Romans 5:6-8 with Comments by Rosenius and Luther

Verses 6-8: While we were yet helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man- though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Part of the Epistle Lesson for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost)


Since our unworthiness plagues us, and our consciences accuse us, we may be terrified at the suggestion of God’s wrath. Consequently, it is difficult for us to think affirmatively of God’s love. This is a universal weakness. As long as we live in this world, we shall never be able to feel and sense God ‘s love as we ought because our hearts are darkened. Nevertheless, we could experience more of the sacred joy of God’s love if we would seek it more earnestly. This is God’s will, and he has the might to pour his love into our hearts through his Holy Spirit.

The most convincing proof of God’s love for us is that he gave his Son to die for us. This is magnified in the light of these words, “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” There is a universal condition indicated in these words, a weakness of all humanity, helpless under sin and unworthiness. Human nature is perverse to God as Paul wrote in Romans 8:7- 8: “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God ... and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” But the love of God reaches into this helpless state to save and redeem because he “who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us . . . made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4,5)” (From pages 47 and 48 of Romans: a devotional commentary, by Carl Olaf Rosenius [1816-1868], translated by J. Elmer Dahlgren & Royal F. Peterson, and published by Covenant Press [1978] with an introduction by Zenos Hawkinson).


6. At the right time. Some refer this expression to the statement which follows, so the meaning is: “When we were still weak, He died for the ungodly according to time,” as if to say that, although He is eternal and immortal, yet He died in time. He died because of His humanity which lived in time, but He is alive forever because of His deity, which lives in eternity. Others interpret it thus: “He died at the time when we were weak,” that is, He died at the time when we were not yet righteous and whole, but rather weak and sickly, so the meaning is: “at the right time,” namely, at that time when we were still weak. And this interpretation is the better one, as becomes evident in what follows: “For if, while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (v.10). But others refer the expression to the preceding sentence, so that the meaning is: When we were weak according to time, even though before God we were already righteous through His predestination. For in the predestination of God all things have already taken place, even things which in our reality still lie in the future. (From page 296 of Lectures on Romans, [Scolia] by Martin Luther [1486-1546] as found in Luther’s Works, Vol. 25, Concordia Publishing House, 1972. See also his comments in Glosses, pages 44 and 45).