Romans is a tough read, especially the first half. It begins with Paul building a solid case for all people being lost in our sin. Paul is careful to explain things so that the religious won’t think they are special and the irreligious won’t think they are off the hook. We are all in the same predicament – lost and hell-bound because we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s expectations (Romans 3:23). This is the truth that we all need to hear and understand. Left on our own we are hopelessly lost. But, compelled by His tremendous love, God did something unimaginable. In Romans 5:8 we read “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Read that again. Instead of abandoning us in our sinful self-centeredness, God sent Jesus to take the punishment we deserved so we could be free and forgiven. And he did this while we were still sinful messes. This is the distinctive of Christianity that makes it different than any other religion. God gives grace to those in an otherwise hopeless situation.
Here is an illustration that has helped me: picture a courtroom where, after hearing all the evidence, the judge finds the defendant guilty and sentences him to death. Then the judge steps down from the bench, removes his robe and offers to take the place of the condemned person. This is what God did for us. His love led Him to come rescue us without us doing anything to deserve it. I still can’t comprehend how He could do this but I am eternally grateful that He did!