“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”
Romans 5:6 NLT
When was it that we were “utterly helpless”? Surely that isn’t true. But when we look at our humanity in the context of eternity, then we might, indeed should, come to a different conclusion. Being “utterly helpless” is a state of realisation that no matter what we did, we could never achieve God’s gold standard of righteousness through our own efforts. The Israelites, the Jewish nation, had tried for many generations to achieve that state, and had failed. And failed miserably. We see the bright spots in Israel’s history of times when their relationship with God was going well. But then there were the long dark ages of oppression and exile, after and during a time when they abandoned God. We must all realise that without God, we are “utterly helpless”.
We read further in today’s verse and find that “Christ came at just the right time”. But what about all those people who preceded Him? And all those who have never known anything about Jesus? As Old Testament readers find, there is a theme of salvation running throughout the Bible. In Romans 4 we read about how Abraham achieved righteousness in God’s sight by believing the promise that God gave Him. Genesis 15:6, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” The Israelite king, David, was a man after God’s heart, in spite of all his very public sinful behaviour. We read in Acts 13:22, “But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’” There were many prophetic messages about salvation in the Old Testament. A common misconception, held by not only the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, was, and is, that in pre-Christ days salvation came through keeping the Law. But Paul clarified this viewpoint in Galatians 3:11, “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”” We’re back to the example of Abraham in Genesis 15:6, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.”
Without faith in God we are indeed “utterly helpless”. We will end up in a lost eternity, continually regretting our inability to realise our true status and where, as Jesus put it, “… there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12b). But here’s the Good News. Paul informed his readers that Jesus Himself came at a certain point in history, a time we call the “right time”, to die for all mankind, so that all sin, past, present and future, will be forgiven to those who believe in Him. We read in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2, “As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvellous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation“.
We pilgrims have embraced this truth and we are no longer “utterly helpless” because God has forgiven us and we, like Abraham, are counted as righteous because of our faith. But there are many around us who do not realise how desperate their situations are. We must tell them. Try and persuade them even. Before it is too late. “Today is the day of [their] salvation”.
Dear Father God. Please help us and guide us as we tell those around us of Your wonderful free gift of salvation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.