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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Romans 5

 

 

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Verse 1

Faith-Remedy illustrated.

1. In its progressive work in the human soul.

Justification is contemplated as a condition of things within the soul, (Romans 5:1-5,) and as a gracious and sure result of Christ’s death, (Romans 5:6-11.) The passage Romans 5:1-5 describes the justified state as a state of reconciliation, access, and confident hope.

1. Therefore—As the result from this statement of justification, (Romans 4:23-25.)

Peace with God—The removal of God’s just wrath from us by our being brought from a state of condemnation to justification. That it is not the removal of our enmity toward God so much as his condemnation and penal justice toward us is manifest from the whole discussion. The argument is that man is guilty, under the curse of the law, the wrath of God revealed against him. Justification is the removal of guilt, curse, and wrath from upon him, and his being held as acquitted and righteous. (Compare particularly Romans 1:18; Romans 1:32; Romans 2:2-16.)


Verse 2

2. Access—As Esther obtained an entrance to and gracious hearing from the king, so the justified man has access to God’s face. He has audience with the Deity. His prayers come up before God. His intercessions are prevalent with God. Well may saint and sinner say to him, Pray for us.

Hope of the glory of God—He is animated now with the hope of a future glory.


Verse 3

3. Glory in tribulations—This is the greatest of triumphs, by which the Gospel may make us shout from amid the fires. Under the inspiration of this peace the martyrs did not merely endure, but exulted in suffering.

Tribulation worketh patience—Rather translate, tribulation worketh endurance. Trial produces the hardness by which we endure trials to come.


Verse 4

4. Patience, experience—Rather translate, endurance worketh approvedness. Our endurance of trial brings into an approved state with our heavenly Master.

Experience, hope—Our approvedness produces a firm hope that we shall stand the final test and attain the future glory.


Verse 5

5. Hope maketh not ashamed—Our hope can never disappoint or shame us.

Love of God… Holy Ghost—For our hope is confirmed by God’s own testimony shed into our hearts. That testimony is in the form of God’s love in our hearts awakening a reciprocal love to God. And being from God is sure.

We have here (3-5) a beautiful climax of causes and effects, resulting in train from our justification. Tribulation, endurance, approvedness, hope— hope ratified by God’s own testimony, and pointing us to a future glory.


Verse 6

6. Without strength—Impotent to help ourselves; hopeless of salvation except from some aid without ourselves; powerless but by some gracious power from some foreign source; fully competent to our own ruin, but wholly incompetent to our own salvation. Such is depraved man apart from a gracious ability bestowed through the atonement.


Verse 7

7. A righteous man… a good man—A righteous man is one rigidly just; a good man is one never unjust, but often more than just, namely, kind, generous, bountiful. The former all may respect, few will love, but scarce one will die for; the latter is loved, and for him many would sacrifice much, perhaps even life.


Verse 8

8. Sinners, Christ died for us—For us, who were neither good nor just, the Saviour died.


Verse 10

10. Enemies… reconciled… saved—If when enemies God reconciled us, much more, being friends, he will save us. He will deal far better with friends than foes, even though they are the same persons.

Saved by his life—We are reconciled by his atoning death, and saved by his ever-living power.


Verse 12

12. Wherefore—As the result of all that has gone before, describing man’s natural fall and gracious delivery, but more specially now suggested by that ruin and redemption in Romans 5:10-11.

One manAdam, (and not Eve.) as the representative of the race.

Sin entered—The first actual human sin was committed. Satan had sinned before, and both he and his sin were in the physical world, that is, on earth. Indeed, Satan’s sin in tempting preceded Adam’s sin in the world; so that it is not the physical earth that is meant, but the human world, the race of man.

By the sin that entered many understand the state of sin (sometimes called corruption) into which man is fallen as a nature. And no doubt there is a state of evil, as well as evil action, which in the Scriptures is called sin. Sin is not in action alone: there may be a permanently wrong and wicked state of mind, of purpose, of temper, of character. A man may for years entertain a purpose of murder, waiting the opportunity for the deed. He is thus in heart, state, and character a permanent murderer. Whether awake, asleep, or in a swoon, there is the same unsuspended state of character. A man’s sensual nature may have the entire predominance over his moral nature, so that, awake or asleep, he may be a sensual, drunken being. So pride, ambition, scepticism, and a thousand other vices, may be triumphant in a man’s permanent mental state and fixed moral character. He is, therefore, in a state of sin. And whatever good there is in him is so subordinated to, harmonized with, and tainted by, these predominant evils as to be only qualifiedly good. Yet it was Adam’s flagrant act of disobedience to God’s law which at once thus subordinated the good to evil in his moral constitution God; law, conscience, were no longer supreme; self submission to temptation, animal indulgence, took the ascendant. That changed condition of soul becoming hereditary, has been called “Original Sin.” Whatever may be the suitableness of the term, Scripture, consciousness, and experience amply attest the mournful fact.

Death by sin—Geologists declare, and science seems universally to accept the declaration, that animal death existed for ages before the human race existed. Indeed death, disintegration, dissolution, appears to belong to the very nature of all material organisms. This fact seems to be recognised in the Genesis history. Adam’s first organism seems to have been naturally dissoluble, and its dissolution to have been prevented by the tree of life.

His bodily immortality seems thus to have been properly supernatural. Just so his holiness was supernatural, being superinduced by the blessed indwelling and communion of the Divine Spirit. Sin removed the Holy Spirit; the sentence upon sin removed him from the tree of life, (Genesis 3:22,) and so when sin entered then also entered death by sin. It was, as above said, into the human world that both sin and death now entered. It is said explicitly that “death passed upon all men,” not upon the lower animal races. On Adam’s sin, moral subversion and mortality obtained full sway over him, and so of all his descendants by the law of propagation; the law by which throughout the entire generative kingdoms, whether vegetable, animal, or human, like nature begets like nature, bodily, mental, and moral.

“When the apostle here teaches that all evil has its origin in sin, and all sin in that of the ancestor of the human race, he by no means propounds an entirely new doctrine. It is substantially contained in the third chapter of Genesis, and is frequently declared in the Apocrypha: Wisdom of Solomon, Romans 11:23-24; Sirach 25:24. It has likewise been handed down in the exegetical traditions of the rabbins, among whom, for example, are to be found such sentiments as the following: The Targum, on the text, Ecclesiastes 7:29, ‘God hath made man upright,’ observes: ‘But the serpent and the woman seduced him, and caused death to be brought upon him and all the inhabitants of the earth;’ and on Ruth 4:22, ‘Jesse lived many days, until the counsel which the serpent gave to Eve was called to mind before God. In consequence of this counsel all men upon earth are obnoxious to death.’ To the same purpose are the words of R. Shemtob (died anno 1293) in the book Sepher Haemunoth: ‘In their mystical commentaries our doctors say that if Adam and Eve had not sinned their descendants would not have been infected with the propensity to evil; their form would have remained perfect like that of the angels, and they would have continued forever in the world, subject neither to death nor change.’

‘Bereschith Rabba,’ a mystical commentary upon Genesis from an early period of the Middle Ages, par. 12, 14: ‘Although created perfect, yet when the first man sinned all was perverted, and shall not return to order until the Messiah come.’”—Tholuck. Yet some of these authorities are probably the borrowers from the apostle rather than originals. Other Jewish doctors maintain an implanted tendency to evil born in every man.

All have sinned—How does the apostle mean that all have sinned? Theologians have replied, All have sinned in Adam. But no such phrase as sinned in Adam occurs in Scripture. The phrase In Adam all die does occur. This does not mean, however, that any man’s body or person was physically, materially, or morally present, or so incorporated in the body of Adam as to expire with him when he expired. No more was any person present in Adam to eat the forbidden fruit when he ate. Every man dies conceptually in the first mortal man, just as every lion dies in the first mortal lion; that is, by being subjected to death by the law of likeness to the primal progenitor. The first lion was the representative lion, in whose likeness every descended lion would roar, devour, and die; and so in him all the lion race die. Adam, separated by sin from the Holy Spirit, was a naturally disposed sinner, and, shut from the tree of life, a natural mortal; and so by the law of descent his posterity are naturally disposed sinners, and both naturally and penally mortal.

But when the apostle declares that all have sinned, he declares not merely the natural disposition, but the actual sinning of all. Our view is this: The aorist or past tense, here used of the word sinned, does in this epistle often imply a general certain fact or state of facts. So it is used in Romans 3:23; Romans 9:22-23; Romans 8:29-30, (where see notes,) where justified and glorified express a uniform general fact in the same tense. And it is so regularly used throughout this very passage, 12-21. Romans 5:15, Hath abounded, essentially means always abounds and always will abound; 17, Death reigned; 21, Sin hath reigned, express permanent, universal facts. The clause all have sinned, therefore, means just the same as all sin—thus stating a fact which (allowing for volitional freedom) is as uniform as a law of nature. Now such a uniform law of nature, however generally stated, takes effect only in those circumstances or conditions which allow it possible. Thus “water runs,” that is, such is the nature of water if gravitation permit. “Lead melts,” that is, when the temperature allows. “All men sin”—such is their nature—when their probation presents itself. Such being their normal action, such must be their permanent nature. And infants are of the same nature, they needing only the possible conditions for actual sinning. The sentence of universal death must stand, therefore, because in the divine view men are by nature universal sinners. Not because they literally sinned in Adam; not because Adam’s personal sin is imputed to them, but because such is their nature that in this scene of probation, hemmed in with temptations on all sides, sooner or later they will sin; and of whatever act a being is the normal, if not absolutely universal, performer, of that he is normally called the doer; if of sin, then a sinner.

The aoristic character of the verbs we have quoted is preserved by the writer’s being considered as assuming his standpoint at the close of the whole series of transactions they express. Standing at the finale of all probationary history, he recognises that all sinned when the lengthened trial came. (For the reconciliation of volitional freedom with this universality of sin see WILL, pp. 338-343.)

In Romans 5:12 the apostle states one side of the comparison, but he does not state the other side until Romans 5:18. What intervenes may be considered logically parenthetic. To obtain the gist of the parallel, Romans 5:12; Romans 5:18 may be read together.

The Adamic side of the comparison the apostle assumes on the admitted authority of Genesis. The purpose of the parallel is, (1.) To show the illustrious place of Christ in the history of our world. (2.) To show that justification by Christ extends beyond mere Judaism, and embraces the race. (3.) To show that the redemption more than repairs the fall.


Verses 12-21

2. In the grand antithesis between Adam and Christ. (Romans 5:12-21.)

This memorable passage is here with great distinctness set, as a living picture presenting, as it were to the eye, the tableau of ruin and renovation. To the Jew, with whom St. Paul is discussing, Christ is thus installed in his exalted position in the organic system of the world. Adam, as head of the race, is the type; yet the mournful contrast and dark background to this new world-wide Saviour.


Verse 13

13. The apostle suspends the prosecution of the parallelism in order to show to the Jews that the antithesis is not narrowed to the period of the Mosaic law alone, but covers the whole human history and race, including the patriarchate from Adam to Moses.

Until the law—During the patriarchal period. This verse reasons thus: During the patriarchate there was sin, and therefore law. (See notes Romans 9:6-14.)


Verse 14

14. Nevertheless, death reigned—The previous verse assumed that there was sin during the patriarchate; this verse proves it from the existence of death. That death implies sin he assumes from the account of the fall in Genesis. Changing the order of the steps of the apostle’s reasoning in these two verses, we arrange it thus: During the patriarchate there was death, therefore sin, therefore law. The inference is, if that period is covered by death, sin, and law, it is included in the parallel ruin from Adam and redemption by Christ; and the Messiah and justification must not be monopolized by Judaism.

Sinned after… Adam’s transgression—Referring not to infants, but to all who lived during the patriarchate. They did not, like Adam, (nor like the Jews,) transgress a revealed law, but only the inner law written on the heart. (See note Romans 2:14.)

Paul now specifies three particulars of the antithesis, namely, the quality, the number, and the results, showing in each the excess of the good in Christ over the evil in Adam.


Verse 15

15. Offence… gift—In QUALITY the former is evil, the latter is good. Much more then, a fortiori, should the latter abound rather than the former.

Grace—The divine cause.

Gift—The divine effect.

Many— Literally, the many, that is, the mass of mankind.


Verse 16

16. By one… of many—Contrast of NUMBER. By one sinner (supply also by one sin) was the condemnation; of many offences (supply also of many offenders) was the justification. By the apostle’s ellipsis the one sinner stands against many offences; but the very nature of the contrast shows the ellipses on both sides should be filled.


Verse 17

17. Death reigned… reign in life—Contrast in RESULTS, the death-reign and the life-reign.

Receive—Voluntarily and freely. Where, indeed, the being is not a free-agent, as an infant or idiot, the grace and gift are unconditional. This entire paragraph presents the divine idea of redemption as offered to man’s acceptance. Nothing but man’s voluntary rejection of the offer can prevent the idea from becoming realized, and resulting in his salvation.


Verse 18

18. Condemnation… justification—From Adam’s offence resulted condemnation upon all men; from Christ’s righteousness, justification upon all men. The condemnation would have produced the exclusion of the race from existence by the infliction of immediate death upon Adam. (Note on Romans 11:32.) But the justification of all in view of the atonement secured the continuity of the race, by which every person comes into the world in a justified state. That justification is unto life—that is, results in salvation—unless forfeited by sin.

Says Dr. Wilbur Fisk on this verse: “Guilt is not imputed until, by a voluntary rejection of the Gospel, man makes the depravity of his nature the object of his own choice. Hence, although, abstractly considered, this depravity is destructive to the possessors, yet through the grace of the Gospel all are born free from condemnation.”


Verse 19

19. Made… made—The Greek word signifies constituted or assigned the position of. From Adam the continued race is, by the law of natural descent, born and constituted sinners, (see note on Romans 5:12.) Yet justification by Christ overlies the condemnation at birth; and even when forfeited by sin may, by repentance and faith, be recovered, and mature into holiness and eternal life.


Verse 20

20. The law entered—Subordinately, yet indispensably, to impose upon the evil deeds of men their guilt and responsibility as sins, so as to render Christ and grace necessary.

Abound—Multiply in number. The more the law took the shape of special enactments, as in the Mosaic covenant, the more offences multiplied.

Sin abounded—Sin multiplied, but grace abounded.


Verse 21

21. By Jesus Christ our Lord—And so the apostle closes his contrast in rounded triumph with the glorious name and title of the divine hero, “the Captain of our salvation.” He has now depicted the elements of the remedy; he is henceforth ready to trace the process of the renovation produced by the remedy.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Romans 5:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/romans-5.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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