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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Romans 5

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-5

DISCOURSE: 1840

BENEFITS ARISING FROM A JUSTIFYING FAITH

Romans 5:1-5. Therefore 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 wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

IT may excite surprise, that the Apostle should contend so earnestly for the doctrine of justification by faith alone, when on many other subjects he evinces a candour that might almost be construed into indifference. The eating of meats offered to idols; the observance of times and seasons which under the Jewish law were regarded as holy; yea, and even the practice of circumcision itself, if not set in opposition to the Gospel; were left by him to the discretion of men, to be used or neglected as they thought fit. But to receive the doctrine of justification by faith was not left to the option of any; nor was any alternative offered them, but to submit to it, or perish. This however was not without good reason, since it was not possible to substitute any thing in the place of that doctrine, or to interfere with it in any degree, without making void the whole work of redemption. Moreover, by this doctrine such blessings were insured to man as could not be procured by any other means. Some of these the Apostle enumerates in the passage before us: and we shall consider them in the order in which they lie—

I. A state of favour and acceptance with God—

[Man, as a sinner, is exposed to the wrath of God, and is under a sentence of actual condemnation. But being justified by faith in Christ, he is freed from guilt through the atoning sacrifice which has been offered for him, and is brought into a state of reconciliation with God. From the moment that he believes in Christ, “the anger of God is turned away from him;” and there remains, if we may so speak, no longer any thing upon him, which can call forth the Divine displeasure against him: his sins are all washed away in the Redeemer’s blood; and he is clothed from head to foot in the robe of the Redeemer’s righteousness, so that in the sight of God he stands without spot or blemish [Note: Ephesians 5:27. Jude, ver. 24.]. Having thus perfect reconciliation with God, he has peace in his own conscience, even that “peace of God which passeth all understanding.”

Into this state “he has access by faith in Christ;” and in it “he stands,” having this peace as an abiding portion. It is the very portion which Christ himself promised to all his faithful followers; “In me ye shall have peace:” “My peace I give unto you.” And hence the Lord Jesus bears, as his own peculiar title, that glorious name, “The Prince of Peace [Note: Isaiah 9:6.].”]

Next, in succession to this blessing, is,

II. A joyful hope of his glory—

[The believer, being made a child of God, is become “an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ [Note: Romans 8:17.]:” and he immediately begins to look forward to that inheritance to which he has been begotten, which is “incorruptible, and undefiled, and never-fading; and is reserved in heaven for them, as they are reserved by the power of God for it [Note: 1 Peter 1:4-5.].” To this inheritance our blessed Lord encouraged his Disciples to have respect continually, and to anticipate in their minds the everlasting fruition of it: “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And, if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also [Note: John 14:2-3.].” And accordingly we find the Apostle Paul sweetly assured of the possession of it, as soon as he should be liberated from this earthly tabernacle [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:1. Philippians 1:21; Philippians 1:23.]; and teaching all to expect the same portion at the period of their dismission from the body [Note: 2 Timothy 4:8.]. Well may the believer rejoice in such a hope: for, what are earthly crowns and kingdoms in comparison of those to which he is heir [Note: Revelation 3:21.]?]

Whilst the believer receives such great benefits from Christ, he experiences,

III. A delight even in tribulations for his sake—

[Tribulations must of necessity in themselves be painful: but as endured for Christ, they become a source and occasion of joy. The believer knows beforehand that he shall be called to suffer them [Note: 1 Thessalonians 3:4.]; and he is prepared to glory in them, as the Apostles did, who, when they had been imprisoned and scourged for their fidelity to Christ, went forth from their persecutors, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his sake [Note: Acts 5:41.].” They know that their sufferings will be productive of present, no less than of eternal, benefit to their souls; that, though in the first instance tribulation may cause impatience, it will ultimately “work patience,” by bringing him to a meek submission to the Divine will: from patience so increased, he will derive “experience,” or a decisive evidence that God is with him, and that the grace of God has wrought effectually on his soul. By that experience his “hope” will be exceedingly confirmed; for he will see the very justice, as well as the truth, of God pledged to recompense what is so endured for his name’s sake [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7.]: and this “hope will never make him ashamed,” as theirs will, who look for salvation in any other way than through faith in Christ. Thus he will see that “his light and momentary afflictions are in reality working for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.]:” and in this view of them he will greatly rejoice; even as Paul did, who took pleasure in his multiplied distresses [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:10.], and counted even the most cruel death for the sake of Christ and his Church as a subject of the most heartfelt congratulation [Note: Philippians 2:17-18.]. Instead of repining at his trials, he receives them as a most invaluable gift of God to him for Christ’s sake [Note: Philippians 1:29.], and glorifies God for them as a most precious testimony of his love [Note: 1 Peter 4:12-16.]. His enemies indeed “think not so, neither do they mean so:” nothing is further from their hearts than to advance the work of godliness in the souls of those whom they persecute, and to augment their joy: but this is the real effect of persecution, which, like fire, purifies them from their dross, and causes its victims to leap for joy [Note: Luke 6:23. σκιρτήσατε.].]

To this elevated state of mind the believer is advanced by,

IV. A sense of his love shed abroad in the heart [Note: This, as it is usually interpreted, is made to sanction the idea, that a sense of God’s love in the soul is of itself a sufficient ground for an assurance, that our hope is truly scriptural, and shall never be disappointed. But such an idea would lead to the most fatal delusions. A most able and judicious commentator (Mr. Scott), aware of this danger, endeavours to remove it, by including in “the love of God shed abroad in the heart,” all the fruits resulting from it. But an easier, and, in the Author’s judgment, a better way to get rid of the difficulty, is, to connect this clause of the text with those words in ver. 3, “We glory in tribulations also;” the intermediate parts being taken parenthetically. Then the proper sense of these words may be given to them without any danger, and a beautiful light be thrown on the whole passage: for though the love of God in the heart is not of itself a sufficient evidence of the soundness of our hope, it is, beyond every thing in the world, an incentive to despise, or rather to glory in, sufferings for the Lord’s sake. We would read it thus: “We glory in tribulations also; (knowing, &c. &c.;) because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, &c.”]—

[This is a blessing which, though not to be appreciated or understood by those who have never received it, is yet most assuredly enjoyed by many of God’s chosen people. We scarcely know how to describe it, because it consists chiefly in an impression on the mind occasioned by manifestations of God’s love to the soul. Nothing is more certain than that Christ will “manifest himself to his people, as he does not unto the world.” This he will do by the agency of the Holy Ghost, who will “take of the things that are Christ’s, and will shew them unto us.” As “a spirit of adoption” too, he will give us views of the Father, as our Father in Christ Jesus: he will also “witness with our spirits that we are Christ’s;” and will be in us as “an earnest of our everlasting inheritance;” and will “seal us unto the day of redemption.” By all these operations on our souls, he will “fill us with joy and peace in believing,” yea, with “a joy unspeakable and glorified.” This is in reality a foretaste of heaven itself; and, where this is, a man, if he had a thousand lives, would be ready to lay them all down for his Lord and Saviour, accounting nothing dear to him, so that “Christ might but be magnified in him, whether by life or death.” How persons have been transported with these manifestations, and been enabled by them to triumph over their most malignant enemies, ecclesiastical history, yea the history of our own martyrs, sufficiently informs us. This sense of the Divine presence and love is not indeed at all times equally powerful on the soul: but it is the privilege of all who flee unto the Saviour as their only refuge, and rely upon him as their only hope.]

We would exhort you then, beloved,

1. To hold fast the doctrine of justification by faith only—

[No other doctrine brings such blessings along with it. Hence, they who impugn this doctrine, pour contempt on all these effects of it, as fancies that have no reality, and as the creatures of a heated imagination. But we must discard the Scriptures themselves, if we discard these things from the experience of God’s people: and therefore let none deprive you of your hope. Believe in Christ: make him “all your salvation, and all your desire.” Dismiss with abhorrence every thought that tends to lower him in your estimation, or to rob him of his glory; and to the latest hour of your lives “live altogether by faith in Him, who has loved you, and given himself for you.”]

2. To seek the privileges connected with it—

[If any enjoy them not, the fault is utterly their own. Circumstances may interfere to put a difference between one and another, so that persons, equally pious, may not be equally full of peace and joy: and the same persons may sometimes experience a diversity of frames. But, generally speaking, these blessed exercises of mind will be found in men in proportion to the simplicity of their faith, and the entireness of their devotion to God. All the persons in the blessed Trinity are engaged to make you thus blessed. The Father lays his anger by, and speaks peace to your souls. The Lord Jesus Christ, as your Advocate with the Father, secures these blessings for you, and, as your living Head, imparts them to you. And the Holy Ghost communicates to you all those exquisite delights, which the sense of God’s love, and a prospect of his glory, are calculated to inspire. Seek then the peace that passeth all understanding; and the joyful “hope that purifieth the heart:” and seek such an abiding sense of God’s presence, as shall raise you above all the things of time and sense, and convert tribulation itself into a source of joy and a ground of glorying. Then will you adorn this doctrine of God our Saviour; and will put to shame the enemies of the Gospel, by the transcendent efficacy of it upon your souls.]


Verses 6-10

DISCOURSE: 1841

THE BELIEVER’S SECURITY IN CHRIST

Romans 5:6-10. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

IT is pleasing to see with what delight the Apostle Paul dwells upon the transcendent excellency and unbounded love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever he is insisting on, he is sure to introduce the Saviour’s name; and, when once he has introduced it, he scarcely knows when to leave the heart-reviving topic: and, if he have left it for a moment, he is ever eager to recur to it again. Hence the connexion of his sentences is frequently remote; as we apprehend it to be in the instance before us. We conceive that the proper connexion of our text is with the two first verses of the chapter; in which the Apostle has spoken of Christ as the true and only source of our acceptance with God, and of that hope of the glory of God, which animates our souls. Then, after expatiating on the further benefits which we receive through him, he comes to state more explicitly, How it was that Christ procured these blessings for us; and, Why we may be assured of the ultimate possession of them. In this view of the text we shall be led to shew,

I. What Christ has done for us, as enemies—

Our state by nature is here but too justly described—

[We are “ungodly,” we are “sinners,” “enemies” to God and to all vital religion: at the same time, we are also “without strength,” altogether impotent to that which is good — — — What a description is this! how humiliating! and yet how just! — — —]

Yet, when we were in this state, did the Lord Jesus Christ undertake our cause—

[He assumed our nature, and in that nature died. Nor was it merely for our benefit that he died, but in our place and stead. “He bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” and suffered, “he, the Just, for us the unjust [Note: 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:18. This may be illustrated by the substitution of the ram in the place of Isaac. Genesis 22:13.].” We were exposed to the wrath of God; and that wrath he bore for us: “He became a curse for us [Note: Galatians 3:13.].” The cup which we must have been drinking to all eternity, he drank to the very dregs — — —]

What a stupendous exercise of love was this!

[Well may it be said, that God, in this act of mercy, “commendeth his love towards us:” for it is indeed such a display of love as finds no parallel in the whole universe. There could scarcely be found on earth, one person, who would consent to die in the place of another, who was confessedly “a righteous man,” and just in all his dealings: though possibly there might be some who would lay down their lives for “a good man [Note: For this import of the term ἀγαθὸς, see Mark 10:18.],” who was eminently pious and useful in the world [Note: See Romans 16:4.]. But who ever made such a sacrifice for his enemy? The utmost stretch of human affection is, “to lay down one’s life for a friend [Note: John 15:13.].” But such was not the love of Christ: “while we were yet sinners and enemies, He died for us [Note: How different was this from all that ever occurred on earth, either before or since! If one man has ever died for another, it has been from the consideration of his being either peculiarly excellent in himself, or a great benefactor to others, or from a very high degree of friendship for him: but when Christ died for us, we, so far from having any thing to recommend us to him, were ungodly in ourselves, and enemies to him.].” Truly this was “a love that passeth knowledge;” a love, the heights and depths whereof can never be explored [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.] — — —]

From this love of Christ to his enemies the Apostle takes occasion to declare,

II. What we may expect from him, as friends—

Nothing can be plainer or more conclusive than the Apostle’s argument, that, ‘if Christ has already done so much for us under circumstances so unfavourable, much more shall, whatever remains to be done for us, now that we are in a state of friendship with him, assuredly be completed in due season.’

To elucidate the force of this argument, we would call your attention to the following positions. If Christ should now abandon the work in which he has proceeded so far, and should leave his people to perish at last,

1. He would defeat all his Father’s counsels—

[The Father from all eternity predestinated unto life a number of the human race, who therefore are called, “A remnant according to the election of grace [Note: Ephesians 1:4-5; Ephesians 1:11. 2 Thessalonians 2:13. Romans 2:5.]:” and these he gave unto his Son [Note: John 17:2; John 17:6; John 17:9; John 17:11; John 17:24.], that he might redeem them by his blood, and have them as “his portion for ever and ever [Note: Isaiah 53:10.].” These in due time he calls by his word and Spirit; he adopts them into his family, transforms them into his image, and will finally exalt them to a participation of his glory [Note: See the 17th Article.]. That this counsel may be carried into effect, he commits them to his Son, that they may be kept by his power and grace, and “be preserved blameless unto his heavenly kingdom.” But if Christ should relinquish his care of them, and leave them ultimately to die in their sins, all these counsels would be defeated; and with respect to those who were so deserted, it would be said, “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified,” them he left to perish [Note: Romans 8:28-30.]. But shall God’s purposes be so frustrated? Shall this golden chain, which reaches from eternity to eternity, be so broken? No: “Of those whom his Father gave him, he never did lose any, nor ever will [Note: John 17:12.].” We say not that he will save them in their sins: God forbid, that such a blasphemous idea should enter into the mind of any: but from their sins he will save them [Note: Matthew 1:21.]; and “through sanctification of the Spirit [Note: 1 Peter 1:2.],” “he will keep them from falling, and present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy [Note: Jude, ver. 24.].”]

2. He would render void all that he himself had done—

[He has given up his own life a ransom for us, and has actually reconciled us to God by his own obedience unto death. Can we conceive, that, after he has done all this, he should become indifferent to those whom he has thus redeemed? Will he be satisfied thus to shed his blood in vain? If he has “bought us with a price,” will he be content to lose what he has so dearly purchased? After he has actually “justified us by his blood,” will he leave us to be condemned? Will he, now that nothing is wanting on his part, but to supply us with his grace, and to uphold us in his arms, will he, I say, relax his care of us, and leave us to perish? Having done the greater for us, when enemies, will he forbear to do the less for us, as friends? Having done the greater unsolicited, will he refuse to do the less when entreated night and day? In the days of his flesh, notwithstanding all the obstacles in his way, he ceased not to go forward till he could say, “It is finished.” And will he now leave his work unfinished? Having been “the Author of faith” to us, will he decline to be “the Finisher [Note: Hebrews 12:2.]?” Justly does David argue, like the Apostle in our text: “Thou hast delivered my soul from death; wilt not thou then deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living [Note: Psalms 56:13.]?” In like manner, we also may be “confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in us, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ [Note: Philippians 1:6.].” Our great “Zerubbabel hath laid the foundation of his house; and his hands will finish it [Note: Zechariah 4:9.].”]

3. He would forget all the ends of his own exaltation—

[He is “exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour [Note: Acts 5:31.],” and to “put under his feet all his own, and his people’s enemies [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:25.]:” and do we suppose that he will neglect this work? After “having spoiled principalities and powers, and triumphed over them openly upon the cross [Note: Colossians 2:15.],” will he, now that he is invested “with all power in heaven and on earth” on purpose to complete his triumphs, give up the palm of victory, and suffer Satan to rescue from his hands those, whom with such stupendous efforts he has delivered? It is not as a private person that Jesus has ascended, but as the “Forerunner” of his people [Note: Hebrews 6:20.]. Will he then forget those whom he has left behind? Will the Head be unmindful of his members [Note: Ephesians 5:30.]? And shall the first-fruits be waved, and no harvest follow [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:20. with Leviticus 23:10-11.]? “Living, as he does, on purpose to make intercession for us,” will he forget to intercede [Note: Hebrews 7:25.]? and having all fulness treasured up in him for his Church [Note: Colossians 1:19.], will he forget to impart of it to those for whom he has expressly received it [Note: Psalms 68:18.]? As our High Priest, he must not only enter with his own blood within the vail, and there make continual intercession for us, but must come forth to bless his people [Note: Deuteronomy 10:8.]: and, having fulfilled his office thus far, will he now abandon it? The Apostle had certainly no such apprehension, when he laid so great a stress on the resurrection of our Lord, as to make it more efficacious for the salvation of men, that even the whole of Christ’s obedience unto death [Note: Romans 8:34.]. We may be sure, therefore, that as he, in his risen state, “is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him,” so he will do it, and “will bring Satan himself shortly under their feet [Note: Romans 16:20.].”]

4. He would falsify all his own great and precious promises—

[How express is that promise which he has made to all his sheep, that “none shall ever pluck them out of his hands [Note: John 10:27-30.]!” Will he be unmindful of this? or is he become so weak that he is not able to fulfil it? He said to his Disciples, “Ye have not chosen me; but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain [Note: John 15:16.]:” but how can this be true, if he suffer them to become barren, and to be cut down at last as cumberers of the ground? Why did he say, “Believe in God: believe also in me,” if he meant, after all, to disappoint our confidence? Can we conceive, that, after comforting his Disciples with the assurance, that he was “going to prepare mansions in his Father’s house for them, and would come again and receive them to himself [Note: John 14:2-3.];” can we conceive, I say, that he should leave them to take up their abode in the regions of everlasting darkness and despair? No: he is “the Amen, the true and faithful Witness;” and “every promise that is made to us in him, is yea and Amen,” as immutable as God himself [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:20.].]

Address—

1. Those who are inquiring after the way of salvation—

[Nothing can be more plain than the way of salvation, as it is marked out in our text. How must we “be reconciled to God? Through the death of his Son.” How must we be justified and saved from wrath? We must “be justified by his blood,” and “saved from wrath through him.” How, after having been reconciled to God by the death of Christ, must we finally attain complete salvation? We must be “saved by his life;” that is, we must from first to last live by faith on the Son of God, looking to his death as the meritorious ground of our acceptance, and to his renewed life in heaven as the one source of all our stability, and the surest pledge of our eternal happiness. But, it may be asked, Am I among the number for whom these blessings were purchased? If you are among the number of those who feel themselves “ungodly and sinners, and enemies to God, and without strength,” then are you the persons for whom Christ died, and for whom he is improving every moment of his renewed life. What, I would ask, can be more plain than this? What room is here left for doubt? Verily, if salvation be not altogether by Christ Jesus, that is, by the efficacy of his death, and the operation of his grace, St. Paul must have been the most incautious and erroneous writer that ever lived. But, if he was neither ignorant nor deceitful, then is the way of salvation so plain, that not any poor “way-faring man, even though he be a fool, can err therein.” We charge you then, brethren, to flee for refuge to the hope that is set before you; and to “determine to know nothing as a ground of hope, but Jesus Christ and him crucified.”]

2. Those who, having sought for reconciliation through Christ, are afraid of being cast off, and left to perish—

[What is it that fills you with such fears as these? Is it on account of Christ that you are distressed? or on account of your own weakness and unworthiness? If you are afraid of Christ, what is it in Him that you stand in doubt of; his power, or his willingness to save? Surely there can be no doubt on either of these points. If your fears arise from a view of your own weakness and sinfulness, why should that prove a bar to your acceptance with him, which was, I had almost said, a reason for his dying for you, and which constantly calls forth his compassion towards you? True, if you continue ungodly, you have no hope: for “the unrighteous cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” But, if you desire truly to be delivered from all your corruptions, and to receive constant supplies of grace from him, then you may safely trust in him to carry on and perfect the work he has begun. He that first sought you, will not be sought by you in vain. He that bore your sins in his own body, will carry them all away into the land of oblivion. He that reconciled you to God, will maintain your peace with God: and he that has completed every thing as far as it depended on his death, will much more perfect what depends upon his life. Be strong then, and of good courage; and hold fast your confidence, and the rejoicing of your hope, firm unto the end.]


Verse 11

DISCOURSE: 1842

HAPPINESS OF THE MORE-ADVANCED BELIEVER

Romans 5:11. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

THOSE remarkable words of the prophet, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him,” are usually interpreted in reference to the future world: but St. Paul speaks of them as fulfilled to us under the Christian dispensation: for, having cited them, he adds, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit [Note: Isaiah 64:4. with 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.].” So great are the privileges and blessings which we enjoy under the Christian covenant, that no words can adequately express them, no imagination can fully conceive them. We may say respecting them, what God said to Ezekiel respecting the abominations practised by Israel in the chambers of imagery, that the oftener we search into them, the more and greater we shall find [Note: Ezekiel 8:3-16.]. Truly, “the riches of Christ are unsearchable [Note: Ephesians 3:8.].” This is strongly intimated by St. Paul in the passage before us. He had expatiated on the blessings which we enjoy in, and by, Christ: “We have peace with God” by him; and through him are enabled to “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Nay more, we are enabled to “glory in tribulations also,” as the appointed means of perfecting the Divine work within us, and of fitting us for the glory which God has taught us to expect [Note: ver. 1–3.]. But neither is this all: for God would have us rise above the mere consideration of our own happiness, even though it consist in a possession of all the glory of heaven; and he would have our minds occupied with the contemplation of his infinite perfections, and “filled with all the fulness” of his communicable felicity [Note: Ephesians 3:19.]. Hence the Apostle, declaring this to be the actual experience of the great body of the Church at Rome, says, “And not only so,” (that is, we not only enjoy the fore-mentioned blessings,) “but we also joy in God himself through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”

In discoursing on these words, we shall be led to shew,

I. The happy state of believers in general—

The believer has now already received reconciliation with God—

[The word translated “The atonement” is the same with that which twice in the preceding verse is translated “Reconciled:” and that is its true import here. Reconciliation has been purchased for men by Christ’s obedience unto death: and it is freely offered to them in the name of Christ, by those who go forth as his ambassadors to a guilty world: and it is accepted by those who believe their testimony, and embrace the proffered salvation. It is on this account that the Gospel is called, “The ministry of reconciliation [Note: Deuteronomy 33:26-29.].” Those who receive the glad tidings have all their iniquities blotted out from the book of God’s remembrance. He is no more angry with them, as he was in their unbelieving state; but looks upon them as dear children, in whose happiness he will be eternally glorified. They are now privileged to regard him no longer as an angry Judge, but as a loving Father. Their state is precisely that of the Prodigal Son, after he had returned to his Father’s house: they are freely forgiven for Christ’s sake; nor shall so much as one upbraiding word be ever uttered against them. Their Father rejoices over them as restored to his favour, and delights to honour them with all suitable expressions of paternal love. Are not these persons truly blessed [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.]?]

This is the state of every believer without exception—

[If a man have lived in sin for ever so many years, and have at last been led, with deep penitence and contrition, to the foot of the cross, this mercy is instantly vouchsafed to him. The long-continuance of his former iniquities is no bar to his acceptance. The very first moment that he comes weary and heavy-laden to Christ, he finds rest unto his soul.

Neither does the enormity of a man’s transgressions make any difference in this respect. He may have been as vile as ever David was; and yet, on coming truly to Christ, his iniquities shall all be pardoned, and it shall be said to him, “The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” “Though his sins may have been as crimson, they shall instantly become as white as snow [Note: Isaiah 1:18.].” The healing virtue of the brazen serpent was not felt by those only whose wounds were of a less dangerous nature, but by those who were at the very point of death: and so shall a sight of our crucified Redeemer operate, however long the wounds of sin have been inflicted, or to whatever extent they may have brought death upon the soul.

We may add also, for the encouragement of the young, that, however weakly their infantine minds have embraced the truth, yet, if they be really sensible of their lost estate, and truly look to the Lord Jesus Christ as their only hope, he will “take them up in his arms and bless them,” and will “ordain praise for himself even in the mouth of babes and sucklings.”]

But the more immediate object of our text is, to set before us,

II. The yet happier state of the more advanced believer—

Every believer without exception receives reconciliation with God: but the advanced believer is yet more highly privileged. He has this blessing in common with others; but “not only so.” No: he rises higher; he soars even to God himself; and “rejoices” and “glories in” God [Note: It is the same word as is used in ver. 3.],

1. As a God of all grace—

[The more we are advanced in the divine life, the more deeply do we feel our own emptiness and utter helplessness. This, we might suppose, would rather weaken and interrupt his joy: and so it would, if his views of God were not also proportionably enlarged. But he views God as “a God of all grace [Note: 1 Peter 5:10.];” and whatever grace he more particularly needs, he sees a fulness of it treasured up in his reconciled God for the supply of his necessities. Does he desire peace? God is to him “the God of peace [Note: Hebrews 13:20.].” Would he abound in hope? God is to him “the God of hope [Note: Romans 15:13.].” Would he have an increase of patience and of consolation to support him under his diversified afflictions? God is to him “a God of patience and consolation [Note: Romans 15:5.].” In short, whatever he want, God is a God of it to him, not only as having an inexhaustible fulness of it in himself, but as, if we may so speak, made up of it, as if it were his one only perfection. What a joyful thought is this to the believer who is accustomed to seek his all in God, and to “live altogether by faith in the Son of God, who loved him, and gave himself for him!”]

2. As his covenant God and Father—

[God, in the new covenant which he has made with us, has stated this as an inseparable provision of that covenant, that he will be “the God of his people,” and “a God to them [Note: Jeremiah 31:33. with Hebrews 8:8.].” Whatever he is, he will be for them: whatever he has, he will, as far as they are capable of receiving it, impart unto them. He will not merely be a Friend, or a Father, to them: no; he will be a God: and all that a God can be to them, or can do for them, he will be, and do. All this he pledges to them by covenant, and by oath; “that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for him to lie, they might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them [Note: Hebrews 6:17-18.].” Well then may they who have laid hold on this covenant, rejoice in him. The Jews, on account of their external relation to him, “made their boast of God [Note: Romans 2:17.]:” and they had reason so to do. But how much greater reason has the Christian to do so, who has laid hold on that better covenant, which “is ordered in all things and sure,” and which shall never wax old, or decay!]

3. As his everlasting portion—

[It is not here only that God will be the portion of his people, but for ever in the eternal world. Such he was to Abraham; “I am thy shield, and thy eternal great reward [Note: Genesis 15:1.].” And such he will be to every believer; as it is written, “My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever [Note: Psalms 73:26.].” In that tabernacle that is above, God will dwell in the midst of his people, and be their God, and will wipe away all tears from their eyes [Note: Revelation 21:3-4.]. It is his presence that will constitute the felicity of heaven: there will be no sun or moon there; for God himself, and the Lamb, will be the light of that world; and all created enjoyment will vanish, like the light of the glow-worm before the meridian sun [Note: Revelation 21:22-23]. Justly in this view of his privileges does David say, and justly may every believer say, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: the lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage [Note: Psalms 16:5-6.].”]

Address—

1. Let all avail themselves of the opportunity now afforded them—

[At this hour do “we preach peace to you by Jesus Christ [Note: Acts 10:36.];” and “as ambassadors of God, we beseech you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” To all without exception is this invitation given. For every sinner in the universe has Christ “purchased reconciliation through the blood of his cross;” and to every one does he address those memorable words, “Look unto me, and he ye saved, all the ends of the earth [Note: Isaiah 45:22.].” Will any of you then be content to continue at enmity with God, and to have God an enemy to you? O lay down the weapons of your rebellion, and seek your happiness in God. Surely “in his favour is life; and his loving-kindness is better than life itself.” Only begin this day to rejoice in your God; and “there shall be joy amongst the angels in the presence of God on your account.”]

2. Let all seek the highest attainments in the divine life—

[There is a holy ambition which all should feel. We should not any of us be content to obtain reconciliation with God: we should seek to rejoice in God. We should say with David, “I will go unto the altar of God, of God my exceeding joy [Note: Psalms 43:4.].” It is greatly to he lamented that the generality of Christians live far below their privileges. If only they have peace with God, and can rejoice in hope of his glory, and can glory in tribulations for his sake, they are ready to think, that they are in as good a state as they need to be. But, brethren, whilst we rejoice that ye are so far advanced, we would have you “not only so:” we would have you “forget what is behind, and press forward towards that which is before.” We would have you “covet earnestly the best gifts.” It is your privilege “to rejoice in God all the day,” yea, to “rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and glorified [Note: 1 Peter 1:8.].” Nor is it your privilege only, but your duty also: for it is said, “In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory [Note: Isaiah 45:25.].” I call you then to live nigh to God, and to “delight yourselves in God,” and to have even now “the earnest” of heaven in your souls [Note: Ephesians 1:14.]. “Let Israel then rejoice in Him that made him; and the children of Zion be joyful in their King [Note: Psalms 149:2.].”]


Verse 18-19

DISCOURSE: 1843

DEATH BY ADAM, AND LIFE BY CHRIST

Romans 5:18-19. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

THE more we investigate the Gospel of Christ, the more mysterious it appears in all its parts. To a superficial observer it seems that the way of salvation through a crucified Redeemer is plain and simple: but it is surely an astonishing mystery, that those who have destroyed themselves should be redeemed by the blood of God’s only dear Son, and be saved by a righteousness that was wrought out by him. Yet that is but a small part of the mystery revealed to us in the Gospel. There we learn, that at the instant of our birth we are under a sentence of condemnation for the sin of our first parent; and that, as we are lost in him, so we are to be recovered by the Lord Jesus Christ, inheriting righteousness and life from him, the second Adam, as we inherit sin and death from the first Adam. This is the subject of which the Apostle treats in the passage before us. He had throughout the preceding part of this epistle declared the way of salvation through Christ: but now he traces up sin and death to Adam as our federal head or representative, and righteousness and life to Christ as our federal head or representative under the new covenant. This opens to us a new view of the Gospel, and leads us farther into the great mystery of redemption than the preceding statements had enabled us to penetrate.

That we may avail ourselves of the light which is thus afforded us, we shall,

I. Consider the comparison here instituted—

It is here assumed as an acknowledged truth, that by the sin of Adam we all were brought under guilt and condemnation—

[Adam was not a mere private individual, but the head and representative of all mankind. Hence what he did in eating the forbidden fruit, is imputed unto us, as though it had been done by us: and we are subjected to the punishment that was denounced against transgression, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” This in the preceding context is repeatedly affirmed: “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned [Note: ver. 12.].” Again, “Through the offence of one many be dead [Note: ver. 15.]:” Again, “The judgment was by one to condemnation [Note: ver. 16.]:” And again, “By one man’s offence death reigned by one [Note: ver. 17.].” So also it is twice mentioned in our text. Nor is it merely asserted: it is proved also, and that too by an argument which all can easily understand. The death of infants demonstrates the truth in question: for, nothing is plainer than that God will not inflict punishment, where no guilt attaches: but he does inflict punishment, even death itself, on infants, who cannot possibly have committed sin in their own persons. For whose sin then is this punishment inflicted? Surely for the sin of Adam, our first parent; who was the head and representative of all mankind. The law which denounced death as the penalty of transgression, comprehended, not him only, but us also: and therefore, having transgressed it in him, we are considered as sinners, and are subjected to all the penalties of transgression. To account for the agonies and death of new-born infants on any other supposition than this, is impossible.]

With this is compared our justification to life by the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ—

[Christ is that person “by whose obedience many are made righteous.” He is given to us as a second Covenant-Head. There is however this difference between him and Adam: Adam was the head of all his natural seed; and Christ is the head of all his spiritual seed. They are included in him; and all that he did or suffered is put to their account, as though they had done or suffered it themselves: and his entire righteousness is imputed to them for justification, precisely as Adam’s disobedience is imputed to us for condemnation. The parallel indeed holds yet farther still: for as Adam’s guilt is imputed to us before we commit personal sin, so is Christ’s righteousness imputed to us before we perform any personal obedience. Nevertheless, our obedience is not therefore rendered either useless or uncertain; for, as from Adam we receive a corrupt nature, so from Christ we receive a holy and divine nature: and as all our personal disobedience aggravates the guilt and condemnation which we derived from Adam; so our personal obedience, after we have been justified in Christ Jesus, enhances the degrees of glory to which we are entitled at the instant of our justification. Now all this is plainly affirmed in our text: (Read the text:) nay, it is, in the verses preceding our text, affirmed, that we receive more from Christ than ever we lost in Adam: (Read ver. 15–17.) And this is a striking, and very important, truth. For,

First, we are placed in a safer state than that which we lost in Adam. Adam was placed in a state of probation, to stand or fall by his own obedience; and, notwithstanding all his advantages, he fell, and ruined both himself and all his posterity. But we, when justified in Christ’s righteousness, are given to him, that we may be kept by his power unto everlasting salvation: and he has expressly declared, that “none shall ever pluck us out of his hands.”

Next, we are made to possess a better righteousness than any which we could ever have inherited from Adam: for if he had stood, and we had stood in him, and partaken of his righteousness for ever, we should still have had only the righteousness of a creature: but now we have, and shall have to all eternity, the righteousness of the Creator: yes, “Jehovah himself is our righteousness:” and whereas, with a creature’s righteousness, we could have claimed nothing, being only unprofitable servants, with the Creator’s righteousness we may claim on the footing of justice as well as of mercy, all the glory of heaven.

Once more: Our happiness is infinitely enhanced beyond any thing it could ever have been, if we had stood in Adam. The felicity of heaven would doubtless have been inconceivably great under any circumstances: but who can conceive what an addition it will receive from the consideration of its being the purchase of the Redeemer’s blood, and the fruit of those eternal counsels by which the whole work of redemption was both planned and executed?

Thus then is the comparison between the first and second Adam shewn to be strictly just; except indeed that the scale preponderates beyond all expression or conception in favour of the Lord Jesus, who has done “much more” for us than ever we lost in Adam; or than Adam, though he had continued sinless, ever could have done, either for himself or us.]

But that this subject may produce a suitable impression on our minds, we will,

II. Suggest one or two reflections upon it—

It is much to be regretted, that the great mysteries of religion are but too often made the subjects of mere speculation. But every doctrine of Christianity should be practically improved, and especially a doctrine of such vital importance as that before us.

From the doctrine of our fall in Adam and our recovery in Christ, we cannot but observe,

1. How deep and unsearchable are the ways of God!

[That ever our first parent should be constituted a federal head to his posterity, so that they should stand or fall in him, is in itself a stupendous mystery. And it may appear to have been an arbitrary appointment, injurious to the whole race of mankind. But we do not hesitate to say, that if the whole race of mankind had been created at once in precisely the same state and circumstances as Adam was, they would have been as willing to stand or fall in Adam, as to have their lot depend upon themselves; because they would have felt, that, whilst he possessed every advantage that they did, he had a strong inducement to steadfastness which they could not have felt, namely, the dependence of all his posterity upon his fidelity to God: and consequently, that their happiness would be more secure in his hands than in their own. But if it could now be put to every human being to determine for himself this point; if the question were asked of every individual, Whether do you think it better that your happiness should depend on Adam, formed as he was in the full possession of all his faculties; subjected to one only temptation, and that in fact so small a temptation as scarcely to deserve the name; perfect in himself, and his only companion being perfect also, and no such thing as sin existing in the whole creation; whether would you prefer, I say, to depend on him, or on yourself, born into a world that lieth in wickedness, surrounded with temptations innumerable, and having all your faculties only in a state of infantine weakness, so as to be scarcely capable of exercising with propriety either judgment or volition: Would any one doubt a moment? Would not every person to whom such an option was given, account it an unspeakable mercy to have such a representative as Adam was, and to have his happiness depend on him, rather than on his own feeble capacity and power? There can be no doubt on this subject: for if Adam, in his more favourable circumstances, fell, much more should we in circumstances where it was scarcely possible to stand. Still however, though we acknowledge it to be a gracious and merciful appointment, we must nevertheless regard it as a stupendous mystery.

But what shall we say of the appointment of the Lord Jesus Christ to be a second Covenant-Head, to deliver us by his obedience from the fatal effects of Adam’s disobedience? Here we are perfectly lost in wonder and amazement. For consider, Who Jesus was? He was the co-equal, co-eternal Son of God — — — Consider, What he undertook to do? He undertook to suffer in our place and stead all that was due to us, and to confer on us his righteousness with all the glory that was due to him — — — Consider farther, On what terms he confers this blessing upon us? He requires only, that we believe in him: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth” — — — Consider yet farther, What provision he has made for the final happiness of those who thus believe in him? He does not restore them to the state of trial in which Adam was originally placed, but to a state of comparative security, inasmuch as he himself undertakes to “perfect that which concerned! them,” and to be “the Finisher of faith” to those in whom he has been “the Author of it [Note: Hebrews 12:2.].” What an inscrutable mystery is here! that such a person should be given; and such a righteousness be wrought out by him! that an interest in this righteousness should be conferred on such easy terms! and lastly, that such security should be provided for all his believing people! Well might the Apostle say, “Great is the mystery of godliness:” and well may all the angels in heaven occupy themselves, as they do continually, in searching into it with the profoundest adoration [Note: 1 Timothy 3:16.]. Let us then contemplate these wonders with holy awe. Let us not make them a theme for disputation, but a subject of incessant admiration, gratitude, and praise [Note: With respect to children, we believe that, as they die in Adam, before they have incurred any personal guilt, so they will be saved in Christ, though they have not personally believed in him, or obeyed his commandments. And we think that this is strongly implied in ver. 15–17. But it is not necessary to enter into that part of the subject.].]

2. How obvious and urgent is the duty of man!

[Here we are in the situation of fellow-creatures, wholly incapable of saving ourselves, and shut up to the way of salvation provided for us in the Gospel. God does not consult us, or ask our approbation of his plans. He calls us, not to give our opinion, but to accept his proffered mercy. To dispute, or sit in judgment on his dispensations, is vain. We are like shipwrecked persons, ready to perish in the great deep. When the ship is just on the point of sinking, it is no time to complain, that our lives, by the laws of navigation, were made to depend on the skill of the captain; or that the management of the vessel had not been committed to ourselves; or that God, when he formed the world, placed a rock in that particular situation, notwithstanding he foresaw, from all eternity, that our ship would be wrecked upon it: all such thoughts at that time would be vain: our only consideration under such circumstances should be, how shall I be saved from perishing? And if we saw a ship hastening towards us for our preservation, we should be wholly occupied in contriving how we might secure the proffered aid. This, I say, is precisely our case: we are lost in Adam: but that God, who foresaw that we should be wrecked in him, provided his only dear Son to be a Saviour to us; and has sent him to save all who feel their need of mercy, and are willing to enter into this ark of God. Behold then, brethren, what your duty is: it is to “flee for refuge to the hope that is set before you.” If you feel a rebellious thought arise, why did God make me thus? let it be answered in the way prescribed by the Apostle, “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God [Note: Romans 9:20.]?” If you were not consulted about your dependence on Adam, were you consulted about the appointment of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the way of recovery by him? No: this was the unsolicited gift of God, who determined thus to glorify himself in blessing and exalting you. Embrace then, with all thankfulness, the salvation offered you in the Gospel. Lay hold on Christ: rely upon him: place all your hope in his obedience unto death; seek for justification solely through his blood and righteousness: and expect to receive from him all, yea “exceeding abundantly above all that ye can either ask or think.” [Note: The corruption that we derive from Adam, is a totally distinct subject from that treated of in the text; and on that account is left unnoticed here.]]


Verse 20-21

DISCOURSE: 1844

THE ABUNDANT GRACE OF GOD

Romans 5:20-21. Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

FROM eternity God determined to glorify his grace: for this end he permitted sin to enter into the world. The publication of his law also promoted the same end: it served to shew how awfully sin had abounded, and consequently to magnify that grace which destroyed sin. To this effect the Apostle speaks in the text and the words preceding it.

We shall endeavour to shew,

I. How sin has abounded—

The transgression of Adam was of a very malignant nature.

[In the whole preceding context that sin in particular is referred to, and it may well be considered as of a crimson dye. It argued a contempt of God’s goodness, which had bestowed so much upon him [Note: Genesis 2:8-9.]: it argued a doubt of his veracity, which was engaged to inflict the penalty [Note: Genesis 3:4.]: it argued a rejection of his authority, which forbad the eating of that fruit [Note: Genesis 2:17.]: It argued an attempt to invade the peculiar prerogatives of God [Note: Genesis 3:5.]. Surely in this single transgression sin greatly abounded.]

But sin spread also over the whole world—

[Adam begat sons “in his own fallen likeness.” All his descendents inherited his corruption [Note: Job 14:4.], and cast off the yoke which their Maker had imposed upon them: there was not so much as one single exception to be found [Note: Psalms 14:2-3.]. On this very account God once destroyed all but one family.]

It had moreover prevailed in every heart to an awful degree—

[Every faculty of men’s souls was debased by it. The understanding was blinded, the will made obstinate, the conscience seared: all the “members of their bodies also were made instruments of unrighteousness.” There was not an imagination of their thoughts that was not evil [Note: Genesis 6:5.].]

It even took occasion from the holy law of God to rage the more.

[God gave his law to discover and repress sin: but sin would not endure any restraint: it rose like water against the dam that obstructs its progress [Note: Romans 7:8.], and inflamed men both against the law, and against him who gave it. Thus, in using so good a law to so vile a purpose, it displayed its own exceeding sinfulness [Note: Romans 7:13.].]

But God did not altogether abandon our wretched world—

II. How grace has much more abounded—

God determined that his grace should be victorious and that it should establish its throne on the ruins of the empire which sin had erected. For this purpose he gave us his Son to be a second Adam [Note: Romans 5:14. 1 Corinthians 15:22; 1 Corinthians 15:45.]. He laid on him the curse due to our iniquities: he enabled him to “bring in an everlasting righteousness:” he accepted us in him as our new Covenant-Head: he restores us through him to eternal life. Thus the superabundance of his grace is manifest,

1. In the object attained—

[The destruction of man for sin was certainly tremendous: yet was it no more than what was to be expected. The fallen angels had already been banished from heaven. No wonder then if man was made a partaker of their misery. But how beyond all expectation was the recovery of man! How wonderful that he should be restored, whilst a superior order of beings were left to perish; and be exalted to a throne of glory from whence they had been cast down! This was indeed a manifestation of most abundant grace.]

2. In the method of attaining it—

[Sin had reigned unto death by means of Adam, and certainly the destruction of the whole world for one sin argued a dreadful malignity in sin. Yet was there nothing in this unjust or unreasonable [Note: If, instead of being represented by Adam, we had all undergone the same probation for ourselves, we have no reason to think that we should not have fallen, like him: if we had possessed exactly the same grace as he, and been subjected to the same temptation, we should have acted as he did. The constituting of him our representative was a great advantage to us, because he had much stronger inducements to fidelity than we could have: we should have been concerned only about ourselves; whereas he had the interests of all his posterity depending on him. Besides, he met his temptation when all his powers were in a state of maturity, and when there was no evil example before him; whereas we should be tempted from our earliest infancy, and with the additional influence of bad examples.]. But who could have thought that God should send us his own Son? That he should constitute him our new Covenant-Head and representative? That he should remove the curse of sin by His death? That he should accept sinners through his righteousness? That he should remedy by a second Adam what had been brought upon us by the first? This was a discovery of grace that infinitely transcends the comprehension of men or angels.]

3. In the peculiar advantage with which it was attained—

[If Adam had retained his innocence, we also should have stood in him as our representative. We should however have possessed only a creature’s righteousness; but in Christ we possess the righteousness of God himself [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:21.]. Our reward therefore may well be augmented in proportion to the excellence of that, for which we are accepted: besides, the glory of God is infinitely more displayed in Christ, than ever it would have been if Adam had not fallen. Our happiness therefore, in beholding it, must be greatly increased. Thus our restoration through Christ will bring us to the enjoyment of far greater happiness than ever we lost in Adam [Note: Romans 5:15. This point is insisted on from ver. 15 to 19.]. What can more fully manifest the superabounding grace of God?]

Improvement—

1. For caution—

[This doctrine seems liable to the imputation of licentiousness. St. Paul foresaw the objection, and answered it [Note: Romans 6:1-2.]: his answer should satisfy every objector: but the reign of grace consists in destroying every effect of sin; therefore to indulge sin would be to counteract, and not to promote, the grace of God. Let the professors of religion however be careful to give no room for this objection: let them “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men by well-doing.”]

2. For encouragement—

[How strange is it that any should despair of mercy! The infinite grace of God has been exhibited in many striking instances [Note: Luke 7:47. 1 Timothy 1:14; 1 Timothy 1:16.]. Let us seek to become monuments of this mercy: let us not indeed “sin, that grace may abound;” but let us freely acknowledge how much sin has abounded in us, and yet expect through Christ “abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness.”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Romans 5:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/romans-5.html. 1832.

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