Bible Commentaries

Joseph Beet's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Romans 5

Verses 1-11


CH. 5:1-11

Let us then, justified by faith, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have been brought, by our faith, into the grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we also exult in our afflictions; knowing that the affliction works out endurance; and the endurance, proof; and the proof, hope. And the hope does not put to shame: because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts, through the Holy Spirit, which was given to us. For Christ, while we were still powerless, in due season died on behalf of ungodly ones. For hardly on behalf of a righteous man will one die: for, on behalf of the good man, perhaps some one even dares to die. But a proof of His own love to us God gives, that while we were still sinners Christ died on our behalf. Much more then, having now been justified in His blood, we shall be saved through Him from the anger. For if, while enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more having been reconciled we shall be saved by His life. And not only reconciled, but also exulting in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have already received the reconciliation.

In Romans 3:21-26, we learnt that God gives righteousness through faith to all who believe; and that He gave Christ to die in order to make this gift of righteousness consistent with His own righteousness. In Romans 3:27;-Romans 4:25, we learnt that justification through faith, although it overthrows all Jewish boasting, is in harmony with God’s treatment of Abraham. In Romans 5:1, Paul will assume that justification is through faith and through Christ, and will then go on to develop logically the results of these doctrines. We shall find (in Romans 5:1-2) that they give us peace with God and a joyful hope of glory; a hope (Romans 5:3-4) not overthrown but confirmed by our present troubles, and resting on (Romans 5:5-11) the sure ground of the proved love of God.

Romans 5:1. Justified by faith: a summary of Doctrine I, asserted in Romans 3:21-22 and defended in Romans 4:1-24.

By faith: as in Romans 3:30.

Let us have peace: a practical and logical consequence of being justified by faith.

Let-us-have peace was read probably by Tertullian at the close of the 2nd century; and is found in all, or very nearly all, the Latin copies used throughout the Western Church. The same reading is repeatedly quoted and expounded by Origen and Chrysostom, who do not seem to have known the other reading; and is found in all existing Greek copies earlier than the 9th century, and in some of the best cursives. The earliest trace of the reading we have peace is in the Sinai MS., in a correction of the other reading made perhaps in the 4th century. In the Vatican MS. a similar correction was made, perhaps in the 6th century. Three of the later uncials and a majority of the Greek cursives read we have peace. So do the existing copies of the writings of three Greek Fathers of the 4th and 5th centuries. But the point in question does not affect their arguments. Therefore as their works exist only in a few copies made after this reading had become common, we cannot be sure that it was actually adopted by these Fathers. No early version has it except the later Syriac, which exists here, I believe, only in one copy.

If we looked only at documentary evidence, we should at once decide that Paul wrote let us have peace. But some able expositors, e.g. Meyer, Godet, and Oltramare, have thought this reading much less suited to the context than the weakly-supported reading we have peace. They say that exhortation would be out of place at the beginning of a calm exposition like that now before us; and that, since in Romans 5:9-11 Paul takes for granted that his readers are already reconciled, he would not now urge them to be at peace with God. They therefore suppose that, in very early times, the single letter which compels us to translate let us have crept as an error into some important copy, and thus led to what would in this case be an almost universal corruption of the verse.

This opinion is simple desperation. It requires us to believe, not only that all existing Greek copies earlier than the 9th century were made, directly or indirectly, from this one corrupted MS., but that copies of it were carried into both East and West, and that from them only were made all the Latin versions and MSS, and the four Eastern versions, and that copies of this corrupted MS. were the only copies known to the commentators Origen and Chrysostom. It is more easy to believe that the reading we have peace is a correction arising from inability to understand the other. Perhaps we have such a correction before our eyes in the Sinai MS. When once made, it would commend itself by its greater simplicity, and might be gradually adopted in the Greek Church as the ordinary reading. This would account for its presence in a majority of the later Greek copies, and for its absence from all the Latin copies and from the early Eastern versions.

The reading I have adopted was given by Lachmann in his margin, and is given without note by all later Critical Editors. It is given by the Revisers, with a remarkable marginal note saying that “Some authorities read we have.” They render it, “Being therefore justified by faith, let us have peace with God.” This rendering is in my view incorrect; and has been the cause of the rejection, by so many able expositors, of the reading found in all our best ancient copies.

It has generally been assumed that the words justified by faith imply that the readers are already justified, and make this a reason why they should have peace with God. But this interpretation is by no means the only one which the words admit or indeed suggest. The aorist participle implies only that peace with God must be preceded by justification by faith, and leaves the context to determine whether justification is looked upon as actual and as a reason for having peace with God, or as a means by which it must be obtained. This last is the use of the aorist participle in all the many passages in the N.T. in which it precedes a subjunctive or imperative. Compare 1 Corinthians 6:15; Acts 15:36; Ephesians 4:25; also Aristotle Nicom. Ethics bks. iii. 5. 23, vi. 3. 1. The same construction is found even with a future indicative in Romans 15:28; Acts 24:25 : contrast Romans 5:9-10.

This interpretation gives good sense here. The present subjunctive, let us have peace, denotes, not an entrance into, but an abiding state of peace with God, which Paul sets before his readers as their present privilege. The aorist participle preceding it implies that this abiding state must be preceded by the event of justification. In other words, this verse asserts that the doctrine of justification through faith, already stated and defended, puts within our reach an abiding state of peace with God.

The above exposition is required by the meaning of the phrases justified by faith and peace with God. For, as we have seen, to justify the guilty is to pardon: and every king is at peace with those whom he pardons. The justified are already, by the very meaning of the word, at peace with God; and remain so as long as they continue in a state of justification. To exhort such to have peace with God, as in the R.V., is mere tautology. This tautology is avoided in my exposition. For, though justification involves peace with God, the two phrases represent the same blessing in different aspects. Justification is a judge’s declaration in a man’s favour: the phrase peace with God reminds us that formerly there was ruinous war between us and God, and asserts that this war has ceased. It is our privilege to be henceforth at peace with God. The same idea is kept before us in Romans 5:10-11, in the phrases “reconciled to God” and “received the reconciliation.”

The only objection to this exposition is that in Romans 5:2; Romans 5:9-11 and in Romans 8:1 Paul speaks of his readers as already justified. To this objection, an answer is found in Paul’s habit of writing from an ideal and rapidly-changing standpoint. In Romans 3:7, he puts himself among liars, and asks “why am I also still judged as a sinner?” In Romans 2:1; Romans 3:9, he leaves out of sight those saved by Christ, and writes as though all men were still sinning, and therefore under condemnation. In Romans 3:21-22, we hear a proclamation of pardon; and in Romans 4 its condition is discussed. As Paul describes Abraham’s faith and justification, he declares that it was recorded in order to confirm beforehand the good news to be afterwards brought by Christ. As he stands by the writer of Genesis, he looks forward (Romans 4:24) to the day when faith “will be reckoned for righteousness” to all who believe the Gospel. A prospect of peace with God opens before him. While he contemplates it, the Gospel day dawns upon him. In this verse, he calls his readers to wake up to the brightness of its rising. What he bids them do, he conceives to be actually taking place in himself and in them. In Romans 5:2, the sun has risen; and we stand in the sunshine of God’s favour.

If this exposition be correct, the subjunctive present, let us have peace, is rhetorical. Paul might have written, as so many later copies have given us his words, we have peace. But he prefers to urge his readers to appropriate the blessing about which he writes; and immediately afterwards assumes that they are doing what he bids them. In other words, my rendering is much nearer to that of the Authorised Version than is that of the Revisers.

It also permits us to translate in Romans 5:2-3 we exult instead of the same rendering in R.V. “let us rejoice.”

Dr. Sanday in The International Commentary, if I rightly understand him, accepts my exposition. His paraphrase of Romans 5:1 is, “We Christians ought to enter upon our privileges. By that strong and eager impulse with which we enroll ourselves as Christ’s we may be accepted as righteous in the sight of God, and it becomes our duty to enjoy to the full the new state of peace with Him which we owe to our Lord Jesus the Messiah.” In other words, he represents Paul as setting before his readers justification, which he has already expounded, as a gateway to peace with God. In his exposition, he correctly says, “ The aor. part. δικαιωθεντες marks the initial moment of the state ειρηνην εχωμεν. The declaration of not guilty, which the sinner comes under by a heartfelt embracing of Christianity, at once does away with the state of hostility in which he had stood to God, and substitutes for it a state of peace which he has only to realise.” Dr. Sanday acknowledges that my exposition “is perfectly tenable on the score of grammar; and it is also true that justification necessarily involves peace with God.” His only criticism is that my “argument goes too much upon the assumption that ειρ εχ. =obtain peace, which we have seen to be erroneous.” But this I have neither said nor suggested. These words denote only an abiding state of peace with God.

My exposition of the words let us have peace finds further support in Romans 5:2-3, where I have rendered and we exult, a rendering accepted by Dr. Sanday: see my note.

Peace with God: not “peace from God” as in Romans 1:7, nor “the peace of God” as in Philippians 4:7, but a new relation to God. Its sudden introduction without explanation and the argument based upon it imply that it is involved in Paul’s previous teaching. And this we see at once. Since all men have sinned, and God has threatened (Romans 2:12) to destroy all who continue in sin, He is in a correct and awful sense the adversary and enemy of such. They are at war with God. Just so every good king is an uncompromising foe of all who break his laws. Although he loves his subjects and desires to be at peace with them, he lifts his arm to smite those that rebel: for by rebellion they injure themselves and others. Similarly in the O.T. we find God an active enemy of Sin and in some sense of sinners: Exodus 17:16; Malachi 1:4; Ezekiel 39:1. In the great day, His anger and fury (Romans 2:8) will burst forth against them. And not only is God against sinners but they are against Him: Romans 8:7. For they are fighting the battle of Sin, His inveterate enemy: Romans 6:13. They are thoughtlessly resisting His purposes of mercy for themselves and others. There are therefore two obstacles to peace between God and sinners, viz. their opposition to Him, and His justice which demands their punishment. Of these, the latter obstacle is the more serious. For, whereas our opposition to God arises from ignorance and therefore may be removed by divine teaching, God’s purpose to punish sin is right and good, and cannot, as we saw under Romans 3:26, be set aside except in conjunction with such manifestation of His justice as is given in the death of Christ. In this sense we are “reconciled to God through the death of His Son:” Romans 5:10. It is now evident that justification is a declaration of peace between God and man. For pardon always implies that the king’s officers will no longer pursue or detain the pardoned man, but if needful protect him. Consequently, justification involves peace with God.

These last words set before us another view of our position: for they remind us that in former days we had an adversary against whom resistance was useless, and fatal to ourselves. He was our adversary because we were bad and He is good. But now the conflict is past; and we can go into His presence without fear. Of this peace with God, the peace which God gives (Romans 1:7; Philippians 4:7) is a result.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ: parallel to “through the redemption in Christ” in Romans 3:24. These words are the keynote of the chapter. They are further expounded in Romans 5:10 : “through the death of His Son.”

Romans 5:2. Through whom also etc.: through the agency of Christ we are not only saved from a disastrous war with God but also brought into a position in which we enjoy the grace or smile of God, and therefore stand securely. We were far off from God’s favour: Romans 3:23. But Jesus took us by the hand and brought us near. Same word in Ephesians 2:18, cognate word in 1 Peter 3:18 : close parallels.

This access is by faith: keeping before us the condition of pardon. Had we not believed, we should still be far off. Since justification is a gift of God’s undeserved favour (Romans 3:24; Romans 4:4; Romans 4:16), Christ, through whose death God’s favour reached us, may be said to have brought us into this grace. Under His smile, conscious of His favour, we stand, i.e. we maintain our position in spite of burdens which would otherwise weigh us down and in face of foes who would otherwise drive us back. Same word in Romans 11:20; 1 Corinthians 10:12; 1 Corinthians 15:1; 2 Corinthians 1:24; Ephesians 6:11-14.

Exult: as in Romans 2:17. Grammatically we may render either and let-us-exult or and we-exult. If we accept the above-given exposition of “let us have peace,” we may accept here-and in Romans 5:3 the latter rendering. And this gives much better sense. To say that we actually exult in hope of glory and even in afflictions, is much more in harmony with the heroic confidence of Paul than is an exhortation to exult.

The glory of God: the splendour in which God dwells and with which He will clothe His servants: Romans 1:23; Romans 8:17 f; Romans 8:21; Romans 8:30; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:14. Notice the immediate consequences of justification, viz. peace with God, approach to God, the favour of God, a sure standing-ground, hope of the coming splendour, and exultation in view of it.

Romans 5:3-4. Not only but also etc.: another exultation in addition to the above.

Afflictions: same word as in Romans 2:9, but in very different connection. Even the hardships which were so large a part of the outward life of the Roman Christians do not destroy but increase their exultant hope. This arises from knowing the effect of these hardships.

They work-out endurance, i.e. they evoke and develop an heroic character which enables us to bear up and go forward under the burdens of life. Same word in Romans 2:7.

This endurance, since it is altogether beyond our power, affords proof that God is with us, and therefore that the Gospel we have believed is true.

Proof: as in 2 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 8:2; 2 Corinthians 9:13; 2 Corinthians 13:3. It denotes a good appearance after trial.

This proof increases our hope: for it reveals the solidity of the foundation on which rests our expectation of the glory of heaven. Each link in this chain of cause and effect is essential. Our afflictions strengthen our hope, not directly, but by the endurance which they evoke. Our endurance increases our hope, but only by giving proof of the strength of the arm on which we lean. But, apart from the afflictions, there would be no room for this endurance and this proof. Hence Paul says that each works out the other. As illustrations, compare Acts 5:41; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 1:28; James 1:2-4.

Notice the certainty of victory expressed in the words affliction works out endurance. Of no other result, does Paul think. The faith which speaks thus is itself a pledge of victory. These words of Paul are true not only of all the trials of individuals but of the history of the Church as a whole. The endurance of others is a proof of what God will work in us if need be. Because of the courage which God gave them, we meet our foes, be they ever so strong, with a shout of victory.

The Revisers’ rendering let us rejoice in Romans 5:2-3 seems to me much poorer than the A.V. rendering we rejoice which they have put in their margin. As we have seen, it is not required by the reading let us have peace, where the subjunctive mood is only rhetorical: and the two indicatives in Romans 5:2, we have had access and we stand, suggest the rendering I have given. The rendering exult is better than rejoice, which should be reserved for another Greek verb.

Romans 5:3-4 meet, and more than overturn, the objection that present trials are a counter-balance to the glory awaiting us. Our trials strengthen our hope, and thus increase our joy. The fury of the storm only reveals the strength of the rock on which God has placed our feet.

Romans 5:5. And our hope: which is not overthrown, but strengthened, by present trials.

Does not put to shame: an abiding characteristic of it. Many a hope which has enabled a man bravely to battle with great difficulties has eventually by its failure covered him with ridicule. Paul asserts that this is not the case with the Christian hope. Of this assertion, Romans 5:5-11 are a proof. Cp. Psalms 22:4-5.

The love of God: expounded in Romans 5:8 to be God’s love to us.

Poured-out: abundantly put within us, as in Acts 2:17; Acts 10:45.

In our hearts: as in Romans 1:21, the seat of the understanding and the will. God’s love is put within us as an object of our thought, and as a power evoking and moulding our emotions, purposes, actions: in other words, the knowledge that God loves us fills and rules us. These words appeal to our experience. Each will interpret them according as he has found God’s love to be a living power within him.

The Holy Spirit: now first mentioned, except the momentary reference in Romans 2:29.

Which was given to us: to all the justified: otherwise Paul could not appeal to the love made known by the Spirit as a sure ground of the hope which immediately follows justification. Cp. Romans 8:9.

In our hearts: not into. The Spirit first Himself enters to be the soul of our soul, and then from within makes known to us God’s love. That Paul makes no further reference to the Holy Spirit, implies that his argument rests upon God’s love to us, not upon the fact that His love was revealed to us by the Spirit. The proof of God’s love in Romans 5:6-8 rests simply on the historic fact of Christ’s death. The reference to the Spirit is only casual. Paul cannot speak of God’s love, on which rests our glorious hope, without a tribute of honour to the Spirit through whose agency God makes known His love. This passing reference is a precursor of important teaching in Romans 8.

Romans 5:6-8. Proof that God loves us: Romans 5:6 appeals to the fact that Christ died for us, Romans 5:7 compares this fact with the highest proofs of human love, and Romans 5:8 deduces from this comparison a proof of Christ’s love.

Romans 5:6. Christ: put prominently forward as Himself the great proof of God’s love.

Powerless: unable to save ourselves, either by atonement for the past or by future obedience.

In due season: at the most suitable point of time: cp. Galatians 4:4. This is in part evident even to us, and is an additional proof of God’s love.

On-behalf-of: υπερ with gen.: it denotes benefit or help or service, and is thus distinguished from αντι (Matthew 20:28), which means instead of Cp. 2 Macc. vi. 28; vii. 9; viii. 21, “to die on behalf of the laws;”

Ignatius to The Romans ch. iv., “to die on behalf of God.” What the benefit is, must be inferred from the context.

Christ died on behalf of ungodly-ones, i.e. in order that they may be saved: cp. Romans 8:32; Romans 14:15, etc. And since, had He not died, we must, He may be said as in Matthew 20:28 to have died instead of us.

Ungodly: as in Romans 4:5.

Romans 5:7. Proof, by contrast with the most that man will do for man, of the greatness of the love implied in the foregoing statement.

Hardly, or scarcely: an extreme supposition.

Righteous: one whose conduct agrees with the Law. The above unlikely supposition is justified by a case which perhaps occurs.

Good: beneficent, and therefore more than righteous.

The good man: one whose conspicuous beneficence makes him a definite object of thought.

Dares: suggesting the fearful reality of facing death, even for the good man. Notice the hesitation of these words as going almost beyond possibility, and the prominence given to the character of the man for whom conceivably one might perhaps venture to die. All human experience tells how rare is the case here supposed.

Romans 5:8. Proof of God’s love for us involved in what Christ has actually done on behalf of sinners, in contrast to the difficult suggestion of a man dying even for the good man. This event of the past is ever with us, and each day gives-proof of God’s love.

Still sinners: continuing in sin even while God was giving proof of His love to them.

Romans 5:9. Triumphant inference from the proof of God’s love given in Romans 5:6-8, supporting the assertion in Romans 5:5 that His love makes it impossible that our hope will put us to shame.

Much more: not greater abundance, as in Romans 11:12, but greater certainty, as in Romans 5:10; Romans 5:15; Romans 5:17. It is much more easy to believe that we shall be saved by Christ’s life than that we have been justified by His death. To believe the latter, compels us to believe the former.

Now: in contrast to days gone by.

In His blood: recalling same words in Romans 3:25 : a vivid picture. The blood which flowed from His hands and feet purchased our pardon.

Shall be saved: final deliverance from all evil: so Romans 10:10; Romans 13:11; Philippians 1:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 2 Timothy 2:10. This salvation has already begun and is progressing: so Romans 8:24; Ephesians 2:5; 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:15. Paul here looks forward to its completion.

From the anger: of God against sin: so Romans 1:18; Romans 2:5; Romans 2:8; 1 Thessalonians 1:10. From the past Paul draws an inference for the future. If God loves us so much as to pardon our sins at the cost of the blood of Christ, He will not leave the pardoned ones to perish in the day of judgment.

Romans 5:10. Fuller restatement of the above argument.

Enemies: sinners (Romans 5:8) exposed to God’s righteous hostility to sin. So Romans 11:28; Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:16.

Reconciled: brought into a peaceful relation to God: so 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20; Colossians 1:22. It is not merely or chiefly removal of our hostility to God, but our deliverance from His righteous hostility and anger against sin.

This is God’s work: hence we-were-reconciled. For the meaning of this phrase, see Matthew 5:24; 1 Corinthians 7:11; 1 Samuel 29:4. It denotes here the removal, by means of Christ’s death, of a barrier to peace with God having its foundation in the essential justice of God.

Of His Son: the point of the argument. Christ’s death proves God’s love to us: for He is the Son of God.

We shall be saved: repeating the argument of Romans 5:9.

In His life: by means of the power of the living and ascended Saviour, this looked upon as the environment of our salvation. What God has already done has cost the death of His Son. To complete our deliverance, will require no fresh suffering; but will require only the living power of Christ. The costliness of the beginning is a pledge of the completion of the work. Similar argument in Romans 8:32.

Romans 5:11. A supplementary argument supporting the confidence expressed in Romans 5:10, and another exultation in addition to those in Romans 5:2-3.

Not only have we been reconciled but we are exulting in God. Cp. Romans 2:17; Romans 2:23. This recalls “exult in hope” in Romans 5:2, and

“exult in afflictions” in Romans 5:3.

Through our Lord etc.: recalling Romans 5:1, and noting the completion of the argument there begun. Not only have we been reconciled to God through the death of His Son, but day by day we find in God matter of joyful confidence.

Through whom etc.: emphatic repetition of the truth that our salvation in all its elements is through Christ.

Already: or now, as in Romans 5:9. The argument is this. Our present joyful confidence is itself a pledge that our hope of final salvation will be fulfilled. For it has its root in God and has been evoked in us by means of the coming and death and resurrection of Christ. Such a confidence, thus evoked, cannot deceive. It therefore confirms the proof of blessing to come already deduced from our reconciliation through the death of Christ.

The argument begun in Romans 5:5 b is now complete. God’s love to us has been proved by the death of Christ for sinners compared with what man will do for the best of his fellows. And it has been shown that what God has already done for us at so great cost, and the confidence in God thus evoked, are a sure pledge that He will save us to the end. If so, we shall enter (Romans 5:2) the glory of God; and our hope of glory, strengthened by endurance of so many hardships, will not put us to shame.

Notice the perfect confidence with which Paul assumes that all his readers, like himself, were once sinners and enemies of God; that they have been justified and reconciled, and are now at peace with God; and that they know this. For nothing less than a full assurance of the favour of God could prompt the joyful exultation which glows in every line of this section, an exultation not quenched but intensified by the hardships of life.

In Romans 5:10, as in Romans 1:3-4, we find the title Son of God. That enemies have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son, implies an infinite difference between Him and them, a difference based upon His relation to God as His Son. Moreover, Paul’s appeal to the death of Christ as a proof of the love, not of Christ, but of God, reveals the peculiar closeness of Christ’s relation to God. For it suggests a father who gives up his own son, whom he loves with a peculiar affection, to rescue others who are not his sons. This implies that Christ’s relation to God is altogether different from ours. This important doctrine, Paul assumes here, as in Romans 1:3-4, without proof, except the historic proof afforded by His resurrection. See Diss. i. And on this great doctrine rests the whole argument of this section.

In Romans 2:29, we felt for a moment the presence of the Spirit, as author of the circumcision of the heart. With this slight exception, the Holy Spirit and the love of God come before us now for the first time, and in the same verse. The connection is significant. The love of God, which is His inmost essence, is made known to us only by the inward presence of the Spirit of God. A knowledge of His love and the presence of the Spirit belong to the new life which in this chapter we have entered.

The love of God was manifested in the historic fact of the death of Christ; and is proved by Paul, from this fact, by human argument. Nevertheless, the assurance of God’s love is produced ln our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Notice here the true place and office and connection of the facts of Christianity, of human reasoning, and of the Holy Spirit. Upon the facts is built up a logical argument: into this argument the Spirit breathes life and power, and thus makes the facts real to us. Therefore, before Paul begins to reason about the facts he pays homage to the Spirit. But he is none the less careful to prove by conclusive reasoning the historic certainty on which rests the Christian hope. It is always dangerous to accept as the voice of the Spirit that which does not rest on historic fact and sound logic. See notes under Romans 8:17.

Let us now analyse the spiritual life described in this section. Here are men once living in sin because forgetful of God. They were therefore looked upon by God as enemies; and were powerless to escape from, or make peace with, their great adversary. But God loved them: and, since their salvation was not otherwise possible, He gave His Son to die for them, and proclaimed through His death the justification of all who believe. They believed; and were justified, and thus reconciled to their adversary, and consequently are now at peace with God. Christ has brought them near to God. They know that they are justified, and that their justification is a gift of God’s favour towards them. Conscious of this, they stand securely, and look forward with exultation to an entrance into the glory in which God dwells. It is true that their path is crowded with enemies who press heavily upon them: but in spite of these they go forward. Each victory reveals the strength of the arm on which they lean. Thus each conflict increases their assurance of final victory: and the trials of life, of which they understand the purpose, call forth in them a song of triumph. When they believed, God gave His Spirit to dwell in their hearts: and the Spirit has made them conscious that God loves them. Their assurance of His love, though produced by the Spirit, rests upon outward evidence which can be tested by human reasoning. Their present position has cost the death of Christ, and is therefore a proof of God’s love, and a pledge that God will not leave them to perish. Indeed, their exultation in God is itself a proof of this. Therefore, although their entire life rests upon a hope of the future, their position is secure. For their hope is one which puts no man to shame.

Verses 12-19


CH. 5:12-19

Because of this, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin death, and in this way to all men death passed through, in as much as all sinned- For until the Law sin was in the world. But sin is not reckoned while there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned as king from Adam until Moses, even over those who did not sin in the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the Coming One.

Nevertheless, not as the trespass, so also the gift of grace. For if, by the trespass of the one, the many died, much more did the grace of God and the free gift, in the grace of the one man Jesus Christ, abound for the many. And not as through one having sinned, is the free gift. For on the one hand the judgment came by one for condemnation, but the gift of grace came by many trespasses for a decree of righteousness. For if by the trespass of the one death became king through the one, much more shall they who receive the abundance of the grace and of the free gift of righteousness reign in life as kings through the one, Jesus Christ. Therefore, as through one trespass a result came for all men tending towards condemnation, so also through one decree of righteousness a result came for all men tending towards justification of life. For, just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were constituted sinners, so also through the obedience of the one the many will be constituted righteous.

Romans 5:12. Because of this: introducing a logical result of the fact, stated in Romans 5:11, that through Christ we have been reconciled to God, viz. that in Christ we have a parallel to the estrangement of our race from God through Adam’s sin.

Man: a human being of any age or sex: cp. John 16:21. From Romans 5:14 (cp. 1 Corinthians 15:22) we learn that the one man was Adam: contrast Sirach xxv. 24, quoted below. Had not he sinned, death would not have gained a mastery over the whole race.

Sin: personified as an active, ruling principle: so Romans 5:21; Romans 6:12-13; Romans 6:17; Romans 6:19.

Sin entered: therefore before that time it was outside the world, i.e. the human race, the only part of the world capable of sin. In Genesis 1:31, we find a sinless world. These words suggest that Adam’s sin was in some sense a cause of the many sins of his children: see note below.

And in this way: through sin and through one man.

Passed through: extended its dominion to all men. The death of each individual is a compulsory tribute to the sovereignty then usurped.

Inasmuch as all sinned: a reason why through one man’s sin death spread its sway over the entire race, thus expounding in this way. Paul says that when Adam sinned, all sinned. This cannot refer to their own personal sins: for, as will be proved in Romans 5:13, these are not the cause of the universal reign of death. The meaning of these difficult words, Paul will further expound in Romans 5:18-19.

Notice here a plain assertion that all men die because Adam sinned: so 1 Corinthians 15:22. This is also the easiest explanation of John 8:44. The same teaching may be fairly inferred from Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:19; Genesis 3:22. But it is not elsewhere clearly taught in the Bible. We find it however in Wisdom ii. 23, “God created man for incorruptibility… but by envy of the devil death entered into the world;” and in Sir. xxv. 24, “Because of her we all die.” These quotations, from different authors, prove that the teaching before us was known among the Jews before the time of Christ. See further in note below on “Original Sin.”

Romans 5:12 is incomplete: it states only one side of an important comparison. For, although grammatically the clause also in this way etc. might be taken as introducing the second member of the comparison, this would yield no adequate contrast. Evidently the comparison is broken off in order to prove the former side of it. The second side is informally introduced in Romans 5:15; and the whole comparison is formally stated in Romans 5:18-19. Similar broken constructions are found in Galatians 2:6-9; Ephesians 2:1-5.

Romans 5:13-14. Proof, from historic facts, of the doctrine stated in Romans 5:12. That Paul interrupts his comparison in order to prove this first member of it, shows that it was not so generally accepted as to make proof needless.

Law: the Law of Moses looked at in its abstract quality as a prescription of conduct: so Romans 2:12.

Until the Law: throughout the time preceding the giving of the Law: see Romans 2:14.

Sin reckoned: so Romans 4:8. We have here a universal principle bearing upon the foregoing historic fact. It is true that during the whole period up to the time of Moses sin was in the world. But this will not account for the reign of death. For, although death is the penalty of sin, the penalty is not inflicted while there is no law.

Nevertheless, death reigned-as-king: although there was no law prescribing such penalty.

There was sin… death reigned: but the latter was not a result of the former, because the connecting link, law, was absent.

Likeness (as in Romans 1:23) of Adam’s transgression: their sin was not, like his, an overstepping of a marked-out line. These words leave room for any men from Adam to Moses who may have broken definite commands prescribing a penalty, and who therefore died because of their own sin. Paul reminds us that the reign of death was not limited to any such cases.

This argument is Paul’s proof of the teaching in Romans 5:12 that all men die because Adam sinned. It is true that all have sinned and that death is the penalty of sin prescribed to Adam in Paradise and afterwards in the Law given to Israel. But the universal reign of death long before Moses cannot be an infliction of the penalty threatened to him. It must therefore be an infliction on Adam’s children of the penalty laid upon him (Genesis 3:19) for his first transgression.

The above argument is not invalidated by the law written in the heart, by which, as we read in Romans 2:14-15, they who have not received the Mosaic Law will be judged and punished. For this law belongs to the inner and unseen world, and in that unseen world its penalty will be inflicted. The punishment of bodily death belongs to the outer and visible world; and therefore cannot be inflicted in fulfilment of a law written only within.

A similar argument may be drawn from the death of infants. Upon them, though innocent of actual sin, the punishment of death is inflicted. This proves that they come into the world sharing the punishment, and therefore in effect the sin, of Adam. But it suited Paul better to use an argument which keeps the Law before his readers. The case of infants confirms the conclusion at which, by another path, Paul arrived.

Notice that to Paul death is essentially and always the penalty of sin. He sees men die; and inquires for whose sin the penalty is inflicted. His view is confirmed by the fact that both in Paradise and at Sinai God threatened to punish sin by death, and thus set it apart from all natural processes as a mark of His anger. See further in the note below.

Type: so Romans 6:17 : a Greek word denoting a mark made by the pressure of something hard. It is used in John 20:25 for a mark of nails; in Acts 7:43 for a copy or imitation; and in Acts 7:44; Hebrews 8:5 for a model or pattern to be imitated. Hence commonly for a pattern to be followed: 1 Corinthians 10:6; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7; 1 Peter 5:3.

The Coming One: Christ, to whom, standing by Adam, Paul looks forward as still to come. After teaching that God put Adam in such relation to mankind that his sin brought death to all men, he now teaches that in this, in an inverse direction, Adam was a pattern of Christ. He thus introduces the second side of the comparison broken off at the end of Romans 5:12. This second side will occupy Romans 5:15-19.

Romans 5:15. Nevertheless, not as etc.: although Adam is a type of Christ, the comparison between the trespass (see Romans 4:25) of Adam and the gift-of-grace (see Romans 1:11) of Christ does not hold good in everything. Where it fails, Paul will explain in Romans 5:16. But he has introduced a new word, gift-of-grace, and must explain and justify it before he proves the denial of which it is a part. This explanation occupies the rest of Romans 5:15 : it is also a partial statement of the other side of the comparison broken off in Romans 5:12.

For if etc.: explanation of the gift-of-grace which Paul has just put beside the trespass of Adam.

By the trespass of the one, the many died: a restatement of Romans 5:12.

The free-gift: explained in Romans 5:17 as “the free gift of righteousness.”

It is a manifestation of the grace of God: cp. Romans 3:24 : “justified as a free gift by His grace.” God’s favour and the gift of righteousness reached us in the grace of the one man, i.e. amid the favour shown to us by Jesus Christ. Cp. 2 Corinthians 8:9.

Abounded for: as in Romans 3:7 : produced overflowing results in a definite direction, viz. towards the many. These last words denote a tendency, not necessarily an actual result. Nor does the indefinite term the many denote necessarily the same number of persons in each case: see under Romans 5:19. The article implies only in each case a definite object of thought.

Much more: greater certainty, as in Romans 5:9-10. For here there can be no comparison in quantity. But considering God’s character, it is much more easy to believe that the many are blessed than that the many die through one man. The former, Paul has proved: and his proof of it compels us to believe the latter. A similar kind of argument in Romans 5:9-10.

Romans 5:16. Paul now adds to the surpassing comparison in Romans 5:15 b a restatement of the denial in Romans 5:15 a, i.e. of the one point in which the comparison does not hold good: and not as etc. The free gift through Christ differs from the death which came through Adam in that the latter was occasioned only by one man having sinned: i.e. by one man’s sin. This denial is expounded and proved in Romans 5:16 b, 17.

The judgment: the sentence pronounced in Paradise on Adam’s sin. In consequence of one man, i.e. of his sin, this judgment became adverse, i.e. condemnation. These words look upon sin from a new point of view, viz.

that of the judge who condemns it. This result followed from the action of one man.

But the gift-of-grace follows, and undoes the effect of, many trespasses, and leads up to a decree-of-righteousness, i.e. acquittal, a direct contrast to condemnation. See under Romans 5:18.

Romans 5:17. Practical result of the decree of acquittal just mentioned, prefaced by a restatement of the darker side of the comparison.

Death became king: restatement of “the many died” in Romans 5:15, in a form already adopted in Romans 5:14. This reign of death was the punishment following the condemnation pronounced in Paradise.

The abundance of the grace and of the free gift of righteousness: resuming and expounding similar words in Romans 5:15.

They who receive etc.: only to those who believe does the blessing which comes through Christ surpass the loss through Adam. Notice the emphatic repetition, keeping before us the point of comparison: by the one man’s trespass… through the one… through the one. Also the tone of triumph. Through Adam’s sin death became our king. His dread summons, we are compelled to obey. But a day is coming when upon the throne now occupied by death ourselves will sit and reign in endless life.

That the numbers affected are not the same on both sides, does not mar the comparison: for Paul writes as a believer to believers. To them the gift through Christ outweighs the effect not only of Adam’s sin but of their own (Romans 5:16) many trespasses.

Romans 5:18. After the digression in Romans 5:13-14, inserted to prove the former side of the great comparison in Romans 5:12, and the second digression (Romans 5:15-17), in which he proves that the parallel does not hold good in all details, and also states the essential and glorious matter of the second side of the comparison, Paul comes now formally to state in Romans 5:18 and to restate in Romans 5:19 the whole comparison. The resumed thread is indicated by the phrase for all men, already used in Romans 5:12 for the former side, now for the first time used for both sides, of the comparison.

Therefore: a logical summing up and inference, as in Romans 7:3; Romans 7:25; Romans 8:12; Romans 9:16; Romans 9:18; Romans 14:12; Romans 14:19.

Through one trespass: emphatic resumption of similar words in Romans 5:15; Romans 5:17.

For all men: resuming the same words in Romans 5:12.

For condemnation: resuming the same words in Romans 5:16.

Decree-of-righteousness: acquittal, as in Romans 5:16, where its meaning is determined by its contrast to condemnation. In Romans 5:16, this acquittal was mentioned as an outworking of God’s grace: here it is a channel through which come justification and life eternal. It is best to take the word as denoting the Gospel announcement of pardon for all who believe, this being looked upon as a judicial decree and as pronounced once for all in Christ.

For all men: a definite universal phrase which cannot denote less than the entire race, a meaning it must have in the former part of this verse. Same words, in same universal sense, in 1 Timothy 2:1; 1 Timothy 2:4; Titus 2:11. In Romans 12:17; 1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 15:19; 2 Corinthians 3:2, the compass is less definite, but still universal.

Justification: announcement of pardon, as in Romans 4:25.

Of life: result of justification. So Romans 5:17.

The meaning of Romans 5:18 is obscured by the absence of any verb in either clause. So Romans 5:15 a, Romans 5:16 a and b. The verb here must be supplied from the foregoing argument. The verse reads literally, Therefore, as through one trespass for all men, for condemnation, so also through one decree of righteousness for all men for justification of life. The word εις which I have rendered for, denotes tendency, whether of actual result or more frequently of purpose. In Romans 7:10, we have both uses in one short verse; the commandment was designed for life, but actually it resulted in death. The precise meaning in each case must be determined by the context. In Romans 5:18 a, we have an actual result: through one moral fall an influence has gone forth which has reached all men, and has resulted to all in condemnation to death. Through one proclamation of pardon has gone forth an influence designed for all men and leading to justification and life eternal. Over against a universal result, Paul sets a universal purpose to counteract that result. This universal purpose is all that his words grammatically mean, and all that his argument demands. When he speaks in the indicative future of actual results, as in Romans 5:17; Romans 5:19, he does not use the definite term all men.

Romans 5:19. Summary of the reasons and explanations, as Romans 5:18 summed up the conclusions, of Romans 5:12-18 corresponds with “to all men death passed through;” Romans 5:19, with “inasmuch as all sinned.”

Constituted sinners: made sharers of the punishment inflicted on Adam, and in this sense made sharers of his sin: a forensic reckoning. In a still deeper sense we have become sinners through Adam’s sin: see note below. But of this deeper sense we have no hint here.

Obedience: Christ’s obedience to death, as in Philippians 2:8. For in Romans 3:24-26, of which Romans 5 is a practical and experimental exposition, justification is attributed, not to Christ’s obedient life, of which as yet in this epistle we have read nothing, but conspicuously to His death and blood.

Shall be constituted righteous: faith reckoned for righteousness, as each one from time to time appropriates by faith the one decree of righteousness. The future tense as in Romans 4:24, “us to whom it shall be reckoned:” cp. Romans 5:14, “the Coming One.” This is better than to refer it to the great day: for believers are already accepted as righteous. Paul puts himself between Adam and Christ, and looks back to the sentence pronounced on the many because of Adam’s sin and forward to the justification which in Gospel days will be announced to the many because of Christ’s obedience to death.

The change from all men in Romans 5:12; Romans 5:18 to the many in Romans 5:15; Romans 5:19 cannot have been adopted merely to remind us of the large number of persons referred to. For this would be more forcefully done by the words all men. But Paul could not say that all men will be constituted righteous. For there are some of whom he writes with tears, in Philippians 3:19, that their “end is destruction.” And in Romans 5:17 he limits his assertion to “those who will receive the abundance of the grace.” That in the 2nd clause of Romans 5:19 the phrase the many does not include so many as it does in the 1st clause, does not mar the comparison. For the blessing is designed for all men, and will be actually received by all except those who reject it.

We will now build up Paul’s argument from his own premises. God created man without sin, and gave him a law of which death was the penalty. Adam broke the law, and was condemned to die: and this sentence we find inflicted also upon his descendants. It is true that they are sinners: but, since no law prescribing death as penalty has been given to them, their death cannot be a punishment of their own sins. We therefore infer that the condemnation pronounced on Adam was designed for them, and that God treated them as in some sense sharers of his sin. In later days, another Man appears. He was obedient, even when obedience involved death. Through His death, pardon is proclaimed for all who believe: and through Him many enjoy God’s favour and will reign in endless life. Since the Gospel offers salvation to all men and is designed for all, we have in it a parallel, in an opposite direction, to the condemnation pronounced in Paradise, and in Adam a pattern of Christ. But we have more than a parallel. We also have broken definite commands. For our own sins, we deserve to die: but through Christ we shall escape the result, not only of Adam’s sin, but of our own many trespasses. Therefore to all men the blessing is equal to the curse: for it offers eternal life to all. To believers, it is infinitely greater.

Romans 5:18 implies clearly that God’s purpose to save embraced all men. It therefore contradicts any theory which limits the efficacy of the Gospel by some secret purpose of God to withhold from some men the influences leading to repentance and faith which He brings to bear on others. The universality of these influences is implied, as we have seen, in Romans 2:4. It is asserted or implied in Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11; 1 Timothy 2:4; 1 Timothy 4:10, Titus 2:11; John 3:16; John 6:51; John 12:47; John 1:29; 1 John 4:14; 1 John 2:2. Against these passages, there is nothing to set. For the more limited reference in Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25; John 10:11; John 10:15; John 15:13; John 11:52 is included in the wider; and is easily explained. Similarly, the still narrower references in 2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 2:20. For they who accept salvation are in a special sense objects of Christ’s love, even as compared with those who reject it. The entire N.T. assumes that the ruin of the wicked is due only to their rejection of a salvation designed for all.

In Romans 5:1-11, Doctrine 2, Justification through the Death of Christ, was expounded in its bearing on the individual: in Romans 5:12-19, it is expounded in its bearing on the race as a whole and on our relation to the father of the race. In the reversal not only of the evils we have brought upon ourselves but of those resulting from a curse pronounced in the infancy of mankind, we see the importance and the triumph of the Gospel. Again, in Romans 4, Paul supported Doctrine 1, Justification through Faith, by pointing out its harmony with God’s treatment of Abraham. He has now supported Doctrine 2 by pointing out its harmony with God’s treatment of Adam; and has thus given a wonderful and unexpected confirmation both of the Gospel and of the story of Paradise. Lastly and chiefly, we here find in the Gospel a solution (the only conceivable solution) of what would otherwise be an inexplicable mystery. Independently of the Gospel, Paul has proved that all men suffer and die because of the sin of one who lived before they were born. This would be, if it were the whole case, inconsistent with every conception we can form of the justice of God. We now find that it is not the whole case. The pardon proclaimed through Christ for all who believe justifies the curse pronounced on all because of Adam’s sin. Thus the dark shadow of death discloses a bright light shining beyond it.

Notice that Paul accepts the story of Paradise as embodying important truth. But, that he refers only to broad principles, leaves us uncertain whether he held the literal meaning of all its details.

ORIGINAL SIN. We have no indication that the word death in Romans 5:12-19 means anything except the death of the body. The argument rests on the story of Genesis; and there we have no hint of any death except (Genesis 3:19) the return of dust to dust. The proof in Romans 5:14 of the statement in Romans 5:12 refers evidently to the visible reign of natural death. And the comparison of Adam and Christ requires no other meaning of the word. Through one man’s sin, the race was condemned to go down into the grave: and through one man’s obedience and one divine proclamation of pardon believers will obtain a life beyond the grave. The whole argument is but a development of 1 Corinthians 15:22.

Nor have we any direct reference to universal depravity as a result of Adam’s sin. Had it been Paul’s purpose to assert this result, this section would have been out of its place in the epistle. For as yet he has not referred explicitly to any moral change wrought in us by Christ. We may go further and say that the Bible nowhere teaches plainly and explicitly that in consequence of Adam’s sin all men are born naturally prone to evil. That this important doctrine may however be inferred with complete certainty from the teaching of this section read in the light of other teaching of Holy Scripture, I shall now endeavour to show.

In Romans 2:1; Romans 2:3; Romans 2:5, Paul assumed that, apart from the Gospel, all men are committing sin. In spite of (Romans 2:14; Romans 2:26) occasional and fragmentary obedience, he has convicted (Romans 3:9) both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. By works of law (Romans 3:20) Will no flesh be justified before Him: for (Romans 3:23) all have sinned. Unless justified through faith, all men are (Romans 5:6-10) morally powerless godless, sinners, and enemies of God. All are or have been slaves of sin: Romans 6:17; Romans 6:19-20. The awful reality of this bondage is described in Romans 7:23-24. It is closely connected with bodily life: for (Romans 8:8) they that are in flesh cannot please God. All this implies an inborn and universal tendency to evil. And throughout the N.T. we find similar teaching.

We cannot conceive man to have been thus made by a righteous and loving Creator. And that everything that He made was very good, is asserted in Genesis 1:31. A change has taken place: we seek its cause.

In Romans 6:16-22, we shall learn that to sin is to surrender ourselves to an evil power greater than our own, to be its slaves. This is plainly and solemnly asserted by Christ in John 8:34. Therefore, unless the sinner be rescued by one mightier than himself, his first trespass will inevitably be followed by a course of sin. If so, by his first sin Adam must have lost his moral balance, and fallen under the power of sin. And, since even the powers of evil are in God’s hand, this inner result of sin must have been by His permission and ordinance. It was therefore a divinely-inflicted punishment. God decreed that the first act of disobedience should be followed by proneness to sin.

It is now evident that the consequences of Adam’s sin were both outward and inward. God gave up his body to the worms, and (cp. Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28) his spirit, in some real measure, to the power of sin.

The former part of this penalty, we find inflicted on all Adam’s children. This, Paul describes by saying, in Romans 5:10; Romans 5:19, that in him they all sinned, and that through his disobedience many were constituted sinners. This suggests an original relation between him and them such that, in its physical consequence, his sin became theirs. It is equally certain that the latter part of the penalty is inflicted upon all. For we find that all men are actually, unless saved by Christ, slaves of sin. This cannot have been their state as created. We can account for it only by supposing that they share not only the physical but the moral effect of their father’s fall. By sin he sold himself into moral bondage: and because of his sin his children are born slaves to sin.

The above is confirmed by an important picture of universal sin in Ephesians 2:1-3, concluding with the words “and were by nature children of anger, as the rest.” Paul here traces actual sins to an inborn tendency. Similarly in John 3:6 Christ traces the necessity for a new birth to the origin of our bodily life, “born from the flesh.” In Psalms 51:5; Job 11:12; Job 14:4; Job 15:14, we have indications of an inborn defect of human nature. Since this defect cannot be attributed to the Creator, it must have another cause: and this cause lies open to our view in the fall of the first father of our race, from whom we inherit the corruption of death.

This inference is confirmed by all the facts of human heredity. Indisputably men inherit from their parents not only special physical weaknesses but special tendencies to various sins.

In this sense we may say that Adam’s sin was reckoned or imputed to his children: not that God looks on them as though they were in any way responsible for it, but simply that the evils which God threatened should follow sin have fallen upon Adam’s descendants, by the decree of God, because Adam sinned. About the state of men unsaved, see further at the close of § 22.

In Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:22, Paul asserts plainly, following earlier Jewish writers, e.g. Wisdom ii. 23, Sirach xxv. 24, that the doom of death now resting on all men is a result of Adam’s sin. On the other hand, modern Science leaves no room to doubt that animals died long ages before man appeared; and that the death of man is closely related to that of animals. This apparent contradiction demands careful consideration.

The statement that “through one man sin entered into the world” does not necessarily include the death of animals. For the term the world may fairly be limited to the human race, as in Romans 3:6, “God will judge the world,” and in Romans 3:19, “all the world become guilty before God;” where all else except the human race lies outside the writer’s thought. Consequently Paul’s statement is not directly contradicted by the earlier death of animals.

The real question before us is, What would have happened if Adam had not sinned? This question Natural Science cannot answer. For the intelligence and moral sense of man cannot be accounted for by any forces observed working in animal life; and therefore reveal in him an element higher than everything in animals and closely related to the unseen Creator of animals and men.[*] Moreover, each of these elements, the animal and the divine, claims to rule the entire life of man. Between them, capable of being influenced by either, is the mysterious self-determination of man. All this belongs to his original constitution.

* This is well argued, by a naturalist of the first rank, in Wallace’s Darwinism, pp. 461-474.

In the inevitable conflict resulting from this dual constitution, man accepted as his lord the lower element of his nature. Like an animal, he ate attractive food, disregarding the divine prohibition. We need not wonder that by so doing he fell under the doom of death to which all animal life had long been subject. But we cannot doubt that man was absolutely free to yield submission to the higher, instead of the lower, side of his nature. And we have no proof whatever that, if he had done this, and thus claimed his affinity to God, he would have fallen under the doom of animals.

This possibility lies outside the range of Natural Science. This last reports that animals died long before man appeared, and that to their death the death of man is closely related. Beyond this it cannot go; except that it finds in man phenomena which cannot be accounted for by the forces observed in animals, thus revealing in him a higher life. It cannot therefore contradict the teaching of the great apostle.

This teaching is confirmed by the repulsiveness of the phenomena of death, a repulsiveness increasing as we ascend the scale of life. This repulsiveness suggests irresistibly that a world in which death is the doom of every living thing is not itself the consummation of the Creator’s purpose. It compels us to look for a new earth and heaven not darkened by the shadow of death. Against this hope, Natural Science, which sees only things around, has nothing to say. The objection we are considering need not therefore deter us from accepting the doctrine before us.

We shall however do well to remember that this doctrine is taught in the N.T. only by Paul; and that it is not made, even by him, a fundamental truth on which other teaching is built. It is introduced only to show how far-reaching is the salvation announced by Christ; and therefore ought not to be quoted as one of the great doctrines of the Gospel.

Verse 20-21


CH. 5:20, 21

But a law entered beside, in order that the trespass might multiply. But where sin multiplied, grace abounded beyond measure; in order that, just as sin became king in death, in this way also grace might become king, through righteousness, for eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In § 15, we saw the bearing, each upon the other, of the two greatest events in the spiritual history of mankind, viz. the Fall and the Gospel. But Paul cannot overlook the third greatest event, the giving of the Law. He will now tell us the place and purpose of the Law in its relation to the other two events. This will teach us both its importance and its subordinate position: it was only a means to an end, but a divinely-chosen means to the noblest of all ends.

Romans 5:20. A law: the Mosaic Law, in its abstract character. God gave from Sinai a rule of conduct.

Entered-beside, or along-side: coming in between sin and death, and the Gospel.

In order that etc.: purpose of God in giving a rule of conduct.

The trespass: Adam’s disobedience, as in Romans 5:15.

Multiply, or become-more: in the “many trespasses” of Romans 5:16. The express commands given at Sinai, following the one command given in Paradise, were followed by many acts of disobedience. If, as we have just seen, Adam’s children inherited his fallen nature, these many trespasses were a result, and in this sense a multiplication, of his first trespass. Moreover, this was the only possible result of the gift of a divine law to a race born in sin. Paul therefore speaks of it as the designed result: in order that etc.

But where etc.: another and surpassing event.

Sin: the abstract principle underlying the concrete trespass. It prepares a way for the personification of sin in Romans 5:21.

Grace abounded-beyond-measure: the favour of God produced results far surpassing those of the one trespass. As explained in Romans 5:15-17, they were superabundant in reversing the effects not of one but of many trespasses, and in giving life to many, each of whom deserved death for his own transgression. The one act of disobedience was followed by many such acts: and thus the empire of sin extended its sway. But this multiplication of the trespass, instead of evoking a corresponding outburst of divine anger, called forth God’s goodwill, in the form of saving mercy, in measure greater than the spread of the evil.

Romans 5:21. Purpose of this superabounding grace, and ultimate purpose of the Law.

Sin became-king: so Romans 5:14; Romans 5:17, “death became king.”

In death: the visible throne from which sin proclaims its tremendous power. Every corpse laid in the grave is a result of sin, and reveals its power. Moreover, sometimes men have committed sin for fear of death: cp. Hebrews 2:15.

Grace may-reign-as-king: the undeserved favour of God personified; as death and sin have been. God’s purpose is that His own undeserved favour, with royal bounty, may rule and bless those who once were under the sway of sin and death.

Through righteousness: recalling “the gift of righteousness,” in Romans 5:17. It is a necessary condition of life eternal. This last (see under Romans 2:7) is the ultimate aim of God’s favour towards us. So Romans 6:22-23.

Through Jesus Christ, our Lord: the one channel of grace and righteousness and life eternal. It is a conspicuous feature of Romans 5 : see Romans 5:1; Romans 5:11; Romans 5:17 : cp. Romans 1:5; Romans 1:8; Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 5:18.

The purpose of the Law as here stated supplements and explains that stated in Romans 3:19. The Law commends itself to our moral sense as right; and, by bidding us do something beyond our power, it inevitably produces a consciousness of guilt, and leads up to further disobedience. All this was foreseen and designed by God as a means to a further end, viz. pardon and life. So Galatians 3:23-24.

The above teaching about the Law of Moses is in part true of the law written in the heart. Had there been in Adam’s children no inborn moral sense, his moral fall would not have produced the far-reaching and terrible results we now see. By erecting in every man this barrier against sin, God has revealed the mighty power of sin which breaks down the barrier, and the terrible moral consequences of Adam’s fall. But to this inner law there is no reference here.

DIVISION II. is now complete. The whole of it is a logical development of two great doctrines asserted in Romans 3:21-26. In Romans 3:27 -Romans 4:25, Paul shows that Doct. I, Justification through Faith, shuts out all self-exultation, but is in harmony with God’s treatment of Abraham: in Romans 5, he develops Doct. 2, Justification through the Death of Christ, and shows that it gives us a well-grounded exultation in hope of glory, and is in harmony with, and is the only conceivable explanation of, God’s dealings with mankind in Adam.

The complete confidence with which Paul accepts the facts and utterances of Genesis and uses them to defend the great doctrines of the Gospel proves that in the days of the apostles the substantial truth of Genesis was admitted by Jews and Christians. See further is Diss. iii. If we accept the great doctrines asserted and assumed in Romans 3:21-26, and the truth of Genesis, Paul’s reasoning will compel us to accept the teaching of the whole division.

DIV. II., like DIV. I., concludes with an exposition of the purpose of the Law. The difference between the two expositions marks the progress we have made. DIV. I. left us trembling beneath the shadow of Sinai, silent and guilty. But we have just learnt that the thunders of the Law are a voice of mercy, designed to lead us to Christ and thus to eternal life. DIV. I. made us conscious of our guilt: DIV. II. has reconciled us to God, brought us under His smile, and opened before our eyes a prospect of eternal glory. But as yet we have heard nothing about an inward moral change. This will be the lesson of the great division before whose portal we now stand.

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Bibliographical Information
Beet, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 5". Joseph Beet's Commentary. 1877-90.