Romans 5:7–8 (ESV) … “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The design of this verse and the following is, to illustrate the great love of God by comparing it with what man was willing to do. “It is an unusual occurrence, an event which is all that we can hope for from the highest human benevolence and the purest friendship, that one would be willing to die for a good man. There are none who would be willing to die for a man who was seeking to do us injury, to calumniate our character, to destroy our happiness or our property. But Christ was willing to die for bitter foes.”
Scarcely. With difficulty. It is an event which cannot be expected to occur often. There would scarcely be found an instance in which it would happen.
A righteous man. A just man; a man distinguished simply for integrity of conduct; one who has no remarkable claims for amiableness of character, for benevolence, or for personal friendship. Much as we may admire such a man, and applaud him, yet he has not the characteristics which would appeal to our hearts to induce us to lay down our lives for him. Accordingly, it is not known that any instance has occurred where for such a man one would be willing to die.
For a righteous man. That is, in his place, or in his stead. A man would scarcely lay down his own life to save that of a righteous man.
Will one die. Would one be willing to die.
Yet peradventure. Perhaps; implying that this was an event which might he expected to occur.
For a good man. That is, not merely a man who is coldly just; but a man whose characteristic is that of kindness, amiableness, tenderness. It is evident that the case of such a man would be much more likely to appeal to our feelings, than that of one who is merely a man of integrity. Such a man is susceptible of tender friendship; and probably the apostle intended to refer to such a case—a case where we would be willing to expose life for a kind, tender, faithful friend.
Some would even dare to die. Some would have courage to give his life. Instances of this kind, though not many, have occurred. The affecting case of Damon and Pythias is one. Damon had been condemned to death by the tyrant Dionysius of Sicily, and obtained leave to go and settle his domestic affairs on promise of returning at a stated hour to the place of execution. Pythias pledged himself to undergo the punishment if Damon should not return in time, and deliver himself into the hands of the tyrant. Damon returned at the appointed moment, just as the sentence was about to be executed on Pythias; and Dionysius was so struck with the fidelity of the two friends, that he remitted their punishment, and entreated them to permit him to share their friendship. This case stands almost alone. Our Saviour says that it is the highest expression of love among men. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends;” John 15:13. The friendship of David and Jonathan seems also to have been of this character, that one would have been willing to lay down his life for the other.
But God commendeth, &c. God has exhibited or showed his love in this unusual and remarkable manner.
His love. His kind feeling; his beneficence; his willingness to submit to sacrifice to do good to others.
While we were yet sinners. And of course his enemies. In this, his love surpasses all that has ever been manifested among men.
Christ died for us. In our stead; to save us from death. He took our place; and by dying himself on the cross, saved us from dying eternally in hell.