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Bible Commentaries

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Romans 5



Other Authors
Verse 1

Peace with God; reconciliation.

Verse 2

Access by faith. Faith is thus represented not as an act by which the soul can merit a reward, but only as a way by which it may gain access to favor. Pardon is a gift. Faith in the repenting sinner does not make him deserve it it is only a necessary prerequisite to render him a proper object of its bestowal. It is very plain that a man cannot properly be forgiven for past rebellion against God, unless he is now ready to turn to him with feelings of confidence and love. Faith is, therefore, the preliminary to salvation, rendered necessary by the very nature of the case; not the merit by which salvation is earned. Thus it is, in the language of this passage, the mode by which we gain access to the grace wherein we stand.

Verse 3

Glory in tribulations; rejoice in tribulations.

Verse 5

Maketh not ashamed; will not deceive and disappoint us.

Verse 6

Without strength; in a helpless and hopeless condition.

Verse 10

By his life; by his living power. The idea is, that, since he redeemed us from past sins in the hour of his humiliation and death, he certainly will not abandon us, now that he lives and reigns in the exercise of such exalted powers and dominion.

Verse 11

The atonement; reconciliation.

Verse 12

By one man; that is, Adam, whose transgression in Eden was the introduction of sin and misery in the world.

Verse 13

Until the law; during the interval which elapsed from Adam to the giving of the Mosaic law.--When there is no law; that is, no law at all; for there was, during all this time, a law of nature, by which men were rendered accountable.

Verse 14

Death reigned, &c.; thus showing that, as Paul had maintained in the Romans 5:18-23, God regarded these generations of men as amenable to a law written upon their hearts.--That had not sinned after the similitude, &c.; that is, being without a revelation, they did not, like Adam, and like the Jews who lived after Moses, break laws distinctly promulgated from God. They sinned only against the light of nature. Still they sinned, and were subjected to death, the penalty of sin; and their case is accordingly included in this survey of the consequences which ensued from the transgression of Adam.--The figure of him that was to come; Jesus Christ. Figure means, in this case, type. The representing Christ as the antitype of Adam, seems to furnish the key to the meaning of this passage, (Romans 5:12-21,) which has always been considered one of great difficulty. The general design of the parallel drawn between Jesus and Adam, appears to be, to show that the redemption by Christ was not a mere Jewish redemption,--the counterpart and consummation of the Mosaic law,--as the Jewish Christians were prone to consider it, but that it had far wider connections and bearings. It was the counterpart and remedy for evils introduced by Adam, and affecting the whole human race; and as the consequences of his transgression brought spiritual ruin and death upon all nations, even though they had not, like Adam, sinned against a revealed law,--the remedy, now at length provided, must not be I limited to the Jews, but must be regarded as coëxtensive, in its applicability, with the ruin which it was intended to repair. If, through the greatness of the divine displeasure against sin, the transgression of Adam, the head, and in some sense the representative, of the human family, was allowed, in its results, to involve all his descendants in ruin,--much more would God, who is more ready to pardon than to punish, give to the offers of salvation by Christ a similar extension. This general idea is expressed in various forms in the Romans 5:15-21, but with a certain degree of reserve and indirectness in all, prompted, apparently, by a desire which the apostle had manifested already in other cases, not to come too abruptly into collision with the prejudices of the Jews. Some of the verses (Romans 5:15,16) exhibit contrasts; others, (Romans 5:17-19,) analogies; but both contrasts and analogies answer the purpose intended, namely, to show that salvation by Christ was correlative to the ruin of the fall, and so, coëxtensive with it in respect to its influences, being intended to afford the offer of salvation to the whole human family.

Verse 19

As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners. This, and similar expressions in the Romans 5:12-18, bring up the subject of the connection between the sin of Adam and the moral ruin of his posterity--a subject in regard to which different branches of the Christian church still entertain very different opinions. One class contends that the whole human race is considered by Jehovah as involved in the guilt which was incurred by their common ancestor, who is to be considered as their head and representative; that it becomes all men to cherish feelings of abasement and sorrow in view of their first parent's sin, taking to themselves, as his children, a share of the guilt of it; and that all individuals enter the world with this burden, in fact, resting upon them, and with a sinful constitution of character, inherited through the stock from which they spring. To others this view of the subject seems entirely inadmissible. They cannot allow that the sin of one generation can bring any burden of accountability for it upon another; or that there can be any relation of cause and effect between the sinful characters of men at the present day, and that of Adam,--choosing, rather than admit such a supposition, to leave the invariable and universal corruption of human nature entirely unexplained. This controversy will probably not soon be settled. Elements appear to be necessarily involved in the discussion which transcend the human faculties. At any rate, we must admit that, thus far, that mysterious and hidden cause, which, seemingly like an hereditary taint, descends from generation to generation, leading in all ages, in all climes, and under every of the human condition, to substantially the same moral results, has eluded and baffled all the attempts which have been made to fix and define it.

Verse 20

That the offence might abound. This was the effect of the law, to make sin more evident, and in some cases more aggravated.--Where sin abounded, &c.; that is, under the Mosaic law. The apostle seems here to admit that, after all, the redemption of Christ was specially offered to the Jews, and was to be particularly efficacious for their salvation.


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Romans 5:4". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

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