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Bible Commentaries
Romans 5

McGarvey's Commentaries on Selected BooksMcGarvey'S Commentaries

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Verse 1

Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;

Verse 2

through whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand; and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [Having fully established justification by faith as a fact beyond all controversy, the apostle now proceeds to display its fruits and benefits. Therefore, says he, being justified or accounted righteous because of our faith, we have, through the merits of Jesus Christ, obtained peace with God; that is to say, we have the friendship of God, and our disquieted conscience has grown tranquil in the assurance that God no longer regards us as enemies, to be subdued, or criminals, to be punished. And, through the merits of Christ, we have also entered, by faith, into this gracious state of covenant relationship, favor, fellowship and communion with God which is now accorded us, and by which we are now strengthened and established, and we have hope of that infinitely greater fellowship and communion which we shall enjoy when we stand at last in the revealed glory of God-- John 17:24; Revelation 21:11; Revelation 22:4-5]

Verse 3

And not only so, but we also rejoice in our tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh stedfastness;

Verse 4

and stedfastness, approvedness; and approvedness, hope:

Verse 5

and hope putteth not to shame; because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us. [But the joy of the believer is not confined to this expectation of future good; he rejoices also in present evils, even in tribulation, because tribulation develops in him those elements of character which make him useful here, and prepare him for heaven hereafter; for tribulation teaches him that patience or steadfastness which endures without flinching, and this steadfastness wakens in him a sense of divine approval, and the thought that God approves adds to his hope that he shall obtain the blessings of the future world, and this hope is not so fickle as to disappoint or mock him, but gives him triumphant certainty, because the love which God has towards him fills his heart, being inwardly manifested to him by the Holy Spirit, who is given to all believers--at the time of their regeneration.]

Verse 6

For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly.

Verse 7

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: for peradventure for the good man some one would even dare to die.

Verse 8

But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Verse 9

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him.

Verse 10

For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life;

Verse 11

and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. [We have here the external evidences or manifestations of that love of God which, shed abroad in the heart of the Christian, forms the basis of his hope. Before we were strengthened and established by covenant, justification, or any of the blessings of a state of grace (Romans 5:2), yea, even while we were in that helpless weakness of sin which so incapacitated us as to render us incapable of goodness, Christ, at the time appointed by the Father as best for all (at the time when the disease of sin raging in the human race had reached its climax), died for our benefit, though we were then reckoned among the unknown and the ungodly. And how apparent was the love of this action on his part, for though men are reluctant and unwilling enough to die for a righteous, i. e., a just or upright, man, and might, perhaps, be persuaded to die for a good, i. e., a loving and a benevolent, man, yet God commends to us the love he bears towards us, in that we see that he gave Christ to die for us while we were not good, no, not even upright, but while we were sinners. And no wonder that such a love becomes to us a source of hope, for, viewing the situation as to our previous and present states, if he did this for us while in a sinful or unjustified state, much more will he now save us from wrath and deserved punishment, since we are now in a justified state, being cleansed of all our sins by the blood of Jesus. And viewing the situation as to Jesus, and his past and present power, if, by dying, he exercised such a power over our lives that he reconciled us to God, much more, being made amenable to his power by being thus reconciled, shall he be able, by the greater power of his life (for the living Christ is more powerful than a dead one), to keep us in the way of life, and ultimately save us. Thus we see that peace, and a covenant state, and joy triumphing over tribulations, and hope founded on the love of God, are all fruits of justification; but the apostle, in Romans 5:11; adds one more: Not only, says he, do all these fruits result, but there is yet another, viz.: we rejoice in God. We no longer rejoice in rites, ceremonies, ancestries, or legal righteousness, or any such thing; on the contrary, we rejoice in God, approaching him through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom God has also approached us, for through him we have now received this reconciliation which causes us to rejoice in God. In verse 6, instead of saying that Christ died for us, the apostle uses the abstract term "the ungodly." Had he used the pronoun "us," it might have confused the mind of his readers, for they might have applied it to themselves as Christians, "us" indicating the unity of church fellowship. But the term "ungodly" admits of no misconstruction; it describes the scattered, the unknown, the lost.]

Verse 12

Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sin:--

Verse 13

for until the law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

Verse 14

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come. [The comparison opened in Romans 5:12 is carried through various contrasts and correlations until it closes, as modified by the intervening verses, in Romans 5:18 . Adding to Romans 5:12 the modifications which appear in Romans 5:18; and skipping the intervening correlations, that we may get the connection, and have the central thought clearly before us, we would paraphrase thus: Now, since Christ is the source of justification and all its benefits, we submit to you a comparison between him and Adam, who is the source of condemnation and all its hardships, thus: As through the act of the one man, Adam, sin entered into the world, and as through this one sin death also entered, so that for this one sin the sentence of death passed upon us all, even so through the one act of the one, Christ (viz.: his suffering on the cross), the free gift of being accounted righteous came unto all men to justify them (i. e., to release them from the sentence of death which came upon them by Adam’s sin), that they might live. Such is the central thought of the remainder of this chapter. But we have anticipated the full comparison, and the reader must bear in mind, in the perusal of what follows, that Paul is working it out, and does not complete it until Romans 5:18 . With Romans 5:13 Paul enters on a proof that all sinned in Adam, and incurred the death penalty by reason of his sin as their federal head, and not by reason of their own individual sins. To understand his argument, we must remember that God gave a law of life and death to Adam, and then refrained from giving any law like it until the days of Moses. The law of Moses was also one of life and death. It provided that those who kept it should live, and that those who failed to keep it should die. But as none kept it, it became a general law, involving all under it in the condemnation of death. It is clear, therefore, that Adam died for his own sin, and equally clear that those who lived under the Mosaic law might have died for their own sin as well as for Adam’s sin. But for whose sin did those die who lived in the twenty-five centuries between Adam and Moses? Clearly they died for the sin committed by Adam, their head. Keeping these things before us, we follow Paul’s reasoning thus: It is clear that men die because they sinned in Adam, their federal head, and not because they committed sin in their individual capacity; for though it is true that the people living in the world from the days of Adam until the giving of the law committed sin, yet where there is no law condemning to death (and there was none such in those days) sin is not imputed so as to incur the sentence of death. Therefore, in this absence of law, the people of that day would have lived in spite of their own individual sins; nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not broken any law having a death penalty attached to it, as did Adam, who, in his representative capacity as head of the race, was a figure or a type of the coming Christ, who was also to be manifested as a representative head of the race. It may be noted here that some, by reason of their gross wickedness, may have been specially punished by death, as, for instance, those who were obliterated by the deluge, or those who were burned in the flames of Sodom, etc., and also it may be observed that murderers should suffer death for their sin (Gen 9:6). But there was no general law involving all in the death penalty, and such special instances in no way weakened Paul’s argument, for these, indeed, died by special dispensation of providence, on account of their peculiar wickedness; but they would have died just the same, under the decree passed upon Adam, if they had never been guilty of this peculiar wickedness, just as all others died who were not thus guilty. In other words, individual guilt did not bring the death sentence, for it already rested on all; it only brought a sudden, summary and peculiar mode of death upon these particular sinners, so as to stamp them as abnormally wicked.]

Verse 15

But not as the trespass, so also is the free gift. [Thus far Paul has told us that Adam is the source of sin, condemnation and death, and that he is a type of Christ. In this fifteenth verse he qualifies the relation of type and antitype by a statement that their resemblance does not hold good in all respects, for the sin of Adam is not like the free gift of Christ when he offered himself upon the cross. Not only do these two acts differ in their very essence, one being the perfection of self-indulgence, with power to kill, and the other the perfection of self-sacrifice, with power to make alive; but, as might be expected, there is a world-wide difference, both as to the results, and as to the range or scope, and the certainty of the results. With these thoughts Paul now concerns himself.] For if by the trespass of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound unto the many. [If Adam’s one act of sin brought death upon the race, so that all men die because of his act, much more did the goodness or favor of God and the gift of life by the goodness or favor of one man, Jesus Christ, abound unto the many. We are here informed that the result of the sacrificial act of Christ fully reversed and nullified the effects of the act of Adam, and that it did even much more. The effect, in other words, had in all points as wide a range, and in some points a much wider range, than that of Adam’s act. Without explaining how it is as wide-reaching as Adam’s act, the apostle presses on to tell in what respects the act of Christ is wider. But, to avoid misunderstanding, we should pause to see how Christ’s act equaled and nullified Adam’s act. Adam, as progenitorial head of the race (1 Timothy 2:13; 1 Corinthians 11:8), involved, by his sin, all the race in natural death--death without any hope of a resurrection, much less of immortality. Christ, as creative head of the race, by his righteousness redeemed all from this natural death by accomplishing for all the resurrection of the dead. So far, the act of Christ merely cancels the act of Adam. If the act of Christ had had no wider effectiveness than this, it would have been insufficient for man’s needs. It would doubtless have sufficed for infants, and others whom immaturity and mental incapacity rendered incapable of individual sin, but it would have fallen short of the needs of those who, in addition to their sin in Adam, had other sins of their own for which to answer. The hope of the world lies, therefore, in the "much more" which Paul states. Again, we should notice that if we had only Adam’s sin to answer for, then the teaching of this passage would establish the doctrine of universal salvation, for Christ’s act completely counteracted Adam’s act. But there are other sins besides that first one committed by Adam, and other punishments besides natural death. It is in its dealings with those that the range of Christ’s act exceeds that of Adam, and it is here also that salvation becomes limited. The resurrection (which nullifies the effect of Adam’s act), though a form of justification precedes the hour of judgment, and hence can not be final justification, for the latter is the product of the judgment. Moreover, the resurrection which Christ effects, as federal creative head of the race, does not depend upon faith; for all, the believing and the unbelieving, the just and the unjust, have part in it. But the justification which comes after that resurrection depends upon other relations and provisions. In administering this final justification, Christ stands as the federal regenerative head (the headship which peculiarly pertains to the church, and not to the race-- Ephesians 1:22-23), and bestows it upon that part of the race which has been regenerated by faith. This headship, therefore, is conditional, and the salvation which depends upon it is not universal, but conditioned on faith. To illustrate by a figure, there are two doors which we must pass in order to inherit eternal life. The first is natural death. This door was closed for all by Adam, and opened for all by Christ. The second is the judgment. This door was closed for all having capacity to sin by their own individual sins, and opened by Christ for those who shall be justified through belief in him. Therefore, in teaching that Christ leads all through the first door, Paul has not taught universal salvation, for true, complete salvation lies beyond the second door. Justification from the sin of Adam is one thing, and final justification from our own sins is quite another.]

Verse 16

And not as through one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment came of one unto condemnation, but the free gift came of many trespasses unto justification. [The apostle here makes mention of the main particular, wherein the effect of Christ’s act has a wider range than the effect of Adam’s act. It may be well to observe, at this point, that wherever the act of Christ is simply equal in range to that of Adam, the effect is unconditional; but wherever the range exceeds that of Adam, then it becomes conditional upon faith, and is only enjoyed by believers. Paul does not here pause to bring out this important detail, but it is abundantly set forth by him elsewhere, and by other New Testament writers, so that it is, of course, implied here. Moreover, says he, the sentence of condemnation which came through the one person, Adam, though it comprehended the whole human family, is not as wide-reaching as the free gift, or justification, which came through Christ, for the judgment came because of one sin; but the free gift of justification came as to many trespasses to pardon them. In other words, the bestowal of justification exceeded in quantity the bestowal of condemnation; for one condemnation was given for one sin, but the justification was bestowed many times because of many sins. If Christ’s one act of sacrifice had simply counteracted the effects of the one sin of Adam, then there would have been equality; but it did much more, for it also effected the justification of the countless trespasses of believers who obtained pardon by reason of it. How great is the efficacy of our Lord’s sacrificial act! If one single sin brought death upon the entire human family, how unspeakably awful is its power! Who can measure the destructive force and the eternal energy of a single sin? Who then can estimate the justifying power of the sacrifice of Christ, since it nullifies, for believers, the accumulative power of the incalculable numbers of sins committed by innumerable sinners, in all the untold moments of human lives, each sin of which carries a destructive force which no lapse of ages can exhaust? No wonder, then, that we are told that there is no "other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved." We should note also that Paul does not here say that the sacrifice of Christ justifies all mankind from their many trespasses. This would be Universalism. He merely contrasts the power of one sin with that greater power which nullifies the effect of many sins, and thus shows that the range of Christ’s act exceeded that of Adam. To counteract Adam’s one sin in a million of his descendants, is a narrower work than to counteract the more than a million sins committed by any mature sinner, much less the unthinkable number committed by millions of sinners.]

Verse 17

For if, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ. [The apostle now undertakes to show wherein the results of Christ’s act are more certain than those of Adam’s act. By the use of "receive," which is active, and not passive, Paul makes it plain that the results of Christ’s act, of which he now speaks, are conditioned upon an acceptance of the act on the part of mankind. For if, says he, by the trespass of one man, death reigned upon all, through the sin of one, much more surely (because of the nature of God the Father, and the august personality of his Son) shall they that accept and receive to themselves the abundance of grace offered through Christ, and the abundance of the gift of righteousness (or justification), reign in that ineffable future of life through one, even through Jesus Christ. The Son of God is a greater personage than Adam, and the positive power of his righteousness is greater than the negative power of Adam’s sin; therefore, if Adam’s act has insured, and still insures, the reign of death in the world, much more does Christ’s act insure the reign of life in the future world. The word "abundance," found in this verse, is very significant. All shall have the ordinary grace and righteousness in Christ which result in the resurrection--gracious result, which equals and nullifies the ungracious workings of the sin of Adam; but only those who "receive" it by faith shall have that surplus or "abundance" of the act of Christ which exceeds the act of Adam, and results in a reign of life, not a mere resurrection.]

Verse 18

So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life. [So then, says the apostle, in conclusion, if one act of sin brought sentence of condemnation unto death upon all, because all were in sinful Adam as their forefather, thus sharing his act; so also one act of righteousness (the sacrifice of the cross) brought unto all justification (or release from Adam’s sentence of condemnation) unto life. Adam’s sin brought natural death upon the whole human family, but nothing more. The punishment which we incur through Adam terminates at death. If men are punished after death, it is not because of Adam’s, but because of their own individual sins.]

Verse 19

For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous. [Romans 5:18 has spoken of the effects; viz. condemnation and justification. This verse proves that these effects must come, for it sets forth the causes, sin and righteousness, which produce them, and shows where and how these causes came to exist, thus showing that Adam and Christ resemble each other in that one is the fountain of evil and the other the fountain of good; for, as the disobedience of one caused many (all) to be constituted sinners who had personally committed no sin, so the obedience of the other (Philippians 2:8) caused the many (all) to be constituted righteous as to Adam’s sin (i. e., sufficiently to be resurrected). It is evident that only in verses 16 and 17 does Paul suggest any of those larger results wherein the act of Christ exceeded those of the acts of Adam. It may seem strange to some that, having thus introduced the larger things of Christ, Paul should, in verses 18 and 19, return to those things wherein the acts of each were equal. But this is to be expected, for Paul is describing the resemblance of the two; and of course, where one exceeds the other, the resemblance ceases. It is natural, therefore, that Paul should briefly dismiss these enlargements or "abundances" of Christ which exceed similarity, and return to that precise point, the unity of the many in the one, which constitutes between the two federal heads the relation of type and antitype. It was Paul’s design to establish this oneness, "in order that," as Chrysostom observes, "when the Jew says to you, ’How by the well-doing of one, Christ, was the world saved?’ you may be able to say to him, ’How by the disobedience of one, Adam, was the world condemned?’"]

Verse 20

And the law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly:

Verse 21

that, as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. [All this reasoning almost wholly ignores the Mosaic law: where then did it come in? and how did it affect the situation? Thus: the law came in, in addition to sin and death, for the purpose of increasing sin, and also that sense of guilt which could not be very poignantly felt while men were dying on account of a prenatal sin committed by Adam. But when the law had thus made men conscious of the abundant and universal prevalence of sin, then the grace of God made itself even more abundant in longsuffering, in patience, in forbearance, etc., and especially in preparing the gospel; that as sin had reigned, and produced death, even so grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life, through the ministry and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.]

Bibliographical Information
McGarvey, J. W. "Commentary on Romans 5". "J. W. McGarvey's Original Commentary on Acts". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/oca/romans-5.html. Transylvania Printing and Publishing Co. Lexington, KY. 1872.
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