“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6 NASB).
TO SAY THE VERY LEAST, WE DID NOT DESERVE WHAT CHRIST DID FOR US WHEN HE DIED FOR OUR SINS. But not only were we undeserving; we were helpless. His death provided a salvation we could never have achieved by any ability that we possessed. We were, as the Amplified Bible renders it, “powerless to help ourselves.”
Unfortunately, there is a concept in many people’s minds that I call the “balance-sheet plan of salvation.” According to this view, we will be saved if our good deeds outnumber our bad ones. We may acknowledge that we used to be sinful people, but we believe that (if we have enough time left) we may be able to do enough good deeds that we’ll end up with a positive credit balance.
But here is the problem: if we had only ever committed just one sin, a lifetime of perfection after that would not be enough to atone for that one sin. The “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Sin — any sin — separates us from God (Genesis 2:16,17), and no amount of goodness after that can bridge the gap our sin has put between us and God. Sin is not a problem we can work our own way out of.
We are all, of course, guilty of a good many more sins than one. We have repeatedly chosen our own will over God’s, and “ungodly” is what we are. We are not good people who just need a little polishing up; we are proud, self-willed people who have alienated ourselves from God. And when we put ourselves in that predicament, what we needed was not merely a better moral example; we needed a sinless Savior who would die on our behalf.
The good news is that Jesus Christ is that Savior. He rescued us when there was no other way we could have escaped being banished from God. Lying in the dust, dead in our sins, we were lifted up to life — vibrant, glorious life — by the One who loved us even when we were lost. And Peter was not exaggerating when he said, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
He left his Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite his grace!
Emptied himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.