Rom. 5:8, 10 – But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…when we were enemies…
The gospel of the grace of God declared to us wrath worthy Gentiles is a marvel beyond our natural comprehension. Scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man, some would even dare to die. But what kind of love do we behold when a man voluntarily dies for his enemies?
According to prophecy and God’s dealings with the nation Israel, there is no greater love in man than that he should lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13-14). A simple cross-reference will uncover that Abraham was first called “the friend of God” (Jas. 2:23, II Chr. 20:7; Isa. 41:8) in the midst of a world of nations that had joined in league with the Adversary himself. By extension, the seed of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob were likewise considered to be “the friends of God” by national covenant. Specifically, this is true of the believing remnant of the nation who were of the faith of their father Abraham, but nevertheless it is appropriate to understand the covenantal friendship in terms of the nation as a whole.
When Jesus Christ came as “a minister of the circumcision” (Rom. 15:8) to the house of Israel, He came as the Lamb of God, the Passover sacrifice for a nation under the chastisements of the broken covenant. Isaiah declared that Messiah would be “sticken” for “the transgression of my people” (Isa. 53:8). Needless to say, Isaiah’s people are none other than the Israelites, and in the prophetic program, the Israelites are the friends of God for whom Christ would lay down his life. Messiah came to ransom them from their lawful captivity to Satan and his nations, and to redeem them from the power of the grave in order to give them the blessing of the kingdom promised to their fathers. According to prophecy, Messiah’s travail had Israel’s redemption in view. He would lay down his life for his covenantal friends. After all, will it not yet be asked of him in time to come, “What are these wounds in thine hands?” How will He answer? “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends” (Zech. 13:6). Greater love hath no man than this.
But blessed be God, what is this that we read in Rom. 5:8, 10? According to the gospel of the grace of God revealed in due time through our Apostle Paul, we Gentiles learn of the hidden wisdom of God whereby we discover that this redemption is made efficacious for us as well; not according to covenantal friendship, but according to free grace (Rom. 3:24)! We, the enemies of God, Gentiles twice dead with respect to sin and the uncircumcision of our flesh (Col. 2:13); we who were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope of our condition ever changing, and without God in the world (Eph. 2:11) are made nigh by the blood of Christ! Why? Because “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…when we were enemies…” O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God (Rom. 11:33)! Love that prophecy knew not the greater (that a man should lay down his life for his friends), has been exceeded by the revelation of the mystery of Christ in which we learn that He died for us, even when we were enemies!