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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Romans 5

Verse 1

An amazing difference of opinion among commentators as to what constituted Paul's subject matter in this chapter must be noted.

Greathouse suggested:

Paul rounds out his doctrine of justification by putting this truth in its eschatological context.[1]

Greathouse cited "the hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2), and "final salvation" (Romans 5:9-10) as supporting his analysis. Lenski favored the view that writings in this chapter

Undoubtedly describe the blessed effects of God's righteousness through faith.[2]

Stiffler noted that:

Many commentators have entitled this chapter, "The Fruits of Justification."[3]

Griffith Thomas saw in this chapter:

Will this new method of salvation really last; will it continue to the end? Is it safe for all the varied and complex needs of human life? Is it a foundation sufficiently strong to stand the wear and tear of human needs?[4]

James Macknight wrote that

In the beginning of this chapter, Paul enumerated the privileges which belong to believers in general.[5]

This commentator believes that such confusion as regards even the subject of what Paul was writing about is due to the preoccupation of scholars with what Thomas called "this new method of salvation," which, of course, means the wonderful proposition that people are justified by faith alone! It is apparently a lost fact so many are unaware of, that there is no "new method" of salvation, but only one, namely, justification through obedient faith, a truth Paul went to great lengths to demonstrate in his appeal to the example of Abraham, showing at last that we too are saved just like Abraham was (though through meeting DIFFERENT tests), by WALKING "in the steps of Abraham's faith" (Romans 5:4:12); in short, by believing, and proving it by obedience as he did. Paul's subject matter in the entire epistle to the Romans is not any new method of salvation, but the inherent righteousness of God, as noted under Romans 5:1:17. It is, thus, the failure of scholars to identify properly Paul's subject matter in Romans 4 that leaves them confused and contradictory as to what Paul had under discussion in Romans 5. God's eternal rectitude continues to be the theme here, as appears from the import of Romans 5:12-21, where the question of God's righteousness in causing death to pass upon all people as a result of the sin of only one man is the problem discussed. The same problem of how God can be righteous in allowing the tribulations and death that are the badge of all mortality is also within the focus of the first paragraph (Romans 5:1-11), where the true answer to the enigma lies in the fact that people may yet achieve eternal life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] William M. Greathouse, Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1969), p. 106.

[2] R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1963), p. 330.

[3] J. M. Stiffler, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 87.

[4] W. H. Griffith Thomas, St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 146.

[5] James Macknight, Apostolical Epistles (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1960), p. 78.

Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

Justified by faith ... has invariably the meaning of "justified by an obedient faith," as in the case of Abraham. See the preceding chapter. Also, for further explanation of this synecdoche, see under Romans 3:22. Both at the beginning and ending of Romans, Paul defined "faith" in the sense of its being "the obedience of faith"; and although this has been cited before, the extravagant and vociferous claims to the effect that Paul really meant "faith only" require repeated attention to the truth. Note:

Through whom we received grace and apostleship, unto obedience of faith among all the nations, for his name's sake (Romans 1:5).

But now is manifested, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, is made known unto all nations unto obedience of faith (Romans 16:26).

It would be impossible to overestimate the significance of Paul's placement of these two verses, situated like the lions on each side of the throne of Solomon, standing as the Alpha and the Omega, guarding the portals of this great treatise of God's righteousness, but necessarily dealing with justification by faith, and making sure that "he who runs may read" and not be deceived as to the degree of faith Paul was discussing. One may not enter or leave this epistle without confronting the fact that it was "the obedience of faith" which summed up the end and all of Paul's apostleship (Romans 5:1:5), and that it is "the obedience of faith" of all nations which enables them to participate in redemption (Romans 16:26). Thus, "obedience of faith" must be understood as included in Paul's salvation "by faith." The following example from Paul's writings shows how and when faith makes one a child of God:

For ye are all sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ (Galatians 3:26,27).

Thus, faith saves one by leading him to accept forgiveness of sins in God's appointed institution, the spiritual body of Christ; and salvation is accomplished when faith becomes obedient to the degree of causing him to be baptized into Christ, and to put on Christ. As Lipscomb expressed it:

To be saved through faith in Christ Jesus, to be baptized unto the remission of sins, to be baptized into Christ, and to put on Christ, all mean exactly the same thing.[6]

Even in the very epistle we are studying, and where so many allegations to the contrary are allegedly grounded, Paul went so far as to define exactly the point in the time sequence of the believer's obedient actions when his salvation actually occurs. Thus:

But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being THEN made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness (Romans 6:17,18 KJV).

The omission of "then" in some of the translations does not remove the meaning, for it is implied anyway; and even Phillips retained it in his rendition. Thus, a man is saved "by faith" WHEN he obeys the gospel, and not before. It is not amiss, then, to declare unequivocally that baptism for the remission of sins on the part of a true and penitent believer is salvation "by faith." If that is not true, how could Christ have said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16)?

We have peace with God ... should read "Let us have peace with God," according to many scholars; and that rendition is given as an alternate reading in the English Revised Version (1885) margin. The difference turns upon two very similar Greek words, [@echomen] and [@echoomen], the latter meaning "we have," and the other meaning "let us have." The scholars assure us that the preponderance of manuscript authority favors the first, "let us have"; and Lenski went so far as to say:

The assertion that textual authority for "we have" is also good is not true. ... A number of expedients are advanced in order to justify the use of the indicative ("we have"), such as that, when speaking, Paul had in mind the short vowel, but that his amanuensis Tertius wrote the long vowel by mistake. "The sense must conquer the letter," we are told; but the letter alone conveys the sense, and we change the sense when we change the letter.[7]

Lenski's comment is introduced here because of the clear and forceful way in which he emphasized that what the holy writers said, the actual letter of what we have received from them, must take precedence over what any man thinks they might have meant! The application of this principle will resolve the question of "faith" vs. "faith only," since it was of "faith" that Paul wrote, and never of "faith only," the latter being urged as Paul's "meaning," even by Lenski!

The decision of whether "we have" or "let us have" is correct cannot logically be attempted by this writer. In any event, the difference is of no consequence either way; and thus. after noting what appears to be a valid objection against the rendition in both KJV and English Revised Version (1885) in this instance, the sentence will be discussed as it stands in those versions, since that is the text which most people have.

Peace with God ... means that the fierce rebellion against God is no longer within the heart; the war is over, and man has submitted to his Maker; and the ensuing new status changes everything. God is angry with the wicked every day; and Paul described the Gentiles in their state of rebellion as "children of wrath." That wrath pertains to every man who has not come into the inheritance of peace with God in Christ. It was to that peace which Augustine referred when he said, "Thou, O God, hast touched me and translated me into thy peace!"


Peace is the great legacy of Christ to them that love and obey him. In the annunciation, the angels brought word of "peace on earth to men of good will" (Luke 2:10); Zacharias prophesied of the Dayspring from on high who would "guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:79); and Paul spoke of the "joy and peace in believing" (Romans 15:13). Jesus said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).

This peace, like every other spiritual blessing, is in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), a thought also expressed thus:

And the peace of God that passeth understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

This marvelous peace is exactly the blessing which troubled man most needs and so incessantly seeks, even if his seeking is but an unfulfilled subconscious longing after it. The insatiable desire for that heavenly peace is never abated until people rest in Christ. In the great invitation (Matthew 11:28-30), Jesus spoke of the rest people would find and of the rest that he would give; and both are what Paul referred to here (Romans 5:1). Despite the eternal truth that no worthwhile peace may be procured by means of any human device, people are, nevertheless, in constant pursuit of it, employing all kinds of strategies in their sad efforts to possess it; and, no matter how frequently time has demonstrated the ineffectiveness of one device or another, people still strive in the same old discredited ways to establish their peace, overlooking the availability of this dearest of all possessions as a free gift from God in Christ.

Note the various ways in which people strive vainly for that peace, a peace which God is willing and ready to give them when they turn to him: (1) People seek peace by moving to the suburbs, planting a garden, and building a hedge, only to discover that peace is not a commodity that any realtor can sell. (2) Some seek it by going to a psychiatrist, only to learn that no psychiatrist can convey to another the peace that he does not himself possess. (3) Some seek peace through the ardent advocacy of this or that social system, or by participation in campaigns for the alleviation of alleged human woes; but it would be just as reasonable to suppose that one could cure twenty cases of measles by putting them all in the same room, as it is to suppose that any scheme for better housing, for example, could cure the agony of human beings whose wretchedness is due to their sin and not to their circumstances. The savage tides which swell and flow in the hearts of millions of unregenerated people will never yield to the magic of some political solution, nor disappear through any readjustment of earth's material wealth. (4) Others seek peace by means of the bottle, the needle, and the pillbox; but the reliance upon such pitiful devices cannot evoke some miraculous genie, as in Moslem mythology, that can pour the oil of peace upon the turbulent waters of the raging storms that trouble the hearts of people. Alcohol, narcotics, and drugs produce death instead of life, hell instead of heaven, agony instead of peace. (5) Still others seek peace through the pursuit of the pleasures of life, only to find as sage, philosopher, and poet alike have found, that peace comes not from pleasures.

But pleasures are like poppies spread, You seize the flower, its bloom is shed; Or like the snow falls in the river, A moment white, then melts forever.[8]

Alexander Maclaren said:

Sooner or later, the mad, whirling dervish of life will slow down, falter, and grind to an irresistible stop, where the facts of unrest and soul disquietude must inevitably be faced.[9]

(6) And some even think to find peace by means of human achievement; but efficacy for the impartation of peace to the. human soul is not found in any such device. Alexander of Macedon found only dust and ashes at the end of that rainbow, and so will any other who follows that illusion to its wretched end. (7) Yet another device has commended itself, throughout history as being a source of peace for troubled people. It is a sacerdotal arrangement, in which a human contemporary is given a special kind of education, a special kind of garb, and a special kind of dignity in which such a one is elevated to a position of alleged sanctity, and then commissioned as an agent to procure peace and grant it to his fellow mortals. Thousands of years of the use of this elaborate device have demonstrated, alas, that sacerdotal man is no holier than ourselves and no more able to procure peace than others. It is time that people should be reminded again that:

There is one God and one mediator between God and men, himself also man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:5).

As for the old superstition that any man can absolve another of his sins and impart any peace worth having, it is hereby affirmed in the light of that Word that liveth for ever and ever, that the scriptures teach no such thing. "Only God can forgive sins"! (Mark 2:5).

Through our Lord Jesus Christ ... The way of receiving that peace is plain. The source is Jesus Christ. It may not be procured, therefore, through people. Inscribed upon the north facade of the impressive tomb of William Rockefeller in Tarrytown cemetery, Tarrytown, New York, are these words of Augustine:


How may people possess that peace of God through Christ? By means of the obedience of faith so perfectly expounded by Paul in Romans. Atheism is no refuge for the soul. Even the great achievers among the ranks of atheists, such as H. G. Wells, have confessed that peace is no part of their endowment. Wells declared:

I cannot adjust my life to secure any fruitful peace. ... Here I am at sixty-five still seeking for peace ... that dignified peace is just a hopeless dream.[10]

Wilbur M. Smith, in the summation of a remarkable chapter on the subject of peace and joy in believing, said,

In skepticism and unbelief, there has always been, there cannot help but be, despair in the place of hope, a miserable unceasing restlessness in the place of peace, and either an ever-deepening sorrow or a chilling stoicism instead of true and abiding joy. For all who have come to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, no matter what their previous life was, no matter what their circumstances in life, there is available a peace that passeth all understanding and a joy the world can never take away. There is peace and joy in believing; there is neither in unbelief.[11]

By faith ... The emphasis in this commentary on "the obedience of faith" is not intended to diminish in any manner or degree the true necessity of wholehearted, unreserved faith in God and in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is still the strong man that carries the little child Reason upon his shoulders. Faith is part of the foundation of Christianity; and without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Whenever and wherever in human hearts there is enough faith to lead one to walk in all the light he has and strive for more, there, it may be presumed, is enough faith to save. The reason for insisting throughout this work that "faith only" is a sinful addition to the word of God, and in fact a denial of it, stems from two reasons, the first being that God's word nowhere says that justification is by faith only, and the second being that it is impossible to define faith as automatically including obedience. When pressed, the advocates of the "faith only" position will often fall back upon the presumption that if one truly believes, he will also obey. Opposed to that presumption is this statement from the New Testament.

Even of the rulers many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees, they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God (John 12:42,43).

The Lutheran error of supposing salvation to be by faith only, sprang from overlooking the biblically stated truth that many people did "believe on" the Lord Jesus Christ but, through love of the world, refused to follow him. As to the thesis, then, that true faith automatically includes obedience, it is utterly disproved by the lives of millions in every age, including those cited in John 12:42,43. In this context, it is interesting to note that Christ said, "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments" (John 14:15); but he did not say, "If ye have faith in me, ye will keep my commandments," the latter being categorically untrue. Precisely in this, then, is the outrage of teaching that salvation is "by faith alone." Far from leading people to obey the gospel, that false doctrine is actually made the ground and excuse of millions for not obeying it!

[6] David Lipscomb, Commentary on the New Testament Epistles (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1969), p. 92.

[7] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 333.

[8] Robert Burns, Tam O'Shanter, stanza 7.

[9] Alexander Maclaren, origin of this quotation unknown.

[10] H. G. Wells, quoted by Wilbur M. Smith, Therefore Stand (Boston: W. A. Wilde Company, 1945), p. 197.

[11] Wilbur M. Smith, op. cit., p. 477.

Verse 2

Through whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand; and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

The observant student will already have noted that Paul's writings in this letter lay great stress upon being "in Christ." Already, in this chapter, justification was said to have been through Christ; peace with God is through Christ; and here it was declared to be Christ "through whom" there is access by faith into this grace. The state of grace, or favor, into which Christians have access through faith, is that of the kingdom of God (Philippians 3:20). As Lard noted:

That this state of favor is identical with the church or the kingdom of God, hardly admits of doubt.[12]

Through Christ ... as used by Paul has exactly the same sense of "in Christ," and refers to the state of being united with Christ in his spiritual body. This appears from a comparison of Paul's statement here that peace is through Christ with the statement of Christ himself that peace is "in" him. He said:

These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace (John 16:23).

Access ... means entry into; and, as to just how the access of believers into the state of grace is accomplished, no less a scholar than Alford said:

This access would normally take place in baptism. (Commenting on Alford's remark, Lard continued) This remark he (Alford) doubtless made in view of the following: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). To be in the kingdom is certainly to be in "this favor"; hence, the means of access into that is the means of access into this. In view of these facts, Alford's remark would seem to fall little, if any, short of the truth.[13]

"Access," as used here, is a big word with reference to Christian privilege, referring to the ability of Christians to come boldly into the very presence of God for such purposes as offering worship, prayer, thanksgiving, or praise. Thomas noted that:

The thought includes the possibility of entrance, and also the privilege of introduction, as in a presentation at court.[14]

In such a concept, Christ actually appears as a sponsor and advocate of sinful people who have been justified "in him," and are thus members of his spiritual body.

Grace wherein we stand ... Macknight noted that the mention of "grace" here shows that it is a different blessing from "peace" mentioned in Romans 5:1:

It is the gracious new covenant which Christ procured for mankind, and which is the source of their peace.[15]

Wherein we stand ... is a reference to the firm and sure establishment of the Christian hope in Christ, the same being not a precarious and uncertain position at all, but one of the uttermost security and confidence.

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God ... is a reference to the hope of eternal life, this great hope being a consequence of the security in Christ and a fountain of that peace which blesses the heart of the Christian. All of the judgments that Paul had revealed in earlier chapters against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people, and all the stern judgments that await sinners, and all of the death, suffering, and sorrow that all people must pass through, because of Adam's transgression - all such things might form the basis of an antagonistic arraignment of God in human thoughts. How can a righteous God allow such suffering, injustice, and inhumanity of men against men, etc.? But the inherent, intrinsic righteousness of God, as opposed to all such thoughts, appears in this, that people, despite all sufferings, sorrows, and death, may yet attain unto eternal life, even unto the glory of God himself! Paradise lost can yet be Paradise regained! It is indeed a just and benevolent God who, although allowing the snake in Eden (in service of his own wise designs), stepped into the breach with the Remedy when man sinned, and that not upon any emergency or makeshift basis, but in perfect harmony with the plans God had made before times eternal.

We exult in the hope of the glory of God ... is the translation of this place favored by Murray, who declared that it means,

Rejoicing and boasting on the highest level. It is exultant rejoicing and confident glowing ... the object of this glowing is stated to be "the hope of the glory of God.[16]

Earlier references to "boasting and glorying" in Romans (Romans 2:7; 3:27; 4:2) describe it as an undesirable action, even reprehensible; but in this place Paul was speaking of another kind of boasting, not merely permissible but commendable, and even commanded, as in Hebrews 3:6. The atmosphere that maintains a genuine Christian life is never the consequence of external conditions alone; but the climate for Christians living their life of faith is improved and made more favorable by Christians themselves who honor the divinely imposed obligation to glory in the grace wherein they stand.

The basis of the glowing mentioned in this verse is the existence of something far down the corridors of the future, being the hope of the glory of God, which is but another way of saying the second coming of Christ, when he shall appear in his glory to judge the living and the dead. There are many teachings in the New Testament relative to the glory of God; and perhaps all of the overtones of this vast subject are gathered up and echoed here. God's intrinsic glory will at last be discovered and demonstrated to all people at the time when "the books" are opened, and when all people appear before the judgment of the throne of God. The majestic glory of the Father on high must ever be a subject of the greatest interest to Christians; and the hope of seeing God at last, and of seeing our Pilot "face to face" - such things must be included in the meaning of "hope of the glory of God." The implication of Paul's words here are profound. He most certainly meant to include eternal life, ultimate union with God, and the eternal felicity of the redeemed in Christ, as composing the ground of the "rejoicing" of the faithful in Christ.

Regarding the kind of boasting which Christians should employ as a helpful device of their own encouragement, Sanday observed that,

The Christian has his boasting, but it is not based upon his own merits. It is a joyful and triumphant confidence in the future, not only felt, but expressed.[17]

[12] Moses E. Lard, Commentary on Paul's Letter to Romans (Des Moines, Iowa: Eugene S. Smith), p. 155.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Griffith Thomas, op. cit., p. 148.

[15] James Macknight, op. cit., p. 81.

[16] John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), p. 160.

[17] W. Sanday, Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970), p. 223.

Verse 3

And not only so, but we also rejoice in our tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh stedfastness; and stedfastness, approvedness; and approvedness, hope.

The basis of the glorying considered in the preceding verse was revealed as the ultimate glory which Christians shall share with God himself in the final day, and therefore, invisible, far removed from the present time, and having nothing to do with the prosaic affairs of everyday living; but, in these verses, the basis of glowing is revealed as the very adversities through which Christians pass. Again, from Sanday:

The Christian's glorying is not confined to the future; it embraces the present as well. It extends to what would naturally be supposed to be the very opposite of a ground for glorying - to the persecutions that we have to undergo as Christians.[18]

A comparison of what Paul wrote in these verses with what he wrote in Romans 5:2 reveals a circle: hope-tribulation-stedfastness-approvedness-hope, thus showing that the attainment of the glorious final hope depends upon the soul's response to tribulations. What a sacred light this sheds upon the sorrows and disciplines of the Christian's earthly pilgrimage! All of the misfortunes, sorrows, calamities, and bitter disappointments of Life are not meaningless tragedy to the Christian, but are luminous through their connection with the ultimate goals of faith in Christ. Here is the explanation of why Jesus said,

Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:11).

Paul's words in these verses harmonize with the rule of life he followed for himself. He said,

I will glory in the things which concern my weakness. ... I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 11:30; 12:10).

Thus, here is revealed the secret of what was written of the apostles when they:

departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name (Acts 5:41).

Here also appears the ground of Peter's admonition to

Think not the fiery trial strange, but rejoice (1 Peter 4:12,13).

The sequence of the words in the "circle" mentioned above is climactic, in which higher and higher degrees of Christian strength and loyalty are indicated. The great utility of Christian tribulations is that it does for the child of God what combat does for the soldier, making him to be no longer a novice, but a veteran. Paul's stress of the required Christian response to tribulation is further proof that faith, in order to save, must be active and obedient. Moreover, the great theme of Romans, which is the righteousness of God, is very evident in passages such as this. The eternal God could prevent human suffering; but he does not do so, not through caprice or indifference to human misery, but because even the sufferings and tribulations of life are designed to contribute to the development of the child of God, leading at last to the full realization of his hope of the glory of God.

Verse 5

And hope putteth not to shame; because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us.

The reason that the Christian's hope does not put to shame is because of the love of God in Christian hearts, shed abroad through the agency of the Holy Spirit which was (past tense) given to Christians upon the occasion of their being baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38f), the true ground of that hope not being the glorying of people through various tribulations, nor even their love of God, but rather God's great love to them, the latter being proved by Paul's description of that love in the following verses. For additional commentary on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within Christians, see under Romans 8:16. Of distinct interest are the words, "shed abroad in our hearts," showing that consciousness of the love of God is like an inflowing stream, permeating, filling, and flooding the soul with a rapturous awareness of the loving favor of God.

Verse 6

For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: for peradventure for the good man some one would even dare to die. But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

While we were yet weak ... means while we were yet sinners, as shown by a comparison of the first and last clauses of these three verses. What a commentary on the true condition of the sinner is this, that for all of his vaunted power, established and reinforced by every worldly device of wealth, authority, and position, the sinner is "yet weak" until he shall find his true strength in Christ.

In due season ... recalls the fact that the visit of the Dayspring from on high was nothing impromptu, but was the fulfillment of God's purpose of the ages. Even before the foundation of the world, the plan of redeeming men through the death of Christ was clearly formed in God's eternal purpose, which purpose he, in fact, declared in the great protoevangelium of the Bible (Genesis 3:15). When even an earthly king visits a place, he announces his purpose in advance, displays his royal credentials to prevent misunderstanding, and, in due course, arrives "as planned"; thus it was with the coming of the Son of God into our poor world (see under Romans 3:21).

But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law (Galatians 4:4).

Christ died for the ungodly ... This is credible only because it is true, for it never could have entered into the mind of man that such a thing was possible until the unspeakable event itself appeared upon Golgotha. What is meant by "the ungodly"? The answer is, evil and unrighteous people filled with every work of Satan - such were the beneficiaries of the blood of the Master. The ungodly are those who practice lawlessness, idolatry, profane swearing and impiety, disobedience of parents, murder, adultery, false witness, indifference to God, atheism, pride, vanity, and selfishness - to mention only a few characteristics of the ungodly! For people like that Christ died! However, in this connection, it is imperative to remember that Christ died not to save people in their sins but from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

For the good man some one would even dare to die ... It is notable that Paul prefaced that statement with the word "peradventure," meaning perhaps, or maybe; since it is far from certain that even such a milder form of dying for another as that could be counted upon, and even then under the rarest of circumstances. Adam Clarke observed in this connection:

Such cases may be considered merely as possible: they exist, it is true, for romance; and we find a few rare instances of friends exposing themselves to death for friends.[19]

God commendeth his love ... indicates that the "love of God" mentioned in Romans 5:5 is God's love for people, not their love of God. The contrast between "righteous man" and "good man" (Romans 5:7), according to Thomas, is:

To show the difference between one for

whom, as upright, we have profound respect, and one who is also beneficent and elicits our love.[20]

Christ died for us ... is the statement of the grandest truth in inspiration, it being the glory of humanity that Christ would die to save men. At the same time, this truth is the marvel of God that he would do such a thing in order to accomplish redemption. Of this great truth, Spurgeon wrote as follows:

Shout it, or whisper it. Print it in capitals, or write it in a large hand. Speak it solemnly; it is not a thing for jest. Speak it joyfully; it is not a theme for sorrow. Speak it firmly; it is an indisputable fact. Speak it earnestly; for if there is a truth which ought to arouse all a man's soul, it is this. Speak it where the ungodly live; and that is at your own house. Speak it also in the haunts of debauchery. Tell it in the gaol; and sit down at the dying bed and read it in a tender whisper, "Christ died for the ungodly!"[21]

The purpose of these three verses is to show how firm is the basis of Christian hope, such being grounded upon the fact of Christ's dying for men, even at a time when they were ungodly, and thus manifesting a greater love than any ever known on earth apart from this.

[19] Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: T. Mason and G. Lane, 1837), Vol. VI, p. 68.

[20] Griffith Thomas, op. cit., p. 150.

[21] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, quoted by Joseph S. Excell, The Biblical Illustrator (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1963), p. 364.

Verse 9

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him.

The wrath and judgment of God, mentioned in earlier chapters, must be understood in the light of God's great love for people, a love great enough to give the only begotten Son, and in such a manner providing a way of escape from the judgment of wrath against sin. Thus Paul was still pursuing his master theme of God's righteous character. Griffith Thomas observed that:

It is very striking that after Romans 5:1, all mention of faith is suddenly dropped until Romans 9:30 (Romans 6:8 does not really apply). This omission is all the more remarkable because of the prominence of faith up to this time, the verb having appeared at least five times and the substantive twenty-seven.[22]

This very significant fact is another indication that Paul's master thesis is not justification by faith, as so many have supposed.

The thrust of the apostle's words in this verse is to the effect that because Christ died for people while they were yet sinners, it follows that he will continue to bless them, now that he is no longer dead but enthroned at the right hand of all Majesty and power, and especially in view of the fact that those erstwhile enemies have renounced their rebellion against God and have become his servants. Paul here made the blood of Christ the instrument of man's justification, but not in any unconditional sense. It will always be necessary that people approach God in the "obedience of faith."

Verse 10

For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

This is a fuller statement of the argument made in the preceding verse, a conclusion of logic identified by Hodge as "a fortiori":

If the greater benefit has been bestowed, the less will not be withheld.[23]

Murray stated it more fully thus:

The "a fortiori" argument of the apostle is thus apparent. It is to the effect that if, when we were in a state of alienation from God, God showed us his love to such an extent that he reconciled us to himself and instated us in his favor through the death of his own Son, how much more, when this alienation is removed and we are instated in his favor, shall the exaltation of Christ insure our being saved to the uttermost. It would be a violation of the wisdom, goodness, and faithfulness of God to suppose that he would have done the greater and fail in the lesser.[24]

Saved by his life ... suggests the many things revealed in the New Testament that Christ is at the present time doing on behalf of the redeemed. He daily adds to the church those that are being saved (Acts 2:47); helps those who are tempted by providing a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13); provides mercy and grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15,16); makes intercession for his own (Hebrews 7:25; 9:24); is expecting until all his enemies become the footstool of his feet (Hebrews 10:13); and he is, in fact, reigning over all things (1 Corinthians 15:25,26).

[23] Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), p. 138.

[24] John Murray, op. cit., 1p. 175.

Verse 11

And not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Despite the awesome fact of God's wrathful vengeance against sin, and the terrible judgment that awaits wicked people, the thought of God is a matter of rejoicing for Christians, because God has given them reconciliation in Christ. Hodge assures us that the true meaning of this verse is that,

According to the majority of the commentators, we shall not only be ultimately saved, but we now glory in God.[25]

In the matter of glowing, therefore, these eleven verses have come full cycle, as seen by a glance at Romans 5:2. The Christian life is a joyful life, not only because of the ultimate happiness in heaven, but because of present blessings as well; and not the least of present blessings is reconciliation through Jesus Christ. The ransomed soul is no longer at war with its Creator, no longer terrified at the very thought of a righteous, sin-punishing God, but a member of the Father's own family.

Note: The KJV translated "atonement" for "reconciliation"; but the thought is very similar, the atonement being, in fact, the true basis of the reconciliation. It is clear enough in these first eleven verses that Paul was justifying, through his masterful and logical reasonings, a different attitude toward God, an attitude of regarding him in love and thanksgiving, rather than an attitude of hatred and rebellion which marked the attitude of the wicked in pre-Christian ages. Paul attempted to bring about that change through explaining the righteous character of God, with special emphasis upon the love he had for his human creation.

Verse 12

Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all people, for that all sinned.

The righteousness of God's character needed the apostle's attention in another area, that being in respect of that incredibly awful truth that because of only one man's sin, and only a single sin at that, death had passed upon the entire race of people. In this verse, one is confronted with the impenetrable mystery of the fall of the human family in that sad instance wherein the federal head of the race deliberately chose to reject the benign rule of his God and Creator and to become the servant of the devil. More is in that disaster than people shall ever know until they see their Saviour face to face. As Moule expressed it:

Nowhere does the divine Book undertake to tell us all about everything. It undertakes to tell us truth, and to tell it from God; but it reminds us that we "know in part," and that even prophecy, even the inspired message is "in part" (1 Corinthians 13:9).[26]

One of the most difficult questions related to the study of the Bible is situated squarely in this incredible thing that through only one person's sin, and that only in a single instance, death came upon every one of earth's teeming populations. What a vast consequence for such a little rebellion! But, however people may draw back from it, the sad facts are indisputable. Furthermore, life as it is still constituted upon this earth is an unvarying demonstration of the very same principle, as, for example, when a careless driver sends his automobile off a cliff; it is not the driver alone who pays the penalty, but the innocent passengers as well. The eternal righteousness of God who created and maintains such a system is in no way compromised by the way the system works. It operates according to God's wise design; and the Father's true righteousness, Paul vindicated at once, showing that, in the same manner that death came upon all through Adam, Christ, the second Adam, has brought life and salvation to all.

Ironside has a perceptive summary of the significance of Christ as the second Adam, thus:

Adam the first was federal head of the old race. Christ risen, the Second Man, and the last Adam, is head of the new race. The old creation fell in Adam, and all his descendants were involved in his ruin. The new creation stands eternally secure in Christ, and all who have received life from him are sharers in the blessings procured by his cross and secured by his life at God's right hand.[27]

For that all have sinned ... does not mean that every person ever born commits sin in exactly the same way as Adam. The heathen, the innocent, and the incompetent suffer the penalty of death, because the entire status of earthly life was altered by Adam's transgression, and all people partake of Adam's penalty. Even the Saviour, perfectly innocent though he was, through his entry into our life incurred its penalty.

Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Thus, God's law regarding sin and death was proved to be operative invariably and without partiality or exceptions, even upon God himself "come in the flesh"! How truly marvelous is the absolute righteousness of God. No thoughtful person could find fault with the justice and fairness of such a Governor of creation.

[26] H. C. G. Moule, The Epistle to the Romans (London: Pickering and Inglis Ltd.), p. 144.

[27] H. A. Ironside, Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1928), p. 69,

Verse 13

For until the law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

The subject Paul introduced in Romans 5:12 is left hanging until Romans 5:18; and the ensuing verses (Romans 5:13-17) are parenthetical. At first glance, this verse appears to be stating a paradox. In the pre-Mosaic period, sin was not imputed; how then can it be said that "sin was in the world"? Godet explained it thus:

Even during the time that elapsed down to the giving of the law sin was in the world (as evidenced by the fact that all died); now sin is undoubtedly not reckoned in the absence of law. Nevertheless, that did not prevent sin from reigning during all the interval between Adam and Moses, which proves certainly that it was imputed in some measure.[28]

Man was created in God's image; but it is stated of Adam that when he begat a son, "Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image" (Genesis 5:3), the significance of this appearing in the fact that Adam, through sin, had effaced the divine image which he bore previously; consequently, the contamination of the natural man was transferred through every birth ever recorded on earth. Thus it was that death reigned from Adam to Moses and till now, except upon those who live in Christ. It is not intended here to lend assent to the doctrine of original sin. It was not Adam's guilt that was transferred, because the Saviour himself described the innocence of little children (Matthew 18:1-10).

This is the place, perhaps, to consider that Enoch and Elijah did not pass through death, but were translated, these two exceptions to the universal penalty of death standing alone and isolated in the sacred text. Why there were these two exceptions is not revealed; but they have the practical effect of teaching that death would not have come to Adam and his posterity except for the fall in Eden. There are a number of questions relative to Adam's fall and its disastrous consequences to all who ever lived that may not be dogmatically answered, there being elements of a mystery in those primeval events which lie somewhat beyond the boundaries of finite understanding.

Verse 14

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come.

Both Adam and Moses are types of Christ, but here the focus is upon Adam, a figure also developed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49. Adam was the great progenitor of the human race; Christ is the spiritual head and father of all that are saved. Adam brought shame and death to all mankind; Christ has made possible the salvation of all mankind. Adam's bride, Eve, was taken from his side while a great sleep was upon him. Christ's bride, the church (in a figure) was taken from the side of Christ while the sleep of death was upon our Lord, as evidenced by the blood and water that came forth from the thrust of the Roman soldier's spear. As the Scriptures say:

This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood (1 John 5:6).

Satan seduced and deceived the bride of Adam; and in the long, wretched story of the historical church, it is evident that Paul's fear of the same fate for the bride of Christ was more than justified (2 Corinthians 11:3). It is clear, therefore, that Adam is to be considered as a type of Christ, more in the instance of contrasts than in similarities. Adam's one sin contrasts with Christ's entire life of perfect holiness. Death for all which followed Adam's disobedience contrasts with life for all which followed as the consequence of Christ's obedience.

In this verse Paul took account of the alleged injustice of God in permitting death to fall even upon them that had not sinned as did Adam (infants, for example); and, in keeping with what is construed in this commentary as Paul's great theme of vindicating God's righteousness, the following words of Godet are appropriate:

This imputation of Adam's sin, as the cause of death to every individual man, would be absolutely incomprehensible, and incompatible with the justice of God, if it passed beyond the domain of natural life marked off by the mysterious relation between the individual and the species. The sequel will show that as soon as we rise to the domain of spiritual life, the individual is no longer dependent upon the solidarity of the species, but that he holds his eternal destiny in his own hands.[29]

Thus the great and eternal righteousness of God appears in the fact of the Remedy provided, a remedy in which the reverse consequences of Adam's fall may be received in Christ Jesus, and wherein all who apply it may find everlasting life through him.

Verse 15

But not as the trespass, so also is the free gift. For if by the trespass of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound unto the many.

Godet's opinion that this and the two following verses are "among the most difficult in the New Testament"[30] is surely justified; and the opinions of learned scholars as to the exact nature of the contrast between the two Adams intended by Paul are so diverse as merely to add to the confusion. As it stands in English, the first clause appears to mark a contrast between "a sad effect and a happy effect,"[31] or the contrast between "just recompense and free grace."[32] In the second clause, there is plainly a contrast of numbers, as pointed out by Tholuck,[33] that is, a contrast in quantity. An objection against the view that a contrast of quantity is intended is lodged in the fact that death through Adam was universal; how then could Paul's "much more" be applied to the consequences of Christ's achievement? The problem is resolved in this, that except for the success of Christ's earthly mission, the human family would long ago have terminated; and, therefore, it is most fitting to grant a greater quantity to the beneficial work of Christ than to the destructive work of Adam. Every man ever born on earth since Jesus Christ owes his physical existence, as well as his spiritual hope, to the Saviour; for if Christ had failed, there would no longer have existed any righteous basis whatever for the continuation of the race of people. Regarding the theoretical peccability of Christ, see my Commentary on Hebrews, p. 99.

[30] Ibid., p. 213.

[31] Ibid., p. 214.

[32] Ibid., p. 213.

[33] Tholuck, as quoted by F. Godet, op. cit., p. 213.

Verse 16

And not as through one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment came of one unto condemnation, but the free gift came of many trespasses unto justification.

Paul was here pursuing a line of thought stressing the contrasts between Adam and Christ. In the verse immediately preceding, there was mentioned a contrast in quantity. Here the contrast is between the fact that condemnation resulted from the single sin of a single individual, and the fact that justification, on the other hand, applies, not to a single sin only, but to all sin.

Verse 17

For if, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one: much more shall they receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ.

Continuing the presentation of the contrasts between the two Adams, Paul here noted the contrast in the quality of the consequences deriving from the actions of each. The reign of condemnation deriving from Adam was through death; the reign of righteousness deriving from Christ was through life. Life is more than death, "much more"! Furthermore, the life in Christ reaches ultimately an eternal status. Paul had, with this verse, concluded the discursive detour that he began with Romans 5:13, and was about to affirm (Romans 5:18-19) that the universal justification in Jesus Christ (potentially) is the counterpart of the universal condemnation in Adam. Immediately, in the next two verses, Paul would state the great conclusion which he had in mind as far back as Romans 5:12, but which he did not state until he had laid the logical ground of it in the intervening paragraph, which although not set apart by marks of parenthesis, is, despite that, truly parenthetical.

The gift of righteousness ... is a mistranslation, as a glance at the English Revised Version (1885) margin reveals. The Greek text says, "an act of righteousness," meaning, of course, God's act of righteousness. Thus this passage does not support the concept of "a righteousness" in the sense of Romans 5:1:17, although it appears that the translators might have had that in mind by such a rendition.

Attention is again called to the admitted difficulties in the interpretation of these verses (Romans 5:13-17); and, in view of the extensive dissertations of scholars, and the many conflicting opinions of the learned, it is appropriate to enter a disclaimer of dogmatism. What has been advocated here is that which the words, as they stand in English, appear to this writer to say; and since our Lord himself said, "What is written in the law; how readest thou?" we have dared to put it down.

There are striking contrasts in this chapter: (1) There is the contrast between the two Adams (see under Romans 5:14); (2) there is the contrast between the two reigns, (a) that of sin and death and (b) that of grace and righteousness; and (3) also the multiple contrasts heralded by Paul's five successive "much more's" (Romans 5:9,10,15,17,20). A more detailed study of the latter is in order:

(1) Contrasted with the fact that Christ died for us while we were sinners, is the truth that we are "much more" saved by his life. (2) Contrasted with our sinful condition, we are "much more" saved by Christ in our state of reconciliation. (3) Contrasted with the fact that worldwide condemnation resulted from one man's sin, and that only in a single act, "much more" did the grace of God reach out to cover all the sins of all the men who ever lived (potentially). (4) Contrasted with the reign of death through the one (Adam), "much more" shall Christians receive abundance of grace through God's righteous act in the one (Christ). (5) Contrasted with the abounding of sin because the law came in, is the abounding of grace "more exceedingly." These five "much more's" loom like mountain peaks and are suggestive of the great "I am's" of the Gospel of John.

Verse 18

So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all people to condemnation; even so through the act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life.

The injection of no less than seven words into this verse by the translators to make Paul say what they thought he meant was altogether gratuitous. They do not clarify at all, but merely confuse. Stripping the verse of the italicized portions of it (which make up more that 20 percent of it), we have the following:

So then as through one trespass unto all men to condemnation; so through one act of righteousness unto all men to justification of life.

This is a terse way of saying that, just as through one act of Adam all people received condemnation, just so, through God's one righteous act (of sending Christ), came the justification of life. Of course, Christ is indeed God's free gift; but not the freedom of that gift, but its righteousness, is what Paul stated here.

This is the great proposition Paul began to state at Romans 5:12. Just as a single act of Adam resulted in universal death to all mankind (as applied to natural death only), so God's one righteous act of giving his only begotten Son, the second Adam, brought life to all people, physical life to all since he came, and eternal life to all who believe and obey him. (See under Romans 5:15).

What a righteous thing it was for God to provide a means to recover the lost inheritance of Paradise! As Ironside expressed it!

A life is offered as a free gift to all who are involved in the consequences of Adam's sin, which life is the eternal life manifested in the Son of God who once lay low in death under the sentence of condemnation, but arose in triumph, having abolished death, and now as Head of a new race, imparts his own resurrection life, a life with which no charge of sin can ever be linked, to all who believe in him.[34]

This is the "new creation" of which Paul frequently wrote.

Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold they are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Let it be noted that the new life is specifically limited to them that are "in Christ." Someone has described Romans as "The Theology of Salvation in Christ"; and that is the phase of Paul's teaching that he was about to develop more fully in the next chapters.

The gift of God, which is Christ with all that he means, is here said to be "unto all." Are all therefore saved? Paul wrote Titus thus:

The grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world (Titus 2:11,12).

Of course, the fact in view, both here and in Titus, is the availability of Salvation to all people, and this has no reference to their actually possessing it. An old minister was once asked a question as to why some are lost. The questioner asked,

"Why is it, since salvation has been brought to all people, that some are lost?"

The old minister replied,

"Why is it that, in spite of all the crystal streams of water that have been flowing down the ermine peaks of snow-clad mountains for thousands of years, there are still dirty people?"

Richard Batey has a wonderful exposition of HOW the act of Christ reversed the consequences of Adam's act of rebellion. He wrote:

Adam desired to be like God, knowing good and evil, and disobeyed God. In the desire to be like God, Adam transgressed the limits of his creaturely existence. ... On the other hand, Christ who did not count "equality with God a thing to be grasped" (Philippians 2:6), emptied himself and assumed the form of man the creature and servant.[35]

Pride always has been and always will be the great temptation of man. It was by pride that Satan himself fell; it is pride that goeth before destruction, that leads the procession of the deadly sins, and that sets up the barriers across every pathway, whether of thought or action, that leads to life.

[34] H. A. Ironside, op. cit., p. 75.

[35] Richard A. Batey, The Letter of Paul to the Romans (Austin, Texas: R. B. Sweet Company, 1969), p. 75.

Verse 19

For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

This is a restatement, for emphasis, of what Paul had just written; but as Thomas noted, there is a significant addition to the thought.

One point in the comparison is still incomplete. Adam's sin has not been contrasted with Christ's obedience, but with the cause of that obedience. ... It is now shown that these effects were wrought by means of Christ's obedience, the exact contrast of Adam's disobedience.[36]

Fittingly, in view of all that Paul had written, touching upon justification through the "obedience of faith," he brought dramatically to the foreground in this, the climax of his thoughts in that connection, the obedience of Jesus Christ. Implicit in this is the great fact that only by a perfect faith and a perfect obedience is it possible to attain justification in the sight of God; and how, then, may people have such perfect faith and obedience available to them unto justification? Only "in Christ," that is, by being dead to themselves, by forsaking utterly their old identity, and by perfect identification with Christ, being "in him," and thus being saved by his perfect faith and obedience, and not by their own. The greatest heresy of all ages is the proposition that a stinking sinner's faith can justify the sinner, either with or without obedience of the kind any man would be able to exhibit!

On this verse, R. L. Whiteside observed that,

"The many" here includes all that arrive at the years of responsibility. Paul does not say how these were made sinners by the disobedience of Adam, nor how they are to be made righteous by the obedience of Christ. It is pure assumption to argue that the disobedience of Adam is imputed to his offspring, or that the obedience of Christ is imputed to anybody. Neither guilt nor personal righteousness can be transferred from one person to another; but the consequences of either, to some extent, may fall upon others.[37]

What Whiteside observed regarding the fact that it is absolutely impossible to transfer righteousness from one person to another is profoundly true. It is not by transferring the righteousness of Christ into sinners that God justifies and saves the lost, but by transferring the sinners into Christ! The sinner dies to himself, effaces himself utterly, dies to sin, puts off the old man, and enters Christ, thus having a new identity "in Christ," with the consequence that the perfect faith and obedience of Christ, called Christ's righteousness, are thereupon his, actually his; for, in a very real sense, he IS CHRIST. Paul put it like this:

It is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me; and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith (not my own faith) which is in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20). (Parenthesis mine; italicized additions to text omitted).

For me to live is Christ (Philippians 1:21).

It should be noted, especially, that Paul avoided the construction of this verse in such a manner as to require its application to infants. The salvation of infants who die before attaining an age when they might either believe or obey the Lord does not come within the purview of Paul's teaching here, nor for that matter, of anything in the New Testament. The Lord did not see fit to enlighten people on how those dying in infancy are saved. Why? It was absolutely unnecessary. Human beings, however, are loathe to let a thing like that alone; and people have not hesitated to illuminate the void on this question with their own peculiar darkness. The following epitaph from St. Andrew's churchyard in Scotland is a case in point.

Bold infidelity, turn pale and die. Beneath this stone, four sleeping infants lie: Say, are they lost or saved? If death's by sin, they sinned, for they are here. If heaven's by works, in heaven they can't appear. Reason, ah, how depraved! Turn to the Bible's sacred page, the knot's untied: They died, for Adam sinned; they live, for Jesus died![38]

It has already been noted that Romans 5:19 is so constructed as to avoid its application to infants; but people have thrust that meaning into it anyway, and then have perverted it to teach, as in the epitaph, that people do not have to obey to be saved! Of course, every falsehood has feet of clay; and the unwritten words in the epitaph are that "If heaven's by faith, they still cannot appear"! But appear they will, of course. God has his own way of saving the innocent, and there is utterly no need to be concerned with it, for it has not been revealed in scripture.

[36] Griffith Thomas, op. cit., p. 158.

[37] Robertson L. Whiteside, A New Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Saints at Rome (Denton, Texas: Miss Inys Whiteside, 1945), p. 125.

[38] H. A. Ironside, op. cit., p. 77.

Verse 20

And the law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly.

Here is the fifth of the great series of "much more's" which mark this portion of Paul's letter. See under Romans 5:17. Paul used "law" here without the article; but the translators are correct in supplying the article, for it cannot be doubted that the law of Moses was Paul's subject, not merely here, but everywhere this term is mentioned in Romans. The abounding of sin which followed the giving of the law was the subject of this word of Lyth,

The wise physician often gives medicine, to bring the disease from within to the surface, and make it abound, so to speak, with a view of driving away the disorder, and so enabling health to reign in the system of his patient.[39]

Irenaeus was probably the first to use that illustration, thus:

The law is a poultice to bring sin to a head.[40]

Greathouse observed that,

The law's intrusion was not without divine point. It was introduced to increase consciousness of wrongdoing (Galatians 3:19). Men will never see their sin or feel their need of a Saviour until their sin becomes transgression.[41]

The connection here between the giving of the law and the abounding of sin cannot be construed as teaching that God's intention was to increase sin. Whiteside noted that

God did not give laws for the purpose of making people worse sinners, but to restrain people from wrong and guide them in the right way. There is this, however, the more things law prohibits, and the more things it requires, the more points there are where we may violate the law. In that way, law may increase the number of sins.[42]

It would seem that there is also another sense in which law caused sin to abound, and that is in the sense of focusing the attention of the sinner upon a prohibition, and thus prompting him to commit an act that might not have occurred to him in the absence of the prohibition. There is a perversity in people that violates laws merely because they are laws. For example, if there were a law forbidding people to walk backward for one hundred yards, there would be people to violate it; or, if there were a law that no man might run more than one mile in a single day, there would be people to violate it who had never run a mile in all their lives previously.

From the above, it would appear that the entrance of law caused sin to abound: (1) by focusing attention upon things prohibited; (2) by actually multiplying the number of violations; and (3) by making people more conscious of the fact that they were violators. As Thomas noted,

As we review this great passage, we must take care to enter into the fullness of the apostle's meaning. Not only does he teach that what we have derived from the first Adam is met by what we have derived from Christ, but that the transcendence of the work of Christ is almost infinite in extent.[43]

Dr. Mabie, as quoted by Thomas in this same place, said:

The full meaning of Paul is not grasped until we perceive that the benefits received from Christ, the second Adam, are in inverse ratio to the disaster entailed by the first Adam.

[39] Lyth in Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., p. 431.

[40] Irenaeus, quoted by Wm. M. Greathouse, op. cit., p. 123.

[41] William M. Greathouse, op. cit., p. 122.

[42] Robertson L. Whiteside, op. cit., p. 126.

[43] Griffith Thomas, op. cit., p. 159.

Verse 21

That as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sin is personified in this verse and represented as a heartless and cruel monarch ruling pitilessly over his victims in death, meaning that sin brings death to all that are contaminated by it. Whiteside believed that "death" here is a reference to "spiritual death" only;[44] but Lard took a more comprehensive view, declaring that,

It would be quite as correct, I presume, to speak of sin reigning in the punishment after death of the finally impenitent, as of its reigning in death now. Sin reigns in all the evil that it has entailed upon man, whether time or eternity be in view. ... On the contrary, grace is here personified as a benignant king, whose reign is only partial now; but whose victory is sure in the end. Release from sin is the means or scepter through which favor is to achieve its final victory. This blessed reign is to go on, and never cease, until its consummation in eternal life "through Jesus Christ our Lord."[45]

Therefore, Paul had truly vindicated the righteousness of God in the vigorous arguments presented in this chapter. The first eleven verses showed the righteousness of God in the use of human sorrows and heartaches as disciplines leading to ultimate glory, and not to be understood as evidences of God's indifference; and in the remaining verses, he showed that the disastrous consequences of Adam's transgression had been more than offset by a righteous act of God himself through the giving of the Beloved for man's redemption, the latter action of God not merely counterbalancing Adam's disastrous behavior, but transcending it to infinity.

[44] R. L. Whiteside, op. cit., p. 127.

[45] Moses E. Lard, op. cit., p. 192.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Romans 5". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.