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Bible Commentaries
Romans 5

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Verses 1-4


Romans 5:1.—We have peace, for Christ is our peace. Several manuscripts translate, “Let us have peace,” adopted by the R.V. Justification here spoken of as an act already done—i.e., when we laid hold of Christ by faith. Faith is the key of knowledge, and makes us children of God (Clem. Rom.).

Romans 5:2.—Implies dignity, firmness to resist, preparation for further walk and work. δόξης τοῦ Θεοῦ—the expression denotes the heavenly existence of God, to share which is the highest good of the creature.

Romans 5:4.—Patience equals patient endurance. Not so much experience as proof; affliction is our touchstone.


Happy fruits.—There are luscious fruits which grow on the spiritual tree which God has planted in the wilderness of this world—planted for the benefit of His believing children; and yet how much of their lives is passed in a state of spiritual leanness. The fruits cannot ripen and fall to he ground in a state of decay, for nothing can be lost in God’s material or moral world—lost to us for the time, not lost in the greatness and goodness of the divine purposes. Why should they be lost? Why should the golden fruit ripen and not refresh our parched natures? Why should we not go in faith and gather the rich grapes of the spiritual Eschol, and sweeten the bitterness and lessen the feverish heat of our wearisome earth-lives? What advantage is there in being justified if we do not enjoy peace? Let us seek to realise the full extent of our Christian privileges. The criminal is acquitted—let him not move through life as if he were afraid of the policeman; the dead has been brought to life—let him not wear the cerements of the tomb; the spiritual marriage has been consummated—let the bride deck herself with jewels. The eternal Father has welcomed the returned son—let him wear the best robe, and feast on the rich viands which paternal love has provided. What are the happy fruits of justification? They are:—

I. Peace.—This is the fruit in the divine intention and purpose, but too often only partially realised in the human experience, therefore may the apostle exhort, “Let us have peace.” May we thus amplify the apostolic injunction.

1. Let us possess ourselves in peace. If God be reconciled, why should we live and move as if He were unreconciled? We too often act as if the method of reconciliation had been forced from God, and as if He would relent and take back the offers of pardon and of peace. God relent? It was God’s loving heart that moved towards the children of sin and of misery. We lose much of peace by losing sight of the gracious thought that God’s love anticipated man’s sin, and provided the remedy. Let us have peace by taking large views of the love of God. Let us have peace by fully believing that the method of justification by faith is perfectly answerable to the divine requirements, and is fully harmonious with the divine nature.

2. Let us develop peace. We sing, “Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?” Perhaps the words are idealistic. Perfect peace, in a nature racked, torn asunder, distorted, disfigured, by sin? Perfect peace, where chaos, dark confusion, and discords have dwelt? Perfect peace, where every power and faculty of the nature have been so long working in a contrary direction that they look as if any kind of peace were an impossibility? Happy soul that can by an act of faith enter into perfect peace! But we believe it to be a goal, perhaps never reached till we come to the land of perfect peace. Peace must grow; it can be developed.

3. Let us value peace. Let us have peace, not as a possession from which we would gladly part, but as a possession in which we rejoice, and which we hold dearer than material life. Who does not value peace? Let us show our high estimate by making sacrifices for its development. Let us assiduously train and practise the powers and faculties of our natures so that not one sound may be heard out of tune, and all may in glad union set forth the sublime anthem of peace.

4. Let us move joyfully through life as the children of peace,—peace the calm mother; joy the pleasant daughter: our joyfulness not of a boisterous character—a peaceful joy—a calm, unruffled happiness.

II. Gracious boldness.—Jesus Christ, our elder brother, takes us by the hand and conducts us into the glorious temple of peace, where we stand in the presence of the Holy of Holies, and see it illuminated and glorified with the sweet light of the divine favour. By the sin of the first Adam we are estranged from God. By the mediatorial work of the Second Adam we are brought into a state of friendship with God, and may have holy boldness, constant access into the divine presence. Access to God! How great the thought! How vast the privilege! Sinful men are raised high as the unsinning angels.

“The sons of ignorance and night
May dwell in the eternal light,

Through the eternal Love.”

III. Joyful expectation.—The believer is one who exercises foresight and forethought. He looks before and behind. He looks behind at his sins, and gratitude rises in his soul, as he sees them cast into the depths of the sea. He stands, a forgiven, a peaceful soul, between the behind and the before. And he looks forward with joyful hope to the glory of God. Glory will consummate and crown what grace has begun. Sublime hope!—the glory of God. Joyful expectation! To behold the glory of the All-glorious is a wonderfully entrancing idea; but, oh! can it be that the inglorious, the base, shall share in that glory? We shrink from the thought of final extinction when we consider that there may be the sweet prospect of rising to the high abode of the eternal light. Well may the apostle sing, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God”! Dry logic could not restrain the ardour of his impassioned nature; and on the wings of rhetoric he rises to taste the outcoming influences of the upper paradise. In hope of the glory of God he trod the pathway of human suffering with heroic endurance. He counted all things but dross. Perils manifold, trials many, tribulations sore, were of no account to a spirit braced and inspired by the hope of the glory of God. Oh for this hope to be a practical force in our prosaic lives! Oh for this sweet light to pierce and dispel the murky clouds that too oft darken our lives! Why live in gloom when bright skies stretch ever our heads? Why dwell in a dungeon when we can escape and walk the glorious terraces whence we may behold the splendid outstretching landscapes of infinite love and glory.

IV. The sorrow which promotes joy.—We still hear the sound of the rollers in the early Church, and they rolled out in noble form patience, experience, hope. Sometimes we think that there is no golden grain equal to that which was thrashed out by the process of tribulation which was carried on by persecution. Perhaps another Paul may come, with keen vision, to find out the nobility, the heroism, of suffering souls in modern times. How few of us can say we glory in tribulations! Well, even the apostle did not say that. He gloried in tribulations as a means to an end; he welcomed sorrow, not in and of itself, but as the promoter of joy—the joy which hope ever inspires. What a glorious ascending scale—tribulation, patience, experience, hope! The sorrow of the world works despair and destruction; the sorrow of the heroic nature works hope and eternal glory. Sorrow has its important mission in the spiritual economies. Heart throbs may be beating out sweetest music. Tears may not be shed in vain. Ah, there will be no more pain, no more tribulations, in heaven! But may there not be the chastened yet joyful remembrance of the glorious moral work which pain and tribulation have done in time? The tears of time may become glistening pearls in the eternal crown. There are tears which are like petrifying streams, hardening the nature from which they flow. There are tears which are like the dewdrops collected from the surrounding atmosphere by the flower to its enrichment. The troubles of earth may be the root forces out of which grow the unfading flowers of the better paradise. Certainly we read “tribulation worketh patience; patience, experience; and experience, hope.” In the vale of sorrow let us gather the seeds of undying joy. Let us constantly enter the divine presence chamber, and in that sacred enclosure try to learn and understand the wide significance of all that happens in us and about us, and as the understanding grows and the sacred light increases we shall more and more rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Connection between faith and peace

1. If there be one doctrine of more primary importance than another, it is that which relates to the question of our justification before God. Disguise it as he will, there is not a rational man who feels himself on terms of solid confidence with the Being who made and who sustains him. There is not one of them who can look God fully and fearlessly in the face, and say of Him, He is my friend. There is a lurking suspicion about him, in virtue of which the creature shrinks from the Creator, and flies away from the thought of Him, to such perishable vanities as may grant him temporary relief or occupation. Conceive his intercourse with the visible world to be in some way suspended, and the invisible God to draw near by some convincing manifestation, and he would not feel at ease or comfort in His presence. Let the feeling be as deep and inexplicable as it may, still is terror at God the real and the powerful and the constant feeling of nature. There is the consciousness of guilt. In these circumstances a restoration to the divine favour must be a question as big with interest to man as the question of a passage from death unto life. It stands identified with the main object of his existence. If it remain unsettled, all theology is superfluous and but the mockery of a heartless speculation. Let us, in the first place, explain the meaning of the term “justify”; in the second place, show how it is that we are justified by faith; in the third place, how it is that by this faith we have peace with God; and lastly, point your attention more particularly to Jesus Christ as the medium of conveyance through which we obtain so inestimable a blessing. We may then conclude with a few such observations as the whole topic is fitted to suggest. To justify a man, in the evangelical sense of the term, we cannot possibly make out a plea grounded on the fact of his own personal innocence; but still a plea is found, in virtue of which justice requires that he should be treated as an innocent person. God not only forbears to treat him as a subject of condemnation, but He treats him as a subject for the positive distribution of His favours. The man from an object of wrath becomes an object of fatherly affection. Let us now, in the second place, endeavour to explain how it is that we are justified by faith. He who is justified is in possession of a discharge from the penalties of a broken law and of a right to the rewards of an honoured and of a fulfilled law. But faith did not work out this discharge: faith barely imports these privileges from the quarter in which they are framed, and thus brings them into contact with the person of the believer. Christ reared the foundation—man leans upon it. Faith, though neither the procuring cause nor the meritorious ground of justification, is indispensable to it; and just as much so as the striking out of a window is to the lighting of an apartment. It is the medium of conveyance through which God hath ordained that all the blessings, purchased and wrought for us by the Saviour of sinners, shall come into contact and appropriation with the sinner’s soul. Faith is no faith at all if it embrace not the whole testimony of God. But the benefits annexed to faith are various. There is forgiveness promised to it; there is the plea and the reward of righteousness promised to it; there is strength for holy obedience promised to it But there is not merely a connection between the faith of the sinner and the cessation of God’s enmity against him, which is the first sense that we have given to the term of peace; there is also a connection between the faith of the sinner and a sensation of peace, which thereupon enters into the sinner’s bosom. He, obtains peace and joy in believing. Such are the truths of the Christian revelation, that, in the single act of looking outwardly upon them, there is a peace which enters into the looker’s mind along with his faith. There is a peace in the bare exercise of believing. The truths themselves are fitted to convey peace into the heart at the very moment that they are recognised to be truths.—Dr. Chalmers.

Romans 5:1-2. The believer’s blessings.—Having clearly put before us the great Christian doctrine of justification by faith in Jesus Christ, St. Paul here dwells upon the happy results which follow a hearty reception of it.

I. A brief but comprehensive view of the blessings secured to the true believer.—Blessings throughout his whole existence—past, present, future.

1. The past. He may look back upon his years gone by and see them stained by many sins, but they are all forgiven. They have been laid upon the Lamb of God (1 Peter 2:24), atoned for by the all-sufficient sacrifice, blotted out from the divine remembrance. He has peace—peace with God, “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.”

2. The present. He may consider his present position and see that, weak as he is in himself, and without anything of his own upon which he can rely, in the covenant of grace he has a present and abiding security. The upholding power of the Father (1 Peter 1:5); the Son’s all-prevailing intercession (Romans 8:34); the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:15); the sure promises of God’s word,—all, all testify to the security of the foundation on which he stands.

3. The future. He may look forward into the unknown days of his future life—yes, even into the countless ages of eternity, though much is unknown and dark to his mortal eyes. The light of hope shines brightly on his course,—a hope that will never deceive (Romans 5:5); a hope that is an anchor of the soul sure and steadfast (Hebrews 6:19); a hope that fastens on the heavenly inheritance. He rejoices in the hope of the glory of God.

II. Let us mark well that all these blessings are obtained for us by the Lord Jesus Christ, and secured to us in Him—in Him alone.—To possess them we must believe in Him (John 6:35, etc.), receive Him (John 1:12), have Him (1 John 5:12), be found in Him (Philippians 3:9), abide in Him (John 15:5). If our faith justifies us, it is because it is the hand which lays hold on Jesus, the Lord our righteousness. If we have peace with God, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14); if we are standing safe in the covenant of grace, it is by Jesus that we have access into it; if we are rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, it is the same almighty Saviour Himself who is our hope (1 Timothy 1:1).—Dr. Jacob.

Justification by faith.—Man stands condemned at the bar of God. Can God be just and yet acquit the guilty? The gospel says, “Yes; man may be acquitted, or justified.”

I. Justification by faith.—What is it, and how effected? Justification just means getting put right with God; and we can be put right with God only by faith in the work of God’s Son for us. It is a gratuitous act. Christ says to the guilty, “You are unable to save yourself, yet your salvation is possible.” How? Not by propitiating offended deity or patching up a broken fellowship. Not by works; the law condemns. The ground of acquittal from the condemnation of the law is the imputed righteousness of Christ. It is received by faith, and faith itself is God’s gift; hence boasting is excluded. The guilty are acquitted in a way that humbles pride. Self-righteous efforts are of no help, but rather a hindrance. When they cease, the bitterness of death is past, and a new life opens up. The ultimate privileges are many and far-reaching, but the immediate consequence is reconciliation, or—

II. Peace with God.—The justified man, having received a new standing before God, feels himself no longer a culprit at the bar. The knowledge that God is at peace with him calms his guilty fears and raises him above the dread of condemnation.

1. His peace rests on a firm foundation. Confidence in the finished work of Christ and conscious reconciliation with God. That God is no longer angry is the pledge of forgiven sin, assurance that the danger is past and the soul is in safe keeping.

2. Peace that satisfies the soul. There are many refuges of lies, but there is no deception here. Conscience approves. “My peace I give unto you,” says Christ. How different from the world’s peace! “Lord, lift on us the light of Thy countenance, and give us peace”—Thy peace. This alone will satisfy the heart, the intellect, and the conscience.

3. This peace is progressive in its nature. It deepens and widens as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of God. Not like a mountain tarn, but like a brimming river, at first a tiny brook gathering as it goes, till on the plains it is strong and calm, broad and deep. “Oh that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.”

4. The peace of the justified is a permanent possession. Adversity may deprive you of earthly wealth and death of friends, but what comes as the result of union with Christ will outlive time, and pass with us beyond death. Oh for such a blessing as this: “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”!—D. Merson, B.D.

Romans 5:1. Justification by faith.—The doctrine of justification by faith accepted by the Church gives strength and purity. “It was,” says a man of learning and good sense, writing of the Reformation, “the growth and expansion of one positive dogma, justification by faith, that broke down and crushed successively the various doctrines of the Romish Church” (Hallam’s History of Literature). Accepted by any soul, it gives life and peace. Consider: I. Justification; II. Its instrument—faith; III. Its result—peace.

I. Justification.—To justify, in Scripture, signifies always to count just or declare righteous. God is justified when He is declared righteous or shown to be just. The justification of God is not the infusion of righteousness into Him, but the manifestation or acknowledgment of His righteousness. The justification of man by God is His counting man as righteous. Romans 8:33 contrasts justification with condemnation, not purification: “It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?” In all other places the word has the same or a similar meaning (acknowledged by Dr. Newman in his Lectures on Justification).

1. Justification includes
(1) freedom from guilt, and
(2) divine acceptance. Not freedom from guilt alone, for the irrational animals who are incapable of moral good or evil are free from guilt.
2. Justification by the just Judge is always grounded on obedience to law. Justice and judgment are the pillars of God’s throne.
3. Justification rests either on the ground of personal obedience or righteousness, or on the ground of the accepted obedience of another in our place. In either case the obedience to law must be absolute and perfect in doing or suffering its penalty.

(1) Personal obedience justifies the unfallen angels. It cannot justify sinful men. “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in God’s sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).

(2) The obedience and suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, accepted in our place, justifies sinners. No created being had the right to place a substitute for himself before the throne of justice.

II. The instrument of justification—faith.—Faith is trust in Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of the world.

III. The result—peace with God.—Peace with man desirable, more so peace with God.

1. State before justification is either one of indifference through the sleep of a benumbed conscience, or of unhappiness through an unsatisfied heart and diseased conscience.
2. Reconciliation with God, when the law is seen to be honoured, justice satisfied, and God “just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,” satisfies conscience, removes the dread of vengeance, and awakens loving, happy gratitude.
3. Lasting peace is to be found in no other way. Gratuitous pardon, without atonement, not able to give peace. To this ultimate question, in which conscience in full action impels sinners like Judas Iscariot to seek punishment even as a relief and “antedating their own misery, seek for that they would loathe to find,” nothing but pardon through satisfaction of justice can give relief. Endeavours, tears, sorrows, are vain. Nothing can satisfy the sense of justice in that state of mind to which every man’s conscience is aiming but trust in the justice-satisfying Saviour. That gives peace and joy.

“My heart for gladness springs,
It cannot more be sad;

For every joy it laughs and sings,

Sees nought but sunshine glad.
The sun that glads mine eyes
Is Christ the Lord I love;

I sing for joy of that which lies

Stored up for me above.”

J. C. J.

The grace, the joy, and the glory.

I. The grace.—It is here called “this grace,”—a well-known, most suitable, and sufficient grace, or free love; the free love of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This is “the true grace of God”; free love in the heart of God to the ungodly, to the unloving and unlovable.

II. The access, or introduction.—We do not create or awaken this free love by any goodness or qualification of our own. It exists independent of these. Nor did Christ, by His coming and death, create that love. This love existed before; it was this that sent Christ. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” Yet, without Christ, this love could never have reached us. He brings it to us, and us to it. He gives access and entrance and introduction; for the word implies all these, and is used elsewhere to signify the bringing or introducing one person to another (Luke 9:41; Acts 16:20); and is employed not simply in reference to the grace of God, but to God Himself (1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12). Our outward or objective introducer and introduction is Christ Himself; our inward or subjective introduction and introducer is faith.

III. The standing, or abiding.—In this grace, or free love, we have stood since we were introduced into it; and in it we are standing, and shall stand. “We stand in it!” This is a believing man’s true position. This free love is to him—

1. Abiding peace;
2. Abiding strength;
3. Abiding security. This free love is to him—
1. Sunshine;
2. Rain;
3. Food;
4. Water;
5. Medicine;
6. Wine. At this well he stands and drinks, in this sun he basks, to this storehouse he comes for everything. Have we used this free love as we ought? Are we using it constantly? O free love of God, what a fountain of life and strength thou art to the weary, helpless sinner!

IV. The rejoicing.—This grace is not merely stability for us, but joy and hope and glory. Standing in this grace, we are filled with joy. This joy comes not merely from the past and present, but from the future; not merely from the knowledge that we are beloved of God, but from the knowledge of what that love is to do for us hereafter. We rejoice because our future is filled with hope—the hope of the glory of God. Hence the apostle’s prayer, “The God of (the) hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.”

Take these lessons:

1. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

2. Rejoice in the Lord.

3. Abound in hope.

4. Realise the glory. Keep the eye steadfastly fixed upon it, till its brightness fills our whole being.—H. Bonar.


The state of grace.—What is this state? and what is this standing? The state is a state of grace, and means the privileged condition in which all Christians are found, though they were by nature the children of wrath. It is expressed by our apostle in the preceding words: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access by faith into this grace.” It may well be called “this grace,” for it only flows from, and only proclaims, the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us, by Christ Jesus. But we may be reconciled to one another so as to be forgiven, and not be admitted into the intimacies of friendship. After Absalom was, through the intercession of Joab, allowed to return to Jerusalem, two years elapsed before he was allowed to see the king’s face. But God favours us with the most familiar intercourse and communion. We come boldly to the throne of grace. In everything, by prayer and supplication, we make known our requests. We walk with God; He honours us with His confidence, and trusts us with His secrets. This grace means also approbation and complacency. He takes pleasure in them that fear Him; He rests in his love; He joys over them with singing; they are His children, His bride, His jewels, His glory. Hence follows sympathy and compassion. What is done to them He resents as a personal injury; for he that toucheth them toucheth the apple of His eye. In all their affliction He is afflicted; though He corrects them, it is for their profit. In this grace they stand. Standing here intends “firmness,” “stability,” “permanence.” It is sometimes opposed to “condemnation”: “If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand?” Sometimes it is also opposed to “defeat.” “Take to you the whole armour of God, that ye may stand in the evil day; and having done all, may stand.” And of this they may be assured; for whatever disproportion there is between them and their enemies, the worm Jacob shall thresh the mountains. Some warriors have barely overcome—such another victory as they gained would have almost ruined them; but a Christian, having vanquished all his adversaries, stands with his feet on their necks, and is ready to engage as many more. “Yea, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” The more privileged any condition is, the more anxieties does it awaken. It is easy, therefore, to imagine what a Christian must feel if he apprehends any uncertainty as to the state he is in. But that state is as safe as it is blessed.—W. Jay.

The benefit of tribulation.—There are two benefits specified in this verse. The first, our present introduction into a state of favour and free access to God; and the second, the joyful “hope of the glory of God”—that is, the glory of which God is the author. The word “glory” is often used in reference to future blessedness, to show that the happiness to be enjoyed hereafter is connected with the exaltation of all our powers and of our sphere of activity. “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also.” Not only have we this introduction into the divine favour and this hope of future glory “but we glory in tribulations also.” Since our relation to God is changed, the relation of all things to us is changed. Afflictions, which before were the expressions of God’s displeasure, are now the benevolent manifestations of His love. And instead of being inconsistent with our filial relation to Him, they serve to prove that He regards us as His children. Tribulations, therefore, although for the present they are not joyous but grievous, become to the believer matter of joy and thankfulness. The way in which afflictions become thus useful, and consequently the ground of rejoicing, the apostle immediately explains. They give occasion for the exercise of the Christian graces, and these from their nature produce hope, which is sustained and authenticated by the witness of the Holy Spirit. “Tribulation worketh patience.” The word rendered “patience” signifies also “constancy,” “perseverance.” Tribulation gives occasion to exercise and manifest a patient and persevering adherence to truth and duty under trials. “And patience, experience; and experience, hope.” The word translated “experience” means properly:

1. “Trial” or “experiment.” “Great trial of affliction” (2 Corinthians 8:2)—that is, trial made by application.

2. It means the result of such trial, “evidence,” “experience.”

3. By another remove, “that which has been tested” and “approved.” As one or the other of these significations is adopted, the clause is variously interpreted. It may mean, “The endurance of afflictions leads to the trying or testing of one’s own heart”; or, “it occasions the experience of the divine goodness, or of gracious exercises”; or, “it produces a state of mind which is the object of approbation”; or, “it produces evidence, namely, of a gracious state.” This last seems most consistent with Paul’s use of the word. See 2 Corinthians 2:9, “That I might know the proof [evidence] of you, whether ye be obedient,” etc.; Philippians 2:2, “Ye know the proof of him,” etc. This sense suits the context also: “Tribulation calls forth the exercise of patience; and the exercise of this patience or constancy affords evidence of our being in favour of God, and therefore produces hope.”

Let us have peace” the proper rendering.—“Let us have peace” was read probably by Tertullian, and is found in all, or very nearly all, the Latin manuscripts which were used throughout the Western Church. The same reading is repeatedly quoted and commented upon by Origen and by Chrysostom, who lived at Antioch and Constantinople A.D. 347–407. Neither of these writers seems to have known the other reading. The same reading is found in all existing Greek manuscripts earlier than the ninth century, and in some of the best cursives; also in the oldest Syriac Version used in the far East, and in the three other oldest versions. The earliest trace of the reading “we have peace” is found in the Sinai manuscript, in a correction of the other reading made perhaps in the fourth century. In the Vatican manuscript a similar correction was made, perhaps in the sixth century. Three of the later uncials and a majority of the cursive Greek manuscript give this reading. It is found in the existing copies of the writings of three fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries. But the point in question does not affect their arguments; and as the writings exist only in a few manuscripts written 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. The only difficulty is that Paul assumes in Romans 5:2; Romans 5:9-10, that his readers already stand in the favour of God, and are now justified and reconciled. To this difficulty a key is found in Romans 4:24, “Us to whom it will be reckoned.” Throughout this epistle Paul writes from an ideal and rapidly changing standpoint. He identifies himself with that which he describes. In Romans 2:1, Romans 3:9, he leaves out of sight those saved from sin by Christ, and speaks as though all men were still actually committing sin, and therefore at war with God. He writes as though he had never heard of the gospel. In Romans 3:21 we hear the proclamation of peace. In chap. 4 he discusses the terms of peace. As he reads the old record of Abraham’s faith and justification, he declares that it was written to confirm beforehand the good news to be afterwards brought by Christ. And as he stands by the author of Genesis he looks forward 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 us to wake up to the brightness of its rising. What he bids us do he realises to be actually taking place in himself and his readers. In the next verse the sun has risen, and we stand in the sunshine of God’s favour. As a witness that this change of standpoint is in full accord with the genius of Hebrew thought, I may quote Driver, Hebrew Tenses, p. 6: “One such peculiarity is the singular ease and rapidity with which a writer changes his standpoint—at one moment speaking of a scene as though still in the remote future, at another moment describing it as though present to his gaze.” That the very able commentators Meyer and Godet prefer the utterly unsupported reading,” We have peace,” rather than attempt to expound the common rendering of the reading adopted by all recent critical editors, and the evident dissatisfaction of Fritysche and Alford with their own expositions, embolden me to suggest the rendering and exposition given above. The objection that an exhortation would be out of place in a calm exhortation of doctrine vanishes when we notice that in this verse Paul passes from abstract and general doctrine to actual and individual spiritual life. He marks the transition by urging his readers to join him in claiming the blessing whose glorious results he is about to unfold.—Beet.

Different views of the opening verses.—“The apostle begins to demonstrate what he has affirmed of justification by its effects.” Tholuck entitles this passage “the beneficent pathologico-religious influence of this means of salvation.” Olshausen, “of the fruits of faith,” adding at the same time that the apostle could of course only sketch these consequences of faith here, but that he will develop them afterwards. Philippi, “the beneficent consequences of justification.” Reuss says, “the piece describes the effect of justification on the man who is its object.” Lange and Schaff, “the fruit of justification.” Hodge, “the consequences of justification:

(1) faith,
(2) free access to God,
(3) our afflictions auxiliary to hope,
(4) the certainty of final salvation.” Renan says, “the fruit of justification is peace with God, hope, and consequently patience.” Hofmann sums up thus: “Let us enter into this relation of peace with God, in which we have the hope of glory, consolation in trials, love to God, and the certainty of deliverance from final wrath.” Bossuet, “the happy fruits of justification by faith.” Meyer better, “Paul now expounds the blessed certainty of salvation for the present and future.” Holsten has some expressions which approach this point of view. Schott entitles it, “the certainty of the believer’s preservation in salvation, and of the final consummation of this salvation.”—Godet.

Fruits of justification stated in a popular manner.—But perhaps we may obtain a simpler view of the meaning by considering the expression before us merely as the general conclusion from the whole argument as stated in the preceding part of the epistle. The apostle has proved that justification in the day of judgment can be obtained only by “the righteousness of faith”; and he has proved further “that justification in the present life is freely bestowed on faith alone.” And in the passage before us he states, in a general and popular manner, the result of the whole reasoning,—knowing that, in order to obtain justification, we are not required to fulfil any law, moral or ceremonial, but that God of His own free grace bestows it on us, through Christ, in consideration of our faith, we have peace with God. This view corresponds with the whole preceding reasonings, and forms their proper conclusion. It is liable to none of the difficulties which are implied in other explanations, and therefore it may perhaps be thought to deserve the preference. It is of importance to bear in mind the different senses in which the word “justification” is used; for the principle on which it depends in one of its senses is not that on which it depends in another. When it denotes privileges merely external, it requires only a confession of faith in Christ; when it denotes the forgiveness of sin on earth and accounting us as righteous, its principle is a true and saving faith; but when it denotes the sentence of the sovereign Judge, accounting us as righteous in the day of judgment, it depends on faith producing the fruits of righteousness.—Ritchie.

Encouragement to believers.—To comfort the Roman brethren under the evils which the profession of the gospel brought upon them, the apostle in the beginning of this chapter enumerated the privileges which belong to believers in general. And from his account it appears that the privileges of Abraham’s seed by faith are far greater than the privileges which belonged to his seed by natural descent, and which are described in Romans 2:17-20. The first privilege of the spiritual seed is—That being justified by faith they have peace with God through Jesus Christ. This, to the Gentiles, must have appeared an unspeakable blessing, in regard that they had been taught by the Jews to consider themselves as “children of wrath” and “enemies” of God. Their second privilege is—By the command of Christ they are admitted through faith into the covenant made with Abraham and into the Christian Church. Thirdly, they boast in the hope of beholding the glory of God in heaven—a privilege far superior to that of beholding the glory of God in the tabernacle and in the temple on earth, of which the natural seed boasted, for it is the hope of living eternally with God in heaven. Their fourth privilege is—They boast in afflictions, especially those which befall them for the name of Christ, because afflictions improve their graces and render their hope of eternal life sure. But many, even of the believing Jews, denied that the Gentiles had any reason to hope for eternal life while they did not obey Moses. Wherefore, to show that they are heirs of that and of all the blessings promised in the covenant to the seed of Abraham by faith equally with the Jews, the apostle appealed to God’s shedding down the Holy Ghost upon them, even as on the Jews, and to Christ’s dying for them in their ungodly state, and told them, since they were already “justified” (that is, “delivered from their heathenish ignorance and wickedness”) and “reconciled” (that is, “put into a state of salvation by the blood of Christ”), they might well expect to be “saved” in due time from wrath by His life in the human nature, since in that nature He exercises the offices of Lord and Judge of the world for their benefit. The last privilege belonging to the spiritual seed mentioned by the apostle is, that being reconciled they can boast in the true God as their God equally with the natural seed, whose relation to God was established by the law of Moses only. And this privilege he told them they had obtained like all the rest—through Jesus Christ, by whom they had received “the reconciliation.” “We even boast of afflictions.” The apostle mentions “afflictions” as “matter of boasting to the spiritual seed, because their virtues were improved by afflictions.” This boasting, therefore, was much better founded than the boasting of the natural seed, who, by applying the promises of national prosperity and the threatenings of national adversity contained in the law to individuals, had taught themselves to consider prosperity as a mark of the favour of God, and affliction as a token of His displeasure. A remarkable instance of rejoicing in afflictions we have in Acts 5:41 : “They departed from the face of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” “Knowing that affliction worketh out patience.” This effect affliction produceth by affording to the afflicted an opportunity of exercising patience, and by suggesting considerations which naturally lead the mind to that virtue.—Macknight.


Romans 5:1. A Romish student and the Bible.—When Thomas Bilney was a Romish student in Trinity College, he carried a burdened mind in a body emaciated by penance which brought no relief. Hearing his friends one day talking about Erasmus’s Testament, he felt a strong desire to possess it; but as it was a forbidden book, he did not dare to touch it. Hoping, however, that something might be found in it to ease his troubled mind, he purchased a copy, and shut himself in his room to read it. With a trembling heart he opened it, and read with astonishment, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” Then laying it down, he exclaimed, “What! Paul the chief of sinners? yet Paul sure of being saved!” He read it again and again, and broke out into an ecstasy of joy, “At last I have heard of Jesus—Jesus Christ. Yes, Jesus Christ saves.” And falling down on his knees, he prayed, “O Thou who art the truth, give me strength that I may teach it, and convert the ungodly by means of one who has been himself ungodly.” Bilney being justified by faith in and through Jesus Christ, possessed peace.

Romans 5:2. Philosopher and King’s son.—Without faith it is impossible to please God. Let us not otherwise dare to come into His presence. There is nothing but wrath in Him for sin in us. Joseph charged his brethren that they should come no more in his sight unless they brought Benjamin with them. We come at our peril into God’s presence if we leave His beloved Benjamin, our dear Jesus, behind us. When the philosopher heard of the enraged emperor’s menace, that the next time he saw him he would kill him, he took up the emperor’s little son in his arms, and saluted him with a potesne, “Thou canst not now strike me.” God is angry with every man for his sins. Happy is he that can catch up His Son Jesus; for in whose arms soever the Lord sees His Son He will spare him. The men of Tyre were fain to intercede to Herod by Blastus (Acts 12:20). Our intercession to God is made by a higher and surer way: not by His servant—by His Son.

Romans 5:3. The ministry of sorrow.—The ministry of sorrow and disappointment is to test the soul and to temper it to nobler issues, as the oak is tempered and beautified by the winter’s storms. Some great agony may be as a cup in which is a draught of moral strength. When we have drunk the repellent mixture, when we have felt the after-benefit, then shall we know that often apparent failure in life is in reality a success.

“Then welcome each rebuff
That turns earth’s smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand, but go!
Be our joys three-parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang, daring,

Never grudge the throe.”


Verse 5


Romans 5:5.—The love of God has been poured forth as in a stream (Wordsworth).


A hope without shame.—The Christian never finds this world to be his rest. But he has a hope full of immortality. This enlightens his darkness and alleviates his sorrow. Like a helmet, it guards in the day of battle; like an anchor, it secures in the storms of adversity; like a pleasing companion, it travels with him through all the tediousness of the world, and reminds him of the rest that remains for the people of God. Let us consider the excellency and the evidence of this hope. Let us I. Show how it preserves from shame; and II. Ascertain its connection with the love of God.

I. We may take three views of this hope, and oppose it to the hope of the worldling, of the Pharisee, and of the antinomian. Hope causes shame by the insufficiency of its object—and this is the hope of the worldling; by the weakness of its foundation—and this is the hope of the Pharisee; by the falseness of its warrant—and this is the hope of the antinomian. The hope of the Christian has the noblest object, the surest foundation, the clearest warrant; and thus it maketh not ashamed.

1. Hope may cause shame by the insufficiency of its object. Ofttimes men of the world never reach the mark; and when they do, they are disappointed. What they gain does not indemnify for the sacrifices they have made.

“In vain we seek a heaven below the sky:
The world has false but flattering charms;
Its distant joys show big in our esteem,
But lessen still as they draw near the eye;
In our embrace the visions die;
And when we grasp the airy forms,
We lose the pleasing dream.”

Look forward and ask, What does the worldling think as he lays down all his honours, all his riches, on this side of the grave? What does Alexander now think of his bloody trophies? What does Herod now think of killing James and condemning Peter because “it pleased the people”? What does Judas think of his thirty pieces of silver? The crowned votaries of the world seem to be happy, and are envied; but it is only by the foolish and ignorant who know them not. Sometimes they say, We are not happy, and it is not in the power of these things to satisfy our desires. On this dark ground we bring forward the Christian to advantage. The object of his hope is the greatest good a creature can possess. When we propose this hope we exclude every evil we feel or fear. Think of “the house not made with hands,” etc., and the “innumerable company of angels” as the objects of his hope—the blessed hope of being like Christ and dwelling with Him evermore. The Christian need not shrink from a comparison with philosophers, princes, heroes. He leads a sublime life, and takes a grander aim. If shame could enter heaven, he would be ashamed to think that the objects of this hope engrossed so little of his attention.

2. Hope may cause shame by the weakness of its foundation. The Pharisee places dependence on his own works or his own worthiness. He derives his encouragement from negative qualities, from comparison of himself with others, from the number of his performances. Parable of the Pharisee. If his works were spiritual and holy, they need not afford a ground of dependence, being only a part of the building, and not the foundation. They may furnish evidence, but cannot give a title. The indulgence of such a hope is offensive to God. The man who seeks salvation by the works of the law, and not by faith of Jesus Christ, reflects upon God’s wisdom as having been employed in a needless trifle. The Pharisee frustrates the grace of God and makes Jesus Christ to be dead in vain. Thus the Pharisee’s hope will be found like a spider’s web, curiously wrought, but easily destroyed. The basis being too weak, the superstructure falls and crushes the offender. The humbled sinner asks, How shall a man be just before God? The Bible answers, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” “He is the end of the law of righteousness to every one that believeth.” This attracts. He says, Christ is the door, by Him I will enter; Christ is the foundation, on this I will build: I desire no other. This hope is as firm as the truth of God and the all-sufficiency of the Saviour can make it. See the Christian advancing to the throne of God. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died.” The Christian is marked with the blood of sprinkling.

3. Hope may cause shame by the falseness of its warrant. Any hope which does not purify is false. Every expectation of heaven which those entertain who are leading immoral lives, whatever be their knowledge or their creed, is a mere fancy. A man, with all his ignorance, may as well persuade himself that he is the greatest philosopher; or, with all his indigence, may as rationally conclude that he is possessed of all the wealth of the Indies, as a man may imagine that he is on the way to heaven while he is a stranger to “newness of life”; for “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Indeed, such a man, if he were in heaven, would not be in a beatific state. What warrant have you that heaven is your home? What reason are you able to give of the hope that is in you? The only satisfactory one is that given by the apostle. Therefore consider:—

II. “Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us.”—

1. This love is the proof of the divine regard, for the affection is mutual. “We love Him because He first loved us.” And what can we desire more than to know that we are beloved of God?

2. This love marks the characters for whom this happiness is reserved. Who are authorised to claim the promise of eternal life? Those who seek to please and serve God. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.”

3. This love qualifies for the glory which shall be revealed. The happiness of the future state is derived from the presence of God. What, then, can prepare for it but the love of God? Love must make us delight in each other’s company. By loving God we are prepared for a happiness which is found only in Him.

4. This love is the foretaste of future happiness. We take the likeness of the excellency we contemplate, and are exalted into the perfection we adore. If our love be fixed on God, we shall become divine and heavenly. Oh the comforts of this love! They are heaven come down to earth. Heaven is the sphere of love. The heaven of love must be in us before we are in heaven. We attain the full assurance of hope neither by dreams, nor visions, nor sudden suggestions, nor by an inexplicable consciousness, but by keeping ourselves in the love of God, and abounding therein more and more.—W. Jay.


And hope maketh not ashamed.”—The hope which true believers entertain, founded on the very nature of pious exercises, shall never disappoint them (Psalms 22:5). The ground of this assurance, however, is not the strength of our purpose or confidence in our goodness, but the love of God. The latter clause of the verse assigns the reason why the Christian’s hope shall not be found delusive: it is because “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” The love of God is His love to us, and not ours to Him, as appears from the following verses, in which the apostle illustrates the greatness and freeness of this love by a reference to the unworthiness of its objects. To “shed abroad” is to communicate abundantly, and hence to evince clearly (Acts 2:17; Acts 10:45; Titus 3:6). This manifestation of divine love is not any external revelation of it in the works of providence, or even in redemption, but it is “in our hearts.” And this inward persuasion that we are the objects of the love of God is not the mere result of the examination of evidence, nor is it a vain illusion, but it is produced by the Holy Ghost: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-14). As, however, the Spirit never contradicts Himself, He never bears witness that “the children of the devil” are the children of God—that is, that the unholy, the disobedient, the proud, or the malicious are the objects of the divine favour. Any reference, therefore, by the immoral to the witness of the Spirit in their favour must be vain and delusive.—Hodge.

God’s love in the heart.—These words stand at the end of a list of blessings which come to the Christian simply by his faith. See context, Romans 5:1-5. “The love of God” spoken of in the text is God’s love to us, not our love to God. In Romans 8:39 it is called “the love of God in Jesus Christ.” Similarly is it described in the context (Romans 5:6-8). This love the text declares is “shed abroad” in the believer’s heart “by the Holy Ghost which is given unto” him. Inquire how or in what particulars this is so.

I. Because the Holy Ghost is given to believers on the exercise of their faith to work this work within them.—For Christ, by His atoning work, procured the Holy Spirit for men.

II. It is the work of the Holy Ghost thus given to open to us the love of God.—Nothing but the Holy Ghost can disclose to us the love of God at the first. Nothing else does. Hence so many read and hear of the love of God, and yet do not apprehend it. But the Holy Spirit coming to the believer as described, “takes of the things of Christ,” and therein shows to him the love of the Father (see John 16:13-14). The Holy Spirit shows thus the wonderfulness, the extent, heights, depths, lengths, breadths, of the love of God in Christ, and its unchangeableness (see context, Romans 5:6-8, and Romans 8:35-39).

III. The Holy Ghost thus given carries the love of God beyond our mere intellect into our inmost nature.—We are more than intellect. In our best nature we are “heart.” To this the Holy Spirit can penetrate—no other power like it—and can pervade and fill and possess the whole with the wonderful infinite love of God in Christ. Every faculty and power of holy emotion in the soul can thus be moved and stirred, and fresh faculty and power of holy emotion can thus be given. Thus the love of God is “shed abroad” or poureth forth “in our hearts.” So oil poured into a vessel, whatever the character of the vessel, finds its way into every part, and even permeates through the vessel itself. So incense shed forth in a room fills every part of it with its fragrance, which often extends beyond. So the breath we breathe from the fresh morning air penetrates in its effects to our very flesh and blood and bones, and is seen in the glow of our health, in the lightness of our step, and in the flash and brightness of the eye. Do we know the love of God? and is it “shed abroad in our hearts”? If so, then to what extent do we know it?—John Bennett.

Hope as a consoler.—Hope is the sweetest friend that ever kept a distressed soul company; it beguiles the tediousness of the way, all the miseries of our pilgrimage.

“Jam mala finissem letho; sed credula vitam
Spes fovet, et melius cras fore semper ait.”

Therefore, Dum spiro spero, said the heathen; but Dum exspiro spero, says the Christian. The one, Whilst I live I hope; the other also, When I die I hope. So Job, “I will hope in Thee, though Thou killest me.” It tells the soul such sweet stories of the succeeding joys; what comforts there be in heaven; what peace, what joy, what triumphs, marriage songs, and hallelujahs there are in that country whither she is travelling, that she goes merrily away with her present burden.—Adams.


Romans 5:5. Dying of weariness.—As life goes on most people begin to feel that the word “happy” has no light meaning. Sick of herself through very selfishness, the wife of the Grand Monarque, Louis XIV., thus spoke in her hour of death: “Do you not see that I am dying of weariness amidst a fortune that can scarcely be imagined? I have been young and pretty; I have tasted pleasure; I have been everywhere loved. In an age more advanced I have passed some years in the commerce of the mind; and I protest to you that all conditions leave a frightful void. I can endure no more; I wish only to die.” Here surely is an illustration of the words, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it.”

Romans 5:5. “Don’t you find it dull?”—A little street waif was once taken to the house of a great lady, and the childish eyes that had to look so sharply after daily bread were dazzled by signs of splendour on every hand. “Can you get everything you want?” the child asked the mistress of the mansion. “Yes, I think so,” was the reply. “Can you buy anything you’d like to have?” The lady answered, “Yes”; and the child, who was of a meditative turn of mind, looked at her half pityingly, and said wonderingly, “Don’t you find it dull?” To the little keen mind, accustomed to live bird-like from day to day, and to rejoice over a better supply with the delight born of rarity, the aspect of continual plenty, and desires all gratified by possession, contained an idea of monotony that seemed almost wearisome. Many an owner of a well-filled purse has found life “dull,” and pronounced, in the midst of luxury, that all things are vanity.

Verse 6


Romans 5:6.—ἀσθεν indicates man’s necessity, ἁσεβ his unworthiness.


The fourfold aspect of Christ’s work.—Death is always a solemn event, and casts its dark shadows over the spirit. A silent dread holds the soul in check when one enters the chamber where the good man meets his fate. The solemn importance of all deaths is surpassed by the solemn importance of the death of the Son of God. When Jesus died the earth was clothed in darkness and the heavens in mourning stood.

“He dies! the Friend of sinners dies;
Lo! Salem’s daughters weep around;
A solemn darkness veils the skies,
A sudden trembling shakes the ground.”

It must have been an awe-inspiring event, for we read, “Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts and mourned.” The death of Christ opens up a large view of divine purposes. It was the climax of the Saviour’s earthly mission, and this was the culminating crisis of eternal counsels and of time’s preceding movements. And this sixth verse appears to open up a fourfold aspect of the Saviour’s work and mission.

I. Out of the powerless comes power.—From the weak and powerless stock of humanity came Jesus, travailing in the greatness of His strength, mighty to save. The first Adam went from strength to weakness; the Second Adam went from the weakness of humanity to the might of saving grace. How was this? It was because divine strength incarnated itself in human weakness. When we were without strength, unable either to serve God aright or to save ourselves, Jesus Christ appeared to our rescue and our salvation. From Adam to Christ was a descending scale; from Christ to the close of time shall be an ascending scale. If men are to be developed out of their weakness and into noble creatures, it must be along the Christ line. The true and only satisfactory evolutionary force of humanity’s upward rising is the Christ of gospel history. Christ by His death inspired healing strength into a race weakened by moral sickness.

II. Into the darkness comes light.—In due time, in the God-appointed time, in the world’s needy time, when its moral darkness was dense and thick, the Sun of righteousness arose with healing in His wings. Men of light and of sweetness had been allowed plenty of scope. Philosophy and culture had no reason to complain of overhaste in the divine interposition. All had tried, and failure was the result. Light merged into darkness; sweetness became bitterness. The culture of the Greeks was no bulwark against the inroads of moral corruption. The power of the Romans could not withstand the conquering and desolating force of moral evil. Few were the stars that glimmered in the midnight sky. Are our modern men of light and sweetness mightier than the Platos and Senecas of the past? Into the darkness the light shone, and no wonder that a darkness so dense could not comprehend the light. But soon it began to feel the benign influence, and the foul forms of darkness cowered and fled swiftly away as the divine light increased.

III. Out of death comes life.—The law of nature and the law of grace. The seed dies. The golden harvest waves over the plain. Life springs out of death throughout all God’s world. Calvary is the epitome of the universe, with this difference—that from Calvary’s death scene there camo spiritual life. All life promoted by Christ’s death. This is to be judged by its tendency and purpose. This is to promote and preserve:

1. New physical life, and this should be more largely realised in the future than in the past. Modern science feels the impulse of the beneficent influence of Christianity, and modern science is making towards the prolongation of human existence. Modern science has worked to the incentive of deadly instruments of war, but Christianity shall work till no gunboats shall sail on earth’s broad rivers and seas.

2. Intellectual life. Since Christ’s death there has been a general increase of intellectual life, and this has been specially noticeable in countries where a pure Christianity has prevailed. There have been dark ages, but out of the darkness arose greater light—a backward flow, but the ocean of intellectual life has been moving forward, and the gracious ozone has benefited mankind.

3. Spiritual life. This has been the special outcome of Christ’s death. Science and philosophy can scarcely be said to have attempted the enterprise. The pleasures of art and the charms of music may produce spasmodic resemblances, but only the death of Christ can generate the mysterious and blessed force we call spiritual life. Out of Christ’s death has come, and is coming, the life of the redeemed—multitudinous life from this one Man’s death. Will the vast plains of a renovated world be sufficiently ample to receive that great multitude who enjoy spiritual life? God’s spacious heavens with their many mansions must be provided. Death shall die. Tombs shall cease. Life must be finally victorious. The death of Christ shall be universally triumphant, for out of it spiritual life shall everywhere flourish, and its pulsations will make the universe throb with joy unspeakable.

IV. Out of and into the impious comes holiness.—“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” We are in Christ as we are crucified with Him. In His death we share by faith, and through it we become new creations. Righteousness is both imputed and imparted to the believer. Opposing men may talk as they please, but it is a certain fact that the Christian religion, both in its true and false forms, has produced a purer morality, a higher tone of life, than any other religious system the world has seen. Notwithstanding all drawbacks, our England to-day is better and nobler than ever. Is not crime diminishing? Is not education spreading? Is there not consideration for the poor, the outcast, for the sick, and even for animals, which has never been before witnessed, and which is the glory of our times? The awful loss of the Victoria in Mediterranean waters has this compensation—that it teaches the spirit of chivalry is not dead. Let infidelity and agnosticism roll back the sweet waters of Christianity, and we shall soon have to weep and lament over a country where dire desolation would sweep with destructive force. Christ’s death begins in darkness and brightens out into glorious light. Darkness covers the earth when He dies. Light irradiates the earth when by His death He conquers death. Angels in white are sitting on earth’s tombs, and they are changed into palaces of beauty and of delights. Spiritual life abounds. No more need the cypress tree be planted. Angelic rapture was increased when it was seen that out of Christ’s death spiritual life would arise. Fresh anthems of praise rolled along the golden streets. Louder notes of thanksgiving rose up to the splendid vaults of heaven’s many mansions. Christ died for the ungodly, and angels then looked to this world and saw it lit up with the glow of divine love and blessedness; they saw its deserts rejoice and blossom as the rose, and its wildernesses made exceeding glad. Christ died for the ungodly, and angels saw dead men come forth from their many tombs, cast on one side the graveclothes, and assume the garments of the living and the blessed. Angels and good men have most splendid expectations. Christ died for the ungodly. Blessed thought! None need be excluded. Christ by His death delivers mankind from the power and thraldom of sin. Let us evermore rejoice in this fact—that “when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”


The certainty of the believer’s final redemption.—There is nothing so great as to be entirely independent, nothing so small as not to be of some service. The sweetest promises of God are ours in times of sadness. These Christians at Rome stood in need of encouragement to continue steadfast in their devotedness to the Saviour. It was natural for them to give way to doubts, and almost to think they could never be expected to reach heaven at last, much less to become “more than conquerors,” when they gazed upon the worldly pomp of their persecutors and remembered the power with which they seemed to be invested. But the apostle bids them remember what God had already done for them. “For when we were without strength, … much more then being justified,” etc. And the apostle establishes this point by means of two reasons:—

I. The great love which God has already bestowed on man.—It is interesting to observe how the apostle illustrates this. He refers:

1. To the unworthiness of man as the object of it. In all positions he appears utterly undeserving of the benign influence of God.

(1) “Without strength.” In this expression the apostle is probably accommodating himself to the natural disposition of the Romans. Their highest notion of goodness, as the word “virtue” indicates, was power or strength. Hence the apostle represents the gospel to these people as “the power of God.” Nothing was so detestable in their eyes as weakness. And what a weak, helpless man was in the estimation of the Romans, that man, universal man, was in the sight of God—“without strength.”

(2) “Ungodly.” This designation presents man in another aspect. True, man in every age had been searching after God; but if the virtue of any act or desire lies in the motive which prompts it, then man’s quest in search of God was not pure and right. Man’s character as presented by the word “ungodly” shows him to be unworthy of the divine complacency.

(3) “Sinner.” This presents man in another aspect. When God is banished from the thought as suggested by the word “ungodly,” His place is usurped by unworthy rivals. The higher principles of the soul are made subordinate to the lower.

(4) “Enemy.” With this word the apostle reaches the climax of his reasoning. Man’s enmity to God lies at the root of all his wickedness, and in this man is a sad exception to everything else which God has made. Everything else in nature yields implicit obedience to God. But man disobeys his Maker. The very power which was given him to hate sin is so perverted that it is used against God Himself.

2. The greatness of God’s love to man is shown also by the sacrifice which He made to redeem him. “Christ died for the ungodly.” With reverence we would say that to redeem man was not easy even to God. As one great author remarks, “This [sin] is great in the sight of God. The whole creation is counted as but a very little thing, but the evil of sin is great. It required an infinite sacrifice to remove the curse connected with it.” “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Oh, wondrous love!

II. The certainty of the believer’s final redemption is argued also from what Christ’s life in heaven is doing contrasted with what His death has done.—However important we may regard the death of Christ, we must not consider his life—we mean His life in heaven—of secondary moment. Apart from this life His death would not avail us. But the apostle asserts that the death of Christ affected our reconciliation to God. This mighty change was wrought by the death of Christ. And shall we doubt the power of His life? Besides, the nature of Christ’s work in heaven is a pledge for the final safety of the believer. Christ’s intercession bears the same relation to His death as Providence does to creation. God created, and now sustains; Christ died, and now intercedes.—Hugh Hughes.


Romans 5:6. Kazainak, the robber chieftain.—Kazainak was a robber chieftain inhabiting the mountains of Greenland. He came to a hut where the missionary was translating the Gospel of St. John. He wanted to know what he was doing; and when the missionary told him how the marks he was making were words, and how the book could speak, he wished to hear what it said. The missionary then read the story of Christ’s suffering and death, when the chieftain immediately asked, “What has this man done? Has He robbed anybody? Has He murdered anybody?” “No,” was the reply; “He has robbed no one, murdered no one; He has done nothing wrong.” “Then why does He suffer Why does He die?” “Listen,” said the missionary; “this man has done nothing wrong, but Kazainak has done wrong. This man has not robbed any one, but Kazainak has robbed many. This man has murdered none, but Kazainak has murdered his brother, Kazainak has murdered his child. This man suffered that Kazainak might not suffer; He died that Kazainak might not die.” “Tell me the story again,” said the astonished chieftain; and the hard-hearted murderer was brought to the foot of the cross.

Romans 5:6. Debt prevents work.—Once there was an artisan who laboured in the service of a rich Eastern master. Imprudently the man had got into immense debt with an unmerciful creditor, who told him that unless he settled accounts before the close of the year he and his family would be sold as slaves. It was impossible to pay the debt. Meanwhile his master noticed that his work was falling off every week. It was not so cleverly done as before. The weekly account of labour which he produced was lessened. One day he spoke about this to the steward. “Why, sir,” the steward replied, “that poor fellow cannot possibly make good work. He cannot manage his tools, for his hands tremble. Nor can he see well what he is doing, for his eyes are filled with tears. A heavy debt is pressing upon him, and until it is paid he will not be able to do one good piece of work.” “Tell him that I have paid his debt,” said the generous master. The steward went and delivered the message. From that moment fresh vigour was put into the man. His hands trembled no more, nor were his eyes dim with tears. He swung the hammer with a will, and his little dwelling rang with merry songs, and he did his work better and quicker than formerly. A parable of our state. Sin paralyses our moral energies. We are weak. The debt is heavy. We cannot pay; but Christ discharges the debt. We are set at liberty and placed on a new vantage ground. We may run the heavenly course without fainting, and walk without weariness.

Romans 5:6. A father dies for his son.—In the French revolution a young man was condemned to the guillotine and shut up in one of the prisons. He was greatly loved by many, but there was one who loved him more than all put together. How know we this? It was his own father; and the love he bore his son was proved in this way: When the lists were called, the father, whose name was exactly the same as the son’s, answered to the name, and the father rode in the gloomy tumbril out to the place of execution, and his head rolled beneath the axe instead of his son’s, a victim to mighty love. See here an image of the love of Christ to sinners; for thus Jesus died for the ungodly.—Spurgeon.

Romans 5:6-8. “None of them died for me.”—Interest in the lepers, those special objects of the Saviour’s help, has been greatly revived of late, and attention is justly drawn to the noble deeds wrought by Protestant missionaries in India. The Rev. Dr. Bowman, of the Church Missionary Society, was enabled to erect a place of worship in connection with the Calcutta Leper Asylum, and an aged woman, over eighty-two years old, was there led by the preacher to the divine Healer. A sceptic asked her if the many gods and goddesses of her own religion would not suffice; but she had an answer ready for him: “None of them died for me.”—Henry Proudfoot.

Christ’s sacrifice for sinners.—In the early ages of the Christian Church many slaves were carried prisoners out of Italy into Africa. Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, redeemed many of them, until at last his fortune was exhausted. One day a poor widow came and besought him to recover an only son who had been carried away captive. Being unable to ransom him with money, Paulinus sailed for Africa and induced the prince whose slave the young man was to set him free and take himself in exchange. The bishop performed the duties of slave so faithfully that the prince grew attached to him, and on learning his rank gave him not only his own liberty, but that of his fellow-countrymen who were in bondage.—W. H. Hatch.

Verses 7-8


Romans 5:7. Righteous and good.—That is, the one righteous; the other good, merciful, benevolent.

Romans 5:8.—Christ’s death a vicarious death, but not necessarily expressed by the preposition here used. Divine love compared with human. The latter infinitely below the former.


Incomparable love.—Of one of the daughters of our Queen it was said that she shed sunshine wherever she went. Divine love sheds sunshine in its passage through this cold world. It was thought and said that love incarnate would at once command the admiration of mankind. Divine love was incarnated, and the incarnation was treated with contempt. Divine love has been conspicuously set forth, and yet how many are blind to its excellence! Strange word, “commendeth.” We should as soon expect that the flowers would have need to commend their beauty, the birds their songs, the pearls their chastened lustre, the sun his brightness, the moon her clearness, the stars their brilliance, as God to commend His love. The word means “gives proof of,” “establishes” His love; and yet how suitable the other word when we think how slow men are to appreciate the incomparable love of God! He makes His love glorious above all human love—above and beyond our furthest reach and highest conception of love. The love of God is incomparable:—

I. On account of the greatness of the divine nature.—Love often stretches out towards something higher than itself. Love finds, or thinks it finds, the complement of its nature in the excellence of the person loved. When we love beneath us, it is because we think there is below us a pearl of excellence by which we should be enriched. Love stretches out its tendrils to clasp the tree which has some kind of fruit which we deem needful to our welfare. Love aspires. Whereunto shall the love of God aspire? How shall the infinitely great stretch itself out to something higher and nobler and vaster? Above God there is none, and He alone is great. Below God is none who possesses any greatness which cannot be found in the divine being. Incomparable love, because not drawn out by any superior worth.

II. On account of the self-sufficiency of the divine nature.—How selfish at the best is human love! How often our love for others is but another aspect of self-love! Surely God is for Himself all-sufficient. If indeed He created the world that love might find a fresh channel for its overflow, it could not be that He felt any void. It must have been on account of the exuberance of His benevolence. The vastness of divine love overflowed. Unfallen natures were refreshed by its streams; and though men have sinned, it still flows on with divine fulness and life-giving influences. Incomparable love, because not moved by any inward necessity.

III. On account of the holiness of the divine nature.—We sometimes talk about loving the sinner and hating his sin; but it oft requires something like superhuman power to separate the sinner from his sin. “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself.” How graphic the touch! The mere word “solidarity” has not yet killed out of society the Pharisees who stand by themselves. Sinners who go beyond respectable sins shut themselves out of respectable society. The word “respectable” is a strong word in certain circles. Respectable sinners we may love; disreputable sinners we shun. And yet we are all sinners. If we could stand on the high plane of the infinite purity, we should see how infinitesimal the difference. The holy God loves the unholy. Sin is the one abominable thing which God hates. “He is not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness; neither shall evil dwell with Him.” Incomparable love, because uninfluenced by moral worth in the objects.

IV. On account of the completeness of the divine relationship.—Mysterious words “God the Father and God the Son.” Two, and yet not separate. Speaking after the manner of men, we say that perfect love subsisted between God the Father and God the Son; and yet the eternal Father gave proof of the incomparable nature of His love by giving His Son. Incomparable love, because it spared not the choicest gift.

V. On account of the extent of the divine sacrifice.—If God had given His Son to walk for thirty-three years with unfallen Adams and sinless Eves in a paradise of perfect beauty, it would have been a demonstration of love—such a demonstration as is received among men with gratitude. The love of a monarch to some distant part of the empire is shown by sending a son, and his sojourn is made a triumphal passage—everything ministers to his delight. God sends His Son, not to a glorious paradise, not to palaces of pleasure, but to a disordered planet, to haunts of sin and of sorrow. We are sometimes told that Jesus came into this world to be a teacher of moral truth. If that were so—which is not here allowed—it would have been a demonstration of divine love. What a task to teach truth to unreceptive natures! To incur the obloquy which is the portion of every moral reformer! If God had thus given His Son for a few years to teach the ignorant sons of men, and had then translated Him back again to His preincarnate condition, it would have been a demonstration of love. But He gave Him up to death. This was purposed in the eternal councils; this was prefigured in the old economy, foretold by the prophets, and kept in view by Jesus Himself as the great object of His mission. What a word is “death”! We do not understand its full significance. Hardened scientists tell us that death is but the taking down of the human house. Does the house think and feel? Is it capable of infinite longings and yearnings? Does it soar beyond the material? Can it dwell in the eternal? Surely death is not a mere material shock, a repulsion of united molecules of matter. Considering the death of the eternal Son, we are lifted out of materialism—at least, ought to be, for too many dwell upon its mere physical aspect. The sublime Sufferer teaches us that death has far more in it than the anatomist’s scalpel can unfold. The death of Jesus, with its infinite anguish, with its intense soul darkness, with its awful sense of a desolate forsaking, is a mournful demonstration of God’s love; for we may be allowed to think of God the Father making a sacrifice in allowing His Son to enter such a gloomy vale.

1. If God has thus shown His love, let us admire;

2. If God thus loves, why should we fear?

3. If God has thus shown His love, let us show our gratitude;

4. If God has thus made love conspicuous, let it be conspicuous in our lives;

5. If love died that love might be pre-eminent, let us not shrink from the sacrifices which love may demand.

God’s commendation of His love.

I. God commends His love to our attention.—To speak of love always secures attention. Proved by the popularity of the modern novel. Word carries thoughts to family circle and its earliest associations—to spots where words are spoken and embraces given and received. Noble deeds of love recorded in ancient and modern story. Is there any love like this?

1. Consider its choice of objects. We choose for excellences real or fancied—fair face, happy temperament, great mind, warm heart. God chooses the unworthy, loves the unlovely. The objects of His love are the “ungodly” (Romans 5:6), the impious, who have no love of Him, no reverence for Him, who try to get rid of the thought of Him. He does not wait till we give signs of coming to a better state of mind; He loves us when “without strength” (Romans 5:6), unable to leave our miserable condition—loves us in our misery. If the Queen were to visit small-pox patients in London garrets, the whole country would be loud in her praise. How much more wonderful the King of kings visiting those stricken down by sin! He has loved “sinners,” active in wickedness. A pure girl thrown into the company of foul-mouthed, brawling drunkards. He has loved “enemies” (Romans 5:10), who hate God so much that they try to get Him out of their thoughts, and reject with proud disdain His offered gift of salvation.

2. Consider what love chooses to do for us. In pity we say, Give money to the miserable wretch, wash his filthy face, and move him to a cleaner house. The love of God goes to the root of the evil. Boy bitten by mad dog—no use putting piece of sticking-plaster on wound. He has saved from “wrath” (Romans 5:9). The word opens before us a dark abyss, which becomes blacker the longer we gaze. God alone knows the depth of that abyss, the contents of that awful blackness. He knew what needed to bring out of the horrible pit. Only one who could go down low enough to meet men at their lowest point of need—His own Son. In love He gave His Son, the Christ, to die for us. No need to perplex ourselves with the theological question how His death removes our penalty. The same God who has so loved us as to give His Son assures us that the death is for all who will take the benefit of it.

II. God commends His love for our approval.—Difference between our relation to other deeds of love and to this. Personal interest—-present interest. Efficacy of Christ’s death as fresh to-day as eighteen centuries ago. Eternal fate depends on our approval or disapproval of this deed of love.

1. Do we approve of the interference of His love—that all the glory of salvation belongs to Him?

2. Do we approve of the course taken by love? Some think less might have sufficed than that the Son of God should take our place before the law and meet all its demands. Am I willing that Christ should take my place and bear my wrath—willing that if there is any praise for salvation He shall have it all? (Revelation 1:5-6.)

3. Do we approve of the place given to us in that deed of love—to receive justification as a free gift of God? God demands present response to His appeal. He says, Behold the Substitute. Do I accept of Him? Willing that my sins be laid on Him—to be justified by His blood? For that God is waiting—holding back the fires of wrath, because not willing that any should perish. Jesus Christ is delaying His return, though the Church is pleading “Come quickly,” that sinners may come unto Him and find peace and life through His death for them.—G. Wallace, D.D.

The best thing.

I. The best thing commended.—“The love of God to man.” Not His wisdom, power, holiness, or wealth, but His love, unsolicited, unmerited, free, unparalleled, towards us, the most undeserving of His creatures.

II. The best thing commended by the best Judge.—“God commendeth His love.” “God only knows the love of God.” A man may know the love of man, an angel may know the love of an angel; but only the Infinite can gauge the infinite.

III. The best thing commended by the best Judge in the best possible way.—“In that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were at the worst He did the best for us. “He died for the ungodly.” “He tasted death for every man.” “He came to seek and to save that which was lost.”

IV. The best thing commended by the best Judge in the best possible way, and for the best purpose.—That we might be “justified by His blood,” “saved from wrath,” reconciled to God by the death of His Son,” and “saved by His life”—yea, “joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ”; in a word, have everlasting life.—D. Brotchie.

Redemption to the right and the secure.—Here are two subjects for useful thought.

I. The moral wrongness and danger of mankind.—The text contains the words “sinners,” representing “men that are in the wrong,” “transgressors of the divine law.” It contains also the word “wrath,” implying “danger” and “danger in consequence of the wrong.” Wrath in God is not an angry passion, but a benevolent antagonism against wrong. It is a benevolent principle, not a malign passion. The opposition of love is for many reasons a more terrible thing than the opposition of anger. Men as sinners oppose God, and God as the all-loving One opposes them, and His opposition is called “wrath,” and wrath because “it is a terrible thing.” The other subject for thought in the text is:—

II. The moral deliverance and rectification of mankind.—There are two words in the text that express these two things, “justified” and “saved.” I take the word “justified” not in a forensic but in a moral sense—the sense of being made right. The word “saved” I take in a spiritual and not in a legal or material sense. It means “the restoration of the soul to lost intelligence, lost purity, lost liberty, lost love, lost friendship, with God.” Now mark how moral rectification and spiritual salvation come:

1. They flow from God’s love. “God commendeth His love [or, as some read, His own love] towards us.” His love is the ultimate cause, the primal font.

2. They come from God’s love through the love of Christ. Christ is at once the demonstration, the emblem, and the medium of God’s love. Christ demonstrates the reality and strength of this divine love by His death. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” His death therefore becomes that mighty, moral force to make the wrong right, the lost safe.—D. Thomas.

Divine love for sinners.—We infer:—

I. That God has love.—He is not sheer intellect; He has heart, and His heart is not malign, but benevolent. He has love, not merely an attribute, but in essence. Love is not a mere element in His nature—it is His nature; He is love. The moral code by which He governs the universe is but love speaking in the imperative mood. His wrath is but love uprooting and consuming whatever obstructs the happiness of His creation.

“O Love! the one sun,
O Love! the one sea,
No life has begun
That breathes not in Thee;
Thy rays have no limit,
Thy waves have no shore,
Thou giv’st, without merit,
To worlds evermore.”

Yes, love is the one sea. All created existences are but waves rising out of that sea, and breaking on the shores of eternity.

II. That God has love for sinners.—“While we were yet sinners.”

1. This is not a love that is revealed in nature. Not on one page in the mighty book of nature is it written that God has love for sinners. Nature was written before sinners had existence. It is exclusively the doctrine of the Bible, and the central and cardinal doctrine. “God so loved the world,” etc.

2. This is not the love of moral esteem. The holy One cannot love the corrupt character; it is the love of compassion—compassion deep, tender, boundless.

III. That God’s love for sinners is demonstrated in the death of Christ.—“Christ died for us.”

1. This demonstration is the mightiest. The strength of love is proved by the sacrifice it makes. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” “He delivered Him up for us all.”

2. This demonstration is the most indispensable. The only way to consume in me any enmity that I may have for a man is to carry into my soul the conviction that he whom I have hated loves me, and has always loved me. This conviction will turn my enmity into love. God knows the human soul, knows how to break its corrupt heart; hence He has given the demonstration of His love in the death of Christ.—D. Thomas, D.D.


The design of Christ’s death.—All those who have paid their lives to the injured laws of the country have died for us; and if we derive not improvement from it the fault is our own. But are we going to rank the death of Christ with such deaths as these? We would rather class it with the death of an apostle. “If I be offered,” says Paul to the Philippians, “upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you.” This was noble. But was Paul crucified for us? No. “It is Christ that died”—His death is peculiarly pre-eminent. This was indicated by the prodigies that attended it. The question is, What was the design of Christ’s death? Some tell us that it was to confirm the truth of His doctrine by the testimony of His blood, and to suffer, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps. And this is true, and we believe it as truly as those who will go no further. But is that the whole or the principal part of the design? We appeal to the Scriptures. There we learn that He died for us as an expiation of our guilt, and to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. He died to redeem us from the curse. Exclude this, and the language of the Bible becomes perfectly embarrassing and unintelligible. Exclude this, and what becomes of the legal sacrifices? They were shadows without a substance. For there is no relation between them and His death, as He was a martyr and an example; but there is a full conformity between them and His death, as He was an atonement. Exclude this, and with what can we meet the conscience burdened with guilt? with what can we answer the inquiry, How shall I come before the Lord? with what can we wipe away the tear of godly grief? But we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. “Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” His death was an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. The all-sufficiency and acceptableness were evinced by His discharge from the grave and His being received up into glory. There within the veil our soul finds anchorage. Yet even this is not all the design. Christ died for us, not only to reconcile us, but to renovate; not only to justify us, but to sanctify. The one is as necessary to our recovery as the other, and both equally flow from the cross. “For He gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.”—W. Jay.

Greatness of divine love.—“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” The greatness and freeness of the love of God are illustrated in this and the following verse by making still more prominent the unworthiness of its objects. It is hardly to be expected that any one would die in the place of a merely righteous man, though for a good man this self-denial might possibly be exercised; but we, so far from being good, were not even righteous; we were sinners, ungodly, and enemies. The difference between the words “righteous” and “good,” as here used, is that which in common usage is made between “just” and “kind.” The former is applied to a man who does all that the law or justice can demand of him, the latter to him who is governed by love. The just man commands respect; the good man calls forth affection. Respect being a cold and feeble principle compared to love, the sacrifices to which it leads are comparatively slight.—Hodge.

Singular goodness in Christ.—The apostle goes on to show the singular goodness of our Saviour in submitting to death in place of the ungodly. Romans 5:7 : “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” By a righteous or just man appears to be meant a man of virtue and integrity, who does no injury; and it is certainly true that a man would not lay down his life to save from death a person who merely adheres strictly to the path of righteousness. “Though peradventure for a good man,” as it is in the original, “some would even dare to die.” By the good man appears to be meant a man of eminent virtue, a public benefactor, who does much good in society; and to preserve the life of such a man some might even venture to die. This is so true that there have not been wanting instances of persons saving the life of such a man at the expense of their own.—Ritchie.

“God commendeth His love toward us.”—We should observe the commendation of God’s love towards us: He “commendeth His love.” The word συνίστησι signifies God’s interposing, to make us know and be assured of that which otherwise we knew not, and which is exceedingly strange and incredible to us. There is another such word used for the very same purpose (Hebrews 6:17): “God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath.” The original is, He “interposed Himself,” as it is in the margin, or came in between by an oath, in order to show the unchangeableness of His counsel of love to the heirs of promise. So it is here. God would make known, would make plain and incontestable, His love towards sinners, so that they should have no room left to question it. Well, and what way does He take for the purpose? Does He give them His word for it, and interpose Himself by an oath to confirm that word? No; both these He had done before. He comes in between, therefore, with the incarnation of His only begotten Son, and causes Him, while we were yet sinners, to die for us. As if He should have said, I will have you know the love which I bear towards you; and because I know how hard it is for you to believe any such thing, lo! I will cause you to be satisfied of it without dispute. I set forth My Son in the midst of you, and give Him to die for you before your eyes. Look on that, and acknowledge My love towards you. Now, brethren, is not this speaking love? Does not this declare the love of God in terms which cannot be mistaken? Who can think of this and charge his ruin on a want of goodwill in God?—S. Walker.

The great love of Christ.—Christ has obliged us with two of the highest instances of His love to us imaginable:—

I. That He died for us.—The love of life is naturally the greatest, and therefore that love that so far masters this as to induce a man to lay it down must needs be transcendent and supernatural. For life is the first thing that nature desires, and the last that it is willing to part with. But how poor and low and in what a pitiful shallow channel does the love of the world commonly run! Let us come and desire such a one to speak a favourable word or two for us to a potent friend, and how much of coyness and excuse and shyness shall we find. The man is unwilling to spend his breath in speaking, much less in dying, for his friend. Come to another, and ask him upon the stock of a long acquaintance and a professed kindness to borrow but a little money of him, and how quickly does he fly to his shifts, pleading poverty, debts, and great occasions, and anything rather than open his own bowels to refresh those of his poor neighbour! The man will not bleed in his purse, much less otherwise, to rescue his friend from prison, from disgrace, and perhaps a greater disaster. But now how incomparably full and strong must the love of Christ needs have been that could make Him sacrifice even life itself for the good of mankind, and not only die, but die with all the heightening circumstances of pain and ignominy—that is, in such a manner that death was the least part of the suffering! Let us but fix our thoughts upon Christ, hanging, bleeding, and at length dying upon the cross, and we shall read His love to man there in larger and more visible characters than the superscription that the Jews put over His head in so many languages—all which and many more were not sufficient to have fully expressed and set forth so incredibly great an affection. Every thorn was a pencil to represent and every groan a trumpet to proclaim how great a love He was then showing to mankind. And now surely our love must needs be very cold if all the blood that ran in our Saviour’s veins cannot warm it; for all that was shed for us, and shed for that very purpose that it might prevent the shedding of ours. Our obnoxiousness to the curse of the law for sin had exposed us to all the extremity of misery, and made death as due to us as wages to the workman. And the divine justice, we may be sure, would never have been behindhand to pay us our due. The dreadful retribution was certain and unavoidable; and therefore since Christ could not prevent, He was pleased at last to divert the blow and to turn it upon Himself, to take the cup of God’s fury out of our hands and to drink off the very dregs of it. The greatest love that men usually bear one another is but show and ceremony, compliment, and a mere appearance in comparison of this. This was such a love as Solomon says is “strong as death,” and to express it yet higher, such a one as was stronger than the very desires of life.

II. The other transcendent instance of Christ’s love to mankind was that He did not only die for us, but that He died for us while we were enemies, and, in the phrase of Scripture, enmity itself against Him. It is possible indeed that some natures of a nobler mould and make than the generality of the world may arise to such an heroic degree of love as to induce one friend to die for another. For the apostle says that “for a good man one would even dare to die.” And we may read in heathen story of the noble contention of two friends, which of them should have the pleasure and honour of dying in the other’s stead, and writing the inward love of his heart in the dearest blood that did enliven it. Yet still the love of Christ to mankind runs in another and a higher strain; for admit that one man had died for another, yet still it has been for his friend—that is, for something, if not of equal, yet at least of next esteem to life itself in the common judgment of all. Human love will indeed sometimes act highly and generously, but still it is upon a suitable object, upon something that is amiable; and if there be either no fuel or that which is unsuitable, the flame will certainly go out. But the love of Christ does not find but makes us lovely. It “saw us in our blood” (as the prophet speaks), wallowing in all the filth and impurities of our natural corruption, and then it said unto us, Live. Christ then laid down His life for us, when we had forfeited our own to Him. Which strange action was as if a prince should give himself a ransom for that traitor that would have murdered him, and sovereignty itself lie down upon the block to rescue the neck of a rebel from the stroke of justice. This was the method and way that Christ took in what He suffered for us—a method that reason might at first persuade us to be against nature, and that religion assures us to be above it.—South.

A peculiar contrast.—The δέ, “but,” indicates this contrast. What man hardly does for what is most worthy of admiration and love, God has done for that which merited only His indignation and abhorrence. On the verb συνιστάναι: here it is the act whereby God establishes beyond question the reality of His love. The apostle says τὴν ἑαυτοῦ�: His own love, or the love that is peculiar to Him. The expression contrasts God’s manner of loving with ours. God cannot look above Him to devote Himself, as we may, to a being of more worth than Himself. His love turns to that which is beneath Him, and takes even the character of sacrifice in behalf of that which is altogether unworthy of Him. Ὅτι, “in that,” is here the fact by which God has proved His peculiar way of loving. In the word ἁμαρτωλός, “sinner,” the termination ωλος signifies “abundance.” It was by this term the Jews habitually designated the Gentiles. The ἔτι, “yet,” implies this idea: that there was not yet in humanity the least progress toward the good which would have been fitted to merit for it such a love; it was yet plunged in evil. The words “Christ died for us” in such a context imply the close relation of essence which unites Christ and God in the judgment of the apostle. With man sacrificing himself Paul compares God sacrificing Christ. This parallel has no meaning except as the sacrifice of Christ is to God the sacrifice of Himself. Otherwise the sacrifice of God would be inferior to that of man, whereas it must be infinitely exalted above it. Finally, it should be observed how Paul places the subject Θεός, “God,” at the end of the principal proposition, to bring it beside the word ἁμαρτωλῶν, “sinners,” and so brings out the contrast between our defilement and the delicate sensibility of divine holiness.—Godet.


Romans 5:6-8. “None of them died for me.”—Interest in the lepers, those special objects of the Saviour’s help, has been greatly revived of late, and attention is justly drawn to the noble deeds wrought by Protestant missionaries in India. The Rev. Dr. Bowman, of the Church Missionary Society, was enabled to erect a place of worship in connection with the Calcutta Leper Asylum, and an aged woman, over eighty-two years old, was there led by the preacher to the divine Healer. A sceptic asked her if the many gods and goddesses of her own religion would not suffice; but she had an answer ready for him: “None of them died for me.”—Henry Proudfoot.

Christ’s sacrifice for sinners.—In the early ages of the Christian Church many slaves were carried prisoners out of Italy into Africa. Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, redeemed many of them, until at last his fortune was exhausted. One day a poor widow came and besought him to recover an only son who had been carried away captive. Being unable to ransom him with money, Paulinus sailed for Africa and induced the prince whose slave the young man was to set him free and take himself in exchange. The bishop performed the duties of slave so faithfully that the prince grew attached to him, and on learning his rank gave him not only his own liberty, but that of his fellow-countrymen who were in bondage.—W. H. Hatch.

Verses 9-11


Romans 5:10. When we were enemies.—Indicates relation to God rather than conduct. But Flatt says, “Resisting God’s will, and so liable to punishment.”

Romans 5:11.—The at-one-ment. Article points out only one way of salvation, through faith in Christ.


Christian assurance.—The Roman Christians would require all the helps which could be furnished. The apostle seeks to surround them with all safeguards, and to bring forth every argument and every consideration to strengthen them in the faith and prepare them for all trials. There are for us also peculiar trials, and we must seek to strengthen and encourage ourselves by the consideration of our privileges. Let us strengthen ourselves in the faith by taking account of the grounds of our assurance.

I. Confidence from the initial process.—“When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God.” If the divine Being considered us kindly and compassionately in a state of enmity, surely He will not forsake when the alienation has been removed and a state of friendship has been established.

II. Confidence from the further development.—Being justified, delivered by the blood of Christ, we shall finally be saved from wrath through Him. If grace has begun, surely grace will consummate. Can there be unfinished works in the divine path ways? Can it be said of God that, having begun to build, He was not either able or willing to finish? Let us have confidence in God’s good-will. Let us believe in His omnipotence and in His ever-enduring mercy.

III. Confidence from the unseen.—Reconciled by the death of God’s Son, saved by His life—saved by His earth life as a stimulating example, as an elevating and sanctifying influence. From the death of Christ we go backward and forward—backward to the earth life, forward to the heavenly life. Saved by His earth life as our example—saved by His heavenly life as our intercessor, as our appropriator, as our guide and protector. He ever lives to intercede. We have a great High Priest. Let us have holy boldness. He appropriates not to Himself but to believers the benefits of His mediatorial work. Sacred and benign influences come to us from the mediatorial throne. He is our guide and protector. He is the Good Shepherd guiding the sheep to the sweet pastures, where the verdant glades are ever green and refreshing streams are ever flowing. Let us follow where He leads, being assured that He will lead aright. Our times are in His hands. He is watching over our welfare.

IV. Confidence from the inward.—The emotional is to be watched, but not to be ignored. Our own thoughts, feelings, and experiences are to be reckoned. Some there are who make light of inward experiences; but here St. Paul seems to make the inward the climax of his argument. Not only so, but we joy in God, we exult in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the at-one-ment, the reconciliation.

V. Christian joy is well founded, springing from the atoning work of Jesus Christ.—Glory in self-righteousness, in fancied goodness, in good works, is vain. Not thus can we rightly joy in God. Such joy is like the chaff of the summer threshing floor which the wind will soon drive away. Let our joy spring from the finished work of the Saviour. He that exulteth, let him exult not in himself, but in that good God who gave His only begotten Son. Christian joy should be raised above the storms and tempests of time. The greater the outer darkness, the clearer shall be the inner light of Christian joy; the fiercer the outward heart, the more cheerily shall the inner joy glow and refresh.

VI. Christian joy is abiding.—God cannot change. Jesus is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. How soon our earth joys fade! How often we have joy in anticipation and sorrow in realisation! Heaven’s joys do not fade. The believer joys in God as a present possession. He joys in anticipation of eternal union, and the realisation of that bliss will be bliss indeed. “I will see you again; I will remain with you: and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” Soul joy is abiding and eternal. Surely we ought to have strong confidence who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us in the gospel.

“Let sickness blast and death devour,
If heaven but recompense our pains;
Perish the grass and fade the flower,
If firm the word of God remains.”

The dead and living Christ.—“For if, when we were enemies.” There are four distinct facts or events given us here, on which the argument of the passage builds itself. Two of these have reference to the history of the sinner, and two of them to the history of the sinner’s Deliverer. The first two are, man’s enmity and man’s reconciliation; the last two are, the Saviour’s death and the Saviour’s life. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” There having been in His infinite bosom this exceeding love before He gave His Son, it is wholly incredible that He should be less gracious now, less willing to bestow all needed gifts. For

1. That gift did not exhaust His love. It did not empty the heart of God, nor dry up the fountain of His grace.

2. That gift has not thrown any hindrance in the way of God’s love. It is not now a more difficult thing for God to love us; nay, if we can say so, it is easier than ever. All hindrances have now melted away. Having thus briefly noticed this important truth, we now pass on to consider the three special heads of argument.

I. If God did so much for us when enemies, what will He do, or rather, what will He not do, for us now that we are friends?—Our enmity, great as it was, did not hinder His bestowing such an unspeakable gift: what is there, then, within the whole circle of the universe, which we may not count upon, now that that enmity has been removed, and we have entered into eternal friendship with Him? There may be said to be three stages in this love, at each of which it rises and increases:

1. He loved us when enemies;
2. He loves us more when friends, even in this imperfect state of still-remaining sin;
3. He will love us yet more when imperfection has been shaken off, and we are presented without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Here, then, is love in which we may assuredly triumph. It was love which expressed itself by an infinite gift. He is loving us and blessing us here; oh! will He not love us and bless us in the day when we take possession of the provided inheritance?

II. If Christ’s death did so much for us, what will not His life do?—If a dying Saviour did so much for us, what will not a living Saviour be able to do? The expression “saved” used here denotes the whole blessing which God has in store for us—complete deliverance in every sense of that word—a complete undoing of our lost estate. Its consummation is, when Jesus comes the second time without sin unto salvation. The apostle’s argument rests on the fact of the existence of these two opposite states of being—the two opposite extremities of being, death and life. Death is the lowest pitch of helplessness, lower even than the feebleness of infancy. It is the extremity of weakness. It is the utter cessation of all strength. Life is the opposite of this. It is the full possession of being, with all its faculties and powers. It is the guarantee for the forth-putting of all the vigour and strength which belong to the individual in whom it dwells. And it is thus that the apostle reasons: If Christ in His lowest state of weakness accomplished such marvels for us, what will He not be able to do for us now that He is in the full exercise of His almighty strength?

III. If Christ’s death did so much for us when enemies, what will not His life do for us when friends?—In other words, if a dying Saviour did so much for us when enemies, what will not a living Saviour do for us when friends? If a father, in the midst of poverty and weakness, will do much for a prodigal child, what will he not, in the day of his riches and power and honour, do for a reconciled son? Hear how Scripture speaks of His life. “When He who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory.” His appearing as our life shall bring with it all that blessedness and glory which pertain to Him as the living One—as our life. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” He cannot die; He liveth for ever. He is the resurrection and the life; therefore life, and all that life comprises, shall be ours. “He ever liveth to make intercession for us.” Of what, then, is it that this life of Christ gives us the assurance? Of salvation, says the apostle: “We shall be saved by His life.” Reconciliation is the result of His death; salvation, of His life!—H. Bonar.


Ground of confidence.—“Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” This and the following verse draw the obvious inference from the freeness and greatness of the love of God, as just exhibited, that believers shall be ultimately saved. It is an argument à fortiori. If the greater benefit has been bestowed, the less will not be withheld. If Christ has died for His enemies, He will surely save His friends. “Being justified.” To be justified is more than to be pardoned; it includes the idea of reconciliation or restoration to the favour of God, and the participation of the consequent blessings. This idea is prominently presented in the following verse. We are justified “by His blood.” This expression, as remarked above, exhibits the true ground of our acceptance with God. It is not our works, nor our faith, nor our new obedience, nor the work of Christ in us, but what He has done for us. Having by the death of Christ been brought into the relation of peace with God, being now regarded for His sake as righteous, “we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” He will not leave His work unfinished; whom He justifies, them He also glorifies. The word “wrath” of course means the effects of wrath or punishment, those sufferings with which the divine displeasure visits sin. Not only is our justification to be ascribed to Christ, but our salvation is “through” Him. Salvation, in a general sense, includes justification; but when distinguished from it, as in this case, it means the consummation of that work of which justification is the commencement. It is a preservation from all the causes of destruction, a deliverance from the evils which surround us here or threaten us hereafter, and an introduction into the blessedness of heaven. Christ thus saves us by His providence and Spirit, and by His constant intercession. There is therefore most abundant ground for confidence for the final blessedness of believers, not only in the amazing love of God, by which, though sinners and enemies, they have been justified and reconciled by the death of His Son, but also in the consideration that this same Saviour that died for them still lives, and ever lives to sanctify, protect, and save them.—Hodge.

“Justify” here means “deliver from.”—“Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” The word “justified” is here used to denote “delivered,” as may be inferred from the connection of the argument. Christ died for us, saith the apostle, and thus “justified,” that is “delivered,” us from death, which was our due. And if we are already delivered from death by the shedding of His blood, much more shall we be saved from wrath, that is from future punishment, through Him. Such is the argument. But if we should suppose the word “justified” to have its most usual meaning, namely, “accounted righteous,” there would be no room for the further effect here mentioned, of delivering us from future punishment. For justification denotes both delivering from wrath and also holding us entitled to the reward of righteousness. The apostle’s assertion therefore is, that being delivered by the death of Christ from the dominion of sin and from that death which was due to us, we shall through Him also be saved from the wrath to come. The expression “much more shall we be saved from wrath” implies that Christ’s dying to save us from the death due to us as sinners was the most important part of the plan of salvation; and this essential part of the dispensation being already accomplished, there can be no doubt that the natural effect of this part of it, namely, saving us from future punishment, will in due time take place also.—Ritchie.

The word “atonement” may be used.—The word here translated “the atonement” is twice, in the preceding verse, rendered by the word to “reconcile”; and it would have expressed the meaning more exactly had the passage been rendered “by whom we have received the reconciliation.” For, according to common use of language, an atonement is a sacrifice offered for sin; and it is received or accepted by Him whose law has been violated, and whom it is intended to propitiate. Strictly speaking, therefore, we do not receive atonement. It is both offered to God and accepted by Him. At the same time, the use of the word “atonement” instead of “reconciliation” makes no change in the meaning. For reconciliation is altogether the effect of the Atonement. It is this which removes the displeasure of God which lies on mankind as sinners, and renders Him willing to receive them into His favour. And we may without impropriety be said to receive the Atonement when we accept of these fruits of it, as they are offered in the gospel.—Ritchie.

Jesus reveals the love of God by deeds.—Francis Turretin says the doctrine of the Atonement is the chief part of our salvation, the anchor of faith, the refuge of hope, the rule of charity, the true foundation of the Christian religion, and the richest treasure of the Christian Church. When prophets and apostles have given us their message, their work is done. But it is different with Christ Jesus. Far more of God is revealed in what Jesus was, in what He did, and in what He suffered, than in what He taught. He revealed the mercy and tenderness of God more by His deeds than His words. Others had spoken of the beautiful, but none lived so beautifully. The evangelists give lengthened accounts of His death: the Saviour Himself ever kept it before Him, because it was of a sacrificial character. Jesus viewed death with terror, while the martyrs viewed it with delight. Surely this terror was not caused by the prospect of crucifixion, though painful. The only explanation of His death is His own: “He gave His life a ransom for many”; “His blood was shed for the remission of sins.” The cross, the symbol of dishonour and weakness, is the mightiest power in the universe. Peter, in his early discourse, refers to the death of Christ as a crime on the part of the Jews in order to lead them to repentance. It is significant that Peter’s whole thought should be concentrated on the cross and resurrection. How was it that Peter referred so much to His death? Christ suffered for us. It is not said that Christ taught or worked miracles for us. St. John strongly sets forth Christ’s death as a propitiation, and St. Paul maintained that Christ died for our sins. The history of the doctrine is a. proof that the idea of an objective atonement was not invented by theologians.—Abstracted from, “The Atonement,” by R. W. Dale.

Verses 12-21


Romans 5:12.—Adam the head of a race whose transgressions lead on to condemnation. Christ the ancestor of a seed whose faith and obedience culminate in eternal life. Rabbis spoke of a double death of the soul and of the body, and thought that but for Adam’s sin man would not have died, but only expired, the spirit being dismissed by the kiss of peace. The sin of all men was wrapped up in the one act of Adam’s sin, and developed afterwards in individual cases. Adam’s descendants not accountable for his sins.

Romans 5:13.—The law made sin more manifest. The sin of those who lived between Adam and Moses could not be sin against that law of Moses, which was not promulgated. It must have some other explanation.

Romans 5:14.—Cabbalists spoke of Adam as the later or lower Adam, in contrast with the ancient Adam, the Messiah existing before the Creation.

Romans 5:15.—Mankind generally included in the Fall. In the Redemption is universal provision, though not universal acceptance.

Romans 5:16.—One sin, many sinners; many sins, one Saviour.

Romans 5:21.—In Romans 5:14 death is a monarch, while here sin is the monarch. Death is the sphere where sin shows its power, for “the sting of death is sin.” ἐν indicates death as the terminus of sin; εἰς points to life as the end and reward of righteousness. But where sin abounded, grace did superaboundi.e., the pardoning mercy of the gospel has triumphed even over the sins of the Jews, which were greatly aggravated by reason of the light they enjoyed (Stuart).


The two opposing sovereignties.—St. Peter regarded his beloved brother Paul as having written epistles in which are some things hard to be understood; but there are some who seem to speak as if St. Peter were a weakling. They treat St. Paul in deferential style, as if they would challenge him to come forth from the unseen world and propound more difficulties for them to solve. But we follow in the footsteps of St. Peter, and feel, especially in the Epistle to the Romans, that these are things hard to be understood—things which for their explanation will require the revealing light of eternity. We cannot explain all. We do not make the vain attempt. Sufficient if some help is given to earnest seekers of the truth. In previous chapters we have found things hard to be understood, and we enter now on ground that is thickly sown with difficulties. Mystery is everywhere. It begins in the garden of Eden. Its course is the pathway of the human race. We bow in the presence of the mystery, and find sweet refuge in the arms of all-embracing mercy.

I. The two opposing sovereigns.—Sin and grace are the two opposing sovereigns placed before us by St. Paul as ruling in the moral sphere, and with their sceptre touching even the material world. St. Paul does not sever the moral from the material. There are forces working above, beyond, and through all material forces. Sin touches the physical. A soul act taints the race. Sin, the dread sovereign, has brought in death, trouble, moral inability.

1. Death. Solemn word! What does it mean? Our understanding or misunderstanding of biblical expressions and terms has been formed very much by Milton,—of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into the world and all our woe. We read and speak as if death were unknown before Adam’s fall. Pelagius anticipated modern geologists, for he affirmed that death is not a consequence of sin and that Adam would have died even if he had not sinned. The modern scientist tells us that there is ample proof in the geological remains that physical death has been the lot of the lower animals from all time. All the animals are in one chain of progressive development, and are all related. The lower animals were all subject to death; and the highest animal, man, is by implication and analogy subject now and always in the past to physical death. Let scientists, if they please, reduce themselves to mere animals. Well, there is death and death,—death as the king of terrors; death as a gentle nurse putting the child to sleep, from which it is to awake in the sweet morn of eternity’s day. Death is no death to unfallen Adam, who walks his earthly course of hundreds of years, and then in the eventide, with the sweet balm of the breeze blowing about his frame, with the rich music of the birds and the rippling waters, with a gently falling sound soothing his tired nature, seeks repose upon his bed of flowers, and his spirit passes to commune with the spirit of the Eternal. Surely that apostle who could form the beautiful ideal expression to set forth the transition of Christians, “And some have fallen asleep,” is not to be unthinkingly charged with the idea that mere physical dissolution is of recent introduction to our planet. Death as a terror was brought in by sin. Death in its repulsive aspect was brought in by the dreadful act of the first murderer. Death came in by sin; and the blood of the slaughtered Abel gives emphasis to the utterance, “Death has reigned, for sin has entered.” Earth’s gory battle-fields tell what an awful power is sin.

2. Trouble. Sin brings trouble. Here no elaborate arguments are required. We do not stand on debatable ground. Experience, and history which is recorded experience, declare that sin entails sorrow; and trouble, in the sense of an absence of peace, the presence of unrest.

3. Moral inability. Disobedience. No need to enter upon the discussion of disputed questions. We may dispute until doomsday about the freedom of the will and cognate topics; but man everywhere shows the signs of a fallen nature. Education may do something to restain the outbreak of human depravity, the restraining force of society may check; but on all hands we have marks of man’s sinfulness. Divine grace is needful, and is the only adequate remedy. The one sovereign is baneful, but the other is blessed. Grace, the benign sovereign, has brought in life, peace, and moral ability.

1. Life. In Christ Jesus there is life eternal. And this life eternal is not a future but a present possession. It is life here and now for the believer. In the midst of the groans and pains and tears which accompany and precede death, we may enjoy the blessing of eternal life.

2. Peace. Sia brings trouble and unrest. Grace brings peace and sweet soul-rest. How infinitely blessed the repose which is enjoyed by the children of peace!

3. Moral ability. Obedience. We do not know how far grace reigns and influences. The restraining power of grace may extend to regions and persons far beyond our thought. Grace abounds unto many. Let us not in our thoughts ever turn the apostle’s many into a few. The abundance of grace reigns, and though its sovereign influence many royal persons are walking through the universe of God.

II. The seeming weakness of one sovereign and the apparent strength of the other.—Sin still reigns. Even in our optimistic moods we must confess that sin reigns, and spreads death in all its forms and pains and unutterable agonies. Grace as a sovereign is apparently weak. Grace has been reigning for a long period, and yet, after all, how ungracious is the greater part of humanity! How far does the apostle’s grace reach? Can it touch and bless the millions upon millions that are e as yet outside the pale of Christianity? Oh, our faith sometimes seems ready to fail when we think that grace is still a sovereign, with, apparently at least, a very small portion of the race as its subjects.

III. But the seemingly weak must finally overcome the apparently strong.—Grace, after all, may not be so weak as it may appear to the superficial vision. “In due time Christ died.” The due time was marked a long way on time’s great dial-plate. The due time for the triumphant vindication of grace’s all-abounding force and all-pervading sovereignty may yet be some distance off, if it is to be measured by the due time of the Saviour’s advent. In the past by weak things God has conquered. Base things have overturned the mighty. Seeming folly has confounded wisdom. And grace, though seemingly weak, shall in due time conquer and subdue and destroy sin. “Grace shall reign through righteousness unto eternal life.” Many questions trouble the anxious soul when studying such passages as the one before us. But let us not ask, Why sin, why moral evil, why a taint upon the whole race, from one man’s disobedience? Let us rather say, Here is the sin, here is the undoubted fact of a depraved moral tendency; and thus in the mediatorial work of Jesus is the sovereign remedy. Seek, my soul, for the divine healing. The sick does not ask, Whence and why the pestilence? but seeks after a remedy. The wise Israelite bitten by the serpent did not ask, Whence the serpents, why the infliction, how is the virus infused? but he looked to the brazen serpent, and was healed. Thank God, we may be healed through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us seek that grace may reign in our hearts through righteousness unto eternal life—eternal life with all its amplitude of bliss. What eternal life means will require an eternal life to unfold. It will be ever developing into divine possibilities through eternity.

Romans 5:19. Adam and Christ.—Up to this point Paul has been discussing condemnation and justification. “Wrath is on all, even on the Jews,” and “the righteousness of faith is for all, even for the Gentiles.” In chaps. 6–8 he is about to consider the theme of sanctification. “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” He is passing from the one to the other. But before he does so he inserts these three concluding verses of chap. 5, in which he tersely sums up the former subject, and consciously prepares the way for the latter. Romans 5:19 is the summary.

I. The apostle’s favourite conception of two representative men.—Adam and Christ. They are the federal heads of the human race. They are not regarded as individual units. No man ever is. He is bound by ties to his fellows that he dare not disregard. You cannot uproot even so much as a tare without uprooting along with it some of the precious wheat. “Whenever one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” And yet the whole tendency of modern preaching is towards individualism. True religion is represented as a certain definite dealing between the individual soul and Jesus Christ. That indeed is a great truth. Individual salvation is one truth; but representative responsibility is another. The statesman in the commonwealth, the minister in the congregation, the parent in the home, and the teacher in the class are all representative men.

II. The conduct of these two men as under law to Jehovah: Adam disobeyed, Christ obeyed.—The Greek word indicates that the first step in Adam’s fall was simply carelessness—the neglect or refusal to hear. But how much may be involved in that! Carelessness or remissness on the part of the guards, that is the first step in the capture of a city or the wreck of a train. Carelessness is always culpable and blameworthy. In the case before us it was “the moral act which provoked the sentence of condemnation.” It was the sin that opened the floodgates of evil upon a world. The plea of carelessness or thoughtlessness is no plea. All minimising of evil is a corrupting of the mind from the simplicity that is in Christ, “as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety.” But Jesus obeyed. He did not neglect to hear, as Adam did, through listening to the siren voices of evil. His obedience was both voluntary and obediential (cf. Romans 5:6 with Romans 5:19). A voluntary sacrifice, and yet in strictest obedience to law. The two aspects are not incompatible. They are reduced to harmony by the moving element of love. When we do anything in love, that does not exclude the feeling and the fact that it is also a thing of duty. Adam’s disobedience was one act, but not so Christ’s obedience. It was “the entire work of Christ in its obediential character.” The Passover lamb had not merely to be slain; it must be “without blemish.”

III. The fruit or outcome of their conduct.—“The many were made sinners” and “the many shall be made righteous.” Here we meet the great Pauline doctrine of imputation. It is confessedly one of great difficulty. But if there be mystery in it there is also mercy. For read 2 Corinthians 5:21. There are three imputations—Adam’s sin imputed to us, our sins imputed to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness imputed to us. These three must stand or fall together. If the principle of imputation be unjust, it is equally unjust for all the three cases. But when we speak of Adam’s sin as being imputed to us, we are only stating a half-truth. It was our sin—that is, the other half: “As through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin: and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned,”—not “have sinned” (A.V.), a fact which no one doubted; but “sinned” (R.V.)—sinned at a special point in time, sinned in the one man. It is all mystery, we say. Well, perhaps so it is; but the fruit need not be so. We are sinners through our connection with Adam; we may be made righteous through our connection with Christ,—only the one connection is that of birth, the other that of faith.—John Adams.

Romans 5:21. Grace abounding.—Two facts are here worthy of attention and suggested by the passage:—

I. That “sin” and “grace” are in the world as ruling powers.—“Sin” and “grace” are two small words, but they represent mighty things. “Sin” here stands for the principle of evil, the root of all wrong; “grace,” the principle of all goodness, the root of all that is virtuous and holy in the universe. In the chapter Paul speaks of these two forces as coming into the world—one through Adam, the other through Christ. These principles are the moral monarchs of the race, and monarchs always in fierce fighting. All the battlings in the world are but the results of their mutual antagonism.

II. That the rule of the one issues in death, of the other in everlasting life.—“As sin hath reigned unto [or, in] death.” It is not necessary to regard death here as meaning the dissolution of the body, for this would have taken place had sin never been introduced into the universe; nor the extinction of our being. But it means the destruction of all that can make life worth having. “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” What is the death of a spirit but the life of wickedness? This is sin. But whilst sin leads to death, grace leads to everlasting life. What is everlasting life? Not mere life without end, but life without evil. Everlasting life is everlasting goodness.

Conclusion.—The great question is, Which is our moral monarch, “sin” or “grace”? In all hearts one must be subordinate to the other, one must reign over the other.—Homilist.


Death by Adam; life by Christ.—“And so death passed on all men”—that is, thus it is, or so it happened, that death passed on all men. As death is the penalty of sin, and as by one man all became sinners, thus it was by one man that death passed on all men. The force of the words “and so” have been much disputed; many understand them as answering to the word “as” at the beginning of the verse: “As Adam sinned and died, so also do all men.” But, in the first place, the words do not admit of this interpretation; Paul does not say “so also,” but “and so,” “thus it was.” Besides, according to the view of the passage, this verse does not contain the first part of a comparison between Adam and Christ, but merely a comparison between Adam and his posterity. It is by one man that men became sinners; and thus it was by one man that death passed upon all men. The scope of the passage is to illustrate the doctrine of justification on the ground of the righteousness of Christ, by a reference to the condemnation of men for the sin of Adam. The analogy is destroyed, and the point of the comparison falls, if everything in us be assumed as the ground of the infliction of the penal evils of which the apostle is here speaking. Not only does the scope of the passage demand this interpretation, but also the whole course of the argument. We die on account of Adam’s sin: this is true, because on no other ground can the universality of death be accounted for. But if we all die on Adam’s account, how much more shall we live on account of Christ? The doctrine which the verse thus explained teaches is one of the plainest truths of all the Scriptures and of experience. Is it not a revealed fact, above all contradiction, and sustained by the whole history of the world, that the sin of Adam altered the relation in which our race stood to God? Did we not fall when Adam fell? If these questions are answered in the affirmative, the doctrine contained in the interpretation of Romans 5:12, given above, is admitted. The doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin, or that on account of that sin all men are regarded and treated as sinners, was a common Jewish doctrine at the time of the apostle as well as at a later period. He employs the same method of expression on the subject which the Jews were accustomed to use. They could not have failed, therefore, to understand him as meaning to convey by these expressions the ideas usually connected with them. Whatever obscurity, therefore, rests upon this passage arises from taking the word “death” in the narrow sense in which it is commonly used among men: if taken in its scriptural sense, the whole argument is plain and conclusive. Let “penal evil” be substituted for the word “death,” and the argument will stand thus: All men are subject to penal evils on account of one man. The simple doctrine and argument of the apostle is, that it was by the offence of one man that judgment came on all men to condemnation.—Hodge.

Man might have been translated.—Long before the creation of man the existence of death is proved in the domain of animal life. Now the body of man belongs to the great sum-total of animal organisation, of which he is the crown; and therefore the law of death must already have extended to man, independently of sin. Paul’s words in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, as well as those of Genesis, the sense of which he reproduces, prove beyond doubt the natural possibility of death, but not its necessity. If man had remained united to God, his body, naturally subject to dissolution, might have been gloriously transformed without passing through death and dissolution. The notion of the tree of life, as usually explained, means nothing else. This privilege of an immediate transformation will belong to the believers who shall be alive at the time of our Lord’s return (1 Corinthians 15:51-52), and it was probably this kind of transformation that was on the point of taking effect in the person of the Lord Himself at the time of His transfiguration. This privilege, intended for holy man, was withdrawn from guilty man: such was the sentence which gave him over to dissolution. It is stated in the words, “Thou art dust [that is to say, thou canst die], and to dust shalt thou return [that is to say, thou shalt in fact die].” The reign of death over the animals likewise proves only this: that it was in the natural condition of man to terminate in dissolution. Remaining on the level of animalism by the preference given by him to inclination over moral obligation, man continued subject to this law. But had he risen by an act of moral liberty above the animal, he would not have had to share its lot (see also on Romans 8:19-22).—Godet.

Christ paid more than we owe.—Far more than what we owed was paid by Christ, as much more as the immeasurable ocean exceeds a drop. Doubt not, therefore, O man, when beholding such a treasure of blessings; nor ask how the old spark of death and of sin has been extinguished, seeing that such a sea of the gifts of grace has been poured upon it.—Chrysostom.

Calvin as an interpreter.—Mark the language of Calvin on these words: “The free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” “Communem omnium gratiam facit, quia omnibus exposita est, non quod ad omnes extendatur re ipsâ. Nam etsi passus est Christus pro peccatis totius mundi, atque omnibus indifferenter Dei benignitate offertur; non tamen omnes apprehendunt.” “This free gift of God,” says Calvin in the above passage, “is here declared to be common to all, because it is open to all, not because it actually extends to all. For although Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and, by the mercy of God, is offered to all without distinction, yet all do not lay hold of Him.” In this passage Calvin speaks as an interpreter of Scripture, in the Institutes as the advocate of a system. His Institutes, moreover, were written in his earlier days; but his commentaries on Scripture were the labours of his maturer days. It is the observation of Witsius that Calvin uses one language in controversy and another when tranquilly explaining Scripture: “Tantum sæpe interest, utrum quis cum adversario contendat, an libero animo commentetur.”

Words signifying sin.—The first, translated “offence” or “trespass,” means “the falling from a position”; the second, by the general word “sin,” implies the “missing of a mark”; while in Romans 5:19 we have the “disobedience” of Adam, which signifies the “neglect” or “refusal” to hear, and in Romans 5:14 the term “transgression,” or the “overstepping” of a positive law. What is the precise significance of the statement that the “law entered that she offence might abound”? What is this “offence”? The majority of commentators answer, “the first sin of Adam.” But in what sense is it this? In the previous steps of his argument the apostle has asserted that sin reigned from Adam to Moses. That sin, however, could not be a “transgression” of positive law, for as Paul asserts in Romans 4:15, “where no law is, there is no transgression.” It was rather an “offence”—a wider term, embracing definite acts of sin, whether committed without law or under it. Wittingly or unwittingly, it was the actual repetition of the “disobedience” of Adam. Death reigned from Adam to Moses because “sin” reigned; and one object, at least, which was served by the law was to prove that this was indeed the case—was to prove that every “offence” was practically a real “transgression,” and that both were the expression or manifestation of the “disobedience” of Adam. Thus the first way in which the law makes the “offence” to abound is by bringing the “knowledge of sin”—by putting the already existing offence in its true light. But it does so, in the second place, by being a “provocation to sin.” “I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” The principle contained in the law is opposed to the principle of sin. There is an exasperating antithesis between the two. So that when the light of the law is flashed upon the principle of sin in man, it arouses into intense action the slumbering volcano within, until it rushes forth in molten streams of intensified and multiplied transgressions. The office of the law is therefore to show that all the differences in the terms do not alter the real nature of the thing. And the apostle consequently returns to the general term for “sin” (ἁμαρτία), which he has held in abeyance since the beginning of the paragraph, and writes, “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”—John Adams, B.D.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Romans 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/romans-5.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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