Romans 5:6
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6-11) Exposition showing how the love of God comes to have this cogency. That love was evidenced in the death of Christ. And consider what that death was. It is rare enough for one man to die for another—even for a good man. Christ died not for good men, but for sinners, and while they were sinners. If then His death had the power to save us from punishment, it is an easy thing to believe that His life will lead us to glory.

(6) For when we were yet . . .—The reading at the beginning of this verse is doubtful. The reading of the Vatican MS. is very attractive, “If at least,” “If, as we know to be the fact, Christ died,” &c. But, unfortunately, this has not much further external support. If we keep the common reading we must either translate “For, moreover,” or we may suppose that there is some confusion between two constructions, and the word translated “yet” came to be repeated.

Without strength.—Powerless to work out our own salvation.

In due time.—Or, in due season. So the Authorised version, rightly. Just at the moment when the forbearance of God (Romans 3:25) had come to an end, His love interposed, through the death of Christ, to save sinners from their merited destruction.

For the ungodly.—The force of the preposition here is “for the benefit of,” not “instead of.” St. Paul, it is true, holds the doctrine of the vicarious sacrifice of Christ, but this is expressed by such terms as the “propitiation” of Romans 3:25, or the “offering, and sacrifice for us” of Ephesians 5:2, and especially the “ransom for all” of 1Timothy 2:6, not by the use of the preposition.

Romans 5:6-8. For — How can we now doubt of God’s love, since when we were without strength — Either to think, will, or do any thing good; were utterly incapable of making any atonement for our transgressions, or of delivering ourselves from the depth of guilt and misery into which we were plunged; in due time — Neither too soon nor too late, but in that very point of time which the wisdom of God knew to be more proper than any other; Christ died for the ungodly — For the sake, and instead of, such as were enemies to God, (Romans 5:10,) and could not merit any favour from him: that is, for Jews and Gentiles, when they were, as has been proved in the first three chapters, all under sin. Observe, reader, Christ not only died to set us an example, or to procure us power to follow it, but to atone for our sins; for it does not appear that this expression, of dying for any one, has any other signification than that of rescuing his life by laying down our own. “By the ungodly here, Mr. Locke understands Gentiles, as also by weak, sinners, enemies, &c. They are undoubtedly included; but it seems very inconsistent with the whole strain of the apostle’s argument in the preceding chapters, to confine it to them. Compare Romans 3:9-20; Romans 3:22-23; Romans 4:5; Romans 5:20. I therefore,” says Dr. Doddridge, “all along explain such passages in the most extensive sense; and think nothing in the whole New Testament plainer, than that the gospel supposes every human creature, to whom it is addressed, to be in a state of guilt and condemnation, and incapable of being accepted with God, any otherwise than through the grace and mercy which it proclaims. Compare John 3:16; John 3:36; John 5:24; 1 John 3:14; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; and especially 1 John 1:10, than which no assertion can be more positive and express.” For scarcely for a righteous, or rather, honest, just, and unblameable man — One who gives to all what is strictly their due; would one be willing to die — Though apprehended to be in the most immediate danger: yet for a good man — A kind, merciful, compassionate, bountiful man; peradventure some would even dare to die — Every word increases the strangeness of the thing, and declares even this to be something great and unusual. But God commendeth — Greek, συνιστησι, recommendeth. A most elegant and proper expression; for those are wont to be recommended to us who were before either unknown to, or alienated from us. In that while we were yet sinners — So far from being good, that we were not even just; and were not only undeserving of his favour, but obnoxious to wrath and punishment; Christ died for us — Died in our stead, that our guilt might be cancelled, and we brought into a state of acceptance with God.5:6-11 Christ died for sinners; not only such as were useless, but such as were guilty and hateful; such that their everlasting destruction would be to the glory of God's justice. Christ died to save us, not in our sins, but from our sins; and we were yet sinners when he died for us. Nay, the carnal mind is not only an enemy to God, but enmity itself, chap. 8:7; Col 1:21. But God designed to deliver from sin, and to work a great change. While the sinful state continues, God loathes the sinner, and the sinner loathes God, Zec 11:8. And that for such as these Christ should die, is a mystery; no other such an instance of love is known, so that it may well be the employment of eternity to adore and wonder at it. Again; what idea had the apostle when he supposed the case of some one dying for a righteous man? And yet he only put it as a thing that might be. Was it not the undergoing this suffering, that the person intended to be benefitted might be released therefrom? But from what are believers in Christ released by his death? Not from bodily death; for that they all do and must endure. The evil, from which the deliverance could be effected only in this astonishing manner, must be more dreadful than natural death. There is no evil, to which the argument can be applied, except that which the apostle actually affirms, sin, and wrath, the punishment of sin, determined by the unerring justice of God. And if, by Divine grace, they were thus brought to repent, and to believe in Christ, and thus were justified by the price of his bloodshedding, and by faith in that atonement, much more through Him who died for them and rose again, would they be kept from falling under the power of sin and Satan, or departing finally from him. The living Lord of all, will complete the purpose of his dying love, by saving all true believers to the uttermost. Having such a pledge of salvation in the love of God through Christ, the apostle declared that believers not only rejoiced in the hope of heaven, and even in their tribulations for Christ's sake, but they gloried in God also, as their unchangeable Friend and all-sufficient Portion, through Christ only.For when ... - This opens a new view of the subject, or it is a new argument to show that our hope will not make ashamed, or will not disappoint us. The first argument he had stated in the previous verse, that the Holy Spirit was given to us. The next, which he now states, is, that God had given the most ample proof that he would save us by giving his Son when we were sinners; and that he who had done so much for us when we were enemies, would not now fail us when we are his friends; Romans 5:6-10. He has performed the more difficult part of the work by reconciling us when we were enemies; and he will not now forsake us, but will carry forward and complete what he has begun.

We were yet without strength - The word used here ἀσθενῶν asthenōn is usually applied to those who are sick and feeble, deprived of strength by disease; Matthew 25:38; Luke 10:9; Acts 4:9; Acts 5:15. But it is also used in a moral sense, to denote inability or feebleness with regard to any undertaking or duty. Here it means that we were without strength "in regard to the case which the apostle was considering;" that is, we had no power to devise a scheme of justification, to make an atonement, or to put away the wrath of God, etc. While all hope of man's being saved by any plan of his own was thus taken away; while he was thus lying exposed to divine justice, and dependent on the mere mercy of God; God provided a plan which met the case, and secured his salvation. The remark of the apostle here has reference only to the condition of the race before an atonement is made. It does not pertain to the question whether man has strength to repent and to believe after an atonement is made, which is a very different inquiry.

In due time - Margin "According to the time" κατὰ καιρὸν kata kairon. In a timely manner; at the proper time; Galatians 4:4, "But when the fulness of time was come," etc. This may mean,

(1) That it was a fit or proper time. All experiments had failed to save people. For four thousand years the trial had been made under the Law among the Jews: and by the aid of the most enlightened reason in Greece and Rome; and still it was in vain. No scheme had been devised to meet the maladies of the world, and to save people from death. It was then time that a better plan should be presented to people.

(2) it was the time fixed and appointed by God for the Messiah to come; the time which had been designated by the prophets; Genesis 49:10; Daniel 9:24-27; see John 13:1; John 17:1.

(3) it was a most favorable time for the spread of the gospel. The world was expecting such an event; was at peace; and was subjected mainly to the Roman power; and furnished facilities never before experienced for introducing the gospel rapidly into every land; see the notes at Matthew 2:1-2.

For the ungodly - Those who do not worship God. It here means sinners in general, and does not differ materially from what is meant by the word translated "without strength;" see the note at Romans 4:5.

6-8. For when we were yet without strength—that is, powerless to deliver ourselves, and so ready to perish.

in due time—at the appointed season.

Christ died for the ungodly—Three signal properties of God's love are here given: First, "Christ died for the ungodly," whose character, so far from meriting any interposition in their behalf, was altogether repulsive to the eye of God; second, He did this "when they were without strength"—with nothing between them and perdition but that self-originating divine compassion; third, He did this "at the due time," when it was most fitting that it should take place (compare Ga 4:4), The two former of these properties the apostle now proceeds to illustrate.

Without strength; utterly unable to help or redeem ourselves.

In due time; some read it, according to the time, and refer this clause to the foregoing words, making this to be the sense: When we were weak in time past, or in the time of the law, before grace appeared, then Christ died, &c. Others rather refer it to the following words, and so our translation carries it, that in due time, i.e. in the fulness of time, as Galatians 4:4, or in the time that was before decreed and prefixed by the Father. The Scripture every where speaks of a certain season or hour assigned for the death of Christ: see Matthew 26:45 John 8:20 12:27 17:1.

Christ died for the ungodly; i.e. for the sake, or instead of, such as were enemies to God, {as Romans 5:10} and so could deserve no such favour from him. For when we were yet without strength,.... The apostle having mentioned the love of God proceeds to give an instance, and which is a full proof and demonstration of it, which is, that

in due time Christ died for the ungodly. That Christ died is certain; the death of Christ was foretold in prophecy, typified by the sacrifices of slain beasts, was spoken of by himself, both before and since his death; his enemies have never denied it; and this was the sum of the ministry of the apostles, and is the great article of faith: and that the death of Christ is a singular instance of the love of God, is evident by considering the person that died, the Son of God in human nature, his own, his only begotten Son, his beloved Son; the concern which God had in it, by willing, ordering, and appointing it, awaking the sword of justice against him, not sparing him, but delivering him up for us all; also the nature, kind, and manner of his death, and particularly the persons for whom he died, here described: he "died for the ungodly"; not for himself, he had no sins of his own to die for, nor did he want any happiness to procure; nor for angels, but for men; and these not holy, just, and good men, but ungodly; and not as a mere martyr, or only by way of example to them, and so for their good; but as the Syriac version reads it, , "in the room", or "stead of the ungodly", as their surety to make satisfaction for their sins. The Jews have a notion of the Messiah's being a substitute, and standing in the place and stead of sinners; and they say (x),

"that Aaron filled up the place of the first Adam, and was brought near in the room of him;''

which is true of Christ, the antitype of Aaron. On those words, "I will give a man for thee", Isaiah 43:4; the doctors (y) say,

"do not read Adam, but Edom; for when God removes the decree (or punishment) from a particular man, he provides for the attribute of justice in the room of the man that sinned, , "another man that comes from Edom";''

referring, as I think, to Isaiah 63:1. And this their character of ungodly shows, that not goodness in man, but love in God, was the moving cause of Christ's dying for them; and that the end of his dying was to atone for their ungodliness: and to illustrate the love of God the more towards them in this instance, they are said to be "without strength" at that time; being so enfeebled by sin, that they were not capable of fulfilling the law, of atoning for the transgressions of it, of redeeming themselves from slavery, of beginning and carrying on a work of holiness their hearts, nor indeed of doing one good thing. Add to all this, that Christ died for these persons in due time; in the most fit, proper, and convenient season to illustrate the love and grace of God; when man appeared both weak and wicked; when the weakness of the legal dispensation had been sufficiently evinced, and the wickedness of man, both among Jews and Gentiles, was at a very great height: or rather by "due time" is meant the "fulness of time", Galatians 4:4; the time appointed in council by God, agreed to by Christ, and fixed in prophecy; before the departure of the sceptre from Judah, the destruction of the second temple, and at the close of Daniel's weeks.

(x) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 96. 1. & 97. 4. & 98. 3.((y) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 93. 4.

{7} For when we were yet without strength, in due {f} time Christ died for the ungodly.

(7) A sure comfort in adversity, so that our peace and quietness of conscience are not troubled: for he that so loved them that were of no strength and while they were yet sinners, that he died for them, how can he neglect them, having now been sanctified and living in him?

(f) At an appropriate and proper time which the Father had appointed.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 5:6. Objective actual proof of this ἀγάπη τ. Θεοῦ, which through the Spirit fills our heart. Comp as to the argument Romans 8:39. “For Christ, when we were yet weak, at the right time died for the ungodly.”

ἔτι] can in no case belong to ἈΠΈΘΑΝΕ (Stölting), but neither does it give occasion for any conjecture (Fritzsche: Ἤ ΤΊ). Paul should perhaps have written: ἜΤΙ ΓᾺΡ ὌΝΤΩΝ ἩΜ. ἈΣΘΕΝῶΝ ΧΡΙΣΤΌς Κ.Τ.Λ[1174], or: Χριστὸς γὰρ ὄντων ἡμῶν ἀσθενῶν ἔτι κ.τ.λ[1175] (hence the second ἜΤΙ in Lachmann); but amidst the collision of emphasis between ἜΤΙ and the subject both present to his mind, he has expressed himself inexactly, so that now ἜΤΙ seems to belong to Χριστός, and yet in sense necessarily belongs, as in Romans 5:8, to ὄντων Κ.Τ.Λ[1176]

[1177] Comp Plat. Rep. p. 503 E: ἔτι δὴ ὃ τότε παρεῖμεν νῦν λέγομεν; p. 363 D: οἱ δʼ ἔτι τούτων μακροτέρυς ἀποτείνουσι μισθούς (where ἐτι ought to stand before μακρ.). Achill. Tat. v. 18: ἐγὼ δὲ ἔτι σοὶ ταῦτα γράφω παρθένος, and see Winer, p. 515 [E. T. 692]. Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 333 f.; and Fritzsche in loc[1179] To get rid of this irregularity, Seb. Schmid, Oeder, Koppe, and Flatt have taken ἔτι as in-super, and that either in the sense of adeo (Koppe, also Schrader), which however it never means, not even in Luke 14:26; or so that a “for further, for moreover” (see Baeumlein, Partik. p. 119) introduces a second argument for ἡ δὲ ἐλπὶς οὐ καταισχ. (Flatt, also Baumgarten-Crusius). Against this latter construction Romans 5:8 is decisive, from which it is clear that Romans 5:6-8 are meant to be nothing else than the proof of the ἀγάπη τ. Θεοῦ. On ἔτι itself, with the imperfect participle in the sense of tunc adhuc, comp Ellendt, Lex. Soph. I. p. 693. It indicates the continued existence, which the earlier condition still had; Baeumlein, p. 118; Schneider, a[1181] Plat. Rep. p. 449 C.

ὄντων ἡμ. ἀσθενῶν] when we were still (ἔτι) without strength, still had not the forces of the true spiritual life, which we could only receive through the Holy Ghost. The sinfulness is purposely described as weakness (need of help), in order to characterise it as the motive for the love of God interfering to save. The idea of disease (Theodoret: τῆς ἀσεβείας περικειμένων τὴν νόσον; comp Theophylact, Umbreit and others), or that of minority (van Hengel), is not suggested by anything in the context.

κατὰ καιρόν] may either (1) be rendered according to the time, according to the nature of the time, so that with Erasmus, Luther, Flacius, Castalio, Pareus, Seb. Schmid, also Schrader and Th. Schott, it would have to be connected with ἀσθ.;[1183] or (2) it may belong to ὑπὲρ ἀσεβ. ἀπέθανε, and mean, in accordance with the context, either at the appointed time (Galatians 4:4), as it is here taken usually, also by de Wette, Tholuck, Philippi, Maier, Baumgarten-Crusius; or (3) at the proper time (see Kypke; comp Pind. Isthm. ii. 32; Herod. i. 30; Lucian, Philops. 21; LXX. Isaiah 60:22; Job 5:16; Job 39:18; Jeremiah 5:24), the same as ἐν καιρῷ, ἐς καιρόν, ἐπὶ καιροῦ; Phavorinus: κατὰ τὸν εὔκαιρον κ. προσήκοντα καιρόν; and so the bare καιρόν (Bernhardy, p. 117), equivalent to καιρίως, the opposite of ἀπὸ καιροῦ and παρὰ καιρόν. In the first case, however, κ. κ. would either assign to the ἀσθ. an inappropriate excuse, which would not even be true, since the ἀσθένεια has always obtained since the fall (Romans 5:13); or, if it was meant directly to disparage the pre-christian age (Flacius, “ante omnem nostram pietatem,” comp Stölting and Hofmann), it would characterise it much too weakly. In the second case an element not directly occasioned by the connection (proof of God’s love) would present itself. Therefore the third interpretation alone: at the right time (so Ewald and van Hengel) is to be retained. The death of Jesus for the ungodly took place at the proper season, because, had it not taken place then, they would, instead of the divine grace, have experienced the final righteous outbreak of divine wrath, seeing that the time of the πάρεσις, Romans 3:25, and of the ἀνοχή of God had come to an end. Comp the idea of the πλήρωμα τῶν καιρῶν, Ephesians 1:10; Galatians 4:4. Now or never was the time for saving the ἀσεβεῖς; now or never was the καιρὸς δεκτός, 2 Corinthians 6:2; and God’s love did not suffer the right time for their salvation to elapse, but sent Christ to die for them the sacrificial death of atonement.[1187]

ὑπέρ] for, for the benefit of. Comp Eur. Alc. 701: μὴ θνῆσκʼ ὑπὲρ τοῦδʼ ἀνδρὸς ουδʼ ἐγὼ πρὸ σοῦ, Iph. A. 1389; Soph. Trach. 705; Aj. 1290; Plat. Conv. p. 179 B: ἐθελήσασα μόνη ὑπὲρ τοῦ αὑτῆς ἀνδρὸς ἀποθανεῖν; Dem. 690, 18; Xen. Cyr. vii. 4, 9 f.; Isocr. iv. 77; Dio. Cass lxiv. 13; Sir 29:15 : ἔδωκε γὰρ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ὑπὲρ σοῦ; 2Ma 6:28; 2Ma 7:9; 2Ma 8:21; comp also Ignatius, a[1190] Romans 4 : ὑπὲρ Θεοῦ ἀποθνήσκω.[1191] So in all passages where there is mention of the object of Christ’s death. Luke 22:19-20; Romans 8:32; Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 5:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 2:14. See also Ritschl in the Jahrb. für Deutsche Theol. 1863, p. 242. That Paul did not intend by ὑπέρ to convey the meaning instead of, is shown partly by the fact, that while he indeed sometimes exchanges it for the synonymous (Bremi, a[1192] Dem. Ol. iii. 5, p. 188, Goth.) ΠΕΡΊ (Galatians 1:4, like Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:25), he does not once use instead of it the unambiguous ἈΝΤΊ (Matthew 20:28), which must nevertheless have suggested itself to him most naturally; and partly by the fact, that with ὙΠΈΡ as well as with ΠΕΡΊ he puts not invariably the genitive of the person, but sometimes that of the thing (ἁμαρτιῶν), in which case it would be impossible to explain the preposition by instead of (Romans 8:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3). It is true that he has certainly regarded the death of Jesus as an act furnishing the satisfactio vicaria, as is clear from the fact that this bloody death was accounted by him as an expiatory sacrifice (Romans 3:25; Ephesians 5:2; Steiger on 1 Pet. p. 342 f.), comp ΑΝΤΊΛΥΤΡΟΝ in 1 Timothy 2:6; but in no passage has he expressed the substitutionary relation through the preposition. On the contrary his constant conception is this: the sacrificial death of Jesus, taking the place of the punishment of men, and satisfying divine justice, took place as such in commodum (ὑπέρ, περί) of men, or—which is the same thing—on account of their sins (in gratiam), in order to expiate them (περί or ὙΠῈΡ ἉΜΑΡΤΙῶΝ). This we hold against Flatt, Olshausen, Winzer, Reithmayr, Bisping, who take ὙΠῈΡ as loco. That ὑπέρ must at least be understood as loco in Galatians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:14 (notwithstanding Romans 5:15); 1 Peter 3:18 (Rückert, Fritzsche, Philippi), is not correct. See on Gal. l.c[1194] and 2 Cor. l.c[1195]; Philemon 1:13 is not here a case in point.Romans 5:6. The reading εἴ γε is well supported, and yields a good sense (“so surely as”: Evans), though the suggestion is made in W. and H. that it may be a primitive error for εἴ περ (see note on Romans 3:30). The assurance we have of the love of God is no doubt conditioned, but the condition may be expressed with the utmost force, as it is with εἴ γε, for there is no doubt that what it puts as a hypothesis has actually taken place, viz., Christ’s death for the ungodly. Although he says εἴ γε, the objective fact which follows is in no sense open to question: it is to the Apostle the first of certainties. Cf. the use of εἴ γε in Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 4:21, and Ellicott’s note on the former. ἀσθενῶν: the weakness of men who had not yet received the Spirit is conceived as appealing to the love of God. ἔτι goes with ὄντων ἡμ. ἀσθενῶν: the persons concerned were no longer weak, when Paul wrote, but strong in their new relation to God. κατὰ καιρὸν has been taken with ὄντῶν ἡ. . ἔτι: “while we were yet without strength, as the pre-Christian era implied or required”: but this meaning is remote, and must have been more clearly suggested. The analogy of Galatians 4:4, Ephesians 1:10, supports the ordinary rendering, “in due time,” i.e., at the time determined by the Providence of God and the history of man as the proper time, Christ died. ὑπέρ: in the interest of, not equivalent to ἀντί, instead of: whether the interest of the ungodly is secured by the fact that Christ’s death has a substitutionary character, or in some other way, is a question which ὑπέρ does not touch.6. For when, &c.] From this ver. to Romans 5:11 St Paul expands the words “the love of God.” He explains this love, as “poured out” by the Spirit, to be specially redeeming and justifying love.

without strength] Impotent to deliver ourselves from sin and judgment. The words are in contrast to the might of the Deliverer.

in due time] That of the Eternal Purpose; “the fulness of the time;” Galatians 4:4. See Mark 1:15.

Christ] In the Gr. this word has a slight emphasis, pointing to the wonder of such a Deliverer’s appearance.

died] Also emphatic by position. His death is both the supreme proof of Divine love and the supreme requirement of the Divine Law.

the ungodly] Better, us the ungodly. Same word as Romans 4:5, q. v. Here probably this intense word is used of all sinners as such; in view of the contrasted holiness of the Substitute, and also to suggest that the “impotence” of Romans 5:6 is not merely negative, but is the refusal (due to moral evil) truly to love the true God. See on Romans 8:7.

For” = for the sake of. The special bearing of the Gr. preposition here used depends on the context. In itself it does not necessarily indicate “substitution in the place of,” “vicariousness.” But the illustration in Romans 5:7 at once suggests that idea; and the preposition neither compels nor excludes it.Romans 5:6. Ἔτι, as yet) This is to be construed with ὄντων, when we were.—γὰρ, for) The marvellous love of God is set forth.—ἀσθενῶν, powerless [without strength]) Ἀσθένεια is that [want of strength] powerlessness which characterises a mind when made ashamed (comp. the beginning of Romans 5:5) which [powerlessness] is opposed to glorying [Romans 5:2-3] (comp. notes on 2 Corinthians 11:30); we have the antithetic word at Romans 5:11, [we glory (joy) in God] where this paragraph also, which begins with the words, being without strength, returns in a circle to the point, from which it started. There was powerlessness, and that a deadly powerlessness (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:43), on the part of—

The ungodly,

}

the opposite of whom, respectively, are

Sinners,

The righteous

Enemies,

The reconciled.

See on the powerlessness and on the strength of glorying [i.e., the powerlessness of the ungodly, and the strength of glorying of the righteous] Psalm 68:2, and the following verses; [Psalm 71:16, Psalm 104:35] Isaiah 33:24, Isaiah 45:24; 1 Corinthians 1:31; Hebrews 2:15. Add the verbal parallelism, 2 Corinthians 11:21.—κατὰ καιρὸν ἀπέθανε, in due time died) בעתה , κατὰ καιρὸν, Isaiah 60:22. When our powerlessness had reached its highest point, then Christ died, at the time which God had previously determined, and in such a manner, that He died neither too soon nor too late (comp. the expression in the time that now is [at this time] ch. 4:26), and was not held too long [longer than was needful] under the power of death. Paul fixes the limits [of the due time] and he cannot speak in this passage of the death of Christ, without, at the same time, thinking of the counsel of GOD, and of the resurrection of Christ, Romans 5:10, ch. Romans 4:25, Romans 8:34. The question, why Christ did not come sooner, is not an idle question; see Hebrews 9:26; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10; Mark 1:15; Mark 12:6, just as also the question, why the law was not given sooner, is no idle question, Romans 5:14.Good men.{Verses 6, 7. - For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet (literally,for) peradventure for the good man some would even dare to die. The general purport of ver. 7 is obvious, viz. to show how Christ's death for the ungodly transcends all human instances of self-sacrifice for others. But the exact import of the language used is not equally plain. That of the first clause, indeed, and its connection with what precedes, presents no difficulty. The meaning is that Christ's dying for the ungodly is a proof of love beyond what is common among men. The second clause seems to be added as a concession of what some men may perhaps sometimes be capable cf. It is introduced by a second γὰρ (this being the reading of all the manuscripts), which may be meant as exceptive, "I do not press this without exception," being understood. So Alford; and in this case the "yet" of the Authorized Version, or though, may give its meaning. Or it may be connected with μόλις, thus: "Scarcely, I say, for there may possibly be cases," etc. But what is the distinction between δικαίου in the first clause and τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ in the second? Some interpreters say that there is none, the intention being simply to express the possibility of human self-sacrifice for one that is good or righteous in some rare cases. But the change of the word, which would, according to this view, be purposeless, and still more the insertion of the article before ἀγαθοῦ, forbids this interpretation. One view is that τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ is neuter, meaning that, though for a righteous individual one can hardly be found to be willing to die, yet for the cause of good, for what a man regards as the highest good, or pro bone publico (it might be), such self-sacrifice may be possible; This view is tenable, though against it is the fact that death in behalf of persons is being spoken of all along. The remaining and most commonly accepted view is that by "the good man" (the article pointing him out generally as a well-known type of character) is meant the beneficent - one who inspires attachment and devotion - as opposed to one who is merely just. Cicero ('De Off.,' 3:15) is quoted in support of this distinction between the words: "Si vir bonus is est qui prodest quibus potest, nemini nocet, recte justum virum, bonum non facile reperiemus." Tholuck quotes, as a Greek instance, Κῦρον ἀνακαλοῦντες τὸν εὐεργέτην τὸν ἄνδρα τὸν ἀγαθόν (AElian, 'Var. Histor.,' 3:17). Possibly the term ὁ ἀγαθὸς would have a well-understood meaning to the readers of the Epistle, which is not equally obvious to us. For the ungodly (ὑπὲρ ἀσεβῶν)

It is much disputed whether ὑπέρ on behalf of, is ever equivalent to ἀντί instead of. The classical writers furnish instances where the meanings seem to be interchanged. Thus Xenophon: "Seuthes asked, Wouldst thou, Episthenes, die for this one (ὑπὲρ τούτου)?" Seuthes asked the boy if he should smite him (Episthenes) instead of him (ἀντ' ἐκείνου) So Irenaeus: "Christ gave His life for (ὑπέρ) our lives, and His flesh for (ἀντί) our flesh." Plato, "Gorgias," 515, "If you will not answer for yourself, I must answer for you (ὐπὲρ σοῦ)." In the New Testament Plm 1:13 is cited; ὑπὲρ σου, A.V., in thy stead; Rev., in thy behalf. So 1 Corinthians 15:29, "baptized for the dead (ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν)." The meaning of this passage, however, is so uncertain that it cannot fairly be cited in evidence. The preposition may have a local meaning, over the dead. None of these passages can be regarded as decisive. The most that can be said is that ὑπέρ borders on the meaning of ἀντί. Instead of is urged largely on dogmatic grounds. In the great majority of passages the sense is clearly for the sake of, on behalf of. The true explanation seems to be that, in the passages principally in question, those, namely, relating to Christ's death, as here, Galatians 3:13; Romans 14:15; 1 Peter 3:18, ὑπέρ characterizes the more indefinite and general proposition - Christ died on behalf of - leaving the peculiar sense of in behalf of undetermined, and to be settled by other passages. The meaning instead of may be included in it, but only inferentially. Godet says: "The preposition can signify only in behalf of. It refers to the end, not at all to the mode of the work of redemption."

Ungodly

The radical idea of the word is, want of reverence or of piety.

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