which stabbed the Saviour’s heart, and henceforth it must be the abomination of every man who has been redeemed by the atoning sacrifice.
To close this point. Christ’s death for the ungodly is the grandest argument to make the ungodly love him when they are saved. To love Christ is the mainspring of obedience in men—how shall men be led to love him? If you would grow love, you must sow love. Go, then; and let men know the love of Christ to sinners, and they will, by grace, be moved to love him in return. No doubt all of us require to know the threatenings of the wrath of God; but that which soonest touches my heart is Christ’s free love to an unworthy one like myself. When my sins seem blackest to me, and yet I know that through Christ’s death I am forgiven, this blest assurance melts me down.
“If thou hadst bid thy thunders roll,
And lightnings flash, to blast my soul.
I still had stubborn been;
But mercy has my heart subdued,
A bleeding Saviour I have view’d,
And now I hate my sin.”
I have heard of a soldier who had been put in prison for drunkenness and insubordination several times and he had been also flogged, but nothing improved him. At last he was taken in the commission of another offence, and brought before the commanding officer, who said to him, “My man, I have tried everything in the martial code with you, except shooting you; you have been imprisoned and whipped, but nothing has changed you. I am determined to try something else with you. You have caused us a great deal of trouble and anxiety, and you seem resolved to do so still; I shall, therefore, change my plans with you, and I shall neither fine you, flog you, nor imprison you; I will see what kindness will do, and therefore I fully and freely forgive you.” The man burst into tears, for he reckoned on a round number of lashes, and had steeled himself to bear them, but when he found he was to be forgiven, and set free, he said, “Sir, you shall not have to find fault with me again.” Mercy won his heart. Now, sinner, in that fashion God is dealing with you. Great sinners! Ungodly sinners! God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways. I have threatened you, and you hardened your hearts against me. Therefore, come now, and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” “Well,” says one, “I am afraid if you talk to sinners so they will go and sin more and more.” Yes, there are brutes everywhere, who can be so unnatural as to sin because grace abounds, but I bless God there is such a thing as the influence of love, and I am rejoiced that many feel the force of it, and yield to the conquering arms of amazing grace. The Spirit of God wins the day by such arguments as these; love is the great battering-ram which opens gates of brass. When the Lord says, “I have blotted out thy transgressions like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thine iniquities,” then the man is moved to repentance.
I can tell you hundreds and thousands of cases in which this infinite love has done all the good that morality itself could ask to have done; it has changed the heart and turned the entire current of the man’s nature from sin to righteousness. The sinner has believed, repented, turned from his evil ways, and become zealous for holiness. Looking to Jesus he has felt his sin forgiven, and he has started up a new man, to lead a new life. God grant it may be so this morning, and he shall have all the glory of it.
III. So now we must close—and this is the last point—THE PROCLAMATION OF THIS FACT, that “Christ died for the ungodly.” I would not mind if I were condemned to live fifty years more, and never to be allowed to speak but these five words, if I might be allowed to utter them in the ear of every man, and woman, and child who lives. “CHRIST DIED FOR THE UNGODLY” is the best message that even angels could bring to men. In the proclamation of this the whole church ought to take its share. Those of us who can address thousands should be diligent to cry aloud—”Christ died for the ungodly”; but those of you who can speak to one, or write a letter to one, must keep on at this—”Christ died for the ungodly.” Shout it out, or whisper it out; print it in capitals, or write it in a lady’s hand—”Christ died for the ungodly.” Speak it solemnly, it is not a thing for jest. Speak it joyfully; it is not a theme for sorrow, but for joy. Speak it firmly; it is indisputable fact. Facts of science, as they call them, are always questioned: this is unquestionable. Speak it earnestly; for if there be any truth which ought to arouse all a man’s soul it is this: “Christ died for the ungodly.” Speak it where the ungodly live, and that is at your own house. Speak it also down in the dark corners of the city, in the haunts of debauchery, in the home of the thief, in the den to the depraved. Tell it in the gaol; and sit down at the dying bed and read in a tender whisper—”Christ died for the ungodly.” When you pass the harlot in the street, do not give a toss with that proud head of yours, but remember that “Christ died for the ungodly”; and when you recollect those that injured you, say no bitter word, but hold your tongue, and remember “Christ died for the ungodly.” Make this henceforth the message of your life—”Christ died for the ungodly.”
And, oh, dear friends, you that are not saved, take care that you receive this message. Believe it. Go to God with this on your tongue—”Lord save me, for Christ died for the ungodly, and I am of them.” Fling yourself right on to this as a man commits himself to his lifebelt amid the surging billows. “But I do not feel,” says one. Trust not your feelings if you do; but with no feelings and no hopes of your own, cling desperately to this, “Christ died for the ungodly.” The transforming, elevating, spiritualising, moralising, sanctifying power of this great fact you shall soon know and be no more ungodly; but first, as ungodly, rest you on this, “Christ died for the ungodly.” Accept this truth, my dear hearer, and you are saved. I do not mean merely that you will be pardoned, I do not mean that you will enter heaven, I mean much more; I mean that you will have a new heart; you will be saved from the love of sin, saved from drunkenness, saved from uncleanness, saved from blasphemy, saved from dishonesty. “Christ died for the ungodly”—if that be really known and trusted in, it will open in your soul new springs of living water which will cleanse the Augean stable of your nature, and make a temple of God of that which was before a den of thieves. Trust in the mercy of God through the death of Jesus Christ, and a new era in your life’s history will at once commence.
Having put this as plainly as I know how, and having guarded my speech to prevent there being anything like a flowery sentence in it, having tried to put this as clearly as daylight itself,—that “Christ died for the ungodly,” if your ears refuse the precious boons that come through the dying Christ, your blood be on your own heads, for there is no other way of salvation for any one among you. Whether you reject or accept this, I am clear. But oh! do not reject it, for it is your life. If the Son of God dies for sinners, and sinners reject his blood, they have committed the most heinous offence possible. I will not venture to affirm, but I do suggest that the devils in hell are not capable of so great a stretch of criminality as is involved in the rejection of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Here lies the highest love. The incarnate God bleeds to death to save men, and men hate God so much that they will not even have him as he dies to save them. They will not be reconciled to their Creator, though he stoops from his loftiness to the depths of woe in the person of his Son on their behalf. This is depravity indeed, and desperateness of rebellion. God grant you may not be guilty of it. There can be no fiercer flame of wrath than that which will break forth from love that has been trampled upon, when men have put from them eternal life, and done despite to the Lamb of God. “Oh,” says one, “would God I could believe!” “Sir, what difficulty is there in it? Is it hard to believe the truth? Darest thou belie thy God? Art thou steeling thy heart to such desperateness that thou wilt call thy God a liar?” “No; I believe Christ died for the ungodly,” says one, “but I want to know how to get the merit of that death applied to my own soul.” Thou mayest, then, for here it is—”He that believeth in him,” that is, he that trusts in him, “is not condemned.” Here is the gospel and the whole of it—”He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: he that believeth not shall be damned.”
I am a poor weak man like yourselves, but my gospel is not weak; and it would be no stronger if one of “the mailed cherubim, or sworded seraphim” could take the platform and stand here instead of me. He could tell to you no better news. God, in condescension to your weakness, has chosen one of your fellow mortals to bear to you this message of infinite affection. Do not reject it! By your souls’ value, by their immortality, by the hope of heaven and by the dread of hell, lay hold upon eternal life; and by the fear that this may be your last day on earth, yea, and this evening your last hour, I do beseech you now, “steal away to Jesus.” There is life in a look at the crucified one; there is life at this moment for you. Look to him now and live. Amen.
Romans 5:1-11 (English Standard Version)
Peace with God Through Faith
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
(English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)