Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
D. IMPUTED GUILT OF THE FIRST SIN (Ch. 5)
We make no attempt (beyond what is said in the notes) to clear up this Doctrine, which approaches as nearly as well can be to complete mystery, and leans upon relations between the Head of an intelligent Race and that Race which are probably “knowable” by the Eternal alone. All that we do here is to clear up the statement of the Doctrine; which means not that the Omniscient Judge is to be held to think of every individual man as having done Adam’s sin, but to hold every individual man (because of the mysterious link between him and the Head of his Race) liable to penalty because Adam sinned.
Exactly thus, we are not asked to believe that the Omniscient thinks of the justified as having personally satisfied His Justice, but that He holds them (because of their connexion with the Head of the New Race) accepted because Christ obeyed.
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:Ch. Romans 5:1-11. The security and happiness of the state of Justification; its basis being the Divine Love
1. Therefore being justified] Here opens a leading section. The preliminaries are now over:—The need of Justification is established; and its equal terms for Jew and Greek; and the fact that Faith is its one appointed condition; and the nature and actings of faith, specially as in Abraham’s example. We now come to a fuller statement of some important details, which will lead up to a view of the effects of faith in the character and life of the justified.
being justified] An aorist. The time-reference is probably to the definite crisis of acceptance in each individual case; not to the ideal justification just expounded (Romans 4:25). Because the words “by faith” point here to our acceptance of the Lord’s work.
we have peace] The Gr. has an important and strongly supported various reading: “Let us have peace.” Without attempting to discuss the documentary evidence here, we merely state the case thus:—There is, on the whole, a greater weight of MSS. and ancient Versions in favour of “let us have.” But on the other hand there is a greater weight of internal evidence for “we have.” In other words, “we have” exactly fits info the context; “let us have” is foreign to it. The whole context is one not of exhortation, but of dogmatic assertion:—“we have access;” “we rejoice;” “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts;” “we shall be saved;” “we are reconciled;” “we have received the reconciliation.”—How then can we account for the “Let us have”? Probably, by early failures to grasp the complex but consistent argument of the whole long context, and the inevitable tendency due to such misapprehension to substitute aspiration or exhortation for (what the text speaks of) a present possession.—It is an obviously right principle, though calling for most cautious application, that no amount of MS. evidence ought ever to force on us a reading which mars the context.—A single stroke in the Gr. MSS. makes the only visible difference between the readings.
peace with God] Lit. towards God. That is, “in view of Him, as regards Him, we possess the security and calm of acceptance.” Practically the phrase thus = “He has admitted us to peace;” “He is at peace with us.” The whole previous argument shews that His reconciliation to us, not ours to Him, is the main point; in other words, the justice of forgiveness on God’s part, not the yielding of the will on man’s part, which latter, though an all-important thing, is not directly in view now.—Much has been said against the phrase “God’s reconciliation to us,” as if it made Him out to be a hostile Power. But the justice of the words is seen when we (like St Paul here) look on Him as on the Judge. As Creator and Father, He loves the sinner; as Judge, He must condemn him—if it were not for His own gift of a Propitiation. And the judge who sentences a criminal is, however personally kind, judicially hostile. And again, the judge who for a good cause removes the sentence is then judicially reconciled to the accused, though he may personally need no reconciliation of feeling.—Scripture plainly reveals that the God of Love proclaims “no peace” to the impenitent. Therefore when He “speaks peace” there is a change, not in His benevolence but in His judicial attitude: in other words, reconciliation.—For instructive parallels where the word “peace” occurs see Isaiah 53:5; Luke 2:14; Luke 19:38; Hebrews 13:20; 2 Peter 3:14.
through our Lord Jesus Christ] The sacred Propitiation, provided and accepted by the loving and righteous Father; once offered, and continuously (“we have”) availing.
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.2. by whom] Lit. through whom; the same construction as that just before.
also] i.e. “we owe to Him our entrance to grace, as well as our standing in it.”
we have access] Lit. we have had; “we have found.” The time-reference is to a past reception resulting in present possession.—“Access:”—lit. the introduction; “our introduction.” Same word as Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12 (though the reference there is not precisely that here), and 1 Peter 3:18 (where E. V. has “bring us to God”). The idea is of the acceptance of the acquitted. Both ideas, acquittal by a Judge and acceptance by a reconciled Father, reside in Justification.
by faith] Our side of the matter. The Lord’s “introduction” of us to His Father’s acceptance takes effect individually when we individually believe.
this grace] i.e. “acceptance” (Ephesians 1:6) and resulting “peace.” The word recalls the fact that acceptance, as previously proved (see ch. 4), is “according to grace,” not debt.
wherein we stand] The word “stand” is in contrast to the “fall” of the rejected and condemned. See Romans 11:20; also Psalm 1:5; Psalm 130:3; Revelation 6:17; and 1 Corinthians 15:1, where the context gives the idea of acceptance and safety, as here. That of perseverance (as in Acts 26:22, E. V. “continue”) may also be present; but the context shews that acceptance is at least the main point.
rejoice] A word elsewhere rendered “glory” (as just below, Romans 5:3), or “boast.” See on Romans 4:2. The reasoning here rises, from the foundation-truth of lawful justification, to the holy elevations of consequent joy and energy in the justified.
in hope] Lit. on hope. Perhaps here (as in Romans 4:18, q. v.) the “hope” is objective; “the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18), i.e. the promise and pledges of glory. On this our joy is based.
the glory of God] For commentary, see Romans 8:18; Romans 8:21; Romans 8:30.—The eternal bliss of the justified is called “the glory of God” because it is a state of joy, love, majesty, and holiness, bestowed by God; in the presence of God; and being in its essence the Vision of God, and likeness to Him. Cp. John 17:24; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Php 3:21; Colossians 1:27; 2 Timothy 2:10; 1 Peter 4:13; Revelation 21:11; Revelation 21:23.—This ver. is a brief anticipation of ch. 8.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;3. but we glory] For the present, St Paul puts the eternal future out of view again, in order that present grace may be better explained.—“We glory:”—same word as “rejoice” in Romans 5:2. Wonderful is the force of this repetition, in connexion with tribulation!
tribulations] Lit. the tribulations; “our troubles.” See Romans 8:35-39 for a noble example of such rejoicing. See too Matthew 5:11; Acts 5:41; Hebrews 10:34; 1 Peter 1:6-9; and esp. James 1:2-4.
patience] The patience of perseverance. See on Romans 2:7. “Tribulation” teaches the believer the possibility, and blessedness, of “patient continuance in well-doing.”
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:4. experience] The Gr. properly means “a proof, a test.” So usually in N. T.: e.g. 2 Corinthians 8:2 (where E. V. “trial”), Romans 13:3 (where E. V. “proof”); Php 2:22 (“proof”). The word here cannot refer to the testing of the believer by his Master, for the next clause shews it is something in his own consciousness, producing hope there. It is rather his own testing of himself; his discovery of what he can bear and do, through grace; promoting courage for future efforts, and steady hopes of final victory.
hope] Of future grace and (perhaps mainly here) of the glory to follow. Each “test” of the power given enhances the confidence that He who gives it will continue it till the course of “patience” ends in the eternal welcome.
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.5. hope] Lit. the hope; not any hope, but the hope thus produced.
maketh not ashamed] Same word as Romans 9:33; 2 Corinthians 7:14; 2 Corinthians 9:4; nearly the same as Php 1:20; 2 Timothy 1:12. In all these passages the idea of disappointment is in the verb. So here: “the shame of disappointment never follows this hope.”
because] The connexion of thought is illustrated by e.g. Ephesians 1:13-14. See too Romans 8:11; Romans 8:16-17. Our certainty that the hope will end in fruition is deepened, if not begun, by the fact that the Holy Spirit is already given to us, and so given as to assure us of the love of God.
the love of God] i.e. His love to us. So Romans 5:8; Romans 8:35; Romans 8:39. The following context decides against the meaning “our love to Him.”
is shed abroad] Lit. has been poured out, as rain from a cloud. The tense indicates the lasting result of that past act by which the Holy Spirit first revealed the Divine Love to the soul.
by the Holy Ghost which is given] Better, which was given; a past bestowal, whether viewed ideally as to the Church, or actually as to each justified person. The Divine personal Spirit is here seen working as in Romans 8:15-16; and in such work He is recognized as the “earnest” of heaven, where the Love of God will be fully realized for ever.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.6. For when, &c.] From this ver. to Romans 5:11 St Paul expands the words “the love of God.” He explains this love, as “poured out” by the Spirit, to be specially redeeming and justifying love.
without strength] Impotent to deliver ourselves from sin and judgment. The words are in contrast to the might of the Deliverer.
in due time] That of the Eternal Purpose; “the fulness of the time;” Galatians 4:4. See Mark 1:15.
Christ] In the Gr. this word has a slight emphasis, pointing to the wonder of such a Deliverer’s appearance.
died] Also emphatic by position. His death is both the supreme proof of Divine love and the supreme requirement of the Divine Law.
the ungodly] Better, us the ungodly. Same word as Romans 4:5, q. v. Here probably this intense word is used of all sinners as such; in view of the contrasted holiness of the Substitute, and also to suggest that the “impotence” of Romans 5:6 is not merely negative, but is the refusal (due to moral evil) truly to love the true God. See on Romans 8:7.
“For” = for the sake of. The special bearing of the Gr. preposition here used depends on the context. In itself it does not necessarily indicate “substitution in the place of,” “vicariousness.” But the illustration in Romans 5:7 at once suggests that idea; and the preposition neither compels nor excludes it.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.7. For, &c.] The connexion is somewhat thus: “He died for the godless: a proof of unequalled love; for hardly will you find any one die for a just, a good, man; you may find such a case, but it will be rare.”—No marked distinction is meant between “just” and “good.” Justice and goodness are equally contrasted with godlessness and sinfulness here. As regards the wording of the verse, it is lit. For hardly for a just man will one die; for for the good man, perhaps, one actually dares to die. The first “for” in the second clause may be explained by a paraphrase: “Death for even a just person is hardly known. I say, hardly known; not quite unknown; for cases of death for one who is good do occur.” The whole point of the verse is that such acts of even such love among men are very rare and very limited indeed. (The translation “for a just cause,” “for that which is good,” is precluded, as Meyer points out, by the personal words in contrast; “the godless,” “sinners.”)
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.8. commendeth] Same word as (for instance) Romans 16:1. Infinite condescension lies in this simple word.
his love] Fully, His own love; the love peculiar to Himself who is Love: perhaps too with a hint that it is uncaused by any previous love of ours for Him.
yet sinners] “Yet” implies the gracious after-change which Christ’s death was to produce in the justified.—For a full parallel to this verse see Titus 3:3-5, where the dark picture of Romans 5:3 brings out in contrast the “love toward man” of Romans 5:4.
Christ] The Beloved of the Father, Romans 8:32.
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.9. Much more] i.e. as to our apprehension. After this amazing first step of unmerited love we can, with less surprise, rely on its gracious continuance.
now] “As the case stands.”
by his blood] Lit. in His blood. If “in” is to be pressed, the idea may be that of washing, (Revelation 1:5,) though this would not be strictly germane. It is most difficult to pronounce on such uses of “in” in N. T. Greek, in which “in” certainly often = “by.” See on ch. Romans 1:9.
saved] i.e. “kept safe,” till the final preservation at the last day. See 1 Thessalonians 1:10, where lit. “Jesus, who rescues us (or, is our rescuer) from the wrath to come.” Not only did He once die as our Propitiation, but, as the sure sequel, He lives, now and ever, to be, every moment, our accepted Representative and Intercessor; a Saviour in permanence. See Romans 8:34.
wrath] Lit. the wrath; the wrath of final doom. The justified shall be preserved by their Lord unto, and through, even that crisis. Cp. John 5:24; 1 John 2:28.
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.10. if] i.e. as. The hypothesis is also a fact.
enemies] Personal enemies; the proper force of the Gr. word. Cp. Colossians 1:21. See below on Romans 8:7.
reconciled to God] On “reconciliation,” see on Romans 5:1. Here certainly the idea of the conciliation of man’s will to God (as a result of the Propitiation revealed) is suggested. But even here it is scarcely the main idea. The language, carefully weighed, points more to God’s acceptance of the sinner than to the sinner’s acceptance of God. For the case is put thus:—“When we were enemies, God was gracious to us: much more (as to our apprehension) will He be gracious to us still.” How was He gracious to us then? Surely by the gift of justification (see Romans 5:9). As our Judge, He acquitted us; in other words, He was reconciled to us, and adopted us. Therefore, as our reconciled Father, He will surely be equally gracious to us still.—Through this context St Paul has not yet come to the result of pardon on the will. When he here uses the phrase “reconciled to God” it is evidently with main reference to the removal of a judicial bar.—Absalom, for instance, was reconciled to David—restored to his filial position—only when David put aside his just wrath: till this was done, no change of will in Absalom would be reconciliation.
by the death] As propitiation, with a view to justification; Romans 3:24-25.
being reconciled] He does not say “being friends;” which, as just stated, is not yet the idea in point. The barrier of condemnation is taken away; therefore à fortiori the Judge, who is also the Father, will continue to us His love.
we shall be saved] See on Romans 5:9.
by his life] Lit. in His life. The “in” here is probably strictly appropriate: “in His life” = “in Him who lives.” The justified are “in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).—Cp. Colossians 3:4, where the reference to the final appearing of the Saviour, (the appearing to judgment and salvation,) serves to explain this passage. Q. d., “We shall be saved in the day of the Lord because He, who died for us, ever lives as our Life.”
And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.11. not only so] We shall not only be welcomed then, but we are permitted to feel now the bliss of our position.
we … joy] Lit. joying; the participle. The meaning is practically the same as in E. V. Grammatically the word perhaps connects with “being reconciled;” q. d., “We shall surely be ‘saved’ then, because we are now admitted not to acquittal only, but to rejoicing confidence of Divine Love,” “we are not reconciled only, but rejoicing.”
now] See on Romans 5:9.
received] Ideally, when He died and rose; actually, when we believed (Romans 5:1). The Gr. is an aorist.
the atonement] the reconciliation; the cognate noun to the verb in Romans 5:10. According to the explanation there, it here means the grant of “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” in virtue of His propitiation. The Gr. noun occurs elsewhere in N. T. only Romans 11:15, and 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:12–21. The same subject, illustrated by the connexion of fallen man with Adam, and justified man with Christ
12. Wherefore, &c.] Here begins an important section, closing with the ch. In point of language, and of links of thought, it is occasionally difficult, and moreover deals with the deep mystery of the effects of the Fall. We preface detailed comments with a few general remarks.
1. The section closes one main part of the argument—that on the Way of Justification; and it leads to another—that on its Results. It is connected more with the former than with the latter.
2. Its main purpose is unmistakable. It brings out the grandeur and completeness of Christ’s work by contrast with the work (so to speak) of Adam. It regards the two as, in some real sense, paralleled and balanced.
3. Without explaining (what cannot be explained, perhaps, in this life,) the reason of the thing, it states as a fact concerning the Fall that its result is not only inherited sinfulness, but inherited guilt; i.e. liability to punishment, (that of death,) on account of the primeval Sin. Death (in human beings) is penalty: but e.g. infants, void of actual moral wrong, die: therefore they die for inherited (we may say for vicarious) guilt.
4. From this admitted mystery and fact (as plainly it was with the Romans) St Paul argues to the corresponding “life” of believers in virtue of the vicarious righteousness of Messiah, whom here (and in 1 Corinthians 15:22; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Corinthians 15:47,) he regards as the Second Adam.
5. Unquestionably the mystery of the Effects of the Fall is extremely great and painful. But it is the mystery of facts; and it is but one of the offshoots of the greatest and deepest of all distressing mysteries, the Existence of Sin.—See further, Appendix D.
Wherefore, as, &c.] There is no expressed close to this sentence. But a close may be taken as implied in this first clause: q. d., “Wherefore [the case of Justification is] just parallel to the entrance of sin by one man, &c.” Romans 5:12 will then be a complete statement.
by one man] Cp. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49.
sin … death] See Romans 5:17-18 for the implied antithesis: Christ, righteousness, life.
death by sin] In the case of Man. Scripture nowhere says that death in animals is due to human sin. Death was the specially threatened penalty to the sole race which was on the one hand created with an animal organism, which could die, and on the other, “made in the image of God.” The penal character of death is essential to St Paul’s argument.
passed] Lit. went through, traversed, penetrated.
upon] Better, unto; so as to reach all men. “Men” is expressed here in the Gr., marking the special reference to human beings.
for that all have sinned] Better, for that all sinned; the aorist. St Paul refers to the First Sin, to the guilt of the Representative of the race. A close parallel, in contrast, is 2 Corinthians 5:15, where lit. “since One died for all, therefore they all died;” i.e. ideally, in their Divine Representative. See too 1 Corinthians 15:21, where our death in Adam is spoken of just as our sin in Adam here.
(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.13. for until the law] This and the following verses are not a parenthesis: see on Romans 5:12.—“Until” here practically = “before.” The period “from Adam to Moses” is in view, the Law of Moses being taken as the first elaborate statute-giving of God for man. “Laws” existed long before Moses; e.g. those of Marriage, of the sanctity of Life, and of the Sabbath. But the Mosaic Law covered the field of duty in a way unknown before; so as to suggest the question whether human beings, in the previous ages, in some instances, had not satisfied the claims of then-known duty, and so escaped death. But no: in those ages, as in the Mosaic, “death reigned;” therefore there was sin; therefore there was broken law; and that law, in numberless cases, (viz. infantine,) must have been broken only “in Adam;” for it was unknown to the persons in question.
law … law] Both these words in the Gr. are without the article. In spite of some difficulty, we must interpret the first of the Mosaic Law, and the second of Law in some other sense; here probably in the sense of the declared Will of God in general, against which, in a particular case, Adam sinned, and we “in him.”
is not imputed] So as to bring penalty. Therefore, had there been in no sense a (broken) law in the primeval age, there would have been no death. But death was universal.
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.14. reigned] See below, on Romans 5:21. The idea is of unquestioned dominion.
after the similitude, &c.] i.e. by conscious transgression of express precepts. The phrase thus exactly meets the case of infant-death, and also includes all other cases, supposed possible, in which no distinct violation of then-known law was traceable.
the figure] Lit. a figure. The word “type,” (derived from the Gr. word used here,) expresses the meaning exactly. Adam so sinned that his sons, even irrespective of personal sins, died—a penal death. Christ, the last Adam, so lived and suffered that his “brethren,” irrespective of personal merit, live, with the life of the justified.
him that was to come] Christ; mysteriously foretold from the first as “to come.” A sentence is quoted from the Rabbis: “The last Adam is Messiah.”—Observe that the doctrine of the imputed guilt of the First Sin is distinctly found in Judaic literature. As Meyer says on Romans 5:12, (Germ. ed., p. 241,) it probably was a part of the Apostle’s belief before his conversion, but one “which he found, in his Christian enlightenment, no reason to reject;” on the contrary, he incorporated it as an integral part of his Gospel-teaching.—(And this he did, let us add, as the commissioned messenger of the Truth.)
But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.15. But not] Here, after the parallel of Adam and Christ, is stated the glorious difference of the work of Christ. This occupies Romans 5:15-17.—The difference is, the vastly greater wonder of His Work and its Result.
offence] Lit. stumbling. Our word “offence” comes from the Latin for the same, and is so used here by E. V.
if] Here (as in Romans 5:10,) the “if” nearly = “as.”
of one] Lit. of the one; the one personal Offender in view.
many be dead] Lit. the many died. See on “all have sinned,” (an exact parallel,) Romans 5:12. “The many:”—“many,” in contrast to their one forefather; “the many,” as those in question here. They are, in this case, all mankind.
much more, &c.] Here notice the respect in which Redemption is so far “in excess of” Ruin. Not in respect of numbers affected; because, on any theory, the redeemed are no more numerous than the ruined, who are the whole race. It is in respect of the quality of the cause and the effect. Redemption is a positive exercise of surpassing grace and love, resulting in a glorious and eternal reversal, in the subjects of it, of the previous ruin; indeed, more than a reversal, because it brings with it the exaltation given to the brethren of the Second Adam.—The “much more” here, and in Romans 5:17, is thus q. d., “The fall of the First Adam caused vast results of evil; the work of the far greater Second Adam shall much more cause vast results of good.”
the grace of God] His positive favour; whereas He merely let the law take its course at the Fall.
the gift, &c.] Lit. the gift in the grace of one Man, Jesus Christ. The “grace of Christ” is the loving favour to man shewn by Him in His work. The “gift” which was given “in” (i.e. practically “through,” or “by,”) that grace is the eternal life of the justified.—“The one Man:”—“Man” is emphatic, indicating the Lord’s position as the Second Adam, and, (as this Man is Jesus Christ,) the supreme greatness of the Second Adam.
hath abounded] Lit. did abound unto the many. The reference is to the historic fact of His Work. “The many:”—here again, “many” in contrast to the One-ness of their Head; “the many,” as the persons here in question. These here, (as e.g. Romans 5:13-19 explain,) are the justified. See below on Romans 5:18.—“Abounded:”—the idea is of Divine liberality in mercy, as opposed to the no more than legal justice of the condemnation.
And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.16. And not, &c.] The line of thought here is less difficult if we take Romans 5:17 in close connexion, and read the words from “for the judgment” to “unto justification” as a parenthetic statement of the two facts before us. We may then paraphrase Romans 5:16-17 thus: “The Gift, in wonder and greatness of quality, far exceeds the Ruin, though each is the result of one Person’s act: (for, as we know, the sentence and execution was the result of one man’s one sin, while the atonement and justification is the result, in a sense, of many men’s many sins:)—I say the Gift exceeds the Ruin; for while the result of Adam’s sin was just the lawful reign of death over men as sinners, the result of Christ’s work shall be not a mere reversal of this, but the reign of justified men over death in glory.”
And not, &c.] The Gr. here is more exactly, And not as by means of the sinning of one, [is] the gift: for the sentence [resulted] from one [person] unto condemnation; but the boon [resulted] from many offences unto acquittal. Here the “one” is plainly Adam; and the contrast is between his one-ness, and that of his sin, and the many offences of his many sons. St Paul estimates the greatness of the pardon of all the sins of all the justified from the tremendous legal results of the one sin of Adam. Such is sin, that Adam’s sin brought death on all men; such is grace, that innumerable sins are, through the Propitiation, “abundantly pardoned.”—The phrase above, “resulted from,” has of course a different bearing in the two clauses. The first sin was the strict cause of the sentence; while the “many offences” “caused” the boon, only as calling forth the mercy.—“The sentence … unto condemnation;” “the boon … unto acquittal:”—in each of these phrases the last word explains the first: the sentence amounted to sentence of death; the gift was nothing less than acquittal.—The hereditary guilt and doom of the Fall is very distinctly taught in this verse. The sentence of death on man as man came “by means of the sinning of one,” in a sense expressly distinguished from the guilt of the “many offences” of the many.
For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)17. For, &c.] “For” refers mainly to the last clause of Romans 5:16. The contrast of “one” and “many” is now dropped, but we find another contrast; that between the legal results of evil and the overflowing results of Divine goodness, the goodness which grants acquittal to the “ungodly.” Q. d., “The free gift is a gift indeed, liberal and glorious: for if the result of Adam’s one sin was the reign of death, far more amply shall the result of God’s grace be the reign of the justified in life!”—In this verse the “glory to be revealed,” as a necessary sequel of justification, first distinctly appears.
by one man’s offence] A better reading gives in one offence. The First Sin was the occasion “in” (or on) which death acquired its tyranny over man.
by one] Lit. through, or by, the one. So just below. See on Romans 5:15.
they which receive] From time to time; a continuous process, as regards successive generations.
abundance] The word implies the necessary fulness of a gift of Divine love. Justification, with its sequel, is always “abundant,” both in itself and as to its recipients.
grace] Lit. the grace; i.e. that in question; acceptance for Christ’s sake.
the gift of righteousness] i.e. here, practically, Justification. What is “given” is a standing of acceptance in the eye of the Law. And the Law, as such, accepts only on the ground of “righteousness,” freedom from guilt. How such freedom from guilt is attained is another question: in the present case, it is attained as “a gift,” given by “the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus.”
shall reign in life] Amply reversing the “reign” of death over them. Probably the chief idea is of a triumph, full and lasting, over death. Cp. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57, an instructive parallel. But no doubt the words refer beyond this to all the majesty of the coming “glory” of the justified, figured elsewhere by the “crown” of life, righteousness, or glory; and by the “throne.” See the marvellous union of service and royalty, Revelation 22:3; Revelation 22:5.—“Life” is here the future, heavenly life; life in its full sense. Cp. Matthew 18:8-9; Matthew 19:17.
by one, &c.] Lit. through the One, Jesus Christ. Here is the secret of the “much more.” The surpassing glory of Him who is the Cause accounts for the Divine quality of the Result.
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.18. Therefore] In Romans 5:18-19 the argument, from Romans 5:12, is summed up as to its main substance; namely, the parallel of Adam and Christ; the illustration of the work of Christ by Adam’s position in respect of his descendants and the effect on them of his sin.
as by the offence of one] Better, as by one offence, as in marg. E. V.—The Gr. is elliptical here. We may supply “the result was,” in each part of the verse; as through one offence the result was, unto all men, to condemnation; so through one righteous act the result was, unto all men, to justification of life.—The word rendered here righteous act is the same as that rendered “acquittal” in the note on Romans 5:16, q.v. Its strict original meaning is a thing righteously done. Its usual actual meaning is an ordinance of justice. But in one N. T. passage at least it appears to mean a righteous act or course of acts. (Revelation 19:8, “the righteousnesses of the saints.”) It thus is possible to interpret it in one place here as an ordinance of acquittal, in the other as the great Acts of righteousness (which becomes also, as it were, a statute of righteousness,) done by the Redeemer for His brethren. Such a change of reference is not alien to St Paul’s style.—If, however, the interpretation righteous ordinance should seem more necessary than it seems to us, it would fairly suit the context. Christ’s obedience is (as suggested just above) viewed thus as the embodied ordinance, or institute, of Justification. This last, on the whole, is Meyer’s explanation.
all men … all men] What is the reference of these words in the two cases respectively? In the first, certainly, all mankind is meant. Every man, not in theory only but fact, incurred sentence of death in Adam. In the second case also, many commentators, (e.g. Meyer,) hold that all mankind is intended: not that all actually receive justification, but that all are within the scope of Christ’s work. Without entering on the profound question of the Divine Intentions, and merely seeking for St Paul’s special thought here, we prefer to take the second “all men” with a limit, as meaning “all who are connected with the Second Adam;” all “His brethren.” For through this whole context St Paul is dealing with results and facts, not with abstract theory. From the dreadful fact of the result of death from the Fall he reasons to the results of Christ’s work; and the parallel would be most imperfect (and such as precisely to contradict the “much more” of Romans 5:15; Romans 5:17,) if while in the one case condemnation was a fact and act, Justification should be only a possibility in the other. If Adam brings death in fact on all concerned, Christ must bring life in fact on all concerned also. Again, a limitation is suggested by the whole reasoning of the Epistle, and specially by Romans 8:30, where the justified are identical with the “foreknown” and “glorified,” in the plain sense of the passage.—The use of “all men” with this change of reference is fairly illustrated by 1 Corinthians 15:22-23. For through that whole ch. the Resurrection of the Church is the sole subject; and 1 Corinthians 15:23 explicitly refers to “them that are Christ’s:” and yet, when the parallel of Adam and Christ is in view, the word “all” is equally used there in both cases.—See for other illustrations, though less exact, John 12:32; Titus 2:11.
The view of Christ as the Head of all Mankind is, to say the least, far less distinct in Scripture than that of Christ as the Head of justified Mankind, the true Church. Bearing this in mind, a difference of reference here will surely seem more natural than a sameness which can only be explained by admitting profound differences along with it.
justification of life] i.e. which confers, and results in, life; both by reversal of the sentence of death, and (as in Romans 5:17) by the gift of the life of glory in consequence.
For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.19. For, &c.] This verse is in close connexion with Romans 5:18. St Paul recurs to the central truth in view, now from this side now from that, so as to leave the one deep and distinct impression of the vicariousness of the unique Work of the Second Adam; the truth that the justification of all the justified wholly results therefrom.
made sinners … made righteous] Better, constituted, “put into a position” of guilt and righteousness respectively. Here the whole context points to not a moral change but a legal standing. In Adam “the many” became, in the eye of the Law, guilty; in Christ “the many” shall become, in the eye of the same Law, righteous. In other words, they shall be justified.—“Shall be made:”—the future refers to the succession of believers. The justification of all was, ideally, complete already; but, actually, it would await the times of individual believing.—“Many:”—lit., in both cases, “the many.” See on Romans 5:15.—“Obedience:”—here probably the special reference is to the Redeemer’s “delight to do the will” of His Father, “even unto the death of the cross.” (Psalm 40:8; Php 2:8.)
Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:20. Moreover] More simply, But, or (better) Now. In this verse and 21 a new consideration comes in, almost independent of the chain of reasoning, but meant to illustrate the surpassing “abundance” of grace (Romans 5:15-17).
the law] Lit. Law; but probably the reference is definite, as implied by the mention of Moses in Romans 5:14. See note on Romans 5:13, on the peculiar position of the Mosaic law.
entered] Lit. entered by the side; as if an afterthought in the great plan.—Cp. Galatians 3:19.
that the offence might abound] Q. d., “that the disease might be brought to the surface.” This bringing out of latent sinfulness was a real mercy. Cp. Romans 7:13. Obviously St Paul does not mean that this was the only, or chief, aim of the holy Law; but that in view of the question in hand (justification of sinners for Another’s sake,) such was its function. It was to bring out the fact that men were not only guilty “in Adam,” but personally sinful.
the offence] Man’s offences, regarded as a single whole. Just below we have “the sin;” the principle of which “the offence” was the expression.
sin] Lit. the sin. So just below, the grace. The reference is to sin and grace in their special aspects here.
much more abound] These words represent one compound verb in the Gr., and that verb is strengthened by the compounded preposition, and is itself a stronger word than that just used for “the abundance” of sin: where the sin multiplied, there the grace superabounded. On the thought here, see notes on Romans 5:16.
That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.21. that as sin, &c.] More lit. that as the sin reigned in death, so also may the grace reign through righteousness, &c.—“The sin reigned in death:”—i.e., death was the expression of its power. Cp. Romans 5:12-14 and notes.—“May grace reign:”—such is the exact rendering, which should be kept, though Gr. idiom makes E. V. (“might”) grammatically possible. St Paul is still thinking of the succession of future believers.
through righteousness] i.e. “through the gift of righteousness,” (Romans 5:17,) Justification. Grace provides the Method of the justification of the ungodly; it gives them a position of acceptance in the eye of the sacred Law; constitutes them, for the purposes of that Law, righteous persons.—We do not for a moment here forget that a moral change is intended, and effected, in the subjects of grace; but the argument, up to this point, has in view not this yet, but the judicial acceptance which is the prior condition of it;—Justification, not yet Sanctification.
unto eternal life] The final issue of the “reign of grace.” See Romans 6:22, Romans 8:32, and note on Romans 2:7.
by Jesus Christ our Lord] Well do these holy words close that great section of the argument which specially explains the Way of Pardon. Jesus Christ is the one Cause and Means of Pardon, and therefore indeed also the “Lord” of those who through Him are accepted and glorified.