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Bible Commentaries
Romans 5

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

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Verses 1-11


If a righteousness were not obtainable by the words of the law as we saw in our last lesson, then a Jew especially might well ask in surprise how it were obtainable. To which the apostle replies, that “now apart from the law a righteousness of God is manifested,” (Romans 3:21 RV), i.e., a righteousness which may become man’s without the keeping of the law. This righteousness he describes as:

“Witnessed by the law and the prophets,” in other words, taught in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament; ยท obtained through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22 ); without respect of persons, Jew or Gentile (Romans 3:22-23 ); the free gift of God’s grace (Romans 3:24 ); based upon the death of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:25 ); and its bestowment declarative of God’s righteous character (Romans 3:25-26 ).

“His righteousness” in these last two verses does not refer as in the earlier instances, to the righteousness he is. It means that He is perfectly consistent with His own law and holiness in freely justifying a sinner who believes on Christ, because Christ has fully met every demand of the law on his behalf (Romans 10:4 ). In this connection “propitiation” should be understood clearly. It does not convey the idea of placating an angry God, but of doing right by His holy law and so making it possible for Him righteously to show mercy. Christ so honored the law by enduring its righteous sentence that God who ever foresaw the cross, is vindicated in having “passed over” sins from Adam to Moses (5:13), and the sins of Jewish believers under the old covenant, and in justifying sinners under the new covenant.

To appreciate chapter 4 go back to the phrase, “witnessed by the law and the prophets” (Romans 3:22 ). The Law of the Prophets was one of the names given by the Jews to the Old Testament. The Law meant the Pentateuch or the first five books of Moses and the Prophets the remainder of the Old Testament. Paul was showing that the salvation or justification by faith he preached was Old Testament truth, and in the present chapter he confirms the fact by the instances of David and Abraham. The illustration from Abraham is found in the Law and that from David in the Prophets. Abraham’s case is first treated (Romans 4:1-4 ), and then David’s (Romans 4:5-8 ). To Abraham he returns at Romans 4:9 , showing in what follows how justification is entirely distinct from ordinances. Romans 4:18-25 should be pondered because of their simple and picturesque presentation of the theme. Abraham believed God’s testimony about Isaac in the face of nature to the contrary, and this faith “was counted to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:22 ). We have only to believe God’s testimony about Jesus Christ, Whom Isaac typified, to receive the same blessing in the same way. Romans 4:2 of this chapter must not be thought to contradict James 2:24 , because these two scriptures are but two aspects of the same truth. Paul here is laying down the principle which James is applying; or to put it better, Paul is speaking of that which justifies man before God, and James of that which justifies him before man. The former alludes to what God sees faith, and the latter to that which man sees works. The one has in mind Genesis 15:6 , the other, Genesis 22:1-19 .

There are three great results of justifying faith as indicated in Romans 5:1-11 : peace with God, access unto God, and rejoicing before God (Romans 5:1-2 ). The rejoicing is in hope of the glory of God, tribulations, and in God Himself (Romans 5:11 ). The rejoicing in tribulations is a theme full of interest. We rejoice because the tribulations of a justified man work “patience,” the patience “experience,” and the experience “hope, that maketh not ashamed” (Romans 5:3-5 ). The “experience” in this case is experience of the love of God who comforts us in our tribulation, sanctifies it to us and delivers us from it. This experience assures us of His love for us, the Holy Ghost thus ‘sheds it abroad in our hearts,’ and in consequence of that assurance our hope of beholding and partaking of His glory grows the brighter. We know that we shall not be ashamed of, or confounded in regard to the fulfillment of that hope. Romans 5:6-10 , important as they are and full of the riches of Christ, are in a sense parenthetical to the main line of teaching in this section. Bishop Moule suggests a rendering of Romans 5:10 of great beauty: “We shall be kept in His life.”


1. What is meant by righteousness “apart from the law”?

2. What is meant by “witnessed by the law and the prophets”?

3. How do you distinguish the “righteousness of God” (Romans 3:25-26 ), from the same phrase as used earlier?

4. How do you understand “propitiation”?

5. What part of chapter 3 is illustrated by chapter 4?

6. What is the meaning of The Law and the Prophets?

7. Why is the phrase used in this case?

8. What is the substance of chapter 4?

9. How does Abraham’s justification illustrate ours?

10. Harmonize Romans 4:2 with James 2:24 .

11. Name the three results of justifying faith.

12. Name the three causes of rejoicing.

Verses 12-21


“Wherefore” leads back to chapter 3, where the apostle is referring to the sinful condition of all men. It was by one man that sin entered the world bringing physical death as a penalty, and that all have sinned is proven by the fact that all have paid that penalty (Romans 5:12 ). To be sure the law was not given to Moses till Sinai, but as “death reigned from Adam to Moses,” it is evident that there was a transgression of another law than that written on stone, for “sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Romans 5:13 ). For the nature of this other law compare again Romans 2:15 .

But as sin came through the first Adam, so the gift of righteousness came through the second Adam. It was just one offense that brought the condemnation, but the gift of righteousness covers “many offences” (Romans 5:16 ; Romans 5:19 ). It was the giving of the law at Sinai that revealed how many these offences were (Romans 5:20 ) for “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20 ). Nevertheless, though sin was thus seen to abound, yet “grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20 ). “Sin” as used here is different from “sins,” the former referring to our fallen nature, and the latter to manifestations of that nature.

What Paul had said about grace abounding where sin abounded, might lead an uninstructed mind to infer that it put a premium on sin. Or in other words, if man were justified by faith only, what provision was made for a change of character? How did salvation by grace affect one’s experience as well as his standing before God? Chapters 6 to 8 work out this thought as follows.


The believer is identified with Christ in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:1-10 ). The baptism into Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3 ), is the pentecostal experience which becomes the birthright of every believer the moment he believes. He is then baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of which Christ is the Head (1 Corinthians 12:13 ); and being so baptized he is considered as one with Christ as any member of a human body is one with the head of that body. This means of course, that he is regarded in God’s sight as having died when Christ died he was “baptized into His death.” The sequel however, must be equally true, and he is regarded as having risen from the dead when Christ rose. Hence he is now in a legal or judicial sense walking before God “in newness of life.” Being dead he “is freed from sin” (Romans 6:7 ), i.e., having legally died in Christ when Christ died just as every member of a body dies when its head dies, he has paid the penalty of his sin in Christ, and having now arisen in Christ after the payment of that penalty, “death hath no more dominion over him” (Romans 6:9 ), he has not again to pay the penalty of sin.

It is now his duty to reckon this to be true, and no longer to allow sin to reign in his “mortal body” (Romans 6:11 ). The way to accomplish this is not by efforts and resolutions on his part, but by yielding his new life unto God. He yields his new life by yielding the members of his body unto God his eyes, ears, tongue, hands, feet, brain, etc. (Romans 6:13 ).

The result will be his deliverance from the dominion of sin God will see to it (Romans 6:14 ). The old relation of the man to the law of sin, and his new relation to Christ are illustrated by the effect of death upon servitude (Romans 6:16-23 ). The old servitude was rendered to sin the end of which was death. But death in another form, i.e., crucifixion with Christ, has now intervened to free the servant from sin, and enable him to become the servant of God, with “fruit unto holiness and the end everlasting life” (Romans 6:22 ). The relationship is next illustrated by marriage (Romans 7:1-6 ). Death dissolves the marriage relationship, and as natural death flees a wife from the law of her husband, so crucifixion with Christ sets the believer free from the law, or rather its penalty resting upon him on account of his sin.

“Newness of spirit” and “oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6 ) are expressions requiring a word of comment as we meet with them again in another epistle. By the “letter” is meant the Mosaic law, and by the “spirit” the power and relationships of the new life in Christ Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 3:6 ).


1. What is the significance of “wherefore” at the beginning of this lesson?

2. How is it proven that all men have sinned?

3. Did you cross-reference 2:17?

4. What is the distinction between “sin” and “sins”?

5. What thought is it that chapters 6-8 are working out?

6. What is the meaning of “baptized into Jesus Christ?”

7. How may the dethronement of sin be accomplished in a believer?

8. What two illustrations of this truth are employed in this lesson?

9. Describe “oldness of letter” and “newness of spirit.”

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Romans 5". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/romans-5.html. 1897-1910.
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