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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
Romans 5

 

 

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Verse 1

PEACE WITH GOD

‘Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Romans 5:1

What St. Paul reminds us of in this text is that just as God has a never-failing store of grace and power for the strengthening and reviving of our spiritual life, so also He has an inexhaustible reserve of peace from which we have only to draw in order to be reassured and comforted.

I. God has a process not mechanical, but in the natural order of His providential dealing with the soul by which this peace, this highest consciousness of the spiritual life realising itself in unbroken union with God, is maintained. It is the living Lord, with Whom we may be in daily, in hourly communication, and Who will by His presence and power purify, ennoble, in a word, Christianise all our surroundings in all their manifold relations to our souls. ‘By Him,’ St. Paul says, ‘by Him we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ Whatever we have already attained of spiritual stability and security and satisfaction, the secret of maintaining that achievement is ever and immediately to hope for more. And the very trials and disappointments themselves are all only so many mercies of God from heaven if they do but drive us back away from trusting in ourselves to look more earnestly and abidingly to the Cross. However far we may sometimes seem to ourselves to be removed from the ecstasy of perfect peace, we have but to trust to God and to His plan and process for us. We have but to remember that Jesus liveth for evermore. We have but to accept all our experiences with thankfulness, asking God to make the best use of them. We have but to run with patience the race that is set before us. We have but to wait God’s time. Then comes approvedness, then comes a purer and truer and brighter hope, and the deep conviction that the everlasting arms are about us because our spirit is buoyed and calmed and controlled and strengthened and sustained by the spirit which we know to be the living presence of God.

II. God has not left to mere haphazard these opportunities for repairing the breaches which the world makes in the spiritual fortifications of our souls. We should, indeed, be fatally presumptuous if we did not remember that God has left us appointed means of grace, by diligent and humble attendance on which we may hope for continual revival, and for renewed gleams of spiritual light. He has left us the Christian society, the living witness and pillar of the truth. He has granted us the ministry of reconciliation, in raising up generations of humble men to serve their brethren in holy things. He has given us the preaching of the Word, so that some of us may even in foolishness and weakness, yet in loyalty and faith, from time to time put the rest in mind of things which they might forget. He has put into our hands His Holy Word.

III. Peace one with another.—As one practical conclusion I would appeal to all Christian men and women to drop from their minds at that high moment of devotion and spiritual union the spirit of theological and ecclesiastical censure and recrimination. There will always be differences of theory and diversities of ritual; the how and the when, the more and the less. It is right that we should each have our own theory, intelligently analysed and grasped, our own method, properly based and authorised. But we need not at such a moment criticise the traditions and customs of others. It is the same Divine Being Who is worshipped in the Christ Who comes to us in His own covenanted ordinance. It is the same Lord Who is over all, rich in mercy, waiting to bless, ready to pardon all our human misinterpretations and mistakes, so long as we have faith to be healed!

Archdeacon William Sinclair.

Illustration

‘“Do you not bear away with you,” said Prudence to Christian in our immortal English allegory—“do you not bear away with you some of the things that in your former life you were conversant withal?” “Yes,” was the reply of the pilgrim, “but greatly against my will, especially my inward and carnal cogitations with which all my countrymen as well as myself were delighted. But now all those things are my grief, and might I but choose my own things, I would choose never to think of those things more; but when I would be a-doing of that which is best, then that which is worst is with me.” “Do you not find sometimes,” said Prudence, “as if those things were vanquished which at other times are your perplexity?” “Yes,” answered Christian, “but that is seldom; but they are to me golden hours in which such things happen to me.” “Can you remember,” continued Prudence, “by what means you find your annoyances at times as if they were vanquished?” “Yes,” said Christian; “when I think what I saw at the Cross, that will do it; and when I look upon my broidered coat, the robe of the righteousness that is by the faith of Christ, that will do it; and when I look into the roll that I carry in my bosom, the Word of God, that will do it; and when my thoughts wax warm about whither I am going, that will do it.” “And what makes you so desirous,” asked Prudence, “to go to Mount Zion?” “Why there,” exclaimed the pilgrim, “I hope to see Him alive that I did see hang dead on the Cross, and there I hope to be rid of all those things that to this day in me are an annoyance to me; there they say there is no death, and there I shall dwell with such company as I like best. For, to tell you the truth, I love Him because I was by Him eased of my burden; and I am wearied of my inward sickness, and I would fain be where I shall die no more, and with the company that shall continually cry, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’”’


Verses 1-5

PRESENT PRIVILEGES OF THE JUSTIFIED

‘Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.… And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.’

Romans 5:1-5

These five verses describe the present life of the justified believer, and teach the new position of those who are justified through faith. In the five verses there are five blessings described. Let us consider each of them.

I. Peace with God.—There is a clear distinction between peace with God and the peace of God, though they are so intimately connected that they are rarely if ever separated. Peace with God is reconciliation itself. It is the blessed fellowship between God and the sinner, when every barrier is removed, and the two, instead of being at variance, are at one. Thus it involves a double reconciliation, i.e. a reconciliation on both sides. On the one side, God is reconciled to the sinner, for, His law being satisfied, and His righteousness maintained, He is no longer called to shut him out from His presence, but can, without the compromise of His own holiness, give him a welcome to His home in all the fullness of parental love. And, on the other hand, the sinner is reconciled to God, for his hard heart is softened, his rebellion is at an end, his affections are changed, he hates that which he once loved, and loves that which he once hated, so that instead of being an enemy to God by wicked works, he loves Him, he delights in Him, he seeks Him, he follows Him; the joy of his heart is to do His will, and his great sorrow is that he cannot serve Him better.

II. The justified believer has a new standing-ground.—There are various standing-places on which men attempt to stand. Some are standing on their respectability. They are as good as others, and therefore, have no cause to fear. Some are endeavouring to stand on their really earnest religious painstaking. They are really striving to be religious, and they stand on their efforts. But as a general rule they stand very uncomfortably. But the justified believer stands on the rock, and he can stand there boldly, for he finds it firm, perfectly firm, under his feet. But what is this rock on which we stand, this new standing-ground on which we are placed when we are justified through faith? It is here described as ‘this grace.’ ‘By Whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ The grace here described is the same as that on which Abraham stood, a righteousness reckoned, or imputed, to him when he had none of his own. The justified believer is made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, and that righteousness is the rock on which he stands. And this is a standing-ground which abides unshaken whatever happens. It does not vary with feelings, nor can it be shaken by misfortune. It is fixed and immovable in the unchanging righteousness of God, and whatever passes away, it never will.

III. But we do not want to be only standing still and safe. We want also to be looking forward and happy, and so if we pass on to the third in the cluster of blessings there is joy as well as safety, for we find it our privilege, if justified, to be rejoicing in hope. And what a hope! Nothing less than the glory of God. ‘We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ The men of the world have nothing that can last. They have nothing of which they can say, ‘It shall abide.’ But you that are justified are soon to reign with Christ, and share His kingdom. Nothing can touch your life, for it is hid with Christ in God, and when He shall appear you will appear with Him in glory. You will then share His glory, and reign in His kingdom, for we are taught, ‘Whom He justified, them He also glorified,’ and is not such a hope as that enough to make us happy? enough to fill the whole soul with joyous thanksgiving?

IV. It seems easy enough to rejoice in the hope of glory, but it is a very different thing to glory, or rejoice (it is the same word as in Romans 5:2) in ‘tribulations also,’ or as it might be rendered, ‘even in tribulation,’ as we are told that we do in Romans 5:3. How can this be? Will sorrows cease to be sorrows? I do not see that in Holy Scripture. But what we do find is that sorrow changes its character, because a peaceful, thankful joy shines in the midst of it, and throws a glow of hallowed light over the whole. See how beautifully this is brought out in the passage. There is a golden chain here. Observe the three links. The first is patience. ‘Tribulation worketh patience,’ for people do not know what it is to be patient till they suffer. The next is experience. ‘Patience worketh experience,’ for if we are called patiently to suffer, we learn daily from personal experience fresh lessons of the tender lovingkindness of the Lord. The third link is hope. There is hope at the beginning, hope strong enough to make the soul happy, for ‘we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ These three links in the chain would be of no use whatever, if they were not attached to some sure fastening at the end. But they are, for ‘hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.’

V. This leads us to the last blessing of the series.—The fastening of that chain is the fifth gift to the justified believer, and what a gift it is! ‘The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.’ This seems the crowning point of all. We began with peace, we now go on to love. There is not merely a legal reconciliation, but a tender, affectionate, parental love. He does not only pardon the sinner, but He actually loves him as His child.

—Rev. Canon Edward Hoare.


Verse 5

THE GIVER AND THE GIFT

‘Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.’

Romans 5:5

All the various writers of the New Testament are agreed upon this one point. From whatever standpoint the writer approaches the mystery of the Incarnation and its message to the world of men, his mind converges to a centre common to all, that Love is the greatest of all Christian virtues.

I. Love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.—It does not belong naturally to fallen human nature. Whatever power our first parents possessed of knowing and loving God was sacrificed through their disobedience. Of course, they still retained that natural instinctive love for each other, which we all possess in common with the lower animals. God has implanted even in the wildest animals an instinctive love for their own offspring. For their young, up to a certain age, they will endure hardships, and suffer privations. Still this instinctive love of men and animals is peculiarly selfish. It does not restrain them from behaving brutally to one another. There is no love lost between animals when they are being fed. Each one gets as much as it can without troubling itself about others. And there is not much to choose between them and human beings, possessed only of this instinctive love, when any situation arises which calls for restraint and self-sacrifice. Then the instinct of self-preservation asserts itself—every man for himself. Whenever we find men and women rise superior to this selfish instinct, as happily we have many instances in times of shipwreck, and fire, and disaster, it is because this love has been shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost.

II. Whatever there is of true religion in the Church, and in the hearts of her children to-day, is due to the power and presence of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter and Instructor of the faithful. The Holy Ghost is the gift bestowed in Holy Baptism. The renewal of the Holy Ghost is the blessing conferred in Confirmation to all who humbly ask for it. Whatever virtue there is in the Holy Communion arises from the same Divine source. It is the Spirit of God which broods over the Blessed Sacrament, and makes it the channel of communication between God and ourselves. Through the Spirit’s power we feed upon the Body and Blood of Christ, and are thereby made once more ‘partakers of the Divine nature.’ When the Bishop and Presbytery lay their hands upon a candidate for the priesthood they do it with the words,’ Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a priest in the Church of God,’ thereby acknowledging that only through the power of the Holy Ghost can he become ‘a faithful dispenser of the Word of God and of His holy sacraments.’

III. Wherever and whenever this life-giving power of the Spirit is consciously felt, and it is consciously felt when we respond to and co-operate with the grace of God bestowed through the means of grace we have mentioned, two results inevitably follow.

(a) There is a feeling of rest and satisfaction within.

(b) There is a desire to be up and doing for the sake of others.

So long as the heart is estranged from God, it runs hither and thither, ‘seeking rest and finding none.’ It may run to and fro until it is weary with a surfeit of pleasure and heavily laden with the burden of sin, but only in Christ can it find true rest. And no sooner does this restful peace take possession of the soul within than it is moved by an anxious activity for the sake of the beloved object. Love longs to give itself, and to count the sacrifice as nothing. Once realise, by the power of the Holy Ghost, the inestimable love of God in giving His Son ‘to die for our sins and to rise again for our justification,’ and the love of Christ in giving Himself for the life of the world, and we shall long to show forth His praise ‘not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to His service.’

—Rev. C. Rhodes Hall.

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE LOVE OF GOD

Somewhat more literally we may read: ‘The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by means of the Holy Ghost which was given to us.’

There is a Divine simplicity about these words. They speak of immense mysteries; of God and of His inmost love; of the Eternal Spirit and His inscrutable workings; and of what is a mystery only less in order than the things Divine—our human heart. But the words which touch and indicate these unfathomable things are the simplest possible. Every one of them belongs to the plainest of plain English; the longest of them is but a dissyllable.

Let us approach our text and interrogate it. In this its Divine simplicity, what is it saying to us to-day? We will seek our answer under two or three special titles.

I. ‘The love of God.’—That is to say, the love felt by God towards man; the personal affection of the Almighty. Some have seen in the words another and opposite reference, as if they meant our love for God, our love of God, as an emotion generated, or liberated, in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. And some, more mystically, have read in our text the thought that the Spirit’s work is to infuse and diffuse within us the eternal love itself in such a sense that it becomes as it were our own, and returns to its source in the incense of our surrender to God, our delight and rest in Him. But the context (Romans 5:8) surely gives a decisive answer in favour of the simplest while most wonderful of the references: ‘God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were sinners Christ died for us.’ That verse stands in close logical connection with this, and the reference must be the same. ‘The love of God’; His ‘marvellous lovingkindness,’ as the Psalmist has it; the tenderness and endearment of Him Who is Love towards us sinners, towards us who have fled from ourselves to Him, and laid hold on His strength, and made peace with Him in His way. This is the particular reference here of ‘the love of God’; the kindness of the eternal heart towards those who believe, towards the Lord’s own, ‘the children of men who put their trust’ in the deep ‘shadow of His wings.’

II. ‘The love of God is shed abroad, hath been poured out, in our hearts.’—The phrase is beautifully vivid. You cannot take it to pieces, and analyse it, and explain the process, but you can know what it means. To these human hearts of ours, deep in these living, heaving, conscious worlds within, in the very ‘springs of thought and will’ and affection, there can be somehow granted the view of this love as a fact, the sense and grasp of this love as a possession. It is there, poured out. It is no alien and separable insertion. It is poured out. Like the shower from the soft cloud, like the odour from the flower, it is there, shed abroad, suffused, pervading, changing, beautifying, glorifying all. Manifestly it was not so once. Those hearts were once as little possessed of this wonderful outpouring as the brown field in the year of drought is possessed of the genial rain. The outpouring was within, it was in the depths. But it came from above. ‘Not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.’ Does this view of the matter seem to any of us an unreality, a thing of vision and enthusiasm? Perhaps nothing in your experience corresponds to it as yet. But a human soul which yesterday was full of misgivings about God, or paralysed in indifference towards Him, to-day is able to say, with strong and sober certainty, with the clear persuasion of a true sight of Him in Christ Jesus, ‘I know Whom I have believed’; ‘He hath loved me and given Himself for me’; ‘Behold, what manner of love to me’; ‘I am persuaded that neither life nor death shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ To-day as ever the eternal Friend stands at the door and knocks, that He may come in with that light in His hand and make the dreary darkness to be day. To-day, as of old, when that door is opened His entrance brings a wonderful reality of joy. ‘I will manifest myself to Him.’

III. This work is done, this love poured out, this Lord revealed and introduced ‘by the Holy Ghost.’—Manifold are His gifts, His works. Vast indeed is the importance to our life and peace of clear views of what He is. It is blessed to know that indeed it is He, not only It; that He is no mere gale of power, no mysterious Somewhat of effluence and influence, but the personal Friend and Lord, coming to His temples to bless them with His own loving gifts of life, of purity, of power. Think of Him as the eternal Personal Worker and Teacher, understanding, handling, penetrating, knowing His own way in that heart of yours, and taking His own way to bless it. Recollect Him as somehow able, in His personal action, to make the cold, indifferent, sinful soul see and apprehend, and know, and embrace, and answer to, the love of God, the inner love of God. Remember Him as able indeed to manipulate that once rebellious will; sometimes by insensible degrees; sometimes by decisive convictions and a crisis of change memorable to us for ever and ever. Behold Him; He is the Convincer, bringing home to us, home indeed, sin and righteousness and judgment. He is the Revealer; He unveils Christ, He explains Him, and glorifies Him, and applies Him as vital balm to the aching spirit, which in the reality of its ‘exceeding need’ applies itself to Christ.

IV. ‘The Holy Ghost which was given unto us.’—‘Given’; let us note that word as we close. He is indeed a Gift, the Gift unspeakable, the Gift of God. Not an evolution from within, not an assimilation from around; He is a Gift from above. ‘From the height above all measure’ must ‘the Gracious Shower descend’; not otherwise can this knowledge of the eternal love be won by these happy ones, these temples of the Spirit.

Bishop H. C. G. Moule.

Illustration

‘Not seldom has been seen the beautiful phenomenon of the philanthropist who is also the ideal father or ideal mother; a Fowell Buxton, an Elizabeth Fry; a life which to the world is known for its devotion to mankind in large and far-seeing enterprises and sacrifices, but which to the nearer circle is known as the glowing centre of home affections and intimate friendships. And can we not think so of the Eternal and Almighty? His universal lovingkindness; this is one thing, and a thing more wide and deep than created thought can measure. But His special, inmost love to His own regenerate children in His own Son is another thing, and nearer still to the heart of all life and bliss.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

THE FOUNTAIN OF GOD’S LOVE

What St. Paul says is, that the mark of a Christian man is the great flood-tide setting from his heart to God; and that the mark of a Christian man is that, however dimly, his eye may yet see the great flood-tide of love setting from God’s heart to him. It is not a great critical exposition that is needed here, but rather it comes to the very bottom of Christian life when the Apostle says, Never mind about yourself; get away from all these miserable thoughts about how you love and trust, and how you feel towards Him; that is to be flung behind you. Open your eyes and hearts to this; that pouring down from heaven, a fountain of the great deep being broken up, upon every human soul there is that rejoicing, perennial, inexhaustible, immeasurable tide and ocean of life that will drench and saturate every heart of man.

I. The love of God is shed abroad.—God’s love to me, to everybody, is poured upon the heart, and the consciousness of it, and not the response that I make to it—that is a secondary thing—but the consciousness of it is what makes the Christian. The love of God is shed abroad, is a grand thing; but the grand thought of the text goes far deeper; it says the love of God has been shed abroad. So it carries us who are Christian men and women back to some time in our history, when in some degree the consciousness of that love was in our hearts. The difference between one man who is a Christian and one who is not is the difference between a man standing with his back to the sun and the other with his face to the sunshine; the one gets light and warmth and cheer, and the other has his face in the shadow. It is all a question of which way your faces are turned. And here is a definition, if you will have a definition of a Christian, not that he loves, but that he trusts. The love will be a sure result of the trust. The love that is shed abroad in the heart is not my poor shrunken drop of love, but it is the great stream which comes from Him, and is ready to pour into my empty vessel, if I will only be steady and let the flow fill it.

II. Ask yourself, do I know and believe the love that God has?—That is the meaning of the love of God being shed abroad. You remember the old story of Christ at the marriage feast of Cana, the six water-pots full of water, like our hearts, with all the cold, dismal, unsatisfactory joys and affections of earth, and He puts His hand upon the vessels and turns the water of the human affections into the wine of the heavenly Canaan. And instead of our hearts being filled with the insufficiencies and hollownesses of earthly things, He pours into them the great things, and the quickening of his own love.

III. The way by which this consciousness of the love of God, the foundation of God’s love, may belong to me is by His Holy Spirit which He has given to me. You have all got faith if you are Christian men and women, and the measure of your faith is the measure of your possession of the Spirit of God. For the teaching of the New Testament is this, that the spirit is given to them that believe, and if your hearts are charged with the happy sense of God’s love, which the Spirit of God kindles and fosters there, there are two things, one is your faith, and the other is your believing contemplation of God’s truth. Here are two surface facts in reference to the working on us by the Holy Spirit; that He works this on men we believe, and that the means by which the Spirit of God works upon us is the truth that is here. So then, plainly, the inference is, do you want to have a deeper, more constant, firmer, brighter, gladder consciousness of God’s love going with you all through life? Do not work yourself into it, but look and look, ever look with simple confidence to the great fact in which all that love is expressed—the love of God shed abroad in our hearts is the true foundation, and the only foundation upon which we can build any substantial hope for the future.

Illustration

‘The sunshine of life is its love. Always be trying how much love you can put into the day. Do not keep a narrow circle. “Shed it abroad.” “Shed it abroad” as God “sheds it abroad in your hearts.” Let the thought of every one when he gets up in the morning be—“What love shall I show to-day? Whom can I make happier? What kind act can I do to any poor person, or to any rich person, or to any child, or to anybody?” That is the nearest thing to heaven upon earth—for that is—more than anything else on this earth—closest to the image of God.’

(FOURTH OUTLINE)

LOVE SHED ABROAD

Observe the emphatic expression: ‘The love of God is shed abroad’—self-acting, diffusive, filling the whole space: ‘is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given’—perfectly free, unpurchased, undeserved—‘which is given unto us.’

I. Here, then, is the first condition. You must be united to Christ before you love God.—The Holy Ghost must then enter into you and do His own work. And you must believe and realise it as His own solitary prerogative. Therefore, if you wish to love, look well to it that you begin, where every good thing does begin, with Christ. That you are His—that He is yours.

II. Then take care that nothing grieves and stops the Spirit; that there is no bar across—by sin, or by the world, or by self—to stop the channel of that river of life.

III. And then the result is sure: ‘The love of God will be shed abroad’—far and wide, into every crevice of your heart, ‘by the Holy Ghost which is given unto you.’

IV. And now, subject to this great law, let me suggest to you one or two ways by which this love is to take effect in your heart.

(a) At this moment, there is some one with whom your conscience tells you you are not now on the terms on which you ought to be. That feeling you have, that you are not on right terms with that person, is part of the ‘shedding.’ Honour it. Honour it at once. Adjust your relationships with that person.

(b) Or the present state of things in your heart may be worse than that. There may be some one with whom you are really at enmity. It is almost, if not quite, a quarrel. There is a distance; an unbrotherly feeling, and a proud spirit—if not positive anger and dislike. Or, if you have forgiven, and if the first heat of the anger is gone, you have not said it. The reconciliation is not confessed—therefore it is not complete. Yet, at this moment, you have a conviction about it, and a compunction of heart, a desire, which is the Holy Ghost. Then go and do it. Take the lower ground. Humble yourself. Say that you wish to be friends.

—Rev. James Vaughan.

Illustration

‘There are a great many who are still very worldly, but the real desire of their hearts is that they could love God. Whether such a desire is not of itself a proof that it is already love, I do not now stop to consider—I think it is; but the persons to whom I refer have not yet (their own hearts would say they have not yet) much real, practical love to God. They do not treat Him as if they loved Him. And there is not a Christian on earth who does not feel his love poor and cold in comparison with what it ought to be—so poor, and so cold, that he must very often confess—“I have none.” His first wish and prayer every day is—“O God! more love! more love!”’


Verse 6

FOR WHOM CHRIST DIED

‘For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.’

Romans 5:6

The Apostle establishes this point by means of two reasons:—

I. The great love which God has already bestowed on man is illustrated by the Apostle’s reference to the unworthiness of man as the object of it. He views him in different positions, and in all he appears utterly undeserving of the benign notice of God.

(a) ‘Without strength.’ In this expression the Apostle is probably accommodating himself to the natural disposition of the Romans. Nothing was so detestable in their eyes as weakness. The word conveyed to them the deepest form of misery and shame. And what a weak, helpless man was in the estimation of the Roman, that man—universal man—was in the sight of God—‘without strength.’ There was nothing to evoke the Divine complacency, but everything to repel.

(b) ‘Ungodly.’ This designation presents man in another aspect. There was not only the utter destitution of what was holy, but also the absence of desire for any good. To Him Who penetrates the thoughts and secrets of the heart, man’s character, as presented by the word ‘ungodly,’ shows him to be unworthy of the Divine complacency.

(c) ‘Sinner.’ This presents man in another aspect, and still undeserving of being the object of God’s love. When God is banished from the thought, as suggested by the word ‘ungodly,’ His place is usurped by unworthy rivals.

(d) ‘Enemy.’ With this word the Apostle reaches the climax of his reasoning. All the unworthiness of man must be attributed to his enmity against God. This lies at the root of all his wickedness, and in this man is a sad exception to everything else which God has made.

II. The greatness of God’s love to man is shown also by the sacrifice which He made to redeem him.—‘Christ died for the ungodly.’ With reverence we would say, that to redeem man was not easy even to God. If sin is such a terrible thing in the sight of God’s holy beings, what disgust must it excite in the Omniscient mind, Who can perceive it in all its deformity!

III. What bearing have these two proofs of God’s unparalleled love on the certainty of the believer’s final redemption?—The argument of the Apostle, in the text, stands thus: If God bestowed such an incomparable love upon man when he was ‘without strength,’ ‘ungodly,’ sinful, and inimical towards Him, surely He will not withhold any blessing from man when he is reconciled to Him and adopted to His family again.


Verse 8

THE DEPTH OF GOD’S LOVE

‘But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’

Romans 5:8

It is a remarkable feature in the sorrows of Jesus, that His love maintained such a wonderful equanimity. How very few are the affections which we know of, that have continued the same! How few friendships do any of us carry all along the little journey of life! It is an easy thing to go on, and be kind, when we are happy! Every man can be amiable, when all outward things conspire to bless him. But to feel very exhausted, and to be kind then! To be poor, to be in pain, to be insulted, to be wronged, to feel very miserable—and still to maintain an equipoise: to let the stream flow calmly then—that is the difficulty!

Now here is the marvel of the love of Christ.

I. Its simple endurance of things conspiring to disturb it.—He passed through every diversity of irritating circumstance—and yet there is not a moment in which we can discover a want of affection. Not an unkind word; not a vexed look to a single individual; not a frown; never a change upon His countenance. He never reproaches a disciple; He never upbraids anybody. All is instructive and holy. His reproofs draw milder, as He draws nearer and nearer the close of His earthly life. Each anguish only draws out more sweetness. He pursues His path of high love without one single deviation. Affliction is always cheerfully borne. Love is never on the wane. O what a series! death is the climax. And herein ‘God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ Is not that exactly the Saviour that you want?

II. Another difficulty which we always find, is a just and proportioning love.—Either it is so largely spread out that it wants individuality and warmth, or else it is so concentrated and bound up with a few that it is deficient in breadth and catholicity. We cannot admire too much, in the love of Jesus Christ, the beautiful union—blending the general interest with particular tenderness. The whole world is in His heart. He was carrying the burden of thousands of thousands, and tens of thousands of thousands—the conversion of the whole earth was in His prayer. He sent His thoughts down from His disciples to their converts, and their converts again from generation to generation, to the end of time. He grasped the universal kindom of God. Nevertheless, His heart was so disengaged for any one who wanted it, as if He lived and bled only for that one. Again I ask you, is it not just what we want?

III. In the midst of the vastnesses of the Saviour’s universal empire, He could remember such an atom as I am!—But the love that I feel so sweet to me, am I sure that will be bestowed upon the one I wish Him to love? Could He go forth to every member of my family—to all I desire to save? Yes—to me and all. To all and me. And every principle I am acquainted with justifies me in arguing, if a suffering Saviour did this, what will a glorified one do? On the eve of His agony, He stooped to wash His disciples’ feet. I feel confident, while the spirit of the Saviour is glorified, the act will be better. He could stoop from the height of His dignity, at any moment, to wash the vilest sinner white.

Illustration

‘This verse is a direct assertion of the deity of Jesus Christ. For it does not mean “the Father commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” But that “Christ commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, He died for us.” The line of the argument absolutely requires this. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, He died for us.” It is plain that He Who loves is He Who dies—otherwise there is no argument at all, if one loves and another dies. Therefore the God in the first clause is the Christ in the second clause of the sentence; and the passage exactly agrees with another, 1 John 3:16 : “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us.” And we are glad that our minds should thus meet a certain resting-place upon the Godhead of the Crucified One.’


Verse 10

SALVATION BY LIFE

‘For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.’

Romans 5:10

The Cross is not a final thing; the Cross is a means to an end. The life which comes out of the death is the climax. I would draw your attention to Salvation—not ‘reconciliation’—Salvation by the Life of Christ.

I. A Living Presence.—The first thought which we draw from the Life of Christ is this—that He is now a Living Presence. For that Christ should live, and not be with His people, is a thing contrary to the very nature and whole character of Christ, and would violate all His promises. But the sense of a present, living Christ is to all—who have ever realised it—an inestimable comfort and support beyond everything else in the universe.

II. A Living Mediation.—But the Life of Christ is much more than a Presence near us here. It is a Presence for us ‘within the veil,’ and that Presence of Christ is a Representative Presence. When He died, He died a Substitute—in our place—for us—instead of us—that we might not die. But when He ascended to heaven, He ascended no Substitute, but a Representative, that we might follow Him, each in his own order, and be there too. He holds ground for us till we come. His glorified life assures our glorified life. So that, just as we died in His dying, we live in His living.

III. A Living Fountain of Life.—But it is more than this. Christ, in heaven, is a Fountain of Life always flowing, for Jesus’ life is a communicating life. The first Adam’s was not. ‘The first Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening,’ i.e. a life-giving—‘was made a life-giving Spirit.’ As He is at your side, so He is at God’s side; and He is always receiving from the Father to transmit to you. His whole life is a life between God and us; that, through Him, the things of God may pass to us; for without Him they could not pass in any way whatever. We call that life mediatorial life.

IV. A Living union of all the life of the whole family of God.—If He is the life of all who live, then all who live meet in Him. We here, those far away, those in Paradise, all meet in Him. It is one life in both worlds. And all the springs of that one common life flow from the one Rock—the Life of Christ. What a union is here! what a basis for the most fond and unbroken fellowship for ever! Are those I love dead? Nay, they live the perfect life of Christ. Are they separate from me? Nay, my life is their life; their life is my life. Both lives are Christ’s. We are side by side—we are one. The beating of the heart of Jesus is the life of the whole Church in earth and heaven.

And if this is a helpful thought, to strengthen and animate you to holier feelings, and higher exercises, and better services—if you get a stronger grasp from the assurance of your own perfect safety, when you realise your own actual oneness of life with the life of all that is pure and holy in every world—you owe it all to the reuniting, the cementing, the identifying life of Christ, and you can enter again into the power of the truth, ‘For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life,’

Illustration

‘Dimly, feebly, imperfectly, we can see … how Christ, Himself perfected through suffering, has made known to us, once for all, the meaning and the value of suffering; how He has interpreted it as a Divine discipline, the provision of a Father’s love; how He has left us to realise “in Him,” little by little, the virtue of His work; to fill up on our part, in the language of St. Paul, that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in our own sufferings, not as if His work were incomplete or our efforts meritorious, but as being living members of His body, through which He is pleased to manifest that which He has wrought for men.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

CHRIST’S LIFE IN HEAVEN

However important we may regard the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, we must not consider His life—we mean His life in heaven—of secondary moment.

I. Apart from this life His death would not avail us.—But the Apostle asserts that the death of Christ effected our reconciliation to God. This mighty change was wrought by the death of Christ! And shall we doubt the power of His life? Thus God’s love, as manifested in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the glorious change wrought by it in the relation of the sinner to God, leads us to believe that the good work which He hath begun on our behalf will be fully consummated.

II. The nature of Christ’s work in heaven is a pledge for the final safety of the believer. ‘He liveth to make intercession for us.’ His intercession is the completion of His sacrifice. It perpetuates the efficacy of His atonement. ‘It bears the same relation to His death as providence does to creation. God created and now sustains: Christ died and now intercedes.’ So regarded, the intercession of our Lord justifies our largest expectations, and is a pledge of our final success.

III. We must not consider that this office of our Lord is needed to awaken the love of the Father, or to remind Him of what He might otherwise forget. The office itself originated in the love of the Father, and we are assured that His people’s names are engraven on the palms of His hands, and that He can never forget them. Well might the Apostle say, ‘Much more then, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.’


Verse 12

ADAM AND CHRIST

‘Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.… by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous.’

Romans 5:12; Romans 5:19

A comparison and contrast this, often occurring elsewhere in the Apostle’s writings. Here it is said expressly: Adam is a type of Him Who was to come; that is, of Christ. Adam and Christ, type and antitype, in nature as in influence!

The one Adam and the one Christ! Here are contrasted—

I. The one transgression and the one obedience.

II. The dominion of death and the kingdom of life.

III. The condemnation on all and the abounding grace for all.

Illustrations

(1) ‘Who will still contend, who will doubt, when over against the one Adam stands the one Christ, in such a way that the sin of the one begets and draws after it innumerable new sins, while the gift of Jesus Christ brings justification from many sins, the obedience of the Saviour makes many righteous? There the one Adam, who in Eden fell a victim to temptation, to doubt, to misbelief, and other great crimes and sins, while wishing to be like God; here the one Son of Man, Who in the wilderness with “It is written” wields a victorious sword, and deems it not robbery to be equal with God, and although in the form of God humbles Himself, and by an emptying of Himself beyond comparison becomes the dispenser of every heavenly blessing.’

(2) ‘What sombre witnesses to the unity of the human race St. Paul summons! First of all, indeed, sin itself, which shows itself unmistakably in all places and at all times, far as humanity extends. But at the same time he points to death, this most terrible of all preachers of repentance.’


Verse 19

ADAM AND CHRIST

‘Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.… by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous.’

Romans 5:12; Romans 5:19

A comparison and contrast this, often occurring elsewhere in the Apostle’s writings. Here it is said expressly: Adam is a type of Him Who was to come; that is, of Christ. Adam and Christ, type and antitype, in nature as in influence!

The one Adam and the one Christ! Here are contrasted—

I. The one transgression and the one obedience.

II. The dominion of death and the kingdom of life.

III. The condemnation on all and the abounding grace for all.

Illustrations

(1) ‘Who will still contend, who will doubt, when over against the one Adam stands the one Christ, in such a way that the sin of the one begets and draws after it innumerable new sins, while the gift of Jesus Christ brings justification from many sins, the obedience of the Saviour makes many righteous? There the one Adam, who in Eden fell a victim to temptation, to doubt, to misbelief, and other great crimes and sins, while wishing to be like God; here the one Son of Man, Who in the wilderness with “It is written” wields a victorious sword, and deems it not robbery to be equal with God, and although in the form of God humbles Himself, and by an emptying of Himself beyond comparison becomes the dispenser of every heavenly blessing.’

(2) ‘What sombre witnesses to the unity of the human race St. Paul summons! First of all, indeed, sin itself, which shows itself unmistakably in all places and at all times, far as humanity extends. But at the same time he points to death, this most terrible of all preachers of repentance.’


Verse 20

THE TRIUMPH OF GRACE

‘Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’

Romans 5:20

Grace runs through the epistles of St. Paul like a silver thread. We do not wonder at this when we remember what it did for St. Paul. He was a monument, a miracle of grace.

I. It arrested him.—‘Suddenly’ it laid its strong and tender hand upon him. Here we see its absolute sovereignty, for Saul of Tarsus was altogether undeserving. ‘I was apprehended,’ he says, ‘of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:12, R.V.). There was no preparation, no sense of sin, as far as we know; there was certainly no fitness.

II. It transformed him.—See that young fanatic breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord: is there any power on earth or in heaven which can make that man think and feel and pray like a little child? Yes: there is, and that power is grace. The grace of God can change the lion into the lamb (Acts 9:13; Acts 9:20-21).

III. It used him.—The Lord had need of him. He wrote thirteen epistles, and ‘laboured more abundantly than they all,’ but he is careful to add, ‘Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.’ It was through his preaching that the Gospel was published throughout the world. His life was so intensely Christian that he called it Christ—‘to me to live is Christ.’

IV. It preserved him.—Grace is glory in the bud, and glory is grace in flower. Whenever God begins ‘the gracious work’ He completes it. Therefore grace did not let him go.

The Christ Who met Saul of Tarsus at the gate of Damascus still arrests men on the highways of sin and shows them the heavenly vision. Across the wastes of nearly two thousand years the Voice of Jesus speaks to human hearts. Grace has not spent its power. It can still ‘steal in silence down,’ and touch the hearts of men.

—Rev. F. Harper.

Illustrations

(1) ‘You may have heard of a painted window that is said to be one of the most wonderful in Europe, which was made in this way. There was a young apprentice to one of the great window creators of the older days—for they did create in those days—and after working time he would pick up from the floor broken fragments of the painted glass that had been rejected, and take them home and put them piece by piece into a frame and design, which he himself had designed in his mother’s cottage. So it went on in a quiet way for some two years, until at last it was finished, and the master came in by accident, and said, “What is this? There has never been before such a wonderful creation. Who has done this?” It was the young apprentice, with the broken and rejected fragments of the painted glass which he found on the floor of his master’s studio.’

(2) ‘The last words of Mr. Honest were, “Grace reigns.” So he left the world. As I hear Old Honest shouting, “Grace reigns!” I always remember what a lady told me about a saying of her poor Irish scullery-girl. The mistress and the servant were reading George Eliot’s Life together in the kitchen, and when they came to her death-bed, on the pillow of which Thomas à Kempis lay open, “Mem,” said the girl,” I used to read that old book in the convent; but it is a better book to live upon than to die upon.” Now that was exactly Old Honest’s mind. He lived upon one book, and then he died upon another. He lived according to the commandments of God, but he died according to the comforts of the Gospel.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Romans 5:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/romans-5.html. 1876.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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