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Bible Commentaries
Romans 5

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Verse 21


In beginning the next section of his argument Paul returned to the major subject of this epistle, the righteousness of God (Romans 3:21; cf. Romans 1:17). He also repeated the need for faith (Romans 3:22; cf. Romans 1:16) and summarized his point that everyone is guilty before God (Romans 3:22; cf. Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20). This brief recapitulation introduces his explanation of the salvation that God provides for guilty sinners that follows.

"The first main division of the epistle forms a powerful negative argument for the second, and was evidently so intended. Since man is a sinner with no help in himself and none in the law, what is left to him but to look to the mercy of God? . . . In a court of justice it is only after every defense has failed and the law itself has been shown to be broken, it is only at this point that the appeal is made to the judge for his clemency. The epistle has brought us to such a point." [Note: Stifler, p. 58.]

Verse 1

"Therefore" signals that what follows rests on what has preceded. Paul now put the question of whether justification is by faith or by works behind him. He had proved that it comes to us by faith.

"We must note at once that the Greek form of this verb ’declared righteous,’ or ’justified,’ is not the present participle, ’being declared righteous,’ but rather the aorist participle, ’having been declared righteous,’ or ’justified.’ You say, What is the difference? The answer is, ’being declared righteous’ looks to a state you are in; ’having been declared righteous’ looks back to a fact that happened. ’Being in a justified state’ of course is incorrect, confusing, as it does, justification and sanctification." [Note: Ibid., p. 163.]

Some important Greek manuscripts read, "Let us have peace with God." If this is the correct reading, the meaning is, "Let us keep on having (and enjoying) peace with God." [Note: Robertson, 4:354; Witmer, p. 456. See also Verlyn D. Verbrugge, "The Grammatical Internal Evidence for ’EXOMEN in Romans 5:1," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 54:3 (September 2011):559-72.]

The second of the blessings "that came spilling out of the cornucopia of justification," [Note: Harrison, p. 55.] after justification itself, is peace (cf. Romans 1:7; Romans 2:10). However this is peace with God (i.e., reconciliation), not just a subjective feeling of tranquillity that is the peace of God (Philippians 4:7). Paul had been speaking of God’s wrath being poured out on sinners (Romans 1:18). Those who stand justified need not fear God’s wrath since Jesus Christ has made peace between them and God by His death (cf. Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 2:14). Note that references to peace and reconciliation frame this pericope (Romans 5:1; Romans 5:11).

"Peace and joy are twin blessings of the gospel: as an old preacher put it, ’peace is joy resting; joy is peace dancing.’" [Note: Bruce, p. 114.]

"Our peace with God is not as between two nations before at war; but as between a king and rebellious and guilty subjects." [Note: Newell, p. 165.]

"It is well known that Romans lacks any extended christological discussion per se, but Paul’s repeated insistence in these chapters [5-8] that all the believer experiences of God’s blessings comes only through Christ develops a very significant christological focus in its own right. Christology, we might say, is not the topic of any part of Romans 5-8, but it is the basis for everything in these chapters." [Note: Moo, p. 300.]

Verses 1-11

D. The benefits of justification 5:1-11

Paul’s original readers would have had another question because of what he had written in chapters 1-4. Is this method of justification safe? Since it is by faith, it seems quite unsure. Paul next gave evidence that this method is reliable by explaining the results of justification by faith.

Moo argued that chapter 5 belongs with chapters 6-8 more than with Romans 3:21 to Romans 4:25. [Note: Moo, pp. 290-95.] He noted a chiastic structure in chapters 5-8 and believed the theme of this section is assurance of glory. Most scholars, however, have felt that the major break in Paul’s thought occurs after chapter 5 rather than before it.

"In the first eleven verses we have the blessed results of justification by faith, along with the most comprehensive statement in the Bible of the pure love and grace of God, in giving Christ for us sinners." [Note: Newell, p. 162.]

Verse 2

The third benefit is access (Gr. prosagoge). The idea here is that Jesus Christ enables us to enjoy continuing relationship with God (cf. Ephesians 2:17-18; Ephesians 3:12). Paul spoke of "this grace in which we stand" as the realm into which Christ’s redeeming work transfers us. He stressed the fact that our being in this state is an act of God’s grace. Our present position in relation to God is all grace, and our justification admits us to that position.

The last part of the verse focuses on that part of our reconciliation that we can look forward to with joyful confidence. Paul had in view the glory that we will experience when we stand in the Lord’s presence.

Verses 3-4

The fourth benefit of justification is joy in sufferings. Peace with God does not always result in peace with other people. Nevertheless the fact that we have peace with God and a relationship with Him, with assurance of standing before Him acceptable, enables us to view present difficulties with joy. We can rejoice in tribulations because God has revealed that He uses them to produce steadfast endurance and proven character in those who relate to their sufferings properly (cf. Job 23:10; James 1:2-4; Hebrews 12).

"Our English word ’tribulation’ comes from a Latin word tribulum. In Paul’s day, a tribulum was a heavy piece of timber with spikes in it, used for threshing the grain. The tribulum was drawn over the grain and it separated the wheat from the chaff." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:527.]

"The newborn child of God is precious in His sight, but the tested and proven saint means even more to Him because such a one is a living demonstration of the character-developing power of the gospel. When we stand in the presence of God, all material possessions will have been left behind, but all that we have gained by way of spiritual advance will be retained." [Note: Harrison, p. 57.]

This quotation helps us see how character produces hope. Hope of glorifying God with our characters when we see Him is in view. Our progress in character development will then testify to God’s grace in our lives.

Verse 5

This hope, the focal point of this pericope, will not suffer disappointment, because God loves us and enables us to withstand tribulations. He does this by His Holy Spirit whom He has given to indwell every justified sinner in the church age (cf. Acts 2:33; Romans 8:9). Paul developed the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the believer later (ch. 8). The fifth benefit of justification therefore is the indwelling Holy Spirit. Note the progression in these verses from faith (Romans 5:1) to hope (Romans 5:2-5) to love (Romans 5:5; cf. 1 Corinthians 13:13).

"The confidence we have for the day of judgment is not based only on our intellectual recognition of the fact of God’s love, or even only on the demonstration of God’s love on the cross (although that is important; cf. Romans 5:6-8), but also on the inner, subjective certainty that God does love us." [Note: Moo, p. 304.]

Verse 6

The depth of God’s love (Romans 5:5) becomes clearer in this verse and those that follow (Romans 5:6-10). Four terms that are increasingly uncomplimentary describe those for whom Christ died. The first is "helpless" or "powerless" morally. The idea expressed by the Greek word (asthenon) is that we were "incapable of working out any righteousness for ourselves." [Note: Sanday and Headlam, p. 127.] At that very time Christ died for us. "At the right time" refers to the fullness of time, the right time from God’s perspective (cf. Romans 3:26; Romans 8:18; Romans 13:11; Galatians 4:4).

The second term is "ungodly," a strong pejorative term as Paul used it (cf. Romans 1:18; Romans 4:5). Even though some people who are lost seek the things of God, everyone neglects God and rebels against God. This is ungodliness.

Verse 7

This verse prepares for the next one that contrasts with it. Paul used "righteous" here in the general sense of an upright person, not in the theological sense of a person made right with God. People appreciate a good person more than an upright person. Goodness carries the idea of one who is not only upright but loved for it because he or she reaches out to help others. [Note: J. B. Lightfoot, Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul, pp. 286-87.]

Verse 8

The third term used to describe those for whom Christ died is "sinners" ("wicked"; cf. Romans 3:23), neither righteous nor good. Paul here was contrasting the worth of the life laid down, Jesus Christ’s, and the unworthiness of those who benefit from His sacrifice. Whereas people may look at one another as meriting love because they are righteous or good, God views them as sinners. Nevertheless God loves them. His provision of His own Son as our Savior demonstrated the depth of His love (John 3:16).

The preposition in the clause "Christ died for (huper) us" stresses the substitute character of His sacrifice. It also highlights the fact that God in His love for us provided that sacrifice for our welfare.

Verse 9

So far Paul had referred to five benefits of justification. These blessings, in addition to justification itself, were peace with God (Romans 5:1), access into a gracious realm (Romans 5:2), joy in tribulations (Romans 5:3-5 a), and the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5 b). Still there is "much more" (cf. Romans 5:10; Romans 5:15; Romans 5:17; Romans 5:20).

What Paul next described is a benefit that justified sinners will experience in the future, namely, deliverance from the outpouring of God’s wrath on the unrighteous (cf. Romans 1:18). Jesus Christ’s blood is the symbol of His death and the literal expression of His life poured out as a sacrifice (cf. Romans 3:25). Having done the harder thing, namely, justifying us when we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), how much more will He do the easier thing, delivering us from coming wrath.

Verse 10

The fourth and worst term used to describe those for whom Christ died is "enemies." People are not only helpless to save themselves (Romans 5:6), neglectful of God (Romans 5:6), and wicked (Romans 5:8), but they also set themselves against God and His purposes. Even though many unsaved people profess to love God, God who knows their hearts sees opposition to Himself in them. Their antagonism toward Him is the proof of it.

Jesus Christ’s death reconciled us to God (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18; Colossians 1:21-22). The Scriptures always speak of man as reconciled to God. They never speak of God as reconciled to man. God reconciles people to Himself, He redeems them from sin, and He propitiates Himself, all through the death of His Son. Man has offended and departed from God and needs reconciliation into relationship with Him. It is man who has turned from God, not God who has turned from man. [Note: See Lewis S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 3:91-93.] There are two aspects of reconciliation: one for all mankind (2 Corinthians 5:19), and another for the believer (2 Corinthians 5:20). Jesus Christ’s death put mankind in a savable condition, but people still need to experience full reconciliation with God by believing in His Son.

Jesus Christ’s death is responsible for our justification. His continuing life is responsible for our progressive sanctification and our glorification. Having done the harder thing for us, delivering Christ to death to reconcile us to Himself, God will certainly do the easier thing. He will see that we share Christ’s risen life forever.

We experience continuing salvation (progressive sanctification) and ultimate salvation (glorification) because of Jesus Christ’s ongoing life. These present and future aspects of our salvation were not the direct results of His death, but they are the consequences of His life after death and resurrection (cf. Romans 6:8-13). We have salvation in the present and in the future because our Savior lives. He is still saving us. This verse shows that we are eternally secure.

Verse 11

Jesus Christ’s death reconciled us to God with the effect that one day in the future we will stand before Him complete (cf. Romans 5:5-10). However we also enter into the benefits of that reconciliation now (cf. Romans 5:1-4). "This" probably refers to our future salvation, the closest antecedent. The seventh benefit of justification by faith is our present relationship with God made possible by Christ’s reconciling work on the cross. We were saved by His death in the past, we will be saved by His life in the future, and we are presently enjoying relationship with God because of His work of reconciliation.

In this section Paul identified the following benefits of justification by faith.

1. Past justification (Romans 5:1)

2. Peace with God (Romans 5:1)

3. Access into God’s grace (having been under God’s wrath, Romans 5:2)

4. Joy in tribulation (Romans 5:3-5 a)

5. The indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5 b)

6. Deliverance from future condemnation (Romans 5:9-10)

7. Present reconciliation with God (Romans 5:11)

This section of the argument of the book should help any reader realize that justification by faith is a safe method. It is the doorway to manifold blessings that obedience to the Law could never guarantee.

"Totally apart from Law, and purely by grace, we have a salvation that takes care of the past, the present, and the future. Christ died for us; Christ lives for us; Christ is coming for us! Hallelujah, what a Savior!" [Note: Wiersbe, 1:528.]

Verse 12

The first verse of this section (Romans 5:12-21) picks up the idea of future salvation from Romans 5:9-10.

Paul did not call Adam and Christ by name when he first spoke of them but referred to each as "one man." The key word "one" occurs 14 times in Romans 5:12-21. He thereby stressed the unity of the federal head with those under his authority who are also "men" (i.e., human beings).

We might interpret this verse as meaning that Adam only set a bad example for mankind that everyone has followed if we did not continue reading. Adam’s sin had a more direct and powerful effect than that of a bad example (Romans 5:15). It resulted in his descendants inheriting a sinful human nature that accounts in part for our sinfulness.

Paul personified sin presenting it as an evil power. He probably meant both physical and spiritual death.

Why did Paul and God hold Adam responsible for the sinfulness of the race when it was really Eve who sinned first? They did so because Adam was the person in authority over and therefore responsible for Eve (Genesis 2:18-23; 1 Corinthians 11:3). Furthermore, Eve was deceived (2 Corinthians 11:3), but Adam sinned deliberately (1 Timothy 2:14).

Paul compared the manner in which death entered the world, through sin, and the manner in which it spread to everyone, also through sin. Death is universal because sin is universal. Paul’s concern was more with original death than with original sin.

"Death, then, is due immediately to the sinning of each individual but ultimately to the sin of Adam; for it was Adam’s sin that corrupted human nature and made individual sinning an inevitability." [Note: Ibid., p. 325.]

Witmer compared Adam’s sin to a vapor that entered a house (humanity) through the front door and then penetrated the whole house. [Note: Witmer, p. 458.]

"Perhaps what makes this sermon ["Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," by Jonathan Edwards] most offensive to the ears of contemporary interpreters is not the language of impending destruction nor even that God is angry. What is probably most distasteful in Edwards’s theology is the doctrine of original sin, that he would believe that human beings are born guilty of sin and deserving of divine wrath. Perhaps implicitly, the view of the universal goodness of humanity that permeates the worldview of many people today has also penetrated evangelical theology as well. That all humans, including children, are guilty of sin and therefore deserving of the wrath of God seems harsh and unfair to modern ears." [Note: Glenn R. Kreider, "Sinners in the Hands of a Gracious God," Bibliotheca Sacra 163:651 (July-September 2006):274.]

Verses 12-21

E. The restorative effects of justification 5:12-21

Justification by faith not only carries with it many benefits (Romans 5:1-11), but it also overcomes the effects of the Fall. Paul’s final argument in support of justification by faith involves a development of his previous emphasis on the solidarity that the saved experience with their Savior (Romans 5:1-2; Romans 5:9-10). In this section (Romans 5:12-21) he expanded that idea by showing that just as Adam’s sin has affected all people, so Jesus Christ’s obedience has affected all believers.

"As Adam’s one sin never fails to bring death, so Christ’s one righteous act in behalf of sinners never fails to bring the opposite award to those who are in Him." [Note: Stifler, p. 95.]

The apostle viewed Adam and Christ as federal heads of two groups of people. A federal head is a person who acts as the representative of many others and whose actions result in consequences that the individuals he represents inevitably experience. Some interpreters believe Paul viewed Adam as the natural head of the human race, rather than as the federal head. [Note: E.g., Witmer, p. 458.] Examples of federal heads include a king, a president, a member of congress, and a parent, among others.

In this section Paul was not looking primarily at what individual sinners have done, which had been his interest previously. Rather he looked at what Adam did in the Fall and what Jesus Christ did at the Cross and the consequences of their actions for humanity. Adam’s act resulted in his descendants sinning and dying. We inherit Adam’s nature that was sinful, and this accounts for the fact that we all sin and die. We are sinners not only because we commit acts of sin but also because Adam’s sin corrupted the human race and made sin and punishment inevitable for his descendants as well as for himself. However, Christ’s act of dying made all who trust in Him righteous apart from their own works.

"When one man fails in the accomplishment of God’s purpose (as, in measure, all did), God raises up another to take his place-Joshua to replace Moses, David to replace Saul, Elisha to replace Elijah [Jesus to replace Adam]." [Note: Bruce, p. 119.]

"The power of Christ’s act of obedience to overcome Adam’s act of disobedience is the great theme of this paragraph. . . .

"The main connection is with the teaching of assurance of final salvation in the immediately preceding paragraph (Romans 5:2 b, 9-10). The passage shows why those who have been justified and reconciled can be so certain that they will be saved from wrath and share in ’the glory of God’: it is because Christ’s act of obedience ensures eternal life for all those who are ’in Christ.’" [Note: Moo, pp. 315, 316.]

Verses 13-14

Paul did not carry through the comparison begun in Romans 5:12 here. If he had it would have been "so righteousness entered the world by one man and life through righteousness." Evidently Paul broke off his statement because he wanted to explain the relationship between sin and the Law, specifically, why there was death before the Law. Romans 5:13-14 explain Romans 5:12. He returned to the thought begun in Romans 5:12 in Romans 5:18.

People died before God gave the Mosaic Law. If there is no law, there can be no transgression of law (cf. Romans 3:20). Since death is the penalty for transgression of law, why did those people die? The answer is they died because they sinned "in" Adam. Adam transgressed God’s law in the Garden of Eden, and ever since his descendants have transgressed God’s law, not just the Mosaic Law. This accounts for the universality of death.

The idea that people should involuntarily suffer punishment because of the sins of another is repugnant to us. Nevertheless as the head of the human race, Adam’s actions resulted in consequences that his descendants had to bear. Likewise any representative leader’s decisions result in consequences his followers must bear. For example, when our president decides to sign into law some piece of legislation it becomes binding on everyone under his authority. Similarly, advocates of "natural headship" point out, we all bear physical characteristics that are the product of our parents’ action of producing a child. It is just one of the facts of life that we all suffer the consequences of the decisions of those who have preceded us and are over us (cf. Hebrews 7:9-10). Some of those consequences are good for us and others are bad for us. We all have to suffer the punishment for our sins ultimately because Adam sinned, as well as because we all commit acts of sin. Some people rebel against God because of this. However, God has promised not to punish us if we will trust in His Son (2 Corinthians 5:19). He has provided a way to secure pardon from punishment.

It is the punishment for Adam’s sin that we bear, not its guilt. We are guilty because we sin, but we die (the punishment of sin) because Adam sinned. Christ bore the punishment of our sins, not our guilt. He died in our place and for us. We are still guilty, but God will not condemn us for being guilty because He has declared us righteous in Christ (i.e., has justified us). Guilt is both objective and subjective. We are objectively guilty, but we should feel no subjective guilt because we have been justified (declared righteous).

"Every little white coffin,-yea, every coffin, should remind us of the universal effect of that sin of Adam, for it was thus and thus only that ’death passed to all men.’" [Note: Newell, p. 183.]

Most evangelicals believe that infants and idiots die physically because of Adam’s sin, but they do not die eternally (are unsaved) because they are incapable of exercising saving faith in Christ. Therefore, since God is just, He will have mercy on them (cf. Genesis 18:25). [Note: See Robertson, 4:358-59.] Some people base their belief in the salvation of such people on 2 Samuel 12:23, but that verse probably only means that David anticipated going into the grave (Sheol), where his infant son had gone, not going to heaven.

Adam was a "type" or "pattern" (Gr. tupos) of one who would follow him, namely, Jesus Christ. A type is a divinely intended illustration of something else, the antitype. A type may be a person, as here, a thing (cf. Hebrews 10:19-20), an event (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:11), a ceremony (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7), or an institution (cf. Hebrews 9:11-12). Adam is the only Old Testament character who is explicitly identified as a type of Christ in the New Testament. Adam’s act had universal impact and prefigured Christ’s act, which also had universal impact. The point of similarity between Adam and Christ is that what each did affected many others. Each communicated what belonged to him to those he represented.

"Adam came from the earth, but Jesus is the Lord from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:47). Adam was tested in a Garden, surrounded by beauty and love; Jesus was tempted in a wilderness, and He died on a cruel cross surrounded by hatred and ugliness. Adam was a thief, and was cast out of Paradise; but Jesus Christ turned to a thief and said, ’Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise’ (Luke 23:43). The Old Testament is ’the book of the generations of Adam’ (Genesis 5:1) and it ends with ’a curse’ (Malachi 4:6). The New Testament is ’The book of the generation of Jesus Christ’ (Matthew 1:1) and it ends with ’no more curse’ (Revelation 22:3)." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:530.]

The rest of this chapter develops seven contrasts (one per verse) between Adam’s act of sin and Christ’s act of salvation. As Adam’s act of sin resulted in inevitable death for all his descendants, so Christ’s act of obedience resulted in inevitable life for all who believe in Him.

Verse 15

In Romans 5:15 the essences of Adam’s act and Christ’s act are contrasted, namely, transgression and gift.

Paul probably used the phrase "the many" to contrast them with Adam and Christ, who were individuals (cf. Isaiah 53:11-12; Mark 10:45). In the case of Adam, "the many" means all people, but in the case of Christ, "the many" means all who receive the benefit of His saving act by faith, namely, all believers.

The effect of Jesus Christ’s act on people was totally different from that of Adam’s and vastly superior to it, as "much more" indicates (cf. Romans 5:9-10; Romans 5:17; Romans 5:20). "Much more" here shows that Jesus Christ did not just cancel the effects of Adam’s sin, but he provided more than Adam lost or even possessed before the Fall, namely, the righteousness of God!

Verse 16

In Adam’s case a single sin by a single individual was sufficient to bring condemnation to the whole human race. In Christ’s case one act of obedience, which the transgressions of many people made necessary, was sufficient to bring justification to all those who believe in Him (Romans 5:16). Here the divine verdicts following Adam’s act and Christ’s act are in view: condemnation and justification.

Verse 17

The consequence of Adam’s sin was death reigning over mankind. The consequence of Christ’s obedience was mankind reigning over death (Romans 5:17). This implies the believer’s resurrection and participation in Jesus Christ’s reign as well as our reigning in this life. Death and life are the contrasting consequences of Adam’s act and Christ’s act.

Verse 18

This verse and the next summarize Paul’s point, as indicated by "So then" or "Consequently." They also complete the thought that Paul broke off at the end of Romans 5:12. Paul contrasted the extents of Adam’s act and Christ’s act: condemnation came upon all men, and justification came upon all men (who believe in Christ).

Verse 19

Here the contrast is the issues involved in Adam’s act and Christ’s act. Adam disobeyed God, and Christ obeyed God. "Transgression" or "trespass" (cf. Romans 5:15-17) highlights the deliberate disobedience of Adam (Romans 5:19; cf. Genesis 2:17). Many will become righteous (Romans 5:19) both forensically (justified), as they believe, and finally (glorified). "The many" here, of course, means the justified. Obviously these verses do not mean that everyone will be justified. The obedience of Christ is a reference to His death as the ultimate act of obedience rather than to His life of obedience since it is His death that saves us.

"There is no more direct statement in Scripture concerning justification than we find in Romans 5:19 . . ." [Note: Newell, p. 178.]

Verse 20

One of the purposes of the Mosaic Law was to illuminate the sinfulness of people. It did so at least by exposing behavior that was until then not obviously contrary to God’s will. God did this to prove man’s sinfulness to him.

"The fact and power of ’sin’ introduced into the world by Adam has not been decreased by the law, but given a new dimension as rebellion against the revealed, detailed will of God; sin has become ’transgression’ . . ." [Note: Moo, p. 348. Cf. 7:13; Galatians 3:19.]

Paul’s statement "the Law came in that" can be understood as both a purpose clause and a result clause. [Note: Witmer, p. 460.] However when God provided Jesus Christ, He provided grace (favor) that far exceeded the sin that He exposed when He provided the Law. We could translate "abounded" or "increased" (Romans 5:20) "super-abounded."

"The apostle waxes almost ecstatic as he revels in the superlative excellence of the divine overruling that makes sin serve a gracious purpose." [Note: Harrison, p. 65.]

The contrast in this verse deals with the significances of Adam’s act and Christ’s act. The Law showed the significance of Adam’s sin more clearly, and God’s provision of Christ showed the significance of God’s grace more clearly.

Verse 21

Romans 5:21 is the grand conclusion of the argument in this section (Romans 5:12-21). It brings together the main concepts of sin and death, and righteousness and life. Effectively Paul played down Adam and exalted Jesus Christ. Here Paul contrasted the dominions of Adam’s act and Christ’s act: sin reigning in death and grace reigning to eternal life.

"Paul often thinks in terms of ’spheres’ or ’dominions,’ and the language of ’reigning’ is particularly well suited to this idea. Death has its own dominion: humanity as determined, and dominated, by Adam. And in this dominion, sin is in control. But those who ’receive the gift’ (Romans 5:17) enjoy a transfer from this domain to another, the domain of righteousness, in which grace reigns and where life is the eventual outcome." [Note: Moo, p. 350.]

Contrasts in Romans 5:12-21 [Note: Adapted from Newell, p. 176. See also the chart in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 461.]
Two menAdam (; Romans 5:14)Christ (Romans 5:14)
Two actsOne trespass in the garden (Romans 5:12; Romans 5:15; Romans 5:17-19)One righteous act on the cross (Romans 5:18)
Two resultsCondemnation, guilt, and death (Romans 5:15-16; Romans 5:18-19)Justification, life, and kingship (Romans 5:17-19)
Two differences
In degree (Romans 5:15)Sin aboundsGrace super-abounds
In operation (Romans 5:16)One sin by Adam resulting in condemnation and the reign of death for everyoneMany sins on Christ resulting in justification and reigning in life for believers
Two kingsSin reigning through death (Romans 5:17)Grace reigning through righteousness (Romans 5:21)
Two abundancesOf grace (Romans 5:17)
Of the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17)
Two contrasting statesCondemned people slaves of sin by AdamJustified people reigning in life by Christ

This section (Romans 5:12-21) shows that humankind is guilty before God because all of Adam’s descendants are sinners due to Adam’s sin. Earlier Paul wrote that we are all guilty because we have all committed acts of sin (chs. 3-4). Ultimately, we sin and die because Adam sinned and died. Jesus Christ’s death has removed both causes for condemnation righteously, guilt for our sins and punishment for Adam’s sin. This section stresses our union with Christ that Paul explained further in chapter 6.


The apostle moved on from questions about why people need salvation (Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20), what God has done to provide it, and how we can appropriate it (Romans 3:21 to Romans 5:21). He next explained that salvation involves more than a right standing before God, which justification affords. God also provides salvation from the present power of sin in the redeemed sinner’s daily experience. This is progressive sanctification (chs. 6-8).

When a sinner experiences redemption-"converted" is the subjective term-he or she simultaneously experiences justification. Justification imparts God’s righteousness to him or her. Justification is the same thing as "positional sanctification." This term means that God views the believer as completely holy in his or her standing before God. Consequently, that person is no longer guilty because of his or her sins (cf. Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 6:11).

When a sinner experiences redemption, he or she begins a process of progressive practical sanctification. This process of becoming progressively more righteous (holy) in his or her daily experience is not automatic. It involves growth and requires the believer to cooperate with God to produce holiness in daily life. God leads the believer and provides the enablement for him or her to follow, but the believer must choose to follow and make use of the resources for sanctification that God provides. [Note: See Ryrie, So Great . . ., pp. 152-54.] Our progressive sanctification will end at death or the Rapture, whichever occurs first. Then the believer will experience glorification. Then his experiential condition will finally conform to his legal standing before God. He or she will then be completely righteous as well as having been declared righteous. God will remove our sinful nature and will conform our lives fully to His will (Romans 8:29).

In chapters 6-8 Paul explained how justified sinners can become more holy (godly, righteous) in daily living before our glorification. We need to understand our relationship as believers to sin (i.e., victory, ch. 6), to the Law (i.e., liberty, ch. 7), and to God (i.e., security, ch. 8) to attain that worthy goal.

". . . the fundamental thought is that the believer is united to Christ. This new principle makes him dead to sin (ch. vi.); but it also provides a new power which enables him to be free from law (ch. vii.); and still more, it includes a new possibility, for in the gift of the Holy Spirit there is a new position for holiness (ch. viii.)." [Note: Griffith Thomas, St. Paul’s Epistle . . ., p. 164.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Romans 5". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/romans-5.html. 2012.
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