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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 5

 

 

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Verses 1-21

Blessings Attending Justification

Now as to the means and assurance of present justification, every question has been answered, every doubt fully banished by simple, straightforward truth. Thus every obstacle cleared away, the apostle turns to the joyous work of giving the effects of this justification in its present manifold blessing. This he does in the first eleven verses of Romans 5:1-21. (Verse 12 introduces a new subject, dealing, not with justification from sins, but with the question of sin in the flesh as the enemy and hindrance of one who has been justified.)

Let us remark that as regards these blessings, there are only two cases where the present tense is not used. First, in the latter part of verse 9 - "we shall be saved from wrath through Him." But the first part of the verse makes it clear that our justification now is so complete that the future day of God's wrath will have nothing to do with us. Secondly, the end of verse 10 - "we shall be saved by His life." But here again, our present reconciliation is first referred to, and the salvation spoken of is a daily salvation from the evil influences and effects of this world's circumstances. This is accomplished by His life in resurrection, and thus we have confidence as to our future in the world.

In verse 1, "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." It is well to see that peace is not a primary thing, but the consequence of justification. Peace flows from "being justified by faith." This word, "being" is afterward repeated twice in this section - interestingly and instructively (vv. 9,10). Yet let us never fail to remember that this "peace with God" is only "through our Lord Jesus Christ."

"Access" also "into this grace wherein we stand" (a place of liberty and confidence in the presence of God) is by Him alone, through the simple exercise of faith. Do we carefully consider this? - that communion with the God who has dealt with us (and does deal with us) in grace, having freed us from all guilt, is given and maintained only through the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, as well as salvation, all enjoyment depends upon our attitude toward Him. Then we "rejoice in hope of the glory of God." The glory that begets only dread in the heart of the natural man, has become to us a prospect of joyous anticipation. Blessed miracle of grace! Naturally, we "come short of the glory of God," but the grace of God has made sure our full and unhindered participation in it.

This completes the past, present, and future, as regards our relationship toward God - only three simple, blessed statements. But there is more. There is also an infinite change in respect to our connection with the world.

"But we glory in tribulation also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience (or endurance); and patience, experience; and experience, hope."

At the very outset, the Christian ought to settle it in his heart to expect a path of tribulation. Justification gives no assurance of an easy earthly path: quite the reverse. But it brings heavenly joy into the midst of the trouble - beauteous testimony to the grace of God! Sorrow and trial become the very sphere of the conquest of eternal joys, which will not be defeated by these mere momentary hindrances. And it is no mere bearing our troubles with submission (more or less), but of rejoicing in them, realizing that they are working steadily to an end of more exceeding blessing for us and glory to God. Tribulation (properly regarded) is the teacher of endurance: endurance soon bears fruit in abundantly valuable experience - valuable in regard to all our relationships of life, whether in making personal decisions, whether in contacts with the saved or the unsaved, in home affairs, in the assembly, in business. In all these things, no one would deny the value of hard-learned experience. And experience is the very nourishment of hope. For true experience teaches the vanity and shallowness of all that is of the world. Such is the very plain recording of the book of Ecclesiastes, written by a man of wisdom declaring the findings of his own experience. But if this is so, how much more fully will experience (rightly regarded, of course), draw the heart toward Heaven and quicken in the soul the hope of glory. The reality of this all who have tasted it know well. Another point, however is this - that while experience teaches the transitoriness of life on earth, it is also always the proof of God's abiding faithfulness, and such realization cannot but stir the hope of the soul to be eternally in His presence.

"And hope maketh not ashamed." There is no thought of mere wishing or doubtful anticipation in this "hope," of course. It is a hope "sure and steadfast" (Hebrews 6:19); otherwise it would give no one the incentive to be unashamed. "Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech" (2 Corinthians 3:12). There is no reason to be ashamed or afraid when we know the glory that is to be revealed. Such hope feeds courage.

Yet it is more than the fact of hope that gives us the power for an unashamed testimony. Hope is objective, but there is also a subjective power that occupies our hearts with such hope. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." If the world were to ask us why we are not ashamed to be identified with Christ, we should rightly answer that the day is coming when every knee shall bow to Him, and confess that He is Lord. There would be no reason to speak of the Spirit of God within us who gives us power to be unashamed. Nevertheless, this is our only source of strength for such testimony. Without the power of the Spirit of God we should be as weak as water, because of the overwhelming consensus of the world's opinion against Christ.

But the power that He gives is love - the love of God. Now love does not occupy us with self or selfish feelings: when it operates in the soul, we are not anxious as to how people regard us: we think of their souls' welfare apart from how they will receive our ministrations toward them. This is the searching test of all that professes to be love; for such is the love of God.

The expression "shed abroad in our hearts" is lovely. The exercise of His love does not diminish it, and there is not the least restraint in His bestowal of it, rather an abundance sufficient to fill and overflow the heart.

For we were without strength when Christ died for us. His death is the only foundation for the giving of the Spirit: strength is the result only of accomplished redemption: for it is God's strength exercised on our behalf and by His Spirit in us. This point (the fourth in our chapter) is impressed upon us by occupying five verses (5-9). For strength is impossible while man is ungodly, a sinner, and an enemy of God: there must be redemption, justification, reconciliation. But these things are entirely God's work, and in themselves manifest God's strength. If we want strength, let us look to the perfect stability and power of God in the work of Calvary's cross, where the power of sin and of the devil was gloriously defeated. Hence in every way strength is connected with Christ, objectively, whether with the cross or the glory in view, while with the Spirit subjectively.

The "due time" is doubtless the time when God had fully proven man ungodly and without strength.

"Christ died for the ungodly." Blessed manifestation both of the strength of God and the love of God, which indeed are so closely connected. But it is a subject so exceedingly precious that the apostle cannot but dwell upon it in verses 7 and 8, in order to more clearly set forth the love of God in its unique and incomparable character.

"A righteous man" is one strictly accurate in his dealings with others - both paying and demanding all that justice requires. It is hardly thinkable that another man would consider dying for his sake. "A good man" is one not exacting, but generous toward others: for him "some might even dare to die." But who would die for an evil enemy? or who would offer a son to die for his enemy? Yet by this very means God commends His love toward us (not only manifests His love, but commends it, with a heart deeply desirous of our receiving it). For while we were neither righteous nor good, but sinners, Christ died for us. Matchless expression of love! Sublime, unquestionable proof of it!

"Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." Not only are we now justified, but knowing the unchangeable blessedness of the positive love of God resting upon us - love that has made us its object of pleasure - there is no room left for the slightest fear or apprehension as to future wrath. Firm, calm confidence is ours as we view the future: "we shall be saved from wrath through Him." Doubtful thoughts concerning this would be a distinct dishonor to the power and reality of God's love. Yet again we have impressed upon us the words "through Him" - that is, through Christ. No other name than this avails to give the soul the confidence of perfect certainty: but this one Name is abundantly sufficient.

We were enemies of God: He was not our enemy, but in fact labored with a view to reconciling us to Himself, and has, by matchless grace, accomplished this in the death of Christ, His Son. How transcendently marvelous a gospel! But being so, "much more" "we shall be saved by His life." Necessarily this is the life of Christ in resurrection, - "raised in the power of an endless life." It does not speak of eternal salvation, but of His divine power now engaged in saving us from evils and dangers that threaten us day by day in our path through the world. This then is the sixth feature of our blessing in this section - the priestly intercession of Christ at God's right hand, caring for us in regard to every circumstance of earth.

Verse 11 carries us far above all other blessings and provisions, to speak of our proper attitude toward God personally. So that in this case, the words, "And not only so" bring us to the culmination of all blessing and glory. The heart is drawn away from self, drawn away from every possession and blessing received, to be occupied with God Himself. "We joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation. This is the highest, most glorious employment that any ransomed soul can find: it will be our soul's delight throughout eternity, when sin is forever done away. But blessed exceedingly is our privilege and portion of being so occupied while still in a world of sorrow! And it is our normal proper character.

DELIVERANCE FROM SIN CONSIDERED

A CHANGE OF HEADSHIP

We pass on in verse 12 to an entirely distinct subject. The question of our sins, raised in chapters 1 to 3, has been so perfectly settled that "we joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Such a question is not therefore raised again.

But, as believers, redeemed from guilt by the blood of Christ, we are still faced with sin (not sins) as a powerful enemy of the prosperity of our souls. The sad discovery is made by the redeemed soul that the horrible root of sin is still within him, and determined to break out with a power greater than he can overcome. Now it is this power of sin that the apostle deals with thoroughly from Romans 5:12 to Romans 8:4. It is made more vivid, and plain by his personifying sin as the enemy of God and man. Let us watch this carefully in reading these chapters.

He goes back to the very beginning of sin in the world, and death as the result of sin - the sentence justly and firmly imposed by God. "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."

Sin came by Adam, the first man, the head of a lost and ruined race - the head of a race appointed to death. For "in Adam, all die." All sinful mankind is then briefly comprehended in one man, Adam. His posterity have inherited his fallen nature: they are consequently sinners by nature and by practice: they fall under the same sentence of death as Adam. There is no escape from this sentence: it is only perfectly righteous and necessary, if the honor of God is to be maintained. Death is God's answer to sin: there is no other. Man may attempt to get rid of death; but he must first get rid of sin, and this he has neither ability nor desire to do. So that whatever his fear or abhorrence of death, it is one appointment that he cannot avoid.

Children of Adam are "children of wrath," justly exposed and condemned to death. Of this we find honest, candid confession on the part of the thief on the cross - "we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds" (Luke 23:41).

Sin was in the world before the law came - that is, the law given by Moses, as is the case wherever the expression "the law" is used without any qualifying clause. "But sin is not reckoned up (or tabulated) when there is no law." Does this suppose that man is less guilty when he has no law?Not at all. Sin is sin, and the perpetrator of it is fully responsible, whether with or without law. Was Cain not criminally guilty in slaying his brother Abel? Yet there was no law. Was the world of Noah's time not responsible for their corruption and violence? Was Sodom not richly deserving of God's unsparing judgment? These points can give no difficulty to any reasoning mind. Still, God had given no law to forbid their sin. However, there was the perfect order of creation, there was the speaking of conscience, and the promise of God that the Seed of the woman would bruise the serpent's head - that is, that Christ would triumph over the devil and sin. Thus, while there was no direct prohibition, there was abundant testimony to man's guilt, if he would but listen.

But we can easily discern this, that under such circumstances, the unutterably corrupt and deceitful heart of man would brazenly defend and excuse himself by saying that there was no rule to forbid his indulgence in evil - and perhaps such things were not sin after all - that the warning voice of conscience was merely some superstitious fear remaining from the traditions of an unenlightened parentage!

But the law gives man some definite account of his sin before he is called to judgment. Man without law may be looked at as a thief entering a store, taking and pocketing goods from the shelves, confident that he is not detected. But from a balcony above, every movement has been watched. He is about to leave, when stopped short, he is faced with a bill listing every item he has stolen. Such is the work of the law. It brings a faithful estimate of sin before man is called to God's judgment bar, bringing former sins to light, as well as forbidding sin.

"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."

Death is the proof of man's responsibility for sin. So death reigned before Moses gave the law, and after Adam's transgression. For Adam was given a commandment, that he should not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He disobeyed, and the sentence of death came upon him. But his children, "from Adam to Moses" were under no commandment: hence they were not transgressors, as Adam was. Yet "death reigned" even over them, for though they were not transgressors, they were sinners, and by sin death entered the world.

But the end of the verse 14 announces One of whom Adam was a figure. These are the two men considered in this section - Adam and Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 makes very manifest that these are the heads of two distinct races - the first being only a type of the second. "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven" (v. 47). Between Adam and Christ there was no man of a different nature than Adam. All were comprehended in "the first man"; all were the fallen children of fallen parents. Moreover, it is plain from v. 45 that there neither has been, nor will be any other man since Christ: He is "the last Adam" - "a life-giving Spirit." He cannot be displaced, for He is the complete fulfillment of the "figure" seen in the "first man Adam." Indeed, it is by Him that resurrection from the dead has come. And today "He liveth in the power of an endless life." Adam's sway is abruptly interrupted and ended by death. Not so with Him who "is alive forevermore" - who "has abolished death, and brought life and incorruptibility to light through the gospel."

The remainder of our chapter then draws distinct contrasts between these two heads of races and between the effects for those under each headship.

"But not as the offense, so also is the free gift." The free gift is thus not merely a restoration of what the offense took away. It is a far greater blessing than Adam had while unfallen - every point of contrast being in favor of the "new creation" introduced by the work of Christ.

"For if through the offense 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." Let us mark well the words, "much more." The offense of Adam has brought death to his entire race; but "the grace of God" far transcends the offense and its consequences. Our sin has been great indeed, but the grace of God is "much more" great. Our penalty - the penalty of death - is justly great; but "the gift by grace" is "much more" great. It "hath abounded unto many" - as many as are of the faith of Jesus Christ.

Verse 15 puts the penalty of the offense in contrast to the free gift - that is, the gift by grace far outshining "the wages of sin," which is death. Verse 16 rather puts the guilt of our many offenses in contrast to the free gift. It is not merely that the free gift covers the guilt of Adam's one offense, which offense brought judgment with no prospect but condemnation: but it is applied to the absolute discharge of many offenses, its very purpose justification - a state of accomplished righteousness. Before his sin, Adam knew no such state: there was rather a state of innocence - not of righteousness or holiness.

By Adam's one offense "death reigned by one." In the creation over which Adam was given dominion, he has forfeited his rule: he has no more dominion: death reigns instead. But "much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." While Adam reigned in Eden there was the ever-present danger of death's usurping his reign; but these who are under the Headship of Christ "shall reign in life," - a life that is eternal, with no possibility of the interference of death. Here plainly it is a future reign in a settled state of life. In Heaven at least, when we shall reign with Christ, there can be no question of death ending that reign.

Adam in Eden was in a conditional state of natural life: Christ places us in a settled state of spiritual life - eternal life. The contrast is infinite. Adam was entitled to earth as his sphere of blessing - conditionally: we are introduced by Christ to Heaven - unconditionally.

But is the possibility of this blessedness confined only to a select class? Verse 18 is the effectual answer. What bearing did Adam's sin have? And upon how many? The bearing was toward condemnation, and "upon all men." Its effect (the effect of Adam's offense) was to bring all men under prospect of condemnation. The bearing upon all men, on account of the righteousness of One, is toward justification of life. None is prohibited from coming under the virtue of the work and Headship of Christ - the result of which is "justification of life." This is a justification which not only clears from every charge of guilt, but transfers the believer from a state of death into a state of eternal life - not only gives him a new standing before the throne of God, but also a vital relationship with God, by which to enjoy his standing. It is the contrast to the condemnation of death, under which many lay by virtue of Adam's headship.

Verse 18 speaks of "all men": verse 19 uses the word, "many," - a change necessary to be noted. The former speaks of God's provision, made without partiality and commended to the acceptance of all. The latter has reference to those who receive His provision: only "many" - not all - are "made righteous." Thus verse 19 presents to us those who are actually under the headship of Christ. As the head, so are the people. Adam's one disobedience made "many" the children of disobedience. The obedience of Christ, in humbling Himself even unto death for our sake, makes many righteous - indeed "as many as received Him."

"But law came in, in order that the offense might abound" (v. 20, JND). The law has no bearing either on the offense of Adam, or the righteousness of Christ, except to expose more fully the evil of the offense. "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." How exceedingly matchless the glory of this grace, defeating entirely the awful curse of sin, and transcending infinitely the blessedness of a former innocence. It is pure, and real, and powerful, bearing with it the perfect love and holiness of God, unsoiled by the human taint of self-indulgence or licentiousness - catering not to the evil of the flesh, but transferring the believer out from under the authority of sin, into the liberty of subjection to Him whose yoke is easy and His burden light. Abounding grace indeed!

Verse 17 has told us that we "shall reign" - contrasting our former captivity to our future triumph. Verse 21 contrasts the former authority of sin to the present triumph of grace. Unspeakably blessed themes! "Sin hath reigned unto death," but now "grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Sin and death have been indeed a powerful combination, but grace has infinitely transcended them, while perfectly consistent and united with righteousness. Nor is it only a two-fold cord, but three-fold. Grace and righteousness are in intimate connection with eternal life. Christianity has made these three stand out in matchless glory, a glory enhanced by the Name of "Jesus Christ our Lord," the Name by which these things are accomplished and bound together. Let us once more remark the constant stressing in the chapter that all true blessing is "through Jesus Christ our Lord."

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Romans 5:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/romans-5.html. 1897-1910.

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