5:6-11 While we were still helpless, in God's good time, Christ died for the ungodly. A man will hardly die for a just man. It may be that a man would even dare to die for the good cause. But God proves his love to us by the fact that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Since we have been brought into a right relationship with God at the price of his life's blood, much more through him we shall be saved from the Wrath. For if while we were still at enmity with God, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, now that we have been reconciled, we shall go on being saved by his life. Not only that, but we glory in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received this reconciliation.
The fact that Jesus Christ died for us is the final proof of God's love. It would be difficult enough to get a man to die for a just man; it might be possible for a man to be persuaded to die for some great and good principle; a man might have the greater love that would make him lay down his life for his friend. But the wonder of Jesus Christ is that he died for us when we are sinners and in a state of hostility to God. Love can go no further than that.
Rita Snowdon relates an incident from the life of T. E. Lawrence. In 1915 he was journeying across the desert with some Arabs. Things were desperate. Food was almost done, and water was at its last drop. Their hoods were over their heads to shelter them from the wind which was like a flame and full of the stinging sand of the sandstorm. Suddenly someone said, "Where is Jasmin?" Another said, "Who is Jasmin?" A third answered, "That yellow-faced man from Mean. He killed a Turkish tax-collector and fled to the desert." The first said, "Look, Jasmin's camel has no rider. His rifle is strapped to the saddle, but Jasmin is not there." A second said, "Someone has shot him on the march." A third said, "He is not strong in the head, perhaps he is lost in a mirage; he is not strong in the body, perhaps he has fainted and fallen off his camel." Then the first said, "What does it matter? Jasmin was not worth ten pence." And the Arabs hunched themselves up on their camels and rode on. But Lawrence turned and rode back the way he had come. Alone, in the blazing heat, at the risk of his life, he went back. After an hour and a half's ride he saw something against the sand. It was Jasmin, blind and mad with heat and thirst, being murdered by the desert. Lawrence lifted him up on his camel, gave him some of the last drops of precious water, slowly plodded back to his company. When he came up to them, the Arabs looked in amazement. "Here is Jasmin," they said, "Jasmin, not worth ten pence, saved at his own risk by Lawrence, our lord." That is a parable. It was not good men Christ died to save but sinners; not God's friends but men at enmity with him.
Then Paul goes on a step. Through Jesus our status with God was changed. Sinners though we were, we were put into a right relationship with God. But that is not enough. Not only our status must be changed but our state. The saved sinner cannot go on being a sinner; he must become good. Christ's death changed our status; his risen life changes our state. He is not dead but alive; he is with us always to help us and guide us, to fill us with his strength so as to overcome temptation, to clothe our lives with something of his radiance. Jesus begins by putting sinners into a right relationship with God even when they are still sinners; he goes on, by his grace, to enable them to quit their sin and become good men. There are technical names for these things. The change of our status is justification; that is where the whole saving process begins. The change of our state is sanctification; that is where the saving process goes on, and never ends, until we see him face to face and are like him.
There is one thing to note here of quite extraordinary importance. Paul is quite clear that the whole saving process, the coming of Christ and the death of Christ, is the proof of Gods love. Sometimes the thing is stated as if on the one side there was a gentle and loving Christ, and on the other an angry and vengeful God; and as if Christ had done something which changed God's attitude to men. Nothing could be further from the truth. The whole matter springs from the love of God. Jesus did not come to change God's attitude to men; he came to show what it is and always was. He came to prove unanswerably that God is love.