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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Romans 5



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Verses 1-5

The blessings of justification by faith

Romans 5:1-5

In the preceding chapters Paul clearly states and firmly proves that justification before God is not of works but by faith. Now he proceeds to show the blessings that are ours through Christ.

Romans 5:1. We are justified and accounted righteous before God by faith in the Lord Jesus, believing on him as he is revealed in the Scriptures. Therefore, being justified, we have peace with God. This peace arises from the fact that, in Christ, we are righteous, our sins are forgiven, and we are holy and unblamable (Ephesians 1:3-4; Colossians 1:20-22). Out of Christ men are at war with God and he with them (John 3:36; Romans 8:7). When we are in Christ, we are reconciled and enjoy peace (Isaiah 32:17; 2 Corinthians 5:19).

Romans 5:2. By Christ we have access into grace or a state of favor, sonship, and acceptance. Peace and grace are distinguished from one another (1 Corinthians 1:3; Galatians 1:3). Peace denotes a particular blessing. ‘Access into grace’ (a state of favor) implies all blessings (1 Corinthians 3:21-23; Colossians 1:12; Hebrews 10:19-22).

‘We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ The hope of eternal salvation, the hope of being like Christ, the hope of beholding his glory as a joint-heir will produce joy. There can be no true joy without such a hope (Psalms 17:15; 1 John 3:1-3).

Martin Luther said: ‘Although I am a sinner, yet I despair not, for Christ who is my redeemer and my righteousness liveth. In him I have no sin, no fear, no sting of conscience, and no fear of judgment; for in him there is no condemnation. I am indeed a sinner as touching this present life, but I have a righteousness of God which is above this life, who is Christ my Lord–in him I rejoice!’

Romans 5:3. Not only does the believer rejoice in hope of the glory of God, but he rejoices even in tribulation, trials, and afflictions (James 1:2-3; 2 Corinthians 12:10). We do not rejoice in the suffering nor the trial itself, for most trials are grievous and difficult; but we rejoice in the EFFECT of the trial. All of our trials are appointed by God, our Father, and are for his glory and our good (Romans 8:28; Hebrews 12:9-11; Psalms 119:71).

‘Trials work patience.’ Patience is submission to the will of God. It is to be content and wait upon the Lord (Hebrews 13:5; Psalms 27:13-14). It is the opposite of covetousness, complaining, and haste. It involves not only our attitude toward God and his providence, but also our attitude toward others during the trial.

Romans 5:4. ‘Patience worketh experience’ or maturity of character and proof of genuine faith. Trials do not produce faith, but they reveal faith which is there. Actually trials may detect a hypocrite, harden his heart, and cause him to drop his profession. True faith is stronger as a result of trial.

‘Experience and proof worketh hope.’ As the genuineness of our faith is manifested and confirmed by trial and as we grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ, our hope of enjoying the glory promised in Christ is strengthened.

Romans 5:5. Those who possess a good hope in Christ will never be ashamed of that relationship, nor will they ever have cause to be ashamed (for in him they are perfected), nor will they ever be put to shame! A vain hope and a false profession will finally fail, prove to be empty, and result in eternal loss (Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11).

It is not our love for God that gives us a strong hope and comfort (although the grace and fruit of love for God and others is quickened in us by his Spirit); but the Holy Spirit reveals to us God's love for us in Christ; and with the knowledge of that love comes the effects of it–which are peace, access to the presence of God, and rejoicing in the hope of eternal life (Romans 8:35-39; 1 John 4:9-10).

Verses 6-11

Christ died for the ungodly

Romans 5:6-11

In the preceding verses the apostle writes about the believer's hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2) and the fact that those who have that good hope in Christ will never be ashamed of that relationship, nor will they ever have cause to be ashamed, nor will they be put to shame. The truth of God's love to us in Christ and the reality of that love has been put in our hearts by his Spirit. In the next verses he proceeds to give us proof and evidence of God's love for us.

Romans 5:6. ‘Christ died for the ungodly.’ This is the sum and substance of our gospel and is the great article of faith. Who died? Christ–the only-begotten, well-beloved Son of God in human nature (Romans 8:34; Matthew 3:16-17). How did he die? A death of shame, under the wrath and judgment of God (Philippians 2:8). Why did he die? He died for, in the stead of, and as a substitute for, all God's elect in order that God might be just and justifier (Romans 3:24-26). For whom did he die? ‘For the ungodly,’ not for righteous men, or religious men, or deserving men, but for those who are ungodly in nature and practice (Ephesians 2:1-5). When did he die for us? When we were without strength to obey him, to keep his law, and without ability to help ourselves. We were in bondage to law and to sin and unable to change our condition (Jeremiah 13:23). He died for us ‘in due time,’ at the time appointed by the Father (Galatians 4:2-5; 1 Timothy 2:5-6). This is the greatest single proof of love: to give one's life for the object of that love (1 John 4:10; John 15:12-13).

Romans 5:7. There are two types of men mentioned here:

1. A righteous or just man: that is, one who is moral, strict, and religious before men in all his ways, yet not necessarily loved. It is not likely that one would die for such a man.

2. Then there is the good and benevolent man who is gracious, kind, and considerate to all. Among men he is beloved and respected. Some would certainly die for such a man!

Romans 5:8. But God manifested his love for us (gave clear proof and evidence of that love, so that there is no room to doubt it) in that, while we were yet in sin, Christ died for us. This is true in respect to all that are saved, from Abel to Paul to you and me (Isaiah 53:6). When Christ loved us, died for us, and redeemed us, we were sinners by birth, choice, and practice, with no love for God (Romans 8:7-8).

Romans 5:9. If God's love to us is so great and so rich that he gave Christ to die for us when we were ungodly sinners, it is much more certain and sure that being righteous, justified, and free from sin in Christ, we shall be delivered from God's future wrath and punishment (Romans 8:31-34).

Romans 5:10. If while we were enemies of God (Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 1:21; Romans 8:7) we were reconciled to God through the death of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-21), it is much more certain that, God being reconciled to us and us to God, we shall be daily kept, delivered, and sustained by the resurrected, intercessory life of the Man Christ Jesus. If you can comprehend what God has done for us while we were enemies, try to comprehend the blessings that are ours as his friends and sons–those who are joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17).

Romans 5:11. ‘Not only so,’ that is, not only do we rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2), not only do we glory in tribulations (Romans 5:3), not only did Christ die for us while we were sinners (Romans 5:8), not only are we saved from wrath through him (Romans 5:9), not only are we reconciled to God by his Son (Romans 5:10), but we joy in God through our Lord Jesus. We rejoice in God himself as our covenant God, as the God of all grace, peace, and salvation; and we rejoice in his perfections, his providence, and his presence. The means by which we come to this joy and glory is through our Lord Jesus (Colossians 2:9-10). It is by, in, and through Christ that we have received the atonement or reconciliation. Full redemption, satisfaction, and expiation is made by his blood for sinners and received by faith.

Verses 12-21

Death in Adam – life in Christ

Romans 5:12-21

The design of the following verses is:

1. To show how men came to be in the condition of sin, depravity, and inability and

2. To compare the two heads–Adam and Christ. God sees all men in Adam, their head and representative. In his descendants, we are under sin, condemnation, and death. God sees the believer in Christ, his head and representative. In Christ we are redeemed and we live in him. In Adam we died; in Christ we live! In Adam we lost the way, the truth, and the life; Christ IS the way, the truth, and the life.

Adam is a type (in reverse) of Christ. The only way that Adam typified Christ was as the head of a race. The remainder of the comparison is the opposite (1 Corinthians 15:45-49).

The First Adam (man) The Second Adam (man)

A living Soul A quickening spirit

Of the earth Lord of heaven

Made sinners in him Made righteous in him

Death in him Life in him

Romans 5:12. By Adam's transgression sin entered this world. By representation and imputation, sin and its results (spiritual death, physical death, darkness, disease, and enmity against God) entered into all men. When Adam sinned and fell, we all sinned and fell. Sin was not only imputed to us but a nature of sin was imparted to us (Psalms 51:5; Psalms 58:3).

We must go to Romans 5:28 if we keep to the train of thought, for Romans 5:13-17 are in parenthesis to explain what he means by ‘for all sinned.’

Romans 5:18. Therefore, as one man's (Adam's) sin led to judgment and condemnation for all whom he represented, so one man's (Christ's ) obedience and sacrifice brought justification, redemption, and life to all whom he represented. We were not present physically when Adam fell, but we were in his loins; and we were in him as the covenant head of the human race, therefore condemned. In the same fashion, when our Lord perfectly obeyed God's holy requirements and satisfied God's justice on the cross, we were in him as his seed and covenant people (1 Corinthians 15:21-22), and therefore accepted as justified.

Romans 5:19. The words ‘were made’ and ‘be made’ in this verse are important. Adam's sin did not put us on trial and make us only susceptible to sin nor lead us into sin, but by his fall we were actually made sinners. Even so Christ's obedience did not render us savable nor enable us to be righteous before God by our own works, but we were made righteous and sanctified entirely on the basis of what he did (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Romans 5:20. Then the law came in to make apparent the evil that was in us by birth and nature (Romans 3:19-20; Romans 7:7). The law takes away all excuses and reveals to us what we are–guilty sinners! But where sin overflowed, abounded, and contaminated every faculty, the grace of God in Christ, did much more overflow in justification (Colossians 1:21-22), in regeneration (Romans 8:1), and in sanctification (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Romans 5:21. Sin has such power over men in their state of nature that it is said to reign in death. It has dominion (controlling and commanding power) over voluntary subjects. So in a state of regeneration and righteousness in Christ the grace of God reigns and holiness becomes the governing principle (1 John 5:3-5; Romans 6:12-14).

Back to Romans 5:13.

Romans 5:13-14. Romans 5:12 declares, ‘death passed upon all men.’ None can stop it or escape its power, because in Adam all sinned. Even those who lived before the law was given at Sinai were sinners under condemnation. But someone will argue, ‘Where there is no law, a man is not accountable.’ If this be true then why did death reign? Why did people die (even infants) who did not commit an act of rebellion like Adam? Adam was a figure of Christ in one respect, as we have stated (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

Romans 5:15. Though in one sense Adam is a type of Christ, the fall in Adam and the judgment which followed are not worthy to be compared to the grace of God and the free gift of life which we have in Christ. In Adam we lost all things; in Christ we gained much more than we lost.

Romans 5:16. The effect of Christ's obedience is not to be compared to the effect of Adam's sin.

Christ confers much more than we lost in the fall.

Christ pardons not one sin, but all sins.

Christ justifies in such a way that the believer is righteous and can never perish (John 10:27-28).

Romans 5:17. If through Adam death reigned over us, much more shall those who are made righteous by Christ reign with him (Romans 8:16-17).


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 5:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 2013.

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