Sunday School Lessons

Helpless and Powerless

If you’ve ever felt like you weren’t good enough for Jesus’ salvation, or – in the opposite direction – that God somehow owed you something in this regard, the following passage has something to say about that:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6‭-‬8 NIV

This is a huge blow to the incorrect thinking that we need to be “pretty good” to receive salvation.  We weren’t just “not good enough” when God had to make a way for us to be rescued.  We didn’t merely need a little “boost” to be saved.  No, we were powerless.  We were helpless (per the NASB).  We didn’t need an aspirin; we were dead in our sins.

Not only were we entirely unable to help ourselves, but we didn’t deserve help.  We didn’t even qualify as righteous or good, when compared to the perfect holiness of God.

And that’s when Jesus died for us.  (Yes, I realize you were born after Jesus died for our sins in the first century, but from God’s perspective outside of time, He knew that all of us were going to sin, and still decided – from the beginning of time – that He would provide salvation for us.  In fact, He had already planned how He would do it.)

Think about it: would you step in and voluntarily trade places with someone who was about to be executed on death row, with both you and the criminal knowing that they were fully guilty of horrendous crimes?  How much would you have to love someone to do that?  That’s kind of like what Jesus did, although the punishment that He took on was even greater than mere physical death.

This concept adds even more weight to Paul’s comments in Romans 9:3, where he wishes that He could give up his own life with Christ (his salvation, it seems), in exchange for the lives of his fellow Jewish people.  Paul had great love for his own nation.  However, even followers of Jesus who have been justified don’t get the option of trading their salvation for others’.  Only Jesus’ death can provide salvation, and it must be received directly by the individual sinner.

I like how a commentator put it, “…if, while we were God’s enemies, he loved us so much that he was willing to die for us, how can we think that he loves us any less now that we are his friends?”  (Cottrell p.321, emphasis in original)  He also points out that if God accomplished for us the transformation from wrath to grace, how much more will He bring us from grace to glory. (Ibid.)

Romans 5 continues…

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Romans 5:9‭-‬10 NIV

I see these two verses as illustrating God’s mercy and grace.  By being pronounced righteous through Christ’s blood, we are spared from God’s wrath, thanks to Jesus.  That is God’s mercy, in not giving us the punishment that we deserved.  It doesn’t stop there, though.  We aren’t merely “not punished”.  We are provided a gift that we did not deserve: being brought all the way from God’s enemy to salvation.  That’s grace.

So, if you don’t feel worthy of God’s mercy and grace, be encouraged: His love reached out to us when we were definitely unworthy, and it’s OK to accept His gift.  And, if you think that you’re good enough that God owes you special treatment, re-read these verses again and remember that God saved us when we were powerless, not when we were “pretty good”.

From Sunday School lesson prepared for February 13, 2022


  • The Lookout, February 13, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
  • Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
  • The College Press Commentary, Romans, Volume 1, by Jack Cottrell.  College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.

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