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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Romans 5


Romans 5:1 Being justified by faith, we have peace with God,

Romans 5:2 we glory in our hopes,

Romans 5:3-5 and in present afflictions,

Romans 5:6-10 from the best experience of God’s love, looking with more assurance for final salvation.

Romans 5:11 we glory in God also, to whom we are reconciled by Christ.

Romans 5:12-19 As sin and death came upon all men by Adam, so the grace of God, which justifieth unto life, cometh more abundantly unto all mankind through Christ.

Romans 5:20,Romans 5:21 Under the law sin abounded unto death; but grace hath much more abounded unto life.

Verse 1

Hitherto of the cause and manner of our justification; now follow the benefits and effects.

Being justified by faith; as he had before asserted and proved particularly, in Romans 3:28; Romans 4:24.

We have peace with God; i.e. we have reconciliation with God, who before were utter enemies to him, Colossians 1:21; he is now become our Friend, as he was Abraham’s.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Mediator of reconciliation: see 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 1:20; 1 Timothy 2:5.

Verse 2

We have not only reconciliation with God by Jesus Christ, but also by faith in him we are admitted to his presence, his grace and favour. One may be reconciled to his prince, and yet not to be brought into his presence: witness Absalom, &c. See Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12; 1 Peter 3:18.

This grace is either that whereof he spake, Romans 3:24; or else rather it may be understood of that excellent state of reconciliation, friendship, and favour with God, which God hath graciously bestowed upon us.

Wherein we stand; or, in which we stand or abide, not stirring a foot for any temptation or persecution: a metaphor from soldiers keeping their station in fight. A man may obtain his prince’s favour, and lose it again; but, &c.

And rejoice in hope of the glory of God; in the glory hoped for, a Hebraism; see Luke 10:20; 1 Peter 1:8,1 Peter 1:9; even in that glory which God hath promised, and which consists in the enjoyment of him.

Verse 3

We glory in tribulations also; as old soldiers do in their scars of honour: see Galatians 6:17; 2 Corinthians 12:9-11. Believers do not only glory in their future happiness, but in their present sufferings and afflictions: yet not so much in affliction itself, as in the issue and fruitful effects thereof, of which he speaks in what follows.

Knowing, finding by experience, that tribulation worketh patience; not as if affliction of itself and in its own nature did this, for in many it hath a contrary operation; but God, who is the author and giver of patience, Romans 5:15, doth make use of it for this purpose; it is a means sanctified of God for the exercising, obtaining, and increasing thereof.

Verse 4

And patience, experience; viz. of God’s sustentation and care of us, and of his faithfulness in fulfilling his promises, Psalms 91:15; Isaiah 43:2; 2 Corinthians 1:4,2 Corinthians 1:5; as also of our own sincerity, and strength to endure and persevere, Matthew 13:21.

And experience, hope; i.e. of the glory of God, as before in Romans 3:2, or hope of further mercy and seasonable deliverance. Believers find and feel that God hath delivered them, and doth deliver them, and in him they trust and hope that he will still deliver them.

Verse 5

And hope maketh not ashamed; it doth not disappoint or deceive us. Frustrated hopes fill men with shame and confusion, Job 6:19,Job 6:20. This passage seems to be taken out of Psalms 22:5.

Because, &c.; this is either rendered as the reason of all that went before; Therefore the justified by faith have peace with God, access to him by faith, hope of glory, joy in tribulation, &c., because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts: or else it is a reason of what immediately preceded; Therefore hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad, &c.

The love of God; understand it either actively, of our love to God, or rather passively, of his love to us, (of which he speaks, Romans 5:8), and of the sense thereof.

Is shed abroad in our hearts; is greatly manifested, or abundantly poured forth: a frequent metaphor, both in the Old and New Testament: see Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28; Zechariah 12:10; John 7:38; Acts 2:17.

By the Holy Ghost which is given unto us; not excluding the Father and Son; it is the more proper work of the Spirit, both to make us feel the love of God, and to fill our hearts with love to God.

Verse 6

Without strength; utterly unable to help or redeem ourselves.

In due time; some read it, according to the time, and refer this clause to the foregoing words, making this to be the sense: When we were weak in time past, or in the time of the law, before grace appeared, then Christ died, &c. Others rather refer it to the following words, and so our translation carries it, that in due time, i.e. in the fulness of time, as Galatians 4:4, or in the time that was before decreed and prefixed by the Father. The Scripture every where speaks of a certain season or hour assigned for the death of Christ: see Matthew 26:45; John 8:20; John 12:27; John 17:1.

Christ died for the ungodly; i.e. for the sake, or instead of, such as were enemies to God, {as Romans 5:10} and so could deserve no such favour from him.

Verse 7

He amplifies the love of Christ in dying for the ungodly, and shows that it is unparalleled and without example. By a good man you must understand one that is very kind and bountiful, or one that is very useful and profitable; that is, a public and common good. Instances may be given of those that have sacrificed their lives for such. Lilloe stepped between the murderer and king Edward his master. Nicholas Ribische lost his life to preserve Prince Maurice at the siege of Pista.

Verse 8

God commendeth his love toward us; i.e. he declareth or confirmeth it by this, as a most certain sign, he makes it most conspicuous or illustrious: see John 3:16; 1 John 4:9,1 John 4:10.

In that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; i.e. in a state of sin, and under the guilt and power of sin. Believers in some sense are still sinners, 1 John 1:8, but their sins being pardoned and subdued, they go no longer under that denomination. Sinners in Scripture are said to be those in whom sin dwells and reigns; see John 9:31. Such we were by nature. Yea, we were not only sinners, but enemies to God, which further commendeth the love of Christ in dying for us: there is no greater love amongst men, than when one layeth down his life for his friends; but herein Christ’s love excelled, that he gave his life for his enemies.

Verse 9

The apostle’s arguing is cogent, for it is more to justify and reconcile sinners, than to save them being justified; Christ therefore having done the former, he will much more do the latter.

By his blood; i.e. by faith in his blood or sufferings.

From wrath; the Greek reads it with an article, from that wrath, whereby is meant the wrath to come, or eternal punishment.

Verse 10

We were reconciled to God; put into a capacity of reconciliation, God being by Christ’s death made reconcilable, and also actually reconciled, when we believe, through the merits of the death of Christ.

We shall be saved by his life; i.e. by the resurrection to life. Salvation is ascribed to the resurrection and life of Christ, because he thereby doth perfect our salvation, he ever living to make intercession for us, Hebrews 12:25; and because by his resurrection and life we shall be raised to eternal life at that day.

Verse 11

And not only so, &c.: q.d. We do not only rejoice in the hope of glory, and in tribulation, of which he had spoken, Romans 5:2,Romans 5:3, (all that fell in between being a long parenthesis), but we rejoice and glory in God himself, who is become our God and merciful Father in Jesus Christ.

By whom we have now received the atonement; this is rendered as the reason why we should rejoice in God through Jesus Christ; for by him God is atoned or reconciled, satisfaction being made for our sins in his blood. The particle now hath its emphasis, to show the privilege of those who live in these times of the gospel.

Verse 12

From this verse to the end of the chapter, the apostle makes a large comparison between the first and Second Adam, which he joins to what he had said by the causal particle wherefore: q.d. Seeing things are as I have already said, it is evident, that what was lost by Adam is restored by Christ. This verse seems to be lame and imperfect; the reddition is wanting in the comparison; for unto this,

as by one man sin entered into the world, there should be added, so by Christ, &c. But the reddition, or second part of the comparison, is suspended, by reason of a long parenthesis intervening to Romans 5:18,Romans 5:19, where the apostle sets down both parts of the comparison.

By one man: viz. Adam.

Objection. Eve first sinned, 1 Timothy 2:14.

Answer. He is not showing the order how sin first entered into the world, but how it was propagated to mankind. Therefore he mentions the man, because he is the head of the woman, and the covenant was made with him: or, man may be used collectively, both for man and woman; as when God said: Let us make man, & c.

Sin; it is to be understood of our first parents’ actual sin, in eating the forbidden fruit; this alone was it that affected their posterity, and made them sinners, Romans 5:19.

Entered into the world; understand the inhabitants of the world; the thing containing, by a usual metonomy, is put for the thing contained.

And death by sin; as the due reward thereof.

Death here may be taken in its full latitude, for temporal, spiritual, and eternal death.

And so death passed upon all men; seized upon all, of all sorts, infants as well as others.

For that all have sinned; others read it thus, in which all have sinned, i.e. in which one man; and so it is a full proof that Adam was a public person, and that in him all his posterity sinned and fell. He was our representative, and we were all in him, as a town or county in a parliament man; and although we chose him not, yet God chose for us.

The words εφ w are rendered in which, in other places, and the preposition επι is put for εν; see Mark 2:4; Hebrews 9:10; and if our translation be retained, it is much to the same sense; for if such die as never committed any actual sin themselves, (as infants do), then it will follow that they sinned in this one man, in whose loins they were: as Levi is said to have paid tithes in Abraham’s loins, Hebrews 7:9.

Verse 13

For until the law sin was in the world: q.d. It appears that all have sinned, because sin was always in the world, not only after the law was given by Moses, but also before, even from the beginning of the world till that time.

But sin is not imputed when there is no law: q.d. It appears there was a law before the law of Moses, for if there had been no law all that while, then sin would not have been imputed to men, so as to make them liable to punishment or death; but sin was imputed or charged upon men before the law of Moses, and death passed upon all. Therefore there must have been a law, by the transgression of which men were sinners, before that time. And that was either the law of nature, or the positive law which God gave to Adam, the transgression whereof is imputed to all, as we shall see, Romans 5:19. Some think the apostle doth here obviate a cavil: q.d. Let no man think that sin began to have its being together with the law, for there was sin before there was any written law to forbid it. The same acts that were forbidden afterwards by the law, were before committed, and were really sinful in the sight of God. But sin was not so well known, nor so strictly charged upon the sinner, as it is since the law was given. It was not imputed comparatively, though absolutely it was, as may appear by many instances, as the drowning of the world, the destruction of Sodom, &c.

Verse 14

He proceeds to prove his assertion in the foregoing verse, that sin was in the world before the law, because

death, which is the wages of sin, did reign, and had power over all mankind, from Adam to Moses, which was about two thousand five hundred years.

Even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression; i.e. over very infants, that had not actually sinned as Adam did. But though infants did not sin like Adam, yet they sinned in Adam; the guilt of his sin was imputed to them, else death could have had no power over them. Infants (as one saith) are not altogether innocents; the very first sheet or blanket wherewith they are covered is woven of sin and shame, of blood and filth, Ezekiel 16:4,Ezekiel 16:6.

Who is the figure of him that was to come; of his offspring, (so some), which came of him in after times; his posterity (as before) was represented in his person: but others better expound it of Christ, who is the Second Adam; and of whom Adam was a figure or type, not in respect of such things as were personal to either of them, but of that which by them redounded to others. The first Adam was the original of man’s natural and earthly being; the Second Adam, of his spiritual and heavenly. By the first, sin and death came into the world; by the Second, righteousness and life.

Verse 15

But not as the offence, so also is the free gift: q.d. But yet the resemblance betwixt the first and Second Adam is not so exact as to admit of no difference; differences there are, but they are to great advantage on Christ’s part: e.g. Compare Adam’s sin and Christ’s obedience, in respect of their efficacy and virtue, and you will find a great difference.

For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many: the obedience of Christ (which is the product of his grace and favour) is much more powerful to justification and salvation, than the sin of Adam was to condemnation. If the transgression of mere man was able to pull down death and wrath upon all his natural seed, then the obedience of one, which is God as well as man, will much more abundantly avail to procure pardon and life for all his spiritual seed. He doth not give the pre-eminence unto the grace of Christ in respect of the number, but of the more powerful efficacy and virtue.

Verse 16

q.d. As there is a difference between Adam and Christ in respect of their persons, so also in respect of their acts, and the extent thereof; for one sin of Adam did condemn us; the mischief arose from one offence; but the free gift and grace of Christ doth absolve us not only from that one fault, but from all other faults and offences; it reacheth to the pardon, not only of original sin, but of all other personal and actual sins.

Verse 17

Here he shows the difference in respect of the effects and consequents of their acts. If by means of one man and his one offence death had power over all mankind, then much more shall the grace and gift of righteousness, which is by Jesus Christ alone, obtain eternal life for all that have received abundant grace and mercy from him.

Verse 18

Here, after a long parenthesis, the apostle returns to what he had begun to say in Romans 5:12; and now he makes the comparison full in both members, which there, by reason of intervening matter, was left imperfect, as I before hinted.

Judgment; guilt, which exposeth to judgment.

Came upon all men; all the posterity, or natural seed, of the first Adam.

The free gift; that which all along he calls the free gift, seems to be the benefit believers have by Christ’s obedience.

Came upon all men; not all universally, but all sorts of men indifferently, Gentiles as well as Jews; or all that are his spiritual seed. Or all men here is put for many men; see elsewhere, Luke 6:26; Acts 22:15.

Many is sometimes put for all, as Daniel 12:2, and again all for many; and indeed these two words, all and many, seem to be used reciprocally by this context in particular, Romans 5:15,Romans 5:19.

Verse 19

One man’s; i.e. Adam’s: see the notes on Romans 5:12.

Many; i.e. all, as before; many is here opposed to one, or a few; the meaning is: Though Adam was but one, yet he infected many others, his sin rested not in his own person.

Were made sinners; brought into a state of sin. This is more than when all the world were said to sin in him. The word is used to signify great and heinous sinners. The apostle here informs us of that which all philosophy was ignorant of, viz. the imputation of Adam’s sin, and our natural pollution flowing from it. Yea, this was more than the naked history of man’s fall by Moses did discover; there indeed we see the cause of death, how that came upon all mankind; but that Adam’s sin was accounted to us, that by his disobedience we are involved in sin and misery, that is not clearly revealed in the books of Moses. We are beholden to the gospel, and particularly to this text and context, for the more full discovery hereof.

By the obedience of one; i.e. of Christ. He leaves out the word man, either for brevity sake, or because Christ was not a mere man, as Adam was. Here the apostle concludes the collation he had made between Adam and Christ, whom he had all along represented as two public persons, or as two common roots or fountains, the one of sin and death, the other of righteousness and life. And indeed there are throughout the context (as one observes) several textual and grammatical obscurities, as also redundant and defective expressions, which are not unusual with this apostle, whose matter runneth from him like a torrent, and cannot be so well bounded by words. Another saith, upon the consideration of the difficulties in this context: We do not need Theseus’s twine of thread, but the Holy Ghost, and that light by which this Epistle was wrote, to guide us into the understanding of it.

Verse 20

Here he shows the reason why the law was given; although (as it is in Romans 5:13) before that time sin was in the world, it was

that the offence might abound; either strictly, the offence of that one man, or rather largely, the offence of every man. The particle ινα (rendered that), is to be taken either causally, and so it is interpreted by Galatians 3:19, where it is said, the law was added because of transgressions, that thereby the guilt and punishment of sin being more fully discovered, the riches of God’s free grace and mercy might be the more admired; or else eventually, it so falls out by accident, or by reason of man’s corruption, that sin is thereby increased or augmented.

The law is holy, just, and good, ,{ as Romans 7:12} how then doth that increase sin? Either as it irritates the sinner, Romans 3:20; and Romans 7:8,Romans 7:11, or makes manifest the sin, Romans 7:7,Romans 7:13; thereby sin is known to be, as indeed it is, out of measure sinful.

But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: this is added by way of correction, to mitigate the former assertion, and it lays down a second end of giving the law; the former was the increase and manifestation of sin, the latter is the abounding or superabounding of God’s grace. There is this difference to be observed; that the first end is universal, for in all men, both good and bad, the law worketh the increase and knowledge of sin; but tho other is particular, and peculiar to the elect: to them only the grace of God is superabundant after that they have abounded in sin, and by how much the greater is their guilt, by so much the greater is the grace of God in the free forgiveness thereof.

Verse 21

Before he ascribed dominion and reign to death, now to sin; the reason is evident, because death indeed reigneth by sin. Before also he had made the comparison between Adam and Christ, here it is between sin and grace, the power of one and of the other. The sum is, that as sin hath prevailed over all mankind to bring death upon man, not only a temporal but eternal death, so the grace of Christ prevails, and becomes effectual, to confer upon us eternal life.

Righteousness; i.e. imputed or imparted.

By Jesus Christ our Lord: see how sweetly the end answers the beginning of this chapter, and how Jesus Christ is both the Author and Finisher of all.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Romans 5". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.