“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV)
Who is the “us” Paul references? In this letter to the church at Rome, Paul is speaking to the Jewish converts, now called Christians, followers of Christ–reminding them of God’s love for us--who are followers of Christ. While we–before we became Christians and lived any way we wanted to live–He died for us–that’s God’s love for us.
Most of us can quote John 3:16, but I often wonder if we really know what it means. I have learned from experience that being able to quote a scripture doesn’t mean a person comprehends the magnitude of the words they quote.
“For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son that whoever believed in Hm would not perish, but have everlasting life.”
There is a distinct difference between what John tells us and what Paul says. John tells us that “whoever” (I am a whoever) believed Jesus is the Son of God would not perish but live for all eternity. The whoever applies to anybody and everybody who chooses to believe. Paul says, to those who have already believed and proclaim to be Christians–“remember, we were also sinners at one time,” and His love saved us–and His love continues to save others.
Now, there is so much debate about the term sinner that for simplicity’s sake, I’ll explain it this way. A sinner deliberately chooses to live in opposition to God’s Word. Since I am not a sinner (though I was and His grace saved me), and do not deliberately do things in opposition to God’s Word, I will not say, “I am a sinner.” I am not perfect and when I inadvertently mess up, I am quick to repent and seek His forgiveness. I know many won’t agree with me and that’s okay. When we get to heaven, we can seek clarity from the One who said it. We need to understand the “tenses” of the verbs–the distinction between “present and past” tenses–am (still doing), were (no longer)!
The important thing to take from this passage of scripture is for us to remember, we once were sinners, living in opposition to God’s Word, until we received understanding and chose to live according to God’s Word. And while we were living in sin, He loved us so much that He chose to die for us so we might have access to heaven. Now that we know, we cannot condemn those who are “yet in their sin” but pray for them, teach them and bring them into the Light of God’s love.
That’s why we’re saved–to bring others into the marvelous light of Jesus Christ and His love. Remember, while we were doing our own thing, He still loved us and now we must demonstrate that love towards so they too, can walk in the light as we are in the light.