David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Romans 5:1-21 - BENEFITS OF BEING JUSTIFIED THROUGH FAITH
“In the whole Bible there is hardly another chapter which can equal this triumphant text.” (Martin Luther)
A. The benefits of believing.
1. (Romans 5:1-2) Peace and a standing of grace.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
a. Therefore, having been justified by faith: To this point in the Book of Romans, Paul has convinced us all that the only way of salvation is to be justified by grace, through faith. Now he will tell us what the practical benefits of this are, explaining that it is more than an interesting idea.
i. Justified by faith speaks of a legal decree. Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20 found us guilty before the courts of God’s law, God’s glory, and our own conscience. Then Paul explained how because of what Jesus did for us, the righteousness of God is given to all who believe. The guilty sentence is transformed into a sentence of justified, and justified by faith.
b. First, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Because the price has been paid in full by the work of Jesus on the cross, God’s justice towards us is eternally satisfied.
i. This is not the peace of God spoken of in other places (such as Philippians 4:7). This is peace with God; the battle between God and us is finished - and He won, winning us. Some never knew they were out of peace with God, but they were like drivers ignoring the red lights of a police car in their rear-view mirror - they are in trouble even if they don’t know it, and it will soon catch up to them.
ii. This peace can only come through our Lord Jesus Christ. He and His work is our entire ground for peace. In fact, Jesus is our peace. (Ephesians 2:14)
iii. Remember that the Bible doesn’t say we have peace with the devil, peace with the world, peace with the flesh, or peace with sin. Life is still a battle for the Christian but it is no longer a battle against God, it is fighting for Him. Some Christians are tempted to believe the battle against God was almost a better place to be, and that is a dangerous and damnable lie.
iv. “I am delighted to find that sin stings you, and that you hate it. The more hatred of sin the better. A sin-hating soul is a God-loving soul. If sin never distresses you, then God has never favored you.” (Spurgeon)
c. Into this grace in which we stand: Second, we have a standing in grace - in God’s unmerited favor. This grace is given through Jesus and gained by faith.
i. Grace (God’s undeserved favor towards us) is not only the means by which we are saved, it is also a description of our present standing before God. It is not only the beginning principle of the Christian life it is also the continuing principle of the Christian life. “We stand translates a perfect tense, used in this sense of the present, and with the thought of a continuing attitude.” (Morris)
ii. Many Christians begin in grace, but then think that they will go on to perfection and maturity by dealing with God on the principle of law - on the ideas of earning and deserving. Paul spoke against this very point in Galatians 3:2-3 and Galatians 5:1-4.
iii. A standing in grace reassures us: God’s present attitude towards the believer in Christ Jesus is one of favor, seeing them in terms of joy, beauty and pleasure. He doesn’t just love us; He likes us because we are in Jesus.
iv. Standing in grace means that:
· I don’t have to prove I am worthy of God’s love
· God is my friend
· The door of access is permanently open to Him
· I am free from the “score sheet” - the account is settled in Jesus
· I spend more time praising God and less time hating myself
v. “The former rebels are not merely forgiven by having their due punishment remitted; they are brought into a place of high favour with God - this grace in which we stand.” (Bruce)
vi. The Proper Attitude of Man under Grace (William Newell)
· To believe, and consent to be loved while unworthy, is the great secret
· To refuse to make “resolutions” and “vows”; for that is to trust in the flesh
· To expect to be blessed, though realizing more and more lack of worth
· To testify of God’s goodness, at all times
· To be certain of God’s future favor; yet to be ever more tender in conscience toward Him
· To rely on God’s chastening hand as a mark of His kindness
· A man under grace, if like Paul, has no burdens regarding himself; but many about others
d. Through whom also we have access by faith: Our access into this standing of grace is only by faith, and through Jesus; we cannot work ourselves into this standing. The access isn’t just into a standing of grace, but into the very courts of heaven. This is a blessing beyond peace with God. “One may be reconciled to his prince, and yet not to be brought into his presence.” (Poole)
i. Morris on access: “The idea is that of introduction to the presence-chamber of a monarch. The rendering access is inadequate, as it leaves out of sight the fact that we do not come in our own strength, but need an ‘introducer’ - Christ.”
ii. Wuest quotes Thayer regarding access: “That friendly relation with God whereby we are acceptable to Him and have assurance that He is favorably disposed towards us.”
e. We have access: The perfect verb tense of have access also indicates that this is a standing, permanent possession. Because our standing is based on grace, we really can stand and have peace, because we know that our access is a permanent possession. It cannot be taken away at a later time.
i. “And this access to God, or introduction to the Divine presence, is to be considered a lasting privilege. We are not brought to God for the purpose of an interview, but to remain with him; to be his household; and by faith, to behold his face, and walk in the light of his countenance.” (Clarke)
f. The logical conclusion to such peace and such a standing of grace means that we can rejoice in hope of the glory of God. When we relate to God on the principle of works, any rejoicing is presumptuous, and any imagined glory goes to us, not God.
i. Rejoice is the word normally translated boast; it means “a triumphant, rejoicing confidence.” (Morris)
ii. Hope never implied uncertainty for Paul. J.B. Philipps translates hope as happy certainty.
g. Again, all this only makes sense having been justified by faith. If we are not justified by grace through faith, then we have no peace with God, and we have no present standing of grace.
h. “Alas, how few believers have the courage of faith! When some saint here or there does begin to believe the facts and walk in shouting liberty, we say (perhaps secretly), ‘He must be an especially holy, consecrated man.’ No, he is just a poor sinner like you, who is believing in the abundance of grace!” (Newell)
2. (Romans 5:3-4) The promise of glory is also for the present time.
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
a. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations: Paul anticipates the accusation that he is too “pie in the sky,” that glory for the Christian only applies to the sweet bye-and-bye. Paul replies, “I know we have many tribulations now but we glory in those also.”
i. Paul isn’t simply spinning out spiritual platitudes. First, he uses strong words. Tribulations is “a strong term. It does not refer to minor inconveniences, but to real hardships” (Morris). Second, Paul lived a life full of tribulation. If this is true Paul knew it better than anyone.
b. Knowing that tribulation produces perseverance: We can glory in tribulations (literally, stresses) because they are the occasion to produce perseverance (endurance).
i. A runner must be stressed to gain endurance. Sailors must go to sea. Soldiers go to battle. For the Christian, tribulation is just part of our Christian life. We should not desire or hope for a tribulation-free Christian life, especially because:
· God uses tribulation wonderfully in our life
· God knows how much tribulation we can take, and He carefully measures the tribulation we face
· Those who are not Christians face tribulation also
ii. “A Christian man should be willing to be tried; he should be pleased to let his religion be put to the test. ‘There,’ says he, ‘hammer away if you like.’ Do you want to be carried to heaven on a feather bed?” (Spurgeon)
iii. “I’ve heard people advise others against praying for patience because God will then send them tribulations. If that’s the way patience comes then, ‘God, bring on the troubles.’ I need patience!” (Smith)
iv. “Whatever virtues tribulation finds us in, it develops more fully. If anyone is carnal, weak, blind, wicked, irascible, haughty, and so forth, tribulation will make him more carnal, weak, blind, wicked and irritable. On the other hand, if one is spiritual, strong, wise, pious, gentle and humble, he will become more spiritual, powerful, wise, pious, gentle and humble.” (Martin Luther)
v. “ ‘Tribulation worketh patience,’ says the apostle. Naturally it is not so. Tribulation worketh impatience, and impatience misses the fruit of experience, and sours into hopelessness. Ask many who have buried a dear child, or have lost their wealth, or have suffered pain of body, and they will tell you that the natural result of affliction is to produce irritation against providence, rebellion against God, questioning, unbelief, petulance, and! all sorts of evils. But what a wonderful alteration takes place when the heart is renewed by the Holy Spirit!” (Spurgeon)
c. Perseverance, character; and character, hope: This is a golden chain of Christian growth and maturity. One virtue builds upon another as we grow in the pattern of Jesus.
i. Most every Christian wants to develop character and have more hope. These qualities spring out of perseverance, which comes through tribulation. We may wish to have better character and more hope without starting with tribulation, but that isn’t God’s pattern and plan.
ii. I would rather have God just sprinkle perseverance and character and hope on me as I sleep. I could wake up a much better Christian! But that isn’t God’s plan for me or for any Christian.
iii. Therefore we say - soberly, reverently - we say about tribulation, “Lord, bring it on. I know you love me and carefully measure every trial and have a loving purpose to accomplish in every tribulation. Lord, I won’t seek trials and search out tribulation, but I won’t despise them or lose hope when they come. I trust Your love in everything You allow.”
3. (Romans 5:5) Evidence for hope: God’s love in our hearts right now, evidenced by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
a. Now hope does not disappoint: The hope that tribulation builds in us is not a hope that will be disappointed. We are assured of this because God has proved His intention to complete His work in us - the proof being the love of God . . . poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
b. Every Christian should know what it is like to have the love of God . . . poured out in our hearts - to have a deep inner awareness of God’s love for us.
i. Paul’s logical arguments in Romans are devastating but the Book of Romans doesn’t lack emotion or passionate experiences with God. Paul wants us to think the right thoughts about God, but he also wants us to have the right experience with God - the love of God . . . poured out in our hearts.
ii. God’s love isn’t given to us in a trickle, it is poured out in our hearts. Some Christians live as if it was only a trickle but God wants us to know the outpouring of His love.
c. This love is ours by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. A lack of awareness of God’s love can often be credited to a failure to be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit and to walk in the Spirit.
i. “The love of God is like light to a blind eye until the Holy Ghost opens that eye . . . may the Holy Spirit now be here in each one of us, to shed abroad the love of God in our hearts.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Everyone who is a Christian has the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). But not every Christian lives in the fullness of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), and not every Christian walks in the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:4-5).
4. (Romans 5:6-8) A description of God’s love towards us.
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
a. When we were still without strength: Paul describes the greatness of God’s love. It is love given to the undeserving, to those without strength, to the ungodly, to sinners. This emphasizes the fact that the reasons for God’s love are found in Him, not in us.
i. Who are these people? Who are the ungodly and wicked people Jesus died for? Paul spent the first two-and-a-half chapters of the Book of Romans telling us that we all are those people.
b. In due time Christ died for the ungodly: God sent the Son at the right time, at the due time. It may have seemed late to some but Jesus’ work was done at the perfect time in God’s plan: when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son. (Galatians 4:4)
i. The world was prepared spiritually, economically, linguistically, politically, philosophically and geographically for the coming of Jesus and the spread of the Gospel. “The Scripture everywhere speaks of a certain season or hour assigned for the death of Christ: see Matthew 26:45; John 8:20; John 12:27; John 17:1.” (Poole)
ii. In due time also has the meaning that Jesus died at the due time for us. He died when we were sinners who needed a Savior. His timing was just right for us.
c. Christ died for the ungodly: Paul mentioned the idea of a substitutionary sacrifice with the word propitiation in Romans 3:25. Here, he makes the point again by saying that Christ died for the ungodly. The ancient Greek word for is the word huper, which means “for the sake of, in behalf of, instead of.”
i. Other places where huper is used in the New Testament help us to understand this. In John 11:50, we read: nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for [huper] the people. Galatians 3:13 says, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for [huper] us.
ii. Therefore, to genuinely say “Jesus died for me” you must also say “I have no strength to save myself. I am ungodly. I am a sinner.” Jesus died to save and transform these.
iii. “You will say, ‘Oh, I am one of the worst in the world.’ Christ died for the worst in the world. ‘Oh, but I have no power to be better.’ Christ died for those that were without strength. ‘Oh, but my case condemns itself.’ Christ died for those that legally are condemned. ‘Ay, but my case is hopeless.’ Christ died for the hopeless. He is the hope of the hopeless. He is the Savior not of those partly lost, but of the wholly lost.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “If Christ died for the ungodly, this fact leaves the ungodly no excuse if they do not come to him, and believe in him unto salvation. Had it been otherwise they might have pleaded, ‘We are not fit to come.’ But you are ungodly, and Christ died for the ungodly, why not for you?” (Spurgeon)
d. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: God’s love is a love beyond even the best love among humans. A good man might die a noble martyrdom for the “right kind” of person - such as a righteous man or a good man. But Jesus died for those who were neither righteous nor good.
i. Is there a difference between a righteous man and a good man in Paul’s mind? The difference in Romans 5:7 seems to be that the righteous man is only that - righteous in his personal life but perhaps lacking in feeling for others. The good man by contrast goes beyond the other man by also being kind and benevolent.
e. But God demonstrates His own love: How does the death of the Son demonstrate the love of the Father? Because it was harder for the Father to send His only Son, and because God [the Father] was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5:19)
i. “It would be easy to see the cross as demonstrating the indifference of God, a God who let the innocent Jesus be taken by wicked men, tortured, and crucified while he did nothing . . . Unless there is a sense in which the Father and Christ are one, it is not the love of God that the cross shows.” (Morris)
ii. The work of Jesus on the cross for us is God’s ultimate proof of His love for you. He may give additional proof, but He can give no greater proof. If the cross is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love, it is also the ultimate demonstration of man’s hatred. It also proves that the height of man’s hatred can’t defeat the height of God’s love.
iii. The demonstration of God’s love isn’t so much in that Jesus died, but in whom Jesus died for - undeserving sinners and rebels against Him.
5. (Romans 5:9-11) Salvation from God’s wrath.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
a. Much more then, having now been justified His blood, we shall be saved from wrath: If we are justified by the work of Jesus, we can be assured that we are also saved from wrath through Him. The wrath of God that was revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Romans 1:18) was placed on Jesus as a substitute in the place of the believer.
i. By nature, some are inclined to preface these great promises of God with “much less then” regarding themselves. God wants them to see it plain and clear: Much more then is the love and goodness of God given to us and much more then can we have confidence in Him.
ii. Saved from wrath: Whose wrath? God’s righteous wrath. It is true that we must be saved from the world, the flesh and the devil but most of all we must be rescued from the righteous wrath of God.
iii. John Trapp on much more then: “It is a greater work of God to bring men to grace, than, being the state of grace, to bring them to glory; because sin is far more distant from grace than grace is from glory.”
b. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God: If God showed such dramatic love to us when we were enemies, think of the blessings we will enjoy once we are reconciled to God! If God does this much for His enemies, how much more will He do for His friends!
i. Wuest, quoting Alford: “Not only has the reconciled man confidence that he shall escape God’s wrath, but triumphant confidence - joyful hope in God.”
c. Much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life: This reconciliation isn’t only helpful when we die; it also touches our life right now. God is forever done dealing with believers on the basis of wrath. He may chasten them as a loving Father, but not in punishment or payment for their sins. Chastening is always to provide loving correction and guidance.
d. Saved from wrath through Him . . . we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son . . . rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus . . . through whom we have now received the reconciliation: The point is clearly emphasized. What matters is what we have through Jesus. What we have through our own works doesn’t matter and can’t help us. It’s all through Jesus.
B. The Two Men.
1. (Romans 5:12) The spread of sin through the human race.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned;
a. Just as through one man sin entered the world: The Apostle Paul regarded Genesis 3:1-24 as totally, historically true. According to Paul (and Jesus, as He says in Matthew 19:4-6), Adam and Eve were real people and what they did has a lasting effect to the present day.
i. It is important to understand that the Adam and Eve account is not an optional passage to be accepted or rejected, or allegorized away. According to Paul’s theme here in Romans 5:1-21, you can’t take away Genesis 3:1-24 without taking away principles that lay the foundation for our salvation.
ii. “To Paul, Adam was more than a historical individual, the first man; he was also what his name means in Hebrew - ‘humanity.’ The whole of humanity is viewed as having existed at first in Adam.” (Bruce)
b. Through one man sin entered the world: Paul doesn’t prove this, he simply accepts it true from Genesis 3:1-24 - sin entered the world through Adam. Significantly, Adam is responsible for the fall, not Eve. Eve was deceived when she sinned but Adam sinned with full knowledge. (1 Timothy 2:14)
c. And death through sin: Death entered the world and spread to all men as a result of Adam’s sin. God promised Adam, in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (Genesis 2:17). The principle of death was introduced into the world when Adam sinned and it has reigned on earth ever since. Every grave is mute evidence to the spread and reign of sin since the time of Adam.
d. Thus death spread to all men, because all sinned: Since death and sin are connected, we can know that all men are sinners - because all are subject to death. A sinless man is not subject to death but since every person is subject to death - even the smallest baby - it proves that all [mankind] sinned in Adam.
i. This sounds odd to our individualistic ears, but Paul clearly teaches that we all sinned “in” Adam. Adam is the common father of every person on the earth; every human who has ever lived was “in” Adam’s genetic makeup. Therefore, all mankind actually sinned in Adam.
ii. “All sinned in this case means ‘all sinned in Adam’; Adam’s sin is the sin of all.” (Morris)
iii. Humans are mortal - subject to death - before they commit any sin themselves. Since mortality is the result of sin, it shows that we are made sinners by Adam’s sin, not by our own personal sin.
iv. We may not like the fact that we are made sinners by the work of another man. We may protest, and say, “I want to stand on my own two feet, and not be made a sinner because of the work of another man.” Nevertheless, it is fair to be made righteous by the work of another man only if we are also made sinners by the work of another man. If we aren’t made sinners by Adam, then it isn’t fair for us to be made righteous by Jesus.
e. All men: This truth may make us uncomfortable, but it is still the truth. The smallest baby is a sinner, subject to death. David understood this when he wrote, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me (Psalms 51:5).
i. We can also know that we are born sinners for other reasons. First, think of how selfish and angry the smallest baby can be. Second, think of how we never have to teach our children to be bad - they learn that quite on their own, with old Adam teaching the lessons.
ii. If babies are sinners, does that mean that they go to hell? Not necessarily. First, we know that the children of believers are sanctified by the presence of a believing parent (1 Corinthians 7:14). Secondly, David had the assurance that his baby would meet him in heaven (2 Samuel 12:23). Finally, we know that at the end of it all, God, the judge of the entire world, will do right (Genesis 18:25).
iii. If there are the children of unbelieving parents in heaven, it is important to understand that it is not because they are innocent. As sons and daughters of guilty Adam, we are each born guilty as well. If such children do go to heaven, it is not because they innocents who deserve heaven, but because the rich mercy of God has been extended to them as well.
2. (Romans 5:13-14) An objection answered: “I thought we were sinners because we broke the Law.”
(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
a. Until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law: We know that at the root of it all we are made sinners because of Adam and not because we break the law ourselves. We know this because sin and death were in the world before the Law was ever given.
i. The law was too late to prevent sin and death and it is too weak to save from sin and death.
b. Nevertheless death reigned: The total, merciless reign of death - even before the law was given at the time of Moses - proves that man was under sin before the law. Death reigned . . . even over those who had not sinned in the exact way Adam did, showing that the principle of sin was at work in every human.
c. Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come: Paul presents Adam as a type - a picture, a representation - of Jesus. Both Adam and Jesus were completely sinless men from the beginning, and both of them did things that had consequences for all mankind.
3. (Romans 5:15-17) Contrasts between Adam’s work and Jesus’ work.
But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
a. But the free gift is not like the offense: Adam gave an offense that had consequences for the entire human race - as a result of Adam’s offense, many died. Jesus gives a free gift that has consequences for the entire human race, but in a different way. Through the free gift of Jesus, the grace of God . . . abounded to many. Adam’s work brought death but Jesus’ work brings grace.
b. Paul describes the results of Adam’s offense: Many died; judgment, resulting in condemnation, and death reigned over man. He also describes the results of Jesus’ free gift: grace abounded to many, justification (because many offenses were laid on Jesus), receiving abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, and reigning in life.
i. “He is not saying that death reigned over us all because we all sinned; he is saying that death reigned over us all because Adam sinned.” (Morris)
c. Death reigned . . . righteousness will reign: We could say that both Adam and Jesus are kings, each instituting a reign. Under Adam, death reigned. Under Jesus, we can reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
i. It is staggering to think of how totally death has reigned under Adam. Everyone who is born dies - the mortality rate is 100%. No one survives. When a baby is born, it isn’t a question of whether the baby will live or die - they will most certainly die; the only question is when. We think of this world as the land of the living, but it is really the land of the dying, and the billions of human bodies cast into the earth over the centuries proves this. But Paul says that the reign of life through Jesus is much more certain. The believer’s reign in life through Jesus is more certain than death or taxes!
4. (Romans 5:18) Summary: the two men.
Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.
a. One man’s offense . . . one Man’s righteous act: From this passage, Adam and Jesus are sometimes known as the two men. Between them they represent of all humanity, and everyone is identified in either Adam or Jesus. We are born identified with Adam; we may be born again into identification with Jesus.
i. The idea of Adam and Jesus as two representatives of the human race is sometimes called Federal Theology or Adam and Jesus are sometimes referred to as Federal Heads. This is because under the federal system of government, representatives are chosen and the representative speaks for the people who chose him. Adam speaks for those he represents, and Jesus speaks for His people.
ii. Again, someone may object: “But I never chose to have Adam represent me.” Of course you did! You identified yourself with Adam with the first sin you ever committed. It is absolutely true that we were born into our identification with Adam, but we also choose it with our individual acts of sin.
b. Resulting in condemnation . . . resulting in justification: The outcome of this election - choosing Adam or Jesus - means everything. If we choose Adam we receive judgment and condemnation. If we choose Jesus we receive a free gift of God’s grace and justification.
c. The free gift came to all men: Does this mean that all men are justified by the free gift? Without making a personal choice, every person received the curse of Adam’s offense. Is it therefore true that every person, apart from their personal choice, will receive the benefits of Jesus’ obedience? Not at all. First, Paul makes it clear that the free gift is not like the offense - they are not identical in their result or application. Second, over three verses Paul calls the work of Jesus a free gift, and he never uses those words to apply to the work of Adam. It is simply the nature of a gift that it must be received by faith. Finally, Paul clearly teaches throughout the New Testament that all are not saved.
i. In what sense then did the free gift come to all men? It came in the sense that the gift is presented, but not necessarily received.
ii. The idea that all men are saved by the work of Jesus whether they know it or not is known as universalism. “If the doctrine of universalism is being taught here, Paul would be contradicting himself, for he has already pictured men as perishing because of sin.” (Harrison)
5. (Romans 5:19) Summary of the contrasts.
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
a. Adam’s disobedience makes mankind sinners. Jesus’ obedience makes many righteous. Each representative communicates the effect of their work to their “followers.”
b. Many were made sinners: Paul emphasizes the point again. At the root, we were made sinners by the work of Adam. Of course, we chose Adam when we personally sinned. But the principle remains that since another man made us sinners, we can be made righteous by the work of another man.
i. This is the only way for the work of Jesus to benefit us in any way. If every man must stand for himself, without the representation of either Adam or Jesus, then we will all perish. None would be saved, because each of us sins and falls short of the glory of God. Only a sinless person acting on our behalf can save us, and it is fair for Him to act on our behalf because another man put us in this mess by acting on our behalf.
ii. If I robbed a bank and was pronounced guilty by the judge, what would happen if my friend came before the judge and said, “Your honor, I love my friend so much that I want to serve his prison time. I want to stand in his place and receive the punishment he deserves.” The judge would reply, “Nonsense. We will not punish you for his crime. That wouldn’t be fair. He did the crime, so he has to pay the penalty.” It would only be fair for another person to pay the penalty if I was guilty because of another person’s work.
iii. The person who says, “I don’t want to be represented by Adam or Jesus; I want to represent myself” doesn’t understand two things. First, they don’t understand that it really isn’t up to us. We didn’t make the rules, God did. We simply have to deal with it. Secondly, they don’t understand that our personal righteousness before God is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). To God, our personal righteousness is an offensive counterfeit; so standing for yourself guarantees your damnation.
6. (Romans 5:20 a) The purpose of the Law.
Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound.
a. Paul has shown us that the law does not justify us. Now he shows that in itself, the law doesn’t even make us sinners - Adam did that. Then what purpose does the law serve? What good is it at all? Was the giving of the law God’s failed experiment? No. There is a clear purpose for the law, and part of it is so that the offense might abound. The law makes man’s sin clearer and greater by clearly contrasting it with God’s holy standard.
i. The flaws in a precious stone abound when contrasted with a perfect stone, or when put against a contrasting backdrop. God’s perfect law exposes our flaws, and makes our sin abound.
b. There is another way that the law makes sin abound. Because of the sinfulness of my heart, when I see a line drawn I want to cross over it. In this sense, the law makes sin abound because it draws many clear lines between right and wrong that my sinful heart wants to break. Therefore, the law makes me sin more - but not because there is anything wrong in the law, only because there is something deeply wrong in the human condition.
7. (Romans 5:20-21) The reign of grace.
But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
a. If sin abounded under the law, then grace abounded much more under Jesus. Literally, the phrase abounded much more means “super-abounded.” God makes His grace super-abound over abounding sin!
i. We might have expected that where sin abounded, God’s anger or judgment would have abounded much more. But God’s love is so amazing that grace abounded much more where we might have expected wrath.
ii. If grace super-abounds over sin, then we know that it is impossible to out-sin the grace of God. We can’t sin more than God can forgive, but we can reject His grace and forgiveness.
b. As Paul stated before, sin reigned in death. But grace reigns also. The reign of grace is marked by righteousness and eternal life and is through Jesus.
i. Grace reigns through righteousness. Many people have the idea that where grace reigns, there will be a disregard for righteousness, and a casual attitude towards sin. But that isn’t the reign of grace at all. Paul wrote in another letter what grace teaches us: For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age (Titus 2:11-12). Grace reigns through righteousness, and grace teaches righteousness.
ii. Grace reigns to eternal life. God’s grace gives us something, and takes us somewhere. It gives more than just everlasting life in the sense that it will never end. Eternal life has the idea of a present quality of life, God’s quality of life, given to us right now - not simply when we die.
iii. Grace reigns through Jesus. There is a King in the kingdom where grace reigns, and the King is Jesus. A life of grace is all about Jesus and others, and not about me. A life of grace doesn’t look to self because it understands that this undeserved favor of God is given apart from any reason in self. All the reasons are in Jesus; none of the reasons are in myself. Grace doesn’t reign through self, but through Jesus.
c. Even so grace might reign through righteousness: Wherever grace rules, God’s righteous standard will be respected. The legalist’s fear is that the reign of grace will provide wicked hearts with a license to sin, but Scripture doesn’t share that fear. Grace does not accommodate sin, it faces it squarely and goes above sin in order to conquer it. Grace does not wink at unrighteousness, it confronts sin with the atonement at the cross and the victory won at the open tomb.
i. Grace is no friend to sin; it is its sworn enemy. “As heat is opposed to cold, and light to darkness, so grace is opposed to sin. Fire and water may as well agree in the same vessel as grace and sin in the same heart.” (Thomas Benton Brooks)
ii. In John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress, a wonderful character is a man named Mr. Honest. He was a traveler along the way, and saw many a fellow pilgrim, some who had set out boldly and strongly but who turned back. He saw others who stumbled at the start but finished in fine fashion. Some began full of faith, but ended in doubt, but others came to greater assurance along the pilgrim’s road. Mr. Honest obviously knew a lot about this pilgrimage we call Christianity, and he summed up all his knowledge in his last words:
“Mr. Honest called for his friends, and said unto them ‘I die, but shall make no will. As for my honesty, it shall go with me’ . . . When the day that he was to be gone was come, he addressed himself to go over the river. Now the river at that time overflowed the banks in some places, but Mr. Honest in his lifetime had spoken to one [named] Good-conscience to meet him there, that which he also did, and lent him his hand, and so helped him over. The last words of Mr. Honest were, ‘Grace reigns!’ So he left the world.”
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