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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Romans 5

Verses 1-11

In the first eleven verses of chapter 5 we have a marvelous summing up, concluding this phase of the subject. “Therefore,” that is, in view of all that has been so clearly established, “being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Some would render it, “Let us have peace.” But this is to weaken the force of the entire argument. Peace, as used here, is not a state of mind or heart. It is a prevailing condition between two who were once alienated. Sin had disturbed the relations of Creator and creature. A breach had come in which man could not mend. But peace has been made by the blood of Christ’s cross. There is no longer a barrier. Peace with God is now the abiding state into which every believer enters. The sin-question is settled. If two nations be at war there is no peace. If peace is made there is no war. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” “But Christ has made peace,” yea, “He is our peace.” We believe it, and we have peace with God.

We might say, “Let us enjoy peace with God.” But, “Let us have peace with God,” is absurd on the face of it. We have the peace. It is a settled thing. He made it, not we.

“’Tis everlasting peace,

Sure as Jehovah’s name;

Tis stable as His steadfast throne,

Forevermore the same.

“My love is of ttimes low,

My joy still ebbs and flows,

But peace with Him remains the same,

No change Jehovah knows.

“I change; He changes not,

My Christ can never die;

This blood-sealed friendship changes not,

His truth, not mine, the tie.”

“The peace of God” is another thing, as in Philippians 4:6-50.4.7. That is experimental. It is the abiding portion of all who learn to cast every care on Him who is the great Burden-bearer.

To see this distinction and to really grasp it in faith is of prime importance. Until the soul realizes that the peace made by the blood of His cross is eternal and undisturbed, even though one’s experience may be very different owing to personal failure or lack of appropriating faith, there will be no certainty of one’s ultimate salvation.

But knowing this peace to be based, not on my frames or feelings, but on accomplished redemption, I have conscious access by faith into this grace wherein I stand. I stand in grace; not in my own merit. I was saved by grace. I go on in grace. I shall be glorified in grace. Salvation from first to last is altogether of God, and therefore altogether of grace.

“Grace is the sweetest sound

That ever reached our ears:

When conscience charged and justice frowned,

Twas grace removed our fears.

“Grace is a mine of wealth

Laid open to the poor,

Grace is the sov’reign spring of health,

Tis life for evermore.

“Of grace then, let us sing,

A joyful wondrous theme;

Who grace has brought shall glory bring,

And we shall reign with Him.”

This is the golden sceptre held out by the King of Glory to all who venture to approach in faith.

Note it is access and standing that are before us in this 2nd verse of the 5th chapter of our epistle. Access is based on standing, not on state. The terms are to be carefully distinguished. In Philippians we read much about “your state.” Paul was greatly concerned about that. He never had a fear about the standing of the children of God. That is eternally settled.

Standing refers to the new place in which I am put by grace as justified before the throne of God and in Christ risen, forever beyond the reach of judgment. State is condition of soul. It is experience. Standing never varies. State is fluctuating, and depends on the measure in which I walk with God. My standing is always perfect because it is measured by Christ’s acceptance. I am accepted in Him. “As He is, so are we in this world.” But my state will be good or bad as I walk in the Spirit or walk after the flesh.

My standing gives me title to enter consciously as a purged worshiper into the Holiest and to boldly approach the throne of grace in prayer. Of old God sternly said, “Stand afar off and worship.” Access was not known under the legal covenant. God was hidden; the veil was not yet rent. Now all is different, and we are urged to “draw nigh with true hearts in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

“And now we draw near to the throne of grace,

For His blood and the Priest are there;

And we joyfully seek God’s holy face

With our censer of praise and prayer.

The burning mount and the mystic veil

With our terrors and guilt are gone;

Our conscience has peace that can never fail,

Tis the Lamb on high on the throne.”

Thus we do indeed rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. It is hope-not as uncertainty-but hope that is sure and certain, because based on the finished work of the Christ of God and a seated Priest on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. The glory is assured for all who are justified by faith, and so have peace with God.

But ere we reach the glory we must tread the sands of the wilderness. This is the place of testing. Here we learn the infinite resources of our wonderful God. So we are enabled to glory in tribulations, contrary though these may be to all that the natural man rejoices in. Tribulation is the divinely appointed flail to separate the wheat from the chaff. In suffering and sorrow we learn our own nothingness and the greatness of the power that has undertaken to carry us through. These are lessons we could never learn in heaven.

“The touch that heals the broken heart

Is never felt above;

His angels know His blessedness,

His wayworn saints His love.”

Thus “tribulation worketh patience” if we accept it as from our loving Lord Himself, knowing it is for our blessing. Out of patient endurance springs fragrant Christian experience, as the soul learns how wonderfully Christ can sustain in every circumstance. And experience blossoms into hope, weaning the heart from the things of earth and occupying them with the heavenly scene to which we are hastening.

Thus “hope maketh not ashamed, for the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.” This is the first mention of the Spirit’s work in the epistle. We read of the Spirit of Holiness in chapter one in connection with Christ’s work and resurrection, but not a syllable about the Spirit’s work in the believer till the soul enters into peace through the apprehension of the finished work of Christ. This is all-important. I am not saved by what goes on within myself. I am saved by what the Lord Jesus did for me. But the Spirit seals me when I believe the gospel, and by His indwelling the love of God is shed abroad within my heart.

“Soon as my all I ventured

On the atoning blood,

The Holy Spirit entered,

For I was born of God.”

It is a great mistake to rely upon my own recognition of the Spirit’s work within me as the ground of my assurance. Assurance is by the word of the truth of the gospel. But upon believing, I receive the Spirit. Of this the 8th chapter largely treats. This gives corroborative evidence. “We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.”

Verses Romans 5:6-45.5.11 constitute a separate section. In this portion we have the summing up of all that has gone before, ere the apostle goes on in the next division to take up the second phase of the gospel-in relation to our SIN.

We were helpless, without strength, when God in grace gave His Son, who died for ungodly sinners in whom no merit could be found.

This is not like man. Few indeed could be found who would voluntarily die for an upright man, a righteous man, known and acknowledged to be such-much less for a wicked man. Some indeed might be willing to die for a good man, a kindly, benevolent man who has won their hearts by his gracious demeanor. But God has “commended His own love [see Greek] toward us, in that while we were yet sinners [neither righteous nor good], Christ died for us,” thus becoming the Substitute for guilty rebels. If love gave Him up to the death of the cross while we were so lost and vile, we may know beyond any doubt that since we have been justified by His blood He will never allow us to come into judgment: “We shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

This has been called the chapter of “the five much mores,” and of these we have the first one in the 9th verse - Romans 5:9. “Much more then,” he exclaims, since now, cleared of every charge by the blood of the Son of God, we are forever beyond the reach of the divine vengeance against sin.

The second use of this term is in the 10th verse Romans 5:10 - “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.” How blind are they who read into this a reference to the earthly life of our blessed Lord. That life-pure and holy as it was-could never have saved one poor sinner. It was by His death He made atonement for our sins. Even the love of God told out so fully in the ways of Jesus only drew out the envenomed hate of the human heart. It is His death that destroys the enmity-when I realize He died for me I am reconciled to God. The hatred was all on my side- there was no need for God to be reconciled to me-but I needed reconciliation, and I have found it in His death. Now since it is already an accomplished fact I may know for a certainty I “shall be saved by His life.” He says, “Because I live ye shall live also.” It is, of course, His resurrection life that is in view. “Wherefore He is able to save evermore them that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25, marginal reading). A living Christ at God’s right hand is my pledge of eternal redemption. He lives to plead our cause, to deliver through all the trials of the way, and to bring us safely home to the Father’s house at last. We are bound up in the same bundle of life as Himself, though this properly is the subject of the last part of the chapter and has to do with the second phase of salvation.

Secure for time and eternity we “joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation” (ver. Romans 5:11, see margin). It is not we who received the atonement, but God. We needed to make an atonement for our sins, but were unable to do so. Christ has made it for us by offering up Himself without spot unto God. Thus it is God who has accepted the atonement, and we, who once were “enemies” and “alienated in our minds by wicked works,” have received the reconciliation. The enmity is gone. We are at peace with God, and we joy in Him who has become our everlasting portion.

This is the glorious end-for the present-to which the Holy Spirit has been leading us. Our salvation is full and complete. Our sins are gone. We are justified freely by His grace. We have peace with God and we look forward with joyous certainty to an eternity of bliss with Him who has redeemed us.

The other three “much mores” occur in the next section, where the question of the two Headships is thoroughly gone into. We shall notice them in order when we come to them.

Verses 12-21

Lecture 5 - Romans 5:12-45.7.25

The Gospel in Relation to Indwelling Sin

Part I

Chapters 5:12-7:25

It will be necessary to take up this third part of the great doctrinal division in two lectures because of the wide scope of chapter 5:12 to the end of chapter 8. We shall look first therefore at that portion which ends with chapter 7. In the last half of chapter 5 we have the two heads-Adam and Christ. In chapter 6 we have two masters, SIN personified and GOD as revealed in Jesus. In chapter 7 there are two Husbands to be considered-the Law and Christ risen.

The awakened sinner is concerned about one thing: how to be delivered from the judgment his sins have righteously deserved. This aspect of salvation has all been gone into and settled in the portion we have recently gone over. It is never raised again. As we go on into this next part of the epistle the question of guilt does not come up. The moment a sinner believes the gospel his responsibility as a child of Adam under the judgment of God is over for ever. But that very moment his responsibility as a child of God begins. He has a new nature that craves what is divine. But he soon discovers that his carnal nature has not been removed nor improved by his conversion to God, and from this fact arises many trying experiences. It often comes as a great shock, when he realizes that he has still a nature capable of every kind of vileness. He is rightly horrified, and may be tempted to question the reality of his regeneration and his justification before God. How can a Holy God go on with one who has such a nature as this? If he tries to fight sin in the flesh he is probably defeated, and learns by bitter experience what Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s friend, put so tersely, “Old Adam is too strong for young Philip.”

Happy is the young convert if at this crisis he comes under sound scriptural instruction instead of falling into the hands of spiritual charlatans who will set him to seeking the elimination of the fleshly nature and the death of the carnal mind. If he follows their advice he will be led into a quagmire of uncertainty and dazzled by the delusive will-o’-the-wisp of possible perfection in the flesh, will perhaps flounder for years in the bog of fanaticism and self-torture before reaching the rest that remains for the people of God. I have tried to tell of my own early experiences along this line in a little volume entitled, Holiness, the False and the True, which I am thankful to know has been blessed to the deliverance of many thousands of souls. It was the truth we are now to consider that saved me at last from the wretchedness and disappointments of those early years.

In taking up these chapters I desire to antagonize no one but, simply, to constructively open up the line of truth here set forth for the soul’s blessing.

And first we have to consider the two great families and the two federal heads of chapter Romans 5:12-45.5.21.

The moment a man is justified by faith he is also born of God. His justification is, as we have seen, his official clearance before the throne of God. His regeneration involves his introduction into a new family. He becomes a part of the New Creation of which the risen Christ is the Head. Adam the first was federal head of the old race. Christ Risen, the Second Man and the Last Adam, is Head of the new race. The old creation fell in Adam, and all his descendants were involved in his ruin. The new creation stands eternally secure in Christ, and all who have received life from Him are sharers in the blessings procured by His cross and secured by His life at God’s right hand.

“Joyful now the new creation

Rests in undisturbed repose,

Blest in Jesus’ full salvation,

Sorrow now nor thraldom knows.”

It is the apprehension of this that settles the question of the believer’s security and thus gives a scriptural basis for the doctrine of deliverance from the power of sin.

It will be observed that the subject begun in verse Romans 5:12 is concluded in verses Romans 5:18-45.5.21. The intervening passage (verses Romans 5:13-45.5.17) is parenthetical, or explanatory. It may be best therefore for us to examine the parenthesis first. Sin was in the world dominating man from Adam’s fall even before the law was given by Moses; but sin did not as yet have the distinct character of transgression till a legal code was given to man: which he consciously violated. Therefore, apart from law, sin was not imputed. Nevertheless that it was there and to be reckoned with, is manifest, for “by sin came death” and death reigned as a despotic monarch over all men from Adam to Moses, save as God interfered in the case of Enoch, who was translated that he should not see death. Even where there was no wilful sin, as in the case of infants and irresponsible persons, death reigned, thus proving that they were part of a fallen race federally involved in Adam’s sin and actually possessing Adam’s fallen nature. He who was originally created in the image and likeness of God defaced that image by sin and lost the divine likeness, and we read that “Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image” (Genesis 5:3). This is characteristic of all the race of which he is the head. “In Adam all die.”

Theologians may wrangle about the exact meaning of all this and rationalists may utterly refuse to accept it, but the fact remains, “It is appointed unto men once to die,” and apart from divine interference each one may well say with the poet:

“I have a rendezvous with death,

I shall not fail my rendezvous.”

You have doubtless heard of the epitaph, often mentioned in this connection, which is engraven on a tombstone marking the resting place of the bodies of four young children in St. Andrew’s churchyard in Scotland:

“Bold infidelity, turn pale and die.

Beneath this stone four sleeping infants lie:

Say, are they lost or saved?

If death’s by sin, they sinned, for they are here.

If heaven’s by works, in heaven they can’t appear,

Reason, ah, how depraved!

Turn to the Bible’s sacred page, the knot’s untied:

They died, for Adam sinned; they live, for Jesus died.”

There is no other solution to the problem of childhood suffering than that of the fall of the race in Adam.

But Adam was a figure, an antitype, of Him who was to come-yea, who has come and has Himself taken the responsibility of undoing the effects of the fall for all who, trusting in Him, become recipients of His resurrection life; and with this is linked a perfect righteousness which is eternal in duration and divine in origin. There is a difference as to the offence and the gift however. Adam’s one offence involved his race in the consequences of his fall. Christ, having satisfied divine justice, offers the gift of life by grace to all who will believe and so it abounds unto many. Notice that here in verse Romans 5:15 we have the third “much more.”

Nor is it merely that as by one that sinned so is the gift-for the one sin brought universal condemnation, putting the whole race under judgment. But the reception of the gift of life and righteousness in faith places the recipient in the position of justification from all things irrespective of the number of offences. Death reigned because of one offence. But we are told that “much more,” those who receive this abundance of grace and this free gift of righteousness now reign triumphant over death in life by Jesus Christ, the one who has overcome death and says, “Because I live ye shall live also.”

This is the substance of the parenthesis. Now let us go back-with all this in mind-to verse Romans 5:12, and link it with verses Romans 5:18-45.5.21. Sin entered into the world by one man and death by sin, so death passed upon all men for all have sinned, inasmuch as all were in the loins of Adam when he fell and all the race is involved in the defection of its head.

Now look at verse Romans 5:18. “Therefore as by one offence” there came universal condemnation, even so by one accomplished act of righteousness on the cross there comes an offer to all-that of justification of life. In other words, a life is offered as a free gift to all who are involved in the consequences of Adam’s sin, which is the eternal life manifested in the Son of God who once lay low in death under the sentence of condemnation, but arose in triumph having abolished death, and now as Head of a new race imparts His own resurrection life-a life with which no charge of sin can ever be linked-to all who believe in Him. They share henceforth in a life to which sin can never be in any sense attached. This is a new creation, of which Paul writes so fully in 2Corinthians Chapter 5 and in 1Corinthians Chapter 15: “If any man be in Christ it is new creation.” And it is in new creation that “all is of God”; “Old things have passed away and all things have become new.” So we get the full force of the word, “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” It is not universal salvation, nor is it merely that He will raise all the dead, but the two races, the two creations, the two Headships, are in contrast. Christ is the beginning, the origin, the federal Head of the creation of God (Revelation 3:14). As the risen Man at God’s right hand, having passed through death He now is the fountain of life, pure, holy, unpolluted life, to all who believe. So we are now before God in justification of life.

By one man’s disobedience the many were constituted sinners. “Much more,” by one glorious act of obedience unto death on the part of Him who is now our new Head, the many are constituted righteous.

The coming in of the law added to the gravity of the offence. It gave sin the specific character of transgression. But where sin abounded (had reached its flood-tide, so to speak) grace did “much more abound,” that is, grace super-abounded, so that as sin reigned like a despotic monarch throughout the long centuries before the cross, unto the death of all his subjects, now grace is on the throne and reigns through accomplished righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord!

What a gospel! What a plan! It is perfect; it is divine; like God Himself! How gloriously do these five “much mores” bring out the marvels of grace!

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Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Romans 5". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.