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Romans 5

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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What Does It Mean "To Live" by Faith (5:1-8:39)?

The theme of this epistle is found in the words of Habakkuk: "The just shall live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). Paul develops in chapters one through four the first half of his proposition: "He who through faith is righteous shall live." He proves first that all are guilty of sin and consequently stand under the wrath of God. Then he demonstrates how through Jesus Christ God can declare guilty sinners righteous upon the basis of their obedient faith in Jesus. In chapter four, he explains that Abraham was typical of all who are justified by their faith. In other words, in order to participate in the righteousness of God, men must have the kind of faith Abraham had. Finally, he concludes his argument with the resounding words:

Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him (that is, to Abraham—AWB); But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification (4:23-25).

In chapter five, Paul enters into a new argument. Building on the truths of the previous section, he begins to develop the last half of his theme by showing what it means to say that he who has been declared righteous on the basis of his faith "shall live." This development extends from chapters five through eight. Nygren says:

Where the wrath of God rules there is death; where the righteousness of God rules, there is life…. He who believes in Christ has passed from death to life. Christ lives in him (Galatians 2:20), and he lives in Christ. Through Christ he has been delivered from the age of death and received into the age of life. What does it mean to "live," in this pregnant sense? That is the question Paul is about to discuss. Each of the next four chapters has its contribution to make to the answer. Chapter 5 says it means to be free from wrath. Chapter 6 says it is to be free from sin. Chapter 7 says free from the law. And Chapter 8 says we are free from death (188).

Naturally, since the two parts of Paul’s theme are contingent upon one another, we are not surprised when the concluding thought of the first section, "raised again for our justification," is reflected and summarized by the opening words of the new section, "Therefore being justified by faith."

Chapter Five

This chapter has two distinct sections (verses 1-11 and 12-21). In the first section, the key words are peace (1), reconciliation (10), and atonement (11). Paul establishes that the life of the justified believer is characterized by peace with God. In this discussion, it is a mistake to identify justification and reconciliation as simply different metaphors denoting the same thing. Rather, the justification that comes to the believer necessarily involves reconciliation. Cranfield explains the difference:

Whereas between a human judge and an accused person there may be no really deep personal relationship at all, the relation between God and the sinner is altogether personal both because God is the God He is and also because it is against God Himself that the sinner has sinned. So God’s justification of sinners of necessity involves also their reconciliation, the removal of enmity, the establishment of peace…. The fact that men have been justified means that they must also have been reconciled. The fact that they are righteous by faith means that they now live as God’s friends (100-101).

In verses 2-5, the life of believers at peace with God is described, and hope is emphasized as its dominant feature. In verses 6-8, Paul shows how completely undeserved is God’s love for us. Finally, in verses 9 and 10, he picks up again the theme of hope and affirms the certainty of our hope’s fulfillment—our eternal salvation. We are told in verse 11 that the fulfillment of our hope is possible through Jesus Christ by whom we have been reconciled to God; and thus, believers experience jubilant exultation in God.

The second division in this chapter (12-21) relates the conclusion to be drawn from the previous section. Comparing what was lost because of Adam’s sin with what was gained through Jesus’ sacrifice, we learn that in Jesus, God’s grace has super-abounded to men. Not only are the universal effects of Adam’s sin cancelled in Christ for all men unconditionally but also the effects of the individual’s own personal sins are cancelled for all of those who choose to believe in Jesus.

Verse 1

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;

Therefore, being justified by faith: The word "Therefore" serves a dual function. It introduces a summary of the preceding argument (1:18-4:25) and also ushers in a smooth transitional clause connecting what follows with what precedes. Such a construction is not unusual with Paul. Romans 3:23 sums up the previous section (1:18-3:20), and connects it with the subsequent one. The same type of wording occurs again in Romans 8:1, which sums up the argument of chapter seven and opens up the one in chapter eight.

When Paul summarizes the instruction concerning justification (1:16-4:25), he does not teach the popular denominational doctrine of justification by faith alone. Nothing could be further removed from Paul’s mind. In the first place, he sounds his mission clearly at the outset (1:5) with these words: "we have received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith" (NIV). In the second place, he closes the book with a similar declaration, explaining why the gospel was given—"so that all nations might believe and obey him" (16:25-26 NIV)—lest anyone forget or misconstrue what he has written. In the third place, the idea that Paul ever taught a doctrine of mental assent (belief) only without the action required by that acknowledgment (obedience) is absurd (2:7-11; 6:16-18; 10:13-21; 15:18; 1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 10:5-6; Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 2:8-10; Ephesians 5:24; Ephesians 6:5-10; Philippians 2:5-16; Philippians 3:16; Colossians 2:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; 1 Timothy 6:3; 1 Timothy 6:11-14; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Titus 3:8; Philemon 1:21). Many more passages could be elicited from Paul’s letters, revealing the absolute necessity of an obedient faith. Finally, the immediate context demands that the faith by which men are justified be interpreted as an obedient faith. The first clause of chapter five must not be isolated from chapter four. The thrust of chapter four is that the faith that justifies is the kind of faith Abraham had. It is easily demonstrated both from Paul’s own writing (4:12, 17-21) and from the book of Genesis (12:1-25:10) that Abraham’s faith was marked by these essential qualities:

1. A continuous daily trust in God, which is evidenced in total commitment to God’s will;

2. A determination to obey the known will of God, which is evidenced in practice;

3. A humble, repentant heart ever willing to correct its thoughts and/or actions when they are discovered to be inconsistent with God’s will.

When Paul argues that we are made righteous by faith in Christ instead of by works of the law, it is equivalent to saying that men become righteous by obedience to the gospel rather than by obedience to the law. As Whiteside notes:

With Paul, faith in Christ means full acceptance of Christ as he is revealed to us and the faithful ordering of our lives according to his will. They greatly err who seek to prove by Paul that we are justified by faith only, without obedience to the gospel (114).

we have peace with God: Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God. Before leaving the concept of justification, Paul speaks of justification as a completed past act. Justification is not like sanctification, which is an abiding and increasing work throughout the Christian life. When one believes in Jesus Christ as God’s son to the degree that he places his full trust in Him; repents of his sins; confesses with his mouth the faith that is in his heart, saying, "I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God"; and is baptized for the remission of his sins; he is justified or declared righteous by God. It is a completed action.

Consequent to his justification, the believer has peace with God. Since he has been forgiven of his sins and declared to be righteous on the basis of his faith, the wrath of God has been taken away, leaving peace to reign. One of the marks of the believer’s new life is "peace with God."

Paul is stressing the fact that "we have been justified" means we have also been reconciled and have peace with God.

The peace we have with God is not only an inner condition of the soul. It is not simply a subjective state of mind. Nor is it simply a feeling or emotion. Ordinarily, when we think of peace, we mean the opposite of disturbance or unrest. We mean a calm, exalted, and peaceful mood of the soul. And, clearly, Paul includes these ideas in his meaning here; however, there is more to it than that. Paul describes a concept that implies a relationship—the mutual relationship between God and man. Nygren comments:

If one stands in the right relation with God, it follows also that his inner condition is one of calm and rest; but this is a consequence and not the basic fact. That which is fundamental is the relation of peace with God; and it is primarily of this that Paul speaks (192).

Before Christ came to earth, before He paid the penalty for sin by the sacrifice of Himself upon the cross, the relationship between God and men was marked by opposition, separation, and even enmity (verse 10). On both sides the relation was disturbed. Man was in rebellion to God’s will. By seeking his own will, man was at enmity with God. God, on the other hand, though He was never man’s enemy, was justly wrathful against hostile humanity. But through the reconciling work of Jesus, the relationship between God and believers has been righted. As Nygren notes:

He who through faith is righteous no longer stands under the wrath of God; nor is he any longer, on his part, hostile to God. Both of these aspects are included in the fact that he has peace with God (193).

The accent falls on the objective side: Christ has removed the wrath of God from those who have been justified by their faith. To live in Christ is to be free from the wrath of God. Paul knows the wrath of God is an unspeakably terrible reality (2 Corinthians 5:11). That is why so much emphasis must be placed on the objective nature of the peace the justified believer possesses. If the only value of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice were a subjective theory of the atonement, resulting in the removal of man’s hostility to God, but with no real change on God’s part, then nothing of substance would have been gained. No change on the part of man can effect a real fellowship between him and God. The fact is God has become friends again with the faithful, and His righteous wrath is removed from them. They have peace with God.

Before leaving this phrase, the reader should consider a textual problem. The controversy revolves around whether the Greek word rendered "we have" in the King James Version should be rendered "let us have" as it is in many more recent versions. The problem is over one letter in the Greek. Should the text read e&xwmen with a long "o" (ω - omega) or e&xomen with a short "o" (o- omicron)? It appears this distinction amounts to a difference with virtually no substance. If the omega spelling is accepted, Paul is stating a fact: those justified by faith have peace with God. If the omicron spelling is adopted (apparently the evidence for this idea is weightier), then Paul is saying let us enjoy the peace with God that we have because of our justification by faith. Metzger comments in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (Third Edition):

Although the subjunctive e&xwmen (spelled with the omega—AWB) …has far better external support than the indicative e&xomen …a majority of the Committee judged that the internal evidence must here take precedence. Since in this passage it appears that Paul is not exhorting but stating facts ("peace" is the possession, of those who have been justified), only the indicative is consonant with the apostle’s argument. Since the difference in pronunciation between omicron and omega in the Hellenistic age was almost non-existent, when Paul dictated e&xomen(the indicative with the omicron—AWB), Tertius, his amanuensis (16.22), may have written down e&xwmen (the subjunctive with omega) (452).

through our Lord Jesus Christ: In Romans 3:24, our justification is through Jesus; thus, we are reconciled to God through Jesus (verse 10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). This formula is repeated with slight variations in verses 11 and 21 of this chapter. Also, it appears at the end of chapters six, seven, and eight (6:23; 7:25; 8:39). These references seem scarcely accidental. They have the double effect of marking off these four sections of the epistle and, at the same time, underlining that they belong together as a single main division. This entire section describes the new life of the Christian, and Paul insists repeatedly that everything he is saying is true only "in Christ" and through Christ. Without Christ, one would always remain in bondage to the rulers of this world. But when Jesus becomes the believer’s Lord—his owner, ruler, master, and controller—He brings to an end the dominion of the powers of evil. No longer are we in their grip. Nygren explains:

When Christ is our ku/rio$ (Lord—AWB), there can be no other kurio/th$ (lord—AWB). All the old tyrants—Wrath, Sin, the Law, and Death—are cast down, and we become Christ’s and live under Him in His kingdom, serving Him in eternal righteousness. We are set free from the powers of destruction; we are free from wrath, the power of destruction which Paul has particularly in mind in this chapter (194).

Verse 2

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace: The Christian, the man justified by faith, has peace with God. God’s righteous indignation and wrath have been appeased. Man has been forgiven of his sins and has been declared to be righteous. God has become his friend again by virtue of his reconciliation to Him (2 Corinthians 5:19). All of these benefits and more have been accorded to the believer through our Lord Jesus Christ. "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace’’—that is, into this state of justification. Over and over again it must be emphasized that the blessings that accrue to those who are justified come not through any worthy deeds upon man’s part but through Jesus Christ. Paul elsewhere says:

But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7).

As Alford suggests (878), this access into God’s grace opens for the believer when he is baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of his sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27; 1 Peter 3:21). prosagwghn (access) means "approach, access, admission, to the presence of anyone" (AGLP 349). Baptism is the step of faith that admits the believer into "the house of God which is the church of the living God" (1 Timothy 3:15; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 4:4-6; Ephesians 1:22-23).

wherein we stand: Paul may have used "stand" here simply to describe the situation in which the believer finds himself—in other words "wherein we are." But more likely he intends to convey the concept of firmness or steadfastness. The idea is expressed by "stand firm" or "abide." Alford says, "Wherein we stand—that is abide accepted and acquitted with God; see 1 Cor. xv. 1, 2; 2 Cor. i.24" (878).

To stand in grace with God is the opposite of standing under his wrath.

and rejoice in hope of the glory of God: This phrase should probably be understood as coordinate with "we have peace." The idea is Christians have peace with God and consequently they "rejoice in hope…" The word rendered "rejoice" poses some difficulty to translators. Properly it is the word "boasting" (3:27), but boasting is usually to be taken in a bad sense. Consequently, it does not fit well here because Paul uses it in a good sense. Kauxw/meqa, however, is also translated "glorying" (4:2). That word would be acceptable except the word do/ch$ later in this clause can only be translated "glory." To render both words as "glory" is not good because it implies that both are from the same Greek word. Most modern versions have opted for the translation "exult" over the milder "rejoice" of the King James Version. The Analytical Greek Lexicon says it means: "to glory or boast, Romans 2:17; Romans 2:23 …to boast of a person or thing, to undertake a laudatory testimony to, 2 Corinthians 12:5; to rejoice, exult, Romans 5:2-3; Romans 5:11" (Perschbacher 234).

Cranfield adds that "it denotes a glorying or boasting, an exultant jubilation, resulting from confident expectation of the glory of God" (103).

There is an interesting contrast between this verse and Romans 3:23. There "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God," but here Christians "exult in hope of the glory of God" (Conybeare and Howson 509). Peter styles it that Christ makes Christians "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:2-4).

Paul wants believers to recognize that at present, as long as they are alive on earth, their new eternal life is theirs only "in hope." One of the marks of the Christian life is that it is, at the same time, both present and future, something that is both at hand and waiting for its fulfillment. Since the "glory of God" is an essential quality of the Christian’s present possession of life in Christ, it has not yet reached its consummation. That is precisely why the believer is warned so often in the New Testament to abide faithful through thick and thin. We reach the glory of God in actuality only when we are ushered into heaven (2 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:10). Nygren concludes it is "toward that end (that) Christian hope reaches forward, not as to something uncertain, but to something absolutely certain, of which it may already rejoice" (195).

Verse 3

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;

And not only so: Not only does the Christian exult in the hope of the glory of God but also he exults (glories) in tribulations.

but we glory in tribulations also: The idea is probably not that Christians should exult in the midst of their afflictions, though that is a possible interpretation. More probably, the Christian exults in spite of afflictions. No one rejoices because he is in pain or under trial (Ephesians 5:29). Paul is stressing that the Christian’s joy in Christ is more deeply seated than the transient sufferings of this life (Romans 8:18; 1 Peter 1:3-9). In other words, one’s afflictions in this life are the basis or cause for his exultation. The reason is revealed in the next phrase.

knowing that tribulation worketh patience: The Christian exults in his afflictions for at least two reasons: (1) He knows by faith that his hope is in heaven and that when Christ comes he will be more than conqueror (Romans 8:37) over his enemies; and (2) as Paul states here, he knows the affliction he experiences here disciplines him and forces him to wait patiently on God for his deliverance (Hebrews 12:1-11). Strength, both moral and physical, develops only by overcoming resistance. Thus, Paul counsels Timothy: "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3).

The devoted Christian must be careful. He must not exult in his affliction as though his endurance were somehow meritorious. Instead he must be cognizant that his suffering becomes in God’s hand a means to carry him toward the consummation of his hope in Christ. When God allows us to suffer, He does so to exercise us in patience and endurance. As Nygren comments, "suffering has the very effect of making the Christian hope the more eagerly for the ’glory’ which God has promised him" (196). A Christian’s afflictions render these benefits only when under trial he remains firm and constant in his faith and obedience.

Verse 4

And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

And patience, experience: Calm and abiding endurance under trials by fire will render the Christian approved. The word translated experience (dokimh/n) means "trial, proof by trial…the state or disposition of that which has been tried and approved, approved character or temper" (AGLP 105). When the believer’s faith remains patient and enduring under affliction, he gains that quality possessed by faith when it has stood up to testing, like the precious metal that is left when all the dross has been refined away (1 Peter 1:7).

and experience, hope: When the believer’s faith has been proved by God in the fires of tribulation and he has patiently endured the test, his hope in God and the fulfillment of His promises are raised to new heights. Strengthened and confirmed in his hope of glory, he launches out to begin the circle of hope, affliction, patience, and hope again. Each time he is made stronger and draws nearer to his hope of the glory of God. On and on he marches by faith resting in the security of peace with God and the hope of a home in heaven when the battles of this life are finished.

Verse 5

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.

And hope maketh not ashamed: Hope, which has passed triumphantly through purging fires of tribulation developing a well-tempered, enduring patience along the way, and which has emerged with unalloyed experience, is not illusionary. Hope, thus refined, strengthened, and confirmed, will not put to shame those who cherish it. These words are reminiscent of Psalms 22:5-6: "They trusted in thee and were not confounded." The Septuagint Version in Greek and English renders the passage: "They hoped in thee and were not ashamed" (709).

because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts: The reason believers, who have been tested and approved, can be so confident is that God has demonstrated His love for man objectively and concretely in the sacrificial death of Jesus. They will never be disappointed, and their hope will not prove illusionary.

There is some controversy whether the "love of God" in this verse should be viewed as a subjective genitive or an objective genitive. Does it speak of God’s love for us or of our love for God? Grammatically, both are possible. It is clear contextually that the former is intended. Cranfield observes, "a statement of the fact of God’s love for us is a far more cogent proof of the security of our hope than a statement of the fact of our love for God would be" (105). Verses 6–8 also clearly describe God’s love for us. The explicit words of verse 8 are "God commendeth his love toward us."

Speaking of God’s love, the Greek word a)ga/ph, translated "love," is not rooted in emotion or feeling. Instead its ground is reason and action based upon that reason (Trench 39). This being the case, the reader expects in this context some concrete evidence of God’s love toward man. Happily, this evidence is supplied in verses 6-8. One is reminded of John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Interestingly, Paul says God’s love "is shed abroad in our hearts." "Shed abroad" (e)kke/xutai) derives from e)kxe/w, which means "to pour out…to shed blood…; passively to gush out…to spill or scatter; metaphorically to give largely or bestow liberally" (AGLP 132). It is the same word used in Acts 2:17-18 as well as in Acts 10:45 in reference to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But it is also the same word used to describe the pouring out of God’s wrath in both the Old and New Testaments (Revelation 16:1-4; Revelation 16:6; Revelation 16:8; Revelation 16:10; Revelation 16:12; Revelation 16:17). In Malachi 3:10, it is used of the pouring out of God’s blessing.

by the Holy Ghost which is given to us: The fact that the word "shed abroad" is used in conjunction with this phrase has led some commentators to suggest that Paul has in mind the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles in Acts 2 and Cornelius and his household in Acts 10 (Alford 878). Several persuasive arguments for this position can be assembled. The same Greek word represented by "shed abroad" is used in the Septuagint version of Joel 2:28-29. It is the word used in the Acts passages as well (2:17, 18, 33; 10:5). Paul also uses this word to describe miraculous power in Titus 3:6. A comparable passage is Galatians 4:6. When these verses are coupled with the fact that the verb tense is aorist, which describes a completed past action, a strong case can be made. Alford observes, "the past participle refers to a past act, namely, the Pentecostal effusion of the Holy spirit" (878). Such a view coincides well with the idea of a concrete proof of God’s love (Hebrews 6:3-4).

There can be little doubt that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles comes to Paul’s mind when he writes this passage; however, there is less certainty whether the miraculous events describing the baptism of the Holy Spirit are exclusively intended by his language here. As mentioned earlier, this word (shed abroad) is used of other concepts as well. He may have selected this metaphor to express vividly the generosity of God’s love as evidenced in the giving of His Son to die for the sins of the world (5:6-8).

Verse 6 begins with the preposition "for," which should be understood "if indeed" (The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English 455). Cranfield says:

The words "in our hearts" and "through the Holy Spirit" which on this view present a difficulty, are best explained by assuming that we have here a pregnant construction, and that the meaning is that God’s love has been lavished upon us (as will be spelled out in verses 6-8) and actually brought home to our hearts by …the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (106).

But how has the Holy Spirit been given to the believer? Whiteside answers, "the Holy Spirit by revelation, by miracles, and by spiritual gifts, filled their hearts with the knowledge of God’s love" (116-117). In other words, Paul is speaking of the fact that the knowledge of God’s love has been made evident to believers by the miraculous power manifested in the apostles and the men upon whom they laid their hands. This transfer of power also made possible the written word that came from these men as they were borne along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21; Ephesians 3:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). He is not talking about any emotional feeling, and neither is he describing a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the body of the believer. Always in the scriptures, the Holy Spirit dwells in the believer through a medium—the word of God. His dwelling is indirect and never direct (Macknight Vol. I 275). That Paul makes no further reference to the Holy Spirit implies his argument rests upon God’s love to us, not upon the fact that His love is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit through the word of God. This fact, while true, is merely incidental. The real proof of God’s love in verses 6-8 rests on the historic fact of Christ’s death. Paul appears unable, however, to comment on God’s love, on which rests our glorious hope, without honoring the Spirit of God through whose agency God makes known His love in His holy word. This passing reference is a precursor of important doctrine taught in chapter eight.

Verse 6

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

For when we were yet without strength: "Without strength" ( a)sqenw=n) means "to be weak, infirm, deficient in strength, to be inefficient…to be sick" (AGLP 56). Paul is describing the condition in which every person finds himself without Christ. All men and women are guilty of sin. When Paul uses the word "we," he includes himself and all of humanity. Before Christ died for the world, every person was weak, powerless. In fact, humans were unable to save themselves either by atonement for their past sins or by future perfect obedience. Both remedies were beyond the reach of every person. Caution should hold sway here. Paul does not mean the sinner is unable to believe God or incapable of obeying God. He means that without the death of Christ, humanity would be helpless to escape the clutches of sin and condemnation. But the death of Jesus opened for all men and women the way to escape from sin’s bondage.

in due time Christ died: Christ died for us at the time appointed by God (Mark 1:15; Galatians 4:4-5). The death of Christ on behalf of sinners constitutes a major theme in this epistle (3:25; 4:25; 6:10; 7:4; 8:32; 14:15).

for the ungodly: The ungodly here are the "we" who have been described as powerless without the death of Christ. They are the "sinners" of verse 8 and the "enemies" of verse 10. Paul uses the "ungodly" here to clearly delineate whom he means. If he had used "us" here as the pronoun, the word might have been misconstrued by his readers. They might have applied it to themselves as Christians. Such an understanding of Christ’s death as being efficacious only for those chosen by God in eternity past is the false doctrine of the limited atonement which teaches incorrectly that Jesus did not die for all but rather only for the "elect" as the Calvinist would understand the term "elect." But the term "ungodly" admits of no such Calvinistic misconstruction. Christ died for all men and women, Jews and Gentiles, who are ungodly sinners. That is the essence of God’s great love.

Verse 7

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

Paul intends here to demonstrate the greatness of God’s love by exploring the farthest reaches of human love and contrasting its insignificance with the love God manifested toward mankind.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: It is extremely rare, if not unheard of, for someone to be willing to die in the place of a man characterized by righteousness. Properly, a righteous man, according to Beet, is "one whose conduct agrees with the Law" (152). In order to understand Paul’s comparison, we must interpret the word "righteous" here a bit more narrowly than we normally would. In contrast to the "good man" of the next clause, the righteous man is one whose predominant characteristic is justice. He does what the law requires and no more. In describing him, one would not use words like gentle, meek, generous, kind, loving, merciful, or good. Whiteside describes "a righteous man" as:

…one who acts on the cold principle of justice. Such a man neither gives nor takes. He gives neither short measure nor over measure. He is the proverbial man that splits a grain of wheat that he and the man with whom he deals may each have his exact portion, regardless of the needs of the person with whom he deals (118).

Such a man does not engender feelings of endearment in the breasts of most people. They may applaud his honesty and rectitude, but they are unlikely to enjoy his company, let alone be willing to die in his stead.

yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die: The good man is more than just. He is beneficent. Words like kind, amiable, generous, merciful, loving, gentle, and meek readily attach to his name. He is devoted to the care and provision of others. To him, we may indeed be endeared. Even so, not many would brave the fear of death to give their lives for such a man; albeit a few might do so. Notice the gigantic contrast in verse 8.

Verse 8

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

This statement is a monumental contrast to the outer limits of human love, which might, rarely, cause one to give his life for a good man but hardly for a just one. Christ died for us when we were ungodly sinners—not a forty-second cousin, even to a just man; not to mention a good one. Jesus died for sinners—for those who were his enemies. Again, Whiteside remarks:

To die for those who hate and abuse us is love supreme. Jesus did that. He died even for those who mocked, scourged and crucified Him. He died that those who shed his blood might live. Never other love like that (118).

God’s love represented by the word "his" is emphatic. Christ’s death is both the proof of the superiority of God’s love and the revelation of the nature of God’s love for us. His love is altogether undeserved. It derives from nothing in man that may have elicited it. It is wholly from God, Himself (Cranfield 107).

In verse 8, God’s love for us is used interchangeably with Christ’s love for us. That is because to Paul both are expressions of the same thing. Nygren comments:

The love revealed in the death of Christ is not independent of God. God is Himself the subject of that love. It was not the case that Christ showed only His own love by giving His life for us… Christ’s action is God’s action. Christ’s love is God’s love. When God in His love would save mankind from dominion of the powers of destruction, He did so by giving His Son for us, and made Him our mercy seat. That is the greatest and most incomprehensible act of God’s love. After the sacrifice of Christ, we could not speak conclusively about God’s love without referring to the cross of Christ; and as little could we speak about the love revealed in Christ’s death without seeing in it God’s own love. The two are one and the same. Paul has stressed this more than anyone else; and the passage here under discussion may be called the classic text on the oneness of God’s love and Christ’s cross. The simplest expression for this is "the love of the cross" (201-202).

Verse 9

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

The argument here is one of comparison. Since God in His infinite wisdom has succeeded in the most difficult task of justifying ungodly sinners while maintaining His own absolute righteousness in the punishment of sin (3:23-26), Christians may be completely confident that He will be able to do what is comparatively easier—that is, save from His wrath at the end of time those who have already been declared righteous in His sight.

In verses 5-8, Paul reveals that God’s love for us was evidenced in Christ’s death. He writes this way because God’s love is the basis for the removal of God’s wrath and our consequent reception into the new relation of peace with God. Because of God’s love we have access to His grace and can even now rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God (5:1-4). Nonetheless, one must recognize that God’s wrath is a reality not limited to this life only. It is true that the wrath of God is even now revealed from heaven "against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (1:18). Yet God’s wrath against sin lasts as long as time continues—thankfully, so do His patience and forbearance. Thus, the last word on God’s wrath has yet to be spoken. Peter describes a day when the heat of God’s wrath will destroy the universe and all that is in it (2 Peter 3:9-12). In Romans 2:5, Paul calls it "the day of wrath." On that day God will be manifested as the righteous judge "who will render to every man according to his deeds" (2:6). The question Paul answers here in verse 9 is: What will happen to the faithful believer who lives in Christ on that day? Will he be saved in that day? By "saved" Paul means the final deliverance from all evil. He often uses the word "saved" in this manner (10:10; 13:11; Philippians 1:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:10). Peter uses the word this way also (1 Peter 1:9). It is furthermore true that the process of salvation has already begun and is progressing. Consequently, in some usages believers presently possess salvation (8:24; Ephesians 2:5; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:15). Still, it is toward salvation’s completion on the day of judgment that Paul looks here. Through the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross and the shedding of His blood, the believer has been freed from the wrath of God in the present age. Will he also be able to stand before God "in the day of wrath"?

To Paul, the answer is clear and simple, an apparent consequence of what he has already said about the love of God demonstrated through Christ. If it is so that while we were still His enemies and served unrighteousness, God manifested His love toward us by sending His own Son to die for us, how could it possibly be that He would surrender us to the destructive power of His righteous judgment against sin at the end of time—especially, now that we are no longer enemies but justified believers, "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4)? Thus, Paul’s conclusion: "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."

Verse 10

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:

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: This sentence is a parallel statement to the previous one in verse 9, but it takes the matter one step further. Since God has already accomplished the more difficult project by reconciling believers to Himself when they were His enemies, they can have complete confidence that He will be able to do what is the comparatively lesser project—save those who believe and who are now His friends at the great and final day. The word "reconciliation" is formally introduced here though the concept was present in verse 1. It means "properly to change or exchange (especially of money); hence, of persons, to change from enmity to friendship, to reconcile" (Vine, Vol. III 260).

Controversy frequently exists here over who changed—God or man—and over whether or not man must do anything in order to be reconciled. This is because the Greek verb kathlla/ghmen is active only when God is the subject. When man is the subject, it is passive. In other words, God reconciles and man is reconciled; however, Vine’s comments easily remove all controversy:

With regard to the relationship between God and man, the use of this and related words shows that primarily reconciliation is what God accomplishes, exercising His grace toward sinful man on the ground of the death of Christ in propitiatory sacrifice under the judgment due to sin, 2 Corinthians 5:19, where both the verb and the noun are used. By reason of this men in their sinful condition and alienation from God are invited to be reconciled to Him; that is to say, to change their attitude, and accept the provision God has made, whereby their sins can be remitted and they themselves be justified in His sight in Christ (Vol. III 260).

It is God who reconciles men and women to Himself. God is the one offended by their sin, and thus He must initiate the process of reconciliation. This He did in sending His Son to give Himself a ransom for all upon the cross. Men and women must receive God’s reconciliation by believing in Christ and obeying the gospel. Cranfield offers this view:

It was "through the death of His Son" that we were reconciled to God, because, on the one hand, Christ’s death was the means by which God pardoned us without in any way condoning our sin and so laid aside His hostility toward us in a way that was worthy of His goodness and love and consistent with His constant purpose of mercy for us, and, on the other hand, it was the means by which He demonstrated His love for us and so broke our hostility toward Himself (109).

by his life: The reference here is to Jesus’ resurrected life. He is not dead but risen. If Jesus accomplished so much for us, when He seemed so weak that His enemies put Him to death, how much more can He accomplish now that He lives in heaven as our King and High Priest? By ruling in our hearts and lives and interceding for us before God, Jesus gives us confidence of our eternal salvation provided we abide faithful. It is clearly left up to each person, however, to choose whether or not he will avail himself of the justification, reconciliation, and salvation offered by God to those who accept His way and submit in faithful obedience to His will.

Verse 11

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

Paul’s view now returns to the present from the distant future scenes of the last day. He says not only shall we be saved hereafter, but even now we rejoice—"exult" is probably a better word. To Paul this jubilant exultation in God is characteristic of the Christian life as a whole. Indeed, believers face all the tragedies, sorrows, heartbreaks, sufferings, problems, and difficulties of life; and even more because of their stand for Christ (8:18-23; 1 Peter 1:3-9). Yet, in spite of all that, the Christian exults. His joy in Christ is more deeply seated than the transitory sorrows of life. His joy runs deep and sustains him in the day of trial. It rises above the pettiness of human life and causes him to yearn anxiously for a home in heaven.

The boasting that is excluded in Romans 3:27 arises from complacency and self-righteousness. It is false and must not be tolerated. The boasting or exultation approved here in verse 11 is based in our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have received the gift of reconciliation with God. As Cranfield notes, "this gift which we have already received through Him is ground enough for ceaseless exultation" (109).

The King James Version rendering of the word "atonement" is unfortunate. In verse 10, the translators correctly render the same word "reconciliation" and so they should have done here. The atonement is the offering itself of Christ upon the cross under the judgment of God against sin. We do not receive the atonement. We do receive its result, namely, reconciliation; thus, katallaghn should have been translated here (Vine, Vol. III 260).

Verse 12

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Wherefore: Paul now introduces the most difficult passage to understand in the entire book of Romans. Nygren quotes Adolf Schlatter who declares:

…evangelical theology’s interest in Romans lapses as soon as it has reached the beginning of the fifth chapter; that it concerns itself only with the apostle’s teaching about justification and its fruitage—that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (16).

While this may be true and in direct proportion to the increasing difficulty of understanding Paul, Nygren notes that "the truth is that this passage (Romans 5:12-21—AWB) is actually the high point of the epistle, in the light of which the whole is best to be understood" (20).

Two questions arise concerning the import of the word "Wherefore": From what premise is Paul drawing a conclusion? Where is the conclusion he introduces?

As to the first question, some writers believe Paul references only verse 11 with the word "Wherefore." Others believe the reference is to verses 1-11 of chapter five. A third group suggests that all that proceeds from Romans 3:21 is comprehended. Finally, some appeal to all that follows from Romans 1:17 as the reference. If one is interested in pursuing the details of these suggestions, he may read Godet’s commentary (200-203). It seems most likely that the specific premise issuing in this conclusion is found in verses 10 and 11—-"the death of his son…our Lord Jesus Christ by whom we have received the atonement." But more broadly Paul’s aim is the universality of the benefits of Christ’s death; and, consequently, all that has been said from Romans 1:17 is in focus as well. Godet comments:

Justification by faith had just been expounded; the historical foundation on which it rested, its harmony with the Israelitish revelation, the certainty of its enduring to the end—-all these points [have] been illustrated; and the major part of the theme, iii 21 and 22, [has been] thus developed. One idea remains still, and that the most important of all …Universalism was the peculiar character of Paul’s gospel; justification by faith, the subject of exposition thus far, was its necessary condition. To omit expressly developing this decisive feature would have been to leave the fruit ungathered after laboriously cultivating the tree. The Apostle could not commit such a mistake. He performs this final task in the last piece, the very peculiar nature of which suffices to demonstrate its importance (200).

The death of Christ has redeemed us, reconciled us, and justified us. In short, God has provided all that can be provided for the rescue of men from sin by the death of Christ and by His resurrection to life. Everything that was lost in Adam by his sin and everything we have lost ourselves by our own personal sins has been provided for by the sacrifice of Christ and His resurrection. These are the salient points in this section. The universal offer of salvation is the conclusion of all that has gone before.

As to the second question, Where is Paul’s conclusion that has been introduced by the word "Wherefore," we must look to verse 18. In verse 12, Paul begins, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world." As soon as he enters upon this subject, however, he realizes the need to pause in his argumentation and develop more carefully his logical progression. This pause covers verses 12b through 17. Then in verse 18 he expresses the long awaited conclusion: "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."

Paul reiterates his opening statement and then gives the conclusion—"even so." In verse 18, he uses a different pair of Greek words than in verse 12. He began dia tou=to (12) and now he advances &ara ou@n (18) because, as Lard notes, "his conclusion has now become…a sort of double conclusion, both from his main premise and from the matter intervening between verses 12 and 18" (164).

as by one man sin entered into the world: The one man under consideration is Adam. In the Garden of Eden, God laid down His law. "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17). Adam of his own free will chose to violate God’s law.

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat (Genesis 3:1-6).

Detailed clearly for us is this first sin, an overt act. Though the word "sin" is sometimes used to designate a principle or sometimes a power, or as simply evil, it is not used in one of these ways in this passage. The first sin was not a principle, nor a nature, nor a weakness. It was an act. Adam simply chose to do what God had told him not to do. God’s law says, "Thou shalt not eat of it" (Genesis 2:17). But Adam ate of it; and in that act transgressed God’s will (1 John 3:4).

Whatever may have been the origin of evil and however it may have prevailed elsewhere, this passage describes its entrance into the world. As Lard notes: "To it (sin—AWB) three parties stood, each peculiarly related. God was the author of the law; Adam broke it; Satan tempted to the act; and in the act sin began" (165).

The process of sin described by James is evident in this story of Adam’s sin:

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:14-15).

and death by sin: It is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18). God is absolutely righteous (Psalms 119:137; Psalms 145:17; Romans 3:25). God’s word is true and reliable. It is impossible, therefore, for God to lay down a law, attach a penalty to its violation, threaten infliction upon transgressors, and then proceed no further when it is actually broken. Parents, unfortunately, do this all the time. God, however, must keep His word. Consequently, when Adam sinned, death entered the world on the heels of sin because death was the stated penalty of the violation of God’s law to Adam. To be sure, the word "death" is used in a variety of ways in the scriptures. It is used of physical death, spiritual death, and eternal death; however, here the reference is to physical death. The penalty of Adam’s sin was banishment from the Garden of Eden and separation from the tree of life; these resulted in death. The punishments levied by God against Adam, Eve, and the serpent are detailed in Genesis 3:7-24. God concludes the matter:

Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life (Genesis 3:23-24).

Given that Adam did not actually die on the day he ate of the tree, can it possibly be physical death that is under consideration? Two arguments should be weighed carefully—as well as the impact of the next phrase in verse 12. First, a similar construction occurs in 1 Kings 2:37-46; the phrase "On the day…thou shalt surely die" came to pass as the king said it would—but not on the very day the violation occurred. These words can be used to emphasize the certainty of punishment without the punishment occurring on the precise day named in the threat. In the second place, it is more than probable that the reason Adam did not die physically on the actual day of his sin was only that God in mercy slew an animal as a sacrifice for the sins of Adam and Eve. The coats of skin with which God covered Adam and Eve no doubt came from the sacrifice. The sacrifice enabled God to preserve His righteousness and at the same time allowed Adam to live out his natural life after being separated from the tree of life (Genesis 3:21). So, yes, physical death is under consideration here.

Physical death came into the world as a consequence of Adam’s sin. The relationship between sin and death is not that of cause and effect but rather of crime and penalty. The punishment was judicial, and its foundation is in the absolute righteousness of God. The most inexorable and most stern of God’s laws is that sin must be punished. It must have a penalty.

and so death passed upon all men: The penalty of Adam’s sin passed upon all men because he and his progeny were separated from the tree of life (Genesis 3:23-24). Once men could no longer eat of the tree of life, they began to die, and the forces of nature cannot be stopped. "It is appointed unto men once to die" (Hebrews 9:27).

That physical death, not spiritual death, is the penalty of Adam’s sin which was passed to all men, is evident because men do not die spiritually as a consequence of Adam’s sin. Men and women do not inherit the guilt of sin (Ezekiel 18; James 1:13-15; 1 John 3:4; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:16; Romans 7:7-10); however, the consequences of sin often are passed on from generation to generation.

To be sure, Adam died spiritually when he chose to sin, but the sacrifice that is implied in Genesis 3:21 covered his sin. As a result, his relationship with God was not completely severed (or having been severed was restored); however, no person who has ever lived since Adam has died spiritually as a result of Adam’s sin. Only Adam was responsible for his sin. But all people, regardless of their time or station, do die physically as a direct consequence of Adam’s sin and his subsequent separation from the tree of life. If people die spiritually, it is because of their own personal sins. Nevertheless, this aspect of sin is not yet in Paul’s focus in chapter five. Currently, he is explaining that the universal effect of Adam’s sin—physical death—is universally canceled by the death of Jesus—all men and women shall unconditionally be resurrected from the dead. How the effect of personal sin shall be counteracted will be addressed in verse 15.

for that all have sinned: Admittedly, this phrase is difficult to factor into the rest of the verse; however, it should not be interpreted of personal sin. In what sense then did all men and women sin? They all sinned representatively in Adam by partaking of the consequence of Adam’s sin.

Some would object that personal or actual sin is meant because Romans 3:23 says: "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." It is true that all responsible persons have sinned actually and personally, but that is not the point here. The record says that Adam sinned and brought sin into the world by his one act. As a penalty death came also into the world, and thus all men and women die for all have sinned. But what of babies and mentally incompetent people? Have they sinned personally and actually? Do they die spiritually because of Adam’s sin? Of course not! The sin all committed was the sin that induced death to all. There can be only one answer to this conundrum The sin that induced the death of all was indisputably Adam’s sin. Both the Genesis record and Paul’s own statement verify this fact. Therefore, that must have been the sin that all committed. But there is only one admissible sense in which all could have sinned and that is representatively. All sinned in Adam by being in him. Paul uses this same style of argumentation in Hebrews concerning Levi’s paying tithes to Melchisedec because he was in the loins of his father Abraham who actually paid the tithe to Melchisedec (Hebrews 7:9-10).

This interpretation is also attested in Paul’s treatise to Corinth on the resurrection of the body. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22). Clearly, all die in consequence of the sin Adam committed. If death resulted from Adam’s sin on the sole ground of implication in it, then implication by representation must be admitted. We cannot be implicated in Adam’s sin on the ground of actual or personal sin. Obviously, sin by representation is the only viable alternative. It must be remembered that here Paul means to compare the universal adverse effect of Adam’s sin with the universal benefit of the death and resurrection of Jesus. What mankind lost in Adam they regained in Christ. As a consequence of Adam’s sin, all die physically. As a blessing from Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, all men and women will be resurrected.

But what of our own sins? Be patient! Paul will address this problem in verse 15. First, however, he must prove the assertions he has made in verse 12. This he does in verses 13 and 14. Most denominational commentaries go awry at this verse. Macknight and Hodge are exceptions among these and generally take the correct view; however, among Church of Christ commentaries most are more or less on target. The view explained here is adopted by McGarvey, Lard, I.B. Grubbs, Lipscomb, and Shepherd. Coffman starts out well but becomes hopelessly mired in Calvinism (211). Whiteside opts for the notion of spiritual death here but is not insistent with it (120). He says, however, at the beginning of his comments on verse 12:

The remaining portion of this chapter is considered very hard to understand. It is easy to see that Paul was still setting forth the blessings of gospel justification, but it is not so easy to understand some of his reasoning (120).

The problem Whiteside cannot overcome is discovered in verses 13 and 14. If spiritual death is the focus in verse 12, then the argument of verses 13 and 14 does not make sense. The focus in verse 12, however, is physical death, and verses 13 and 14 prove it. Spiritual death brought about not by Adam’s sin but by one’s own personal sin does not come into focus until verse 15.

Verse 13

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

For until the law sin was in the world: To understand this section, two things must be taken into consideration from the beginning. The first is that Paul has begun a proof of what has been asserted in verse 12: namely, that physical death has passed upon all men in direct consequence to Adam’s sin of eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The word "For" offers an explanation for what has gone before. The second is that verses 13 and 14 must be interpreted as a unit. The aim of Paul’s argument is in verse 14, but he prefaces it with verse 13 to avoid being misunderstood. Men and women have always been amenable to God. Law has always been present, and sin has always been present since Adam’s sin; however, there has not always been a law like the one Adam had, and people have not always sinned as Adam did.

"The law" refers to the law of Moses, which was a system of laws like that of Adam. It was a positive divine law, and the stated penalty for violation of many of its statutes was death. Consequently, neither the time when Adam’s law prevailed nor the time when Moses’ law held sway could be used to prove that the physical death of all people was the direct consequence of Adam’s sin. It could be argued that during those dispensations men and women died because of their own personal sins; however, the period between Adam’s expulsion from Eden and the giving of the law of Moses answers Paul’s need perfectly and is the period covered by the word "until." During that period, there was law from God that governed the actions of men and women and there was sin (1:18-32).

The law that governed mankind during those days consisted, first, of the moral code that was written upon the heart of all people (1:18-32; 2:12-16); and, second, of the direct revelations given by God to the patriarchs (Genesis 4-50; Exodus 1-18). Sin was in the world during this time, for men and women often violated the moral code written on their hearts (1:18-32); and sometimes they violated the direct revelations God gave them (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:2-9).

but sin is not imputed when there is no law: Sin is not counted for death when there is no law making death the penalty for breaking it. This is the view required by the apostle’s argument. McGarvey comments:

It is clear, therefore, that Adam died for his own sin, and equally clear that those who lived under the Mosaic law might have died for their own sin as well as for Adam’s sin. But for whose sin did those die who lived in the twenty-five centuries between Adam and Moses? Clearly they died for the sin committed by Adam, their head…. Although it is true that the people living in the world from the days of Adam until the giving of the law committed sin, yet where there is no law condemning to death (and there was none such in those days) sin is not imputed so as to view the sentence of death (334-335).

This is the view supported by Lard, Lipscomb and Shepherd, Grubbs, and with some variation Macknight.

Verse 14

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

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression: There was no sin for which the stated penalty was death during the time between Adam’s sin and the giving of the law; but even though there was no positive divine law during that dispensation, people continued to die. All people were subject to physical death because they were separated from the tree of life.

It is objected by some, however, that there were in fact some who lived during this period who were punished with death because of their sins. Those who died in the great deluge (Genesis 6:5-7) and those who were burned to death in the regions of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16 to Genesis 19:29) are notable examples. Also worthy of note is the general statement that murderers should suffer death for their crimes (Genesis 9:6). Nevertheless, these events were anomalies of the time. They do not involve sins for which the stated penalty was physical death. Such deaths resulted from violations of moral laws learned from nature. There existed no general law involving all (or even most) in the death penalty. Furthermore, these examples do not successfully inveigh against Paul’s argument. It is true that those people died by the direct intervention of God in judgment against their "peculiar wickedness," as McGarvey says (335), but they would have died anyway had not God intervened. This fact is evident as death reigned over all during this time—even over those who did not sin as Adam did by breaking a law for which the stated penalty was death. Personal guilt did not bring about death during this time period for all were subject to death (McGarvey 335). There were some who were unduly wicked, and their sins contributed to their physical deaths. But the general case that prevailed among all was physical death as a consequence of Adam’s sin.

who is the figure of him that was to come: The word "figure" (tu/po$) means "a blow; an impress; a print or mark…an anticipative figure or type" (AGLP 414). Lard contributes this definition:

Religiously, type applies to any thing that, by previous design, resembles another, and so shadows it forth; and the type may be a person, a thing or an event. The thing resembling is the type, the thing resembled is the antitype (174)

The relationship between a type and its antitype can cover a fairly wide spectrum. The relationship may be one of comparison or one of contrast. The two may be similar in one point or in many. In the particular relationship at hand, that between Adam and Christ,

there are both numerous similarities and dissimilarities; however, Paul’s aim was not to mark the ways Adam and Christ were personally alike, but instead to denote the similarity of their acts and the consequences of those acts. Adam’s act of disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit resulted in the universal and unconditional penalty of physical death for all men. In juxtaposition and counterpoint to Adam’s act is the one act of obedience—the death of Jesus on the cross by which He canceled universally and unconditionally the penalty of Adam’s sin by providing resurrection from the dead for all men (John 5:28-29; 1 Corinthians 15:22). Adam’s sin condemned all to the grave whereas Christ’s obedience brought all out alive. Lard concludes:

In a word, whatever evils Adam’s sin brought upon the world, without our agency, are all countervailed, and remedied by the single act of Christ without our agency. Thus Adam is a type of Christ (174).

of him that was to come: Paul speaks here from the vantage point of Adam in time. His reference is to Christ’s first advent and not to His second coming. The contrast is between what Adam did in the garden—sin—and its result—physical death—and what Christ did in obedience to God—gave His life on the cross (Philippians 2:8) and its result—the resurrection of all at His second coming (John 5:28-29).

We are made to wonder, however, what lasting value there can be in the death of Christ if it does no more than cancel the penalty of Adam’s sin. What of our own sin? If Christ’s death avails no more than our resurrection, "we are of all men most miserable." For in addition to suffering the consequences of Adam’s sin, we must also answer to God for our own personal sins. If there were no more value than resurrection for all in Christ’s death, we would be raised only to be condemned to hell for our own sins. Happily, such is not the case for any who would believe in Jesus enough to obey Him. Paul now intends to bring in the problem of men’s own personal sins and to present the glorious resolution to the problem through the other virtues of Jesus’ death on the cross.

Verse 15

But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

But not as the offence, so also is the free gift: Having just asserted that Adam was a type of Christ, Paul hastens to add the resemblance between the one act of each does not amount to equality. To begin with, the two acts differ intrinsically as McGarvey notes: "One being the perfection of self-indulgence, with power to kill, and the other the perfection of self-sacrifice, with power to make alive" (335-336). The two acts also differ in their results and in the scope and certainty of their results, which is the emphasis of Paul’s argument.

While Adam and his sin constitute a type of Christ and His obedience unto death on the cross, Paul wants his readers to realize the cancellation of the effects of Adam’s sin is not the limit of what is offered to all men in the death of Christ. The offense of Adam resulted in the mortality of all people. The free gift results in the resurrection of all men. So far, the two acts are equal in their range. Both affect all men unconditionally in opposite directions; thus, the consequence of Adam’s sin is nullified in the unconditional resurrection of all men from the grave.

The free gift is not like the offense because it extends much farther than did Adam’s sin.

for if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many: The divine record establishes that the sacrificial act of Christ fully cancelled the penalty of Adam’s sin for all men and women unconditionally; but according to Paul, it does "much more."

Pause and consider again what it was that passed upon all mankind as a result of Adam’s sin. It is argued by many that physical death is not primarily what is under consideration in verse 12 (Whiteside 120). They say physical death cannot be the death under consideration because Adam did not die the day he ate of the forbidden fruit. Secondly, verse 12 says that death passed upon all because all have sinned. These writers insist, therefore, that spiritual death is the primary focus in verse 12, for Adam died spiritually as soon as he sinned and so, too, do all people because all have sinned. Such a view is fraught with many difficulties from the outset. In the first place, it makes verses 13 and 14 virtually impossible to explain. More importantly, insurmountable difficulties arise in verse 14. Such a view teaches that all people are declared guilty of Adam’s sin and the false doctrine of inherited sin—which is everywhere spoken against in God’s word (Ezekiel 18; James 1:13-15)—becomes a fait accompli.

It is true that when Adam sinned he died spiritually. The sacrifice apparently offered in the garden by God enabled the justice of God to allow Adam to live for a time physically (Genesis 3:21); and in prospect of the sacrifice of Christ, it allowed God to grant pretermission (Romans 3:26) to Adam for his sin. Physical or natural death passed upon all as a direct result of Adam’s sin because Adam and all his posterity were separated from the tree of life. Consequently, there was no power available to mankind to counteract the forces of mortality that cause the body to die. Thus, "through the offence (Adam’s one sin) of one many (all) be dead (are subject to death)." But men do not die spiritually because of Adam’s sin. Only Adam was guilty of Adam’s sin. Consequence of sin can be passed on to others—even to other generations—but guilt cannot, according to the principles of God’s righteousness. The notion that verse 12 focuses on spiritual death is false. To so perceive the matter would involve the interpreter in the hopeless morass of Calvinism, inherited sin, and total depravity. A view with such a conclusion cannot be right.

Nevertheless, personal sin must be taken into account, for all men and women must answer for their own sins. Paul addresses this problem here in verse 15. As McGarvey says, "the hope of the world lies…in the ’much more’ which Paul states" (336).

The grace of God provided for humanity’s double problem. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross secured for all men and women unconditionally a resurrection from the dead. But if it were no more effective than that, it would have been of no real value, for all people not only need the consequences of Adam’s sin removed but also they need the consequences of their own personal sins removed. If Christ’s death had no greater effectiveness than to cancel the penalty of Adam’s sin, then all people would be resurrected merely to be banished to hell fire for the guilt of their own personal sins. But the grace of God in extending the gift of Jesus’ death provided the solution to the problem of personal sin as well.

Salvation, then, becomes limited. All men and women, the good and the evil, will be resurrected, but not all will be ushered into the glory of heaven. Heaven is reserved for those who choose to place their obedient faith in Jesus; however, the conditional salvation alluded to in the words "much more" is available to all (1 Timothy 2:5; John 1:12; Revelation 22:14-17). McGarvey says:

There are two doors which we must pass in order to inherit eternal life. The first is natural death. This door was closed for all by Adam, and opened for all by Christ. The second is the judgment. This door was closed for all having capacity to sin by their own individual sins, and opened by Christ for those who shall be justified through belief in him. Therefore, in teaching that Christ leads all through the first door, Paul has not taught universal salvation, for true, complete salvation lies beyond the second door. Justification from the sin of Adam is one thing, and final justification from our own sins is quite another (337).

The last phrase reveals that the gift was given not only by the grace of God, the Father but also by the grace of Jesus Christ (John 10:15; John 10:17-18). That Christ’s gift of salvation from personal sin "hath abounded unto many" refers to the fact that all men and women have the opportunity to be forgiven of their own personal sins, but only those who actually place their faith and obedience in Christ will actually receive eternal salvation.

Verse 16

And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.

Paul reveals here another difference between Adam’s act and Christ’s act. There is an incalculable difference in power. Adam’s sin condemned all men and women to die physically. As a result of Adam’s one sin, all of humanity was separated for all time from the tree of life and thus condemned to death. The power of sin must never be underestimated; however, sin’s power pales into insignificance in comparison to the power of the free gift of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. Christ’s death not only countervails the penalty of Adam’s sin but also provides for all men and women to receive the forgiveness of their own personal sins. The power of Christ’s free gift transcends the power of Adam’s sin by infinite proportions. Whenever the effect of Christ’s act equals that of Adam, the benefit is unconditional; but when the effect of Christ’s act exceeds that of Adam’s sin, the benefit becomes conditioned upon a person’s voluntary obedient faith. No wonder the writer of Acts says: "There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Verse 17

For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one: Paul seeks now to reveal that the results of Christ’s sacrifice of Himself are even more certain than those of Adam’s sin. Paul has argued successfully that the direct result of Adam’s sin was physical death and that from the day Adam was banished from Eden. Since that time, physical death has reigned among people of every kindred and tongue. As Lard succinctly states, "One man, one sin, death—and the tragic tale is told" (181). But, as certain as the consequence of Adam’s sin is, the results of Christ’s death are much more certain.

much more: These words convey the idea of a greater degree of certainty more than they convey an amount or an excess. One wonders how an event yet future can be more certain than an event in the past; however, the language is rhetorical and emphatic. The highest degree of certainty must be attached to the accomplishment of God’s will.

they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ): The verb "receive" is active: those who are granted the abundance of grace must voluntarily and actively seek to receive it. In full agreement with the remainder of God’s Word (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16), Paul describes the obedient believer in Jesus Christ (McGarvey 339).

The word "abundance" (perissei/an) means "superabundance in anything surplus; of things accompanying salvation abundance, fullness, overflowing (Romans 5:17)" (AGLF 310). Paul’s choice of words is precise. All people without condition shall receive the ordinary grace of Jesus’ death; that is, all shall be resurrected. But those who actively receive the death of Christ and all that it entails, by faithful obedience, shall have that super-abounding grace of the act of Christ, which goes beyond and provides for mankind’s own personal sins. This abundant grace, Paul says, results in a reign of life and not merely in a resurrection from the dead.

The gift of righteousness declares that when the believer receives the forgiveness of his sins by his faithful obedience to the gospel, he has received a gift from God. Remission of sins is never a debt owed to any person. It is a gift of justification based on his faith in Christ. From God’s perspective, the justification of the sinner is purely a gratuitous act. Viewed from the perspective of humanity, justification is a gift received from God for which we can make no adequate return. It is purely a gift. It must be actively received by the obedience of faith; but when it has been so received, it remains still a gracious gift, which can never be merited by a sinner. McGarvey summarizes this section:

For if, says he, by the trespass of one man, death reigned upon all, through the sin of one, much more surely (because of the nature of God the Father, and the august personality of his Son) shall they that accept and receive to themselves the abundance of grace offered through Christ, and the abundance of the gift of righteousness (or justification), reign in that ineffable future of life through one, even through Jesus Christ. The Son of God is a greater personage than Adam, and the positive power of his righteousness is greater than the negative power of Adam’s sin; therefore, if Adam’s act has insured, and still insures, the reign of death in the world, much more does Christ’s act insure the reign of life in the future world (339).

In the light of the controversy over the imputed righteousness of Christ, it is important not to overrun the truth. The perfect sinless life that Jesus lived qualified Him to be the sin offering for the sins of all mankind (2 Corinthians 5:21). In His sacrifice He paid the penalty of sin—all sin (1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1-2; Romans 3:21-26). In His death He secured for all humanity unconditionally the resurrection, thereby equaling and nullifying the consequence of Adam’s sin. Also, in His sacrifice He paid the price for the personal sins of all men and women of all time (1 Corinthians 6:20; Acts 20:28). In so doing, He made effective the system whereby God declares people, sinners, to be righteous (3:23-26). Forgiveness of sins can be appropriated by every person living after the cross, by believing in Jesus Christ (3:22) and acting in accordance with one’s faith (1:5; 4:1-25; 16:25-26). Christ’s own personal deeds of righteousness are not transferred to anyone. And if they were, the result would be the Calvinistic doctrine of eternal security (or the perseverance of the saints). There is no question that our salvation depends first upon the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross. But neither can there be any question about the necessity for all who wish to be saved to believe in Jesus enough to obey the gospel. These are the conditions God has attached to His gracious gift of justification. To be saved, one has no other alternative but to receive actively what God has given to us in the gospel.

Verse 18

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

In this verse Paul returns to the argument he introduces in verse 12 and then, because of the demands of the subject, digresses to develop the thoughts contained in verses 13-17. Here he restates his opening premise concerning Adam, his sin, and its consequences; and then he delivers the long stayed conclusion in which he reveals how and to what degree Adam was a type of Christ.

In the same way that by the one sin of Adam (eating the forbidden fruit) judgment in the form of physical death came upon all people, all men and women sinned in Adam in that they shared in the consequences of his sin. When Adam sinned, he was forbidden access to the tree of life, as were all others. The result was physical death for Adam and all his posterity.

So also, Christ’s one act of righteousness, by the sacrifice of Himself upon the cross, brought to everyone "justification unto life." His death availed for all acquittal from the penalty of Adam’s sin. Release from the condemnation of Adam’s sin is all that Paul considers here. Adam’s sin brought physical death upon the whole human race, but nothing more, as McGarvey notes: "The punishment which we incur through Adam terminates at death. If men are punished after death, it is not because of Adam’s, but because of their own individual sins" (340).

Verse 19

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

For as by one man’s disobedience: The reference is once again the sin of Adam in eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God says, "…thou shalt not eat of it" (Genesis 2:17). Adam ate of it anyway (Genesis 3:6), and that is the disobedience under consideration.

many were made sinners: The word "many" stands for all men. The verb "were made" is critical to this entire passage, and it substantiates the explanation given for the last phrase of verse 12. The Greek word is katesta/qhsan. It is the third person plural aorist of kaqi/sthmi, and it is passive (AGLP 231). kaqi/sthmi means "to place, set, constitute, appoint…set down in a place…conduct…to make, render, or cause to be." The fact that this usage is passive means it is "to be rendered" (AGLP 215). Lard translates it "were constituted" (187). The question automatically arises: Who constituted all people to be sinners? Was it Adam? No, Adam’s disobedience was the means through which they were so constituted. God declared all men sinners as the consequence of Adam’s sin.

The key to understanding here is that personal sin cannot be under consideration. One who personally sins constitutes himself to be a sinner. Furthermore, the record states the many were constituted sinners as a result of Adam’s sin and not as punishment for their own sins. Adam was not constituted a sinner. He, instead, sinned actually. All are constituted sinners because all share in the consequence of Adam’s disobedience—physical death.

so by the obedience of one: Paul refers to the obedience of Christ "unto death even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8). To the same degree that the disobedience of Adam affected all mankind, the death of Christ also affects all mankind. From the broader distinctions of Christ’s death over Adam’s sin elaborated in verses 16 and 17, Paul has returned to where he began in verse 12—that is, the area of equality between what was lost for all humanity in Adam and regained for all humanity in Christ.

shall many be made righteous: The verb is the same as in the first phrase except it is future passive. Again, personal justification from personal sin cannot be under consideration. Paul means that as a result of Jesus’ death all people were unconditionally justified from Adam’s sin (Lard 189). McGarvey comments:

For, as the disobedience of one caused many (all) to be constituted sinners who had personally committed no sin, so the obedience of the other (Philippians 2:8) caused the many (all) to be constituted righteous as to Adam’s sin (i.e. sufficiently to be resurrected). It is evident that only in verses 16 and 17 does Paul suggest any of those larger results wherein the act of Christ exceeded those of the acts of Adam. It may seem strange to some that, having thus introduced the larger things of Christ, Paul should, in verses 18 and 19, return to those things wherein the acts of each were equal. But this is to be expected, for Paul is describing the resemblance of the two; and of course, where one exceeds the other the resemblance ceases (340).

McGarvey goes on to express that Paul’s purpose in establishing the likeness of Adam and Christ in type and antitype, which concerns "the many," is one expressed correctly by Chrysostom:

When the Jew says to you, "How by the well-doing of one, Christ, was the world saved?" You may be able to say to him, "How by the disobedience of one, Adam, was the world condemned?" (340).

Verse 20

Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

Paul has established the effect of sin’s entrance into the world through Adam’s disobedience and has demonstrated that it resulted in the physical death of all. This result came because of separation from the tree of life, but Christ’s death on the cross equaled and nullified the effect of Adam’s sin by guaranteeing to all humanity unconditionally the resurrection.

Paul now returns to another effect of sin. In verse 13, he references the time between Adam and Moses as the period most clearly demonstrating the fact that physical death is the consequence all men and women paid for Adam’s sin. Then he carefully reveals how Christ’s death regained for all unconditionally what Adam lost for all.

Lest anyone misunderstand the relation of type and antitype between Adam and Christ, he hints in verses 15-17 that Christ’s death not only covered the problem of Adam’s sin but also had broader values capable of covering each person’s own personal sins.

It is to that point that Paul now returns for his climactic argument. During the time before the law of Moses, sin was in the world; but it was not as evident as it needed to be in order for people to be aware of its deadliness. Law in that time was limited to the natural law written on the heart and to God’s occasional direct revelations to the patriarchs. What was needed was a system of law under which "every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward" (Hebrews 2:2). The exceeding sinfulness of sin must be demonstrated to make all aware of how wicked they were and how much they depended on God for assistance to escape the perils of sin.

To prepare men and women for the gospel that would reveal how they could overcome their personal sins, the law of Moses came in: "Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions till the seed should come to whom the promise was made" (Galatians 3:19; 20-29).

Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound: This clause refers to verse 12 where Paul says sin and death entered the world. Here, he says the law of Moses entered to make all people aware of how wickedly sinful they were and how much sin controlled them. It entered to make people aware of their powerlessness to overcome sin by their own merits (3:9-28).

but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: Sin did abound when the law entered. God’s purpose for the law was accomplished. We must recognize, however, that the fault for personal sin lay neither with God nor Moses’ law. God is absolutely righteous (3:25), and the law of Moses was a good law (7:7, 10, 12; 1 Timothy 1:8-10). God’s purpose was accomplished because the weakness of mankind’s flesh was demonstrated by the law’s entrance into the world (8:3).

Not surprisingly, God was prepared for this turn of events that occurred when the law entered. All along, God had been preparing not only to nullify the unconditional consequences of Adam’s sin through Christ’s death but also the consequences of everyone’s own personal sins by the sacrifice of Jesus (Galatians 3:22-24; 1 Peter 1:19-20). No matter how sin abounded or to what degree, the unmerited favor and mercy of God abounded even more in the provision of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for the appeasement of everyone’s own personal sins.

Verse 21

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

That as sin hath reigned unto death: The sin Paul contemplates now is the sin that has been made to abound by the entering in of Moses’ law. Previously, Paul examined at length the impact of Adam’s sin during the epoch of history when it was most evident—the time from Adam to the giving of the law—and showed that even where there was no law like Adam’s for which the stated penalty was death, "nevertheless death reigned" (5:14).

In the same manner, Paul now turns to examine the impact of personal, individual sin in the world. It also reigned in the lives of all men and women (3:9-23). Furthermore, it reigned unto death.

The death Paul has in mind now is spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1). This fact becomes evident when one realizes that sin and death here are placed in opposition to righteousness and eternal life. Under the law of Moses, it became clear that no person could live a life that merited eternal life. Consequently, in addition to the penalty of Adam’s sin, men and women faced the penalty of their own personal sins.

even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord: Amazingly, the grace of God is more than equal to this problem. In His death on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty of individual sin as well as the debt of Adam’s sin. This facet of God’s grace, however, is not universal and unconditional. Instead, it operates through the system of declared righteousness that has been revealed in chapters one through four (1:16-17; 3:20-26; 4:1-25).

When men and women place their entire trust and confidence in Jesus Christ, believing with their whole heart in Him as Christ and Lord, demonstrating their faith by repentance, confession of faith, and immersion into water for the remission of sin, then God declares them righteous (Romans 4) because their faith is credited for (or in the place of) absolute righteousness. If they then lead faithful, repentant, and obedient lives until they die, the grace of God will usher them into eternal life in heaven.

This plan is made gloriously real for all who believe in Jesus Christ our Lord. No wonder Jesus is the Lord of all! In His sacrifice, He provided for the salvation of all (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

The consequence of Adam’s sin has been equalized and nullified by the guarantee of resurrection to all humanity unconditionally. In addition, the consequence of one’s own personal sins has been satisfied, for all who choose of their own free will to submit themselves in faith and obedience to the gospel and Lordship of Jesus Christ. If they abide in Christ (John 15:1-10) by being faithful until death (Revelation 2:10), they will receive the crown of eternal life in heaven. No wonder Paul writes earlier in this chapter:

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 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. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement (5:8-11).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Romans 5". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/romans-5.html. 1993-2022.
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