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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 5

 

 

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Verse 1

‘Having therefore been accounted as in the right by faith, we have peace with God (or ‘let us continue to have peace with God’) through our Lord Jesus Christ,’

Paul now explains that because we have been accounted as righteous once for all (made acceptable in God’s eyes through the gift of His righteousness) through believing in ‘our Lord, Jesus Christ’ we have peace with God. His anger at sin is no longer directed against us, the enmity against sin has been removed, and we are reconciled to Him and He to us. No longer do we live in fear of the judgment. No longer are we afraid of the record of sin that stands against us. No longer do we have to fear the pointed finger. God our erstwhile Judge is now our friend, and our Father and is smiling on us. All is at peace between God and ourselves. We enjoy peace with God because we have been accounted as righteous by faith.

No condemnation now I dread,

Jesus, and all in Him, is mine,

Alive in Him my living Head,

And clothed in righteousness divine.

Bold I approach the eternal throne,

And claim the crown through Christ my own.

This ‘having been accounted as in the right by faith’ is the basis of all that follows. That is why Paul has so emphasised it. The aorist verb points in this context to an act of justification which is permanent and complete. The point is that whereas our spiritual state may vary, our acceptance before God is assured once and for all once we truly ‘believe into Him’. And it is because of that acceptance that we can have and enjoy continual ‘peace with God’. The main idea behind that peace is the peace of reconciliation (Romans 5:10-11), the peace of salvation (Isaiah 52:7). We enter into God’s covenant of peace (Ezekiel 34:25). And as a result there is no more enmity between us and God (Romans 5:10-11). On our part we have laid down our arms and surrendered, something demonstrated by our believing response, and on His part His wrath (His antipathy against our sin which necessitates His acting against it) has been satisfied because He has brought to us His own righteousness. All has been made right between us. And this is all on the basis of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us, as indeed Romans 5:6-11 will emphasise. Our having been justified by faith is thus the rock on which our eternal security is guaranteed. It is the grounds of our continual peace with God.

But being at peace with God will necessarily result in us having peace in our hearts, just as ‘being in the right with God’ through receiving God-given righteousness will necessarily result in a hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:6). Thus ‘justification’ is the foundation of both our future righteousness and of our peace. The Hebrew for ‘peace’ means ‘well-being’. Thus from ‘our peace with God’ will flow our peace from God (Romans 1:7), the certainty of our spiritual well-being, and the peace of God which passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

‘We have peace with God’ or ‘let us continue at peace with God’. This depends on whether we read the indicative or the subjunctive. The latter is supported by Aleph and B (although soon ‘corrected’ to the former), along with D and the Latin versions, but if accepted must be seen in context as signifying that wedohave peace with God, for the certainty of that peace continues on through the verses that follow.


Verses 1-11

The Direct Consequence Of Our Being Accounted as Righteous Through Faith (5:1-11).

Paul now outlines some of the consequences of our being ‘accounted as righteous’ through faith. These he represents as follows:

1) We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

2) We have access by faith into the grace in which we now stand (Romans 5:2).

3) We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2).

4) We rejoice in tribulation because of what we know it will work within us through our confidence in God’s love, and through the work of the Holy Spirit Who sheds abroad His love in our hearts (Romans 5:3-5).

5) We are made aware of the greatness of God’s love which is commended towards us in that when we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

6) We know that we will be saved from the consequences of God’s antipathy to and hatred towards sin because we are accounted as righteous through His blood (Romans 5:9).

7) We rejoice because, having been reconciled to God by the death of His Son, we will be saved by His life (Romans 5:10).

8) We rejoice in God Himself, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have received reconciliation (Romans 5:11).

Note the centrality of ‘hope’ (confident certainty about the future) in the passage. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2). Our tribulations and what results from them fills us with hope (confident certainty) of what God will accomplish in us and of what our final end will be with Him in glory (Romans 5:2; Romans 5:4-5). For our justification is with a view to eternal life (Romans 5:21), which is elsewhere described as our ‘hope’ (Titus 1:2; Titus 3:7).

In this we see the twofold aspect of ‘the righteousness of God’ emphasised in the Old Testament Scriptures (Psalms 24:5; Isaiah 46:13; Isaiah 51:5; Isaiah 61:10). It comes to us as His free gift so that we may be judicially acceptable before Him (Romans 3:24 to Romans 5:1), and it comes to us to effect within us His righteousness so that we might enjoy His glory (Romans 5:2-5; Romans 5:17, compare also Romans 6:13-20). Thus His love is shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5) in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2), which we had previously forfeited by sin (Romans 3:23). We will be saved by His risen life (Romans 5:10). Having received the ‘abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness’ we will reign in life through Him (Romans 5:17). And it is this grace which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:21) which will be the basis of our lives. It is thus impossible for us to receive God’s righteousness without the intention on His part of our being made righteous. In no case, however, is it our righteousness. It is His righteousness, accounted to us, and active in our lives, which produces righteousness within us.


Verses 1-21

We Are Assured Of Reigning In Life And Enjoying Future Glory And The Basis Of This Is What Christ Has Accomplished For Us (5:1-21).

Having been reckoned as righteous through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and are called on to ‘rejoice in hope of the glory of God’ (Romans 5:1-2), and this because ‘as sin has reigned unto death, even so will grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ our LORD’ (Romans 5:21). Seen as future ‘eternal life’ includes in it the experience of His glory. (The Pauline conception of ‘eternal life’ is in contrast with that of Jesus and John, who speak of it as both present and future. Paul speaks of the present experiences as ‘life’) In this lies our certainty with regard to the glory that is to come, the glory of which we are now constantly coming short (Romans 3:23).

But that glory comes at a cost, a cost for us in that God begins His perfect work in us shaping us for the future by His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:3-5), and a cost for Him in that He died for us, a death crowned by His resurrection (Romans 5:6-10). For although all mankind lay under the penalty of sin (Romans 5:12-14; compare Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:23), Christ has delivered us from that through His gift of righteousness (Romans 5:15-17; compare Romans 1:17) obtained for us through His own righteousness and obedience (Romans 5:18-19). Sin abounded through the power of the Law (Romans 5:20), but where sin abounded grace did much more abound, a grace which reigns through righteousness, with its consequence eternal life through Jesus Christ our LORD (Romans 5:20-21).

The passage splits neatly into two subsections, Romans 5:1-11 and Romans 5:12-21, of which we will now consider the first.


Verses 1-39

Salvation To The Uttermost (5:1-8:39).

The depths of our sin having been revealed in Romans 1:17 to Romans 3:23, and Jesus Christ’s activity, (His activity in bringing about our salvation through the cross by means of the reckoning to us of His righteousness by faith), having been made known in Romans 3:24 to Romans 4:25, Paul now sets about demonstrating the consequences of this for all true believers (Romans 5:1 to Romans 8:39). He wants us immediately to recognise that being ‘accounted as righteous’ by God will necessarily result in our becoming alive in Christ (e.g. Romans 6:4; Romans 6:11; Romans 6:22-23; Romans 7:4; Romans 8:2; Romans 8:9-11), in our ‘sanctification’ (Romans 6:22) and in the work of the Spirit within us (Romans 5:5; Romans 7:6; Romans 8:2; Romans 8:4-12).

As has been pointed out by scholars this whole section is presented in chiastic form:

A We are assured of future glory and the basis of this is what Christ has accomplished for us as we suffer for Him (Romans 5:1-21).

B This is inworked in us through His death and resurrection (Romans 6:1-11).

C Deliverance from the sin that rules within (Romans 6:12-23).

C Deliverance from the law of sin (Romans 7:1-25).

B This through the inworking in us of His death and resurrection (Romans 8:1-17).

A We are assured of future glory and the basis of this is what Christ has accomplished for us as we suffer for Him (Romans 8:18-39).

Central therefore in the chiasmus is the Christian’s deliverance from the slavery and guilt of sin. This is a reminder that God has not done His perfect work simply in order to make us acceptable to Him. He also has in mind our being perfected, our becoming like Him in His glory. And all this is the consequence of our ‘having been accounted as righteous by faith’ (Romans 5:1)

Furthermore all this comes to us ‘through our LORD Jesus Christ’ (the LORD Jesus Christ Who was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead - Romans 1:4). We put LORD in capitals in order to stress that it is expressing the highest form of Lordship, the Lordship of ‘God the LORD’. LORD is regularly found in parallel with God in the New Testament and 1 Corinthians 8:6 makes clear that it is of equal weight. In the Old Testament the Greek translators translated the Name of God (YHWH) as ‘LORD’ (kurios). This phrase, ‘through our LORD Jesus Christ’ and its parallel ‘in our LORD Jesus Christ’ is indeed one of the themes of this section. Being the One Who has been ‘declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead’, it is through His power that we can experience His salvation. It is through Him that we have peace with God (Romans 5:1); it is through Him that we boast in God (Romans 5:11); it is through Him that grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life (Romans 5:21); it is in Him that we receive the gift of God which is eternal life (Romans 6:23); it is through Him that thanks for deliverance and victory are due to God (Romans 7:25); and it is in Him that we are participants in the love of God from which we will never be separated by any power whatsoever (Romans 8:39). He is the file leader of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10), the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), our Perfecter in readiness for that day (Ephesians 5:25-27).

At first sight it might appear, that in spite of the opening phrase, ‘being justified by faith’ (Romans 5:1), being followed by a description of the consequences of such justification (Romans 5:2-5), chapter 5 continues on with the theme of justification, especially in the latter part (Romans 5:6-21). And to some extent this is correct. But this is because in the economy of God justification (the accounting of men as righteous) can never be far away. It is the basis of all other benefits that we receive from God.

On the other hand it should be noted that in what follows Romans 5:1 there is a notable difference in emphasis. Whilst justification by faith is still seen as undergirding the Gospel (Romans 5:6-11; Romans 5:15-19), it now does that as something which results in ‘sanctification’ (Romans 6:22). Thus Romans 5:2-5 initially indicates how justification results in a series of experiences whereby God proceeds to ‘sanctify’ His people. And this is required because they are ‘weak’ and ‘ungodly’ (Romans 5:6) and ‘sinful’ (Romans 5:7). Consequently , this weakness has to be dealt with by means of justification (accounting as righteous) and reconciliation through the cross. But this is not to be seen as the final result. It is to be seen as leading on to a ‘saving by His life’ (Romans 5:10).

In Romans 3:24 to Romans 4:25 the emphasis had been wholly on justification (being accounted righteous) as making men right with God. Now the new element is entering in that its purpose is to result in men being made holy and righteous. Until the doctrine was firmly established, such an addition to it might have provided a misleading emphasis, for it might have suggested to some that it was necessary for justification, but now that it has been made clear that our acceptance with God is made possible by faith alone, without the need for anything else, the idea of sanctification can be introduced, an idea first mooted in Romans 5:1-11. Romans 5:12-21 then continues on with the thought that justification through the gift of the righteousness of Christ (Romans 5:15-19) is basic to the reigning life that Christians should now be leading, and to the final reception of eternal life through the reigning of God’s grace through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17; Romans 5:21).

Thus from Romans 5:1 onwards justification is seen as undergirding subsequent sanctification and the reception of eternal life. This is a new emphasis. And then in Romans 6:1-11 another aspect of justification, that we have died with Christ and risen with Him, is presented, as the basis:

1) for our living in ‘newness of life’ (Romans 6:4).

2) for our ‘living with Him’ (Romans 6:8).

3) for our ‘being alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11).

Thus teaching in Romans 5:1 to Romans 6:11 about justification is to be seen as undergirding the teaching of Romans 5:1 to Romans 8:39 on the work of the Holy Spirit and the reception of eternal life, both present and future (John speaks of both as ‘eternal life’, Paul thinks of the present experience as ‘life’ and the future experience as ‘eternal life’).

This may all be presented in a summary as follows. Note the continual mention of either the Spirit (of life), or of life, or of eternal life:

The Consequences of Justification.

1) Justification is the precursor to experiencing the glory of God (Romans 5:2, compare Romans 8:38-39) by means of endurance and character building experiences, which are utilised by the Holy Spirit in our sanctification as He sheds abroad God’s love in our hearts (Romans 5:1-5).

2) Justification and reconciliation are seen as the first steps towards dealing with our state of weakness which has resulted from our ungodliness and sinfulness, with the consequence being that we will be ‘saved by His life’ (Romans 5:10) and will be able to rejoice in God through our LORD Jesus Christ (Romans 5:11). (Romans 5:6-11).

3) All have sinned because of Adam, resulting in death for all, whether under the Law or not. But this is something which has been countered by ‘the One Who was to come’ (Romans 5:14), Who has brought the free gift of His righteousness (Romans 5:17). This has resulted firstly, in the consequent justification, and secondly, in the ability for His people, through God’s abundant grace and the gift of righteousness, to reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17), and this as a consequence of grace reigning through righteousness unto eternal life ‘through Jesus Christ our LORD’ (Romans 5:12-21).

4) Considering the question ‘are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?’ in chapter Romans 6:1, Paul deals with it by pointing out that our justification has been obtained for us through His death (mentioned in each verse from 3 to 8), with the consequence being that, as we have been conjoined with Him in His death, we have ourselves died to sin, thus making it impossible that we should think in terms of continuing to live in sin. Thus, because Christ not only died but also rose from the dead (Romans 5:4-5; Romans 5:9) we can, as a result of being conjoined with Him (Romans 5:5), walk in newness of life (Romans 5:4), experience ‘living with Him’ (Romans 5:8), and enjoy ‘being alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 5:11). What follows from this is then that we should yield ourselves as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 5:13), escaping the dominion of sin because we are ‘not under the Law but under grace’ (Romans 6:1-14).

5) Dealing with the question ‘are we to sin because we are not under the Law but under grace?’ in Romans 6:15, Paul points out that as a result of obedience from the heart to the body of teaching that we have received (originally the Apostolic tradition, now the New Testament), we are freed from the slavery of sin in order that we might become ‘the slaves/servants (douloi) of righteousness’ (Romans 6:17-18), that is, ‘slaves of God’ (Romans 6:22), which will result in the fruit of sanctification, the end of this being eternal life (Romans 6:22-23). (Romans 6:15-23).

6) As a result of dying with Christ through His sacrificial death we have been released from under the Law so that we might be conjoined with Him Who has risen from the dead so as to bring forth fruit unto righteousness. Being discharged from the Law we can therefore live in ‘newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter’. Compare how ‘circumcision of the heart’ (a true spiritual change in people wrought by God) was also said to be ‘in the spirit and not in the letter’ (Romans 2:29). (Romans 7:1-6). This in Christ we have become the true circumcision, that is, true Jews (Romans 2:28-29), a theme later taken up in chapters 9-11.

7) The parallels in Paul’s words between the effects of the tyrant ‘sin’ and the effects of the Law (see below) then raise the question, ‘is the Law to be equated with sin?’ Paul reacts strongly to such a suggestion. ‘Certainly not!’ he declares. He then goes on to point out that his position is proved by his own personal experience (demonstrated by the change from ‘we, us’ to ‘I, me’), by which it was through ‘the commandment’ that he became aware of his own sin and acknowledged his sinfulness, with the sad result for himself that instead of gaining life he lost it (Romans 5:9-11). This demonstrated that it was not the Law which was at fault. The Law was ‘holy and righteous and good’. But it also demonstrated the inability of the Law to make men acceptable in the eyes of God. This then leads into the question of what is ‘spiritual’ and what is ‘fleshly’. (Romans 7:7-13)

8) Taking up the contrast in Romans 7:6 (compare also Romans 2:2) between ‘the newness of the Spirit and the oldness of the letter’, Paul now illustrates from his own present personal experience (the past tenses have become present tenses) the fact that the Law is ‘spiritual’ (pneumatikos) while he is ‘carnal, fleshly’ (sarkikos). This is why, indeed, the Law appears to fail. It is because it can do nothing to aid him in his fleshliness. Note the implied contrast between ‘spirit’ (pneuma) and flesh’ (sarx) which is found elsewhere (e.g. in Romans 8:4-13; Galatians 5:16 onwards). The Holy Spirit, introduced in Romans 5:5, and Who is active in the Christian life in Romans 7:6, is therefore now seen as involved in evidencing the holiness of the Law. The Law is ‘spiritual’ (to be received through the Spirit and effective in the realm of the Spirit). It thus caters for those who are truly spiritual, that is, for those who, whether Jew or Gentile, are ‘true Jews’ (Romans 2:29). But its fulfilment required God’s sending of His own Son ‘for sin’, condemning sin in the flesh (Romans 8:3). And as a result it will be seen as fulfilled in those who ‘walk after the Spirit’ (Romans 8:4), that is, those who ‘have the mind of the Spirit’ (Romans 8:6). In contrast to this is man as he naturally is, who, like Paul himself, is in a part of himself ‘fleshly’ (Romans 2:14; Romans 2:18), a part within him which contains ‘nothing good’, and makes him unable to respond satisfactorily to the ‘spiritual’ Law. This is because being fleshly he is driven by ‘the sin which dwells within him’ (Romans 7:17; Romans 5:20), something that results in his doing the opposite of what he really wants to do. In his inward man and in his mind he delights in the law of God, factors which involve him in a war with ‘the law of sin’ in his members (Romans 7:22-23). But in this war he only too often finds himself ‘taken captive’ and defeated (Romans 7:23), something evidenced by contrary behaviour in which he wants to do good but instead does evil (Romans 7:15-17). Crying out for deliverance he discovers the answer in ‘Jesus Christ our LORD’ with the result that he, as he is in himself, serves the law of God, although in his fleshly disposition also still serving the law of sin (Romans 7:25). And this deliverance is in consequence of the fact that ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’ has intervened in his captivity and ‘has made him free from the law of sin and death’ (Romans 8:2) as a result of Christ’s sacrifice on his behalf. Thus while he still fails and sometimes panders to the flesh he knows that he is acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, and that the Spirit will enable him to walk after the spirit, albeit with some of the lapses previously described. The ‘I’ ‘me’ verses go from Romans 7:7 to Romans 8:2 thus justifying the inclusion of Romans 8:1-4 with Romans 7:7-25 for interpretation purposes. (Romans 7:14 to Romans 8:4).

9) Paul now contrasts those who walk after the flesh and have the mind of the flesh with those who walk after the Spirit and have the mind of the Spirit (Romans 8:5-6). The former are unable to please God (Romans 8:8), but the latter, being indwelt by the Spirit, and having Christ within them, are dead through Christ’s death but alive through the Spirit Who gives life because of righteousness (Romans 8:9-10). In consequence the Christian puts to death the deeds of his body so that he might live (Romans 8:13), for if he were to live after the flesh he would die (Romans 8:13). This being led by the Spirit of God demonstrates that God’s true people are sons of God (Romans 8:14). It is the consequence of their having received the Sprit of adoption whereby they can call God ‘Father’ (Romans 8:15), and as a result they recognise that they are children of God, having become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17). (Romans 8:5-17)

10) God’s people, however, continue to experience suffering in this present age, for they are a part of the whole creation which is groaning in its present state. But one day their bodies will be redeemed (at the resurrection - Romans 5:11) and they will enter into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21; Romans 8:23), something for which the groaning creation awaits with eagerness for thereby it too will be delivered. This process is aided by the fact that the Spirit Himself is groaning through God’s people and on behalf of God’s people in a way that is effective (Romans 8:18-27).

11) Paul closes this section with a glorious presentation of the certainty of the deliverance of God’s people, a process which began in eternity and will continue until their glorification, their being meanwhile kept secure by the love of Christ and of God, so that nothing will be able to separate them from His love (Romans 8:28-39).


Verse 2

‘Through whom also we have had our introduction (access) by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’

And through Him we not only have peace with God, but we also have introduction/access by faith into the powerful activity of the grace of God, that is, into the sphere of His continual activity of unmerited love towards us. For God’s grace is not a kind of liquid which is poured on us and can be dispensed by a priest, but is God’s active, unmerited love and compassion continually at work in our lives. And we are introduced into it by Jesus Christ. It is within this sphere of grace that we take up our stance and stand firmly by faith so that we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God which will be ours because of His gracious working. For it is by His grace active towards us that we are accounted as righteous (Romans 3:24-25; Romans 5:15-16). It is by His grace active towards us that we are made heirs of God (Romans 4:13; Romans 4:16; Romans 8:17). It is His grace which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:21). It is by His active grace that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is in accordance with the riches of His grace that we enjoy forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7). All is because we are in His loving hands. And now we learn that it is God’s grace active towards us which will ensure that we enjoy the glory of God. This is the glory of God of which we had previously come short (Romans 3:23). Now we have the assurance that God will restore us to a state whereby we will truly know and experience that glory.

Some, however, read ‘this grace’ as signifying ‘His gracious gift of justification’ as previously described, in which we take our stand, thus having the confident certainty of the glory of God. But as that is but one of the gifts that spring from His wondrous activity of unmerited love towards us, although an extremely important one, and we are about to learn of the sanctifying experience taking place in our lives (Romans 5:3-5), we should probably see ‘this grace’ as signifying His overall gracious activity towards us resulting in both justification (being reckoned as righteous) and sanctification (being seen as His in order to be transformed into His image).

‘In hope --.’ Hope as spoken of by Paul is a certain and assured hope. Thus our ‘hope of the glory of God’ is not a wistful longing, but a confident assurance. We know that we will one day be made like Him (Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2-3). We know that we will be presented before Him holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 1:22) and will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). We know that we will one day experience the radiance of His presence (Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:5). This is our continual hope and certainty as Romans 8:39 onwards will make clear.

‘Through Whom also we have had our access (or ‘introduction’) --.’ Compare ‘through Him we both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit to the Father’ (Ephesians 2:18). ‘In Him we have boldness and access (to God) with confidence through faith in Him’ (Ephesians 3:12). Our access is into the Father’s presence through Jesus Christ by the Spirit (compare Romans 5:5) as we are introduced into the sphere of His unmerited love and compassion towards us through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. And this not through any acceptability that we might have as a result of observing the Law or through any deserving that we might have, but solely through our Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for us, and through His gift towards us of our ‘being accounted as in the right’ (Romans 3:24-25). It ensures that we now stand firmly within the stream of His gracious activity, of His loving work towards us (Romans 5:6-11) and in us (Romans 8:1-9; Philippians 2:13), as He continually watches over us. We are now, therefore, sure of God’s continual gracious working, even in tribulation, a working which works continually within us in order that we may ‘will and do of His good pleasure’ (Philippians 2:13). We can now be sure that we will be confirmed to the end through His faithfulness (1 Corinthians 1:8-9), being confident of this very thing, that He Who has begun a good work within us will perform it until the Day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). And we can therefore be sure that all the blessings of God (Matthew 5:3-10) will be poured upon us. We are ‘surrounded and caught up in His active GRACE (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense)’, that is into His totally unmerited compassion and mercy.

‘We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ Those who are accounted righteous in Jesus Christ can rejoice in hope of the glory of God in at least three ways;

· Firstly we can rejoice in the hope of that glory because of the glory that Jesus Christ has given to us. As Jesus said, ‘the glory which You have given Me, I have given them’ (John 17:22). And that glory which He has given us is ‘to be one with the Son and with the Father, just as the Son is one with the Father’ (John 17:22). It is to participate in the glory of God. Here we should pause and consider what this means for us, for we can say it so glibly. ‘Being one with the Father and the Son’. Have we even begun to appreciate the wonder of what that signifies? It means that the Holy Father and the Eternal Son have come to dwell permanently within us (compare John 14:23; 2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Ephesians 3:17). It means that we have died and that our lives are hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). No wonder that we rejoice. And this is an experience into which we can enter more and more deeply as the years go by, as more and more we enter into and experience our oneness with Him (compare John 15:1-6), looking forwards to the day of final glory.

· Secondly we can rejoice in the glory into which we are being transformed. ‘Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from glory into glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Thus as we ‘grow in grace’ (2 Peter 3:18), being transformed by His Spirit through His gracious working (Romans 5:5; Romans 8:9-11; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13), it is a constant reminder of the glory that will be ours.

· And thirdly and finally we can rejoice in the glory that will be ours (Romans 8:30) when we are taken to be with Him in glory at His glorious appearing (Titus 2:14), when He will ‘come to be glorified in His saints (His true people) and to be admired in all those who believe’ (2 Thessalonians 1:10). For glory is our destiny (Romans 8:17-18; Romans 8:21; Romans 8:30). Then we will be with Him and will behold His glory, the glory which was His before the world was (John 17:5), and which is now His again as a result of the success of His saving work (John 17:24; Philippians 2:5-11). And what is more we know that we ourselves will be like Him, we will be ‘conformed to His image’ (Romans 8:29), for we will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). Thus because we have been ‘accounted as righteous’, and because we enjoy eternal life, we will for ever enjoy glory, honour, peace and immortality (Romans 2:7; Romans 2:10; Romans 8:18; 1 Corinthians 15:43; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Ephesians 1:18). For when Christ Who is our life shall appear, then will we also appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4).


Verse 3

‘And not only so, but we also rejoice in our tribulations,’

But what is the road that leads to the glory of God? It is the road of tribulations. It is because of the joy that is set before us that we endure what comes before it. Just as, for Christ, prior to the resurrection there came the cross, so also for us, prior to glory, will come tribulation. And it because these are closely connected that we also rejoice in tribulation, for that tribulation is the prerequisite to enjoying His glory. We know that if we suffer with Him we will also reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). It is ‘if so be that we suffer with Him so that we might be glorified together’ that we are ‘joint heirs with Christ’ (Romans 8:17). This was very much the experience of the early church. Paul stressed to them that it was ‘through much tribulation that they would enter under the Kingly Rule of God’ (Acts 14:22). And we are not exempted. For tribulation is a necessary first step towards our final glorification. Whilst we may not experience the same kind of tribulation as they did (Romans 8:35 ff; 1 Corinthians 4:11-13; 1 Corinthians 7:26-32; 1 Corinthians 15:30-32; 2 Corinthians 1:3-10; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27), all who seek to serve Christ faithfully will at some stage experience the hardships that result from being a Christian, whether it be through the taunts of those to whom we witness, or through the consequences of our being fully obedient to Him, something which the world has no time for.

This was an important point to make at this stage, for otherwise some would have wondered why those who were in God’s favour were being so fiercely persecuted. It is a recognition for us that although we are accounted as righteous in God’s eyes, we still have to face our everyday problems, sometimes even accentuated. For we must necessarily remember that we are not walking in a private park (as Adam originally did) but in a battlefield. We are called on to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ, not becoming entangled with the affairs of this life (2 Timothy 2:3-4). We are called on to stand firm in the face of the Enemy and to wrestle with the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:10-18). And we should not therefore be surprised if the shells of tribulation fall upon us and explode around us.

And this does not necessarily stop with the tribulations peculiar to the Christian life, for Paul here speaks generally of ‘tribulations’. It can therefore also refer to all the sorrows of life to which mortal man is subject, and indeed the travail of the whole creation (Romans 8:22), in whose sufferings we have a part (Romans 8:23). This includes not only various trials that we may face off and on through life, but also painful and debilitating disease and natural catastrophe in as far as they affect ourselves (we must not be complacent about them as they affect others). And we rejoice in them, not for what they are in themselves, but because they help to shape and fashion our lives and because they remind us among other things that we are not to look at the things which are seen, which are but temporary, but at the things which are unseen, which are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17). We rejoice in them because they shake us out of our complacency and turn our thoughts towards Christ. We rejoice in them because of what they accomplish in us. We are not, therefore, to see the world as a vale of pointless hardship, but rather as a training ground (1 Corinthians 9:24-25), as a potter’s wheel (Romans 9:23; Jeremiah 18:3-6), as a blacksmith’s fire (Zechariah 13:9), as a place where God shapes and moulds us to His will (Hebrews 12:3-12).


Verse 3-4

Paul now continues to describe the process by which God shapes our lives. For ‘tribulation works steadfastness, and steadfastness brings us to a place of refined purity (approval after testing), and that refined purity (approval after testing) strengthens our hope’, both hope for the future which will enable us to further please God (as with Abraham - Romans 4:18-22), and hope in eternity when we will enjoy and experience the gory of God.

‘Knowing that tribulation works steadfastness.’ For to those whose hearts are set towards God tribulation bears its fruit. It produces patient endurance and steadfastness as, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we grit our teeth and move on to face that tribulation, indwelt by the Holy Spirit and with our hand in the hand of God. We have to remember in this regard that we are in a marathon and not in a sprint (Hebrews 12:1-3), sometimes having to struggle even in order to move on. Indeed at times every step may be painful. But we must remember at all times that at some stage we will pull through it, aided by His Spirit, and that beyond it we will experience a new feeling of strength and exhilaration in Christ, and a new awareness of the graciousness of God (whether in this world or the next). The same lesson is taught by James in James 1:2-4; James 1:12, and by Peter in 1 Peter 1:3-7. It was the common experience of the early church. At some stage it will be ours too.

‘And steadfastness produces refined purity (‘approval after testing’). The idea behind the latter words is that of something which has been refined in the fire and has come out purer and stronger, of something that has been put to the test and has not only endured, but has been ‘perfected’, resulting in consequent approval. Steadfast endurance has its consequence in that it brings us to a state of refined purity. We gain a sense of approval after testing.

And this sense of refined purity or approval after testing produces continuing hope. For just as strenuous and painful exercise can improve our muscle tone, so steadfast endurance and its consequence in ‘coming out refined’ (approved after testing), can strengthen our ‘hope’, the hope of what is to come both in this world (compare Romans 4:18-19) and the next (Titus 2:13). Hope is the confident certainty that because all is in the hands of God, whatever happens the future is assured. Compare Abraham’s hope in Romans 4:18-21, and see also Romans 8:29-39.


Verse 5

‘And hope does not put to shame, because the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given to us.’

And our hope of being transformed daily into His image, and of one day being made holy, unblameable and unreproveable before Him is one which will not ‘put us to shame’ and leave us ashamed. For God has made full provision for us. We can have confidence because of what God has done and is doing in us. He has shed His love abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Whom He has given us, the love that was made fully known to us in that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). He works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Thus we are rooted and grounded in love, and we are coming more and more to know and appreciate the love of Christ which passes all knowledge, that we might be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19).

‘And hope does not put to shame.’ The idea that God’s people will not be put to shame is constant in the Old Testament. See Isaiah 28:16 LXX, ‘whoever believes in Him will not be ashamed’ (compare its use in Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11); Psalms 22:5, ‘they trusted in You and were not ashamed’; Psalms 25:3; Psalms 25:20, ‘none who wait on You will be ashamed’. God’s people will never end up ashamed unless they cling on to their sin.

‘Because the love of God has been shed abroad (poured out) in our hearts.’ For what delivers us from the possibility of being ashamed is the fact that God’s love has flooded our hearts through the work of the Holy Spirit, giving us full recognition of His love. This is the first mention in Romans of the love of God (although it is of course implicit in His grace (Romans 3:24-25) and in the fact that we are ‘beloved of God’ - Romans 1:7), but it underlines all of which Paul writes. ‘God commends His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35; Romans 8:37) and from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39). In this lies our assurance of all His blessings. But note that it does not preserve us from tribulation. Rather it comes to us in the midst of our tribulation giving us power to overcome (Romans 8:35-37). We can compare how the Holy Spirit, the gift of His love, is also ‘poured upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour’ (Titus 3:6).

‘Through the Holy Spirit which was given to us.’ Compare Romans 2:29 where it was the work of the Spirit in their hearts that made believers ‘true Jews’. Here mention of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit comes almost as a surprise in the middle of the dissertation on justification from Romans 3:24 to Romans 5:21, but is of course a part of the introduction of the idea of sanctification in Romans 5:2-5, a sanctification which has to be a fruit of justification. It is the Holy Spirit Who floods our hearts with the recognition of God’s love as He oversees His sanctifying work. This work of the Spirit will come to prominence in Romans 8:1-17, and its fruit is revealed in Romans 14:17.


Verse 6

‘For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly.’

Having briefly demonstrated the fruits of justification, Paul now comes back to its grounds. Romans 5:2-5 have illustrated the believers’ strength through the Holy Spirit, now we are reminded of the state that they were in before that strength came as a consequence of their being accounted as righteous. They had been ‘weak’, they had been ‘without strength’, they had been unable to help themselves. And it was while they were in that state of weakness that, at the right time as chosen by God, Christ died for the ungodly. He did not die for those who were struggling after righteousness, or those who were looking to their own merits. He died for the ungodly (compare Romans 4:5), those who recognised their own godless state (Romans 1:18), and recognised that they could do nothing for themselves. Any hope for such people had to come from God’s grace alone. And it had to come through the death of Christ.

This last fact is now accentuated in the text by the order of the Greek words, for Romans 5:6-8 all end with the idea of death. Thus we could translate:

· ‘In due season for the ungodly Christ died (apethanen)’ (Romans 5:6).

· ‘For the good man some would even dare to die (apothanein) (Romans 5:7).

· ‘While we were yet sinners for us Christ died (apethanen)’ (Romans 5:8).

The emphasis is thus being placed in these three verses on the death of Christ for us.

‘In due season.’ Compare ‘the fullness of the time’ (Galatians 4:4); and see Ephesians 1:10; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 1:3. The death of Christ took place at the appropriate time, which occurred once God had prepared for what He was coming to do through the prophets and had made ready those who would receive Him

‘Christ.’ This is only the second use of this title on its own (compare Romans 1:16), although we have a similar emphasis in the use of ‘Christ Jesus’ in Romans 3:24. The stress is on Jesus Christ as Messiah, and yet as more than Messiah (Romans 1:2-4; Matthew 22:42-45). It was His own Son, the One Whom God had appointed and sent, Who died for the ungodly.


Verse 7

‘For scarcely for a righteous man will one die. For peradventure for the good man some one would even dare to die.’

And lest it be thought that he is overstressing this description of men as ‘ungodly’ Paul now underlines the fact for us. It was for men who were neither righteous nor good that Christ died. It was for sinners (Romans 5:8). We could, says Paul, possibly have understood someone dying for a strictly righteous man, although it would have been unusual. We could even more have understood a man dying for someone who was not only righteous but truly good, one of those jewels in the world whom all have to admire. But what we cannot comprehend is that Christ should have died for the ungodly, for sinners, while they were yet sinners, that is, for what might be seen as the rag-tag of society.

There is probably in Paul’s mind here a memory of how he, along with many Pharisees, had sought to be righteous, and even good, and had despised those who had failed to conform. And of how some had even appeared from a human point of view to get very close. But he is bringing out that unless such men were willing to align themselves with the ‘sinners’ whom they despised, there could be no hope for them. ‘Sinners’ were those who came short of God’s requirements in the eyes of all. This therefore, of course, removes any temptation to suggest that Romans 5:2-5 somehow represent a way by which sinners can be accepted as righteous in God’s eyes through their own activity. They progressed in the way described because they had first recognised that they were ungodly and sinners, and had come to Christ in order to be ‘accounted as in the right before God’. It was as a consequence of ‘having been justified by faith’ that they progressed, not as contributors towards that justification. For that justification was not for the righteous or for the good. It was for the ungodly, for sinners.


Verse 8

‘But God commends his own love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, for us Christ died.’

‘Being accounted as righteous’ has resulted from the grace and love of God (Romans 3:24), and we now learn that that love was ‘commended’ towards us by God (drawn vividly to our attention) in that while we were yet sinners ‘for us Christ died’. Note that it is God’s love that is commended, and that it is revealed in Christ’s death for us. In the Godhead all are as One. This verse is drawing attention to the greatness of the cost to God Himself. Jesus once said that ‘greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13). But here now we learn of a greater love, a love revealed in that God gave His own Son on behalf of unworthy and rebellious sinners. And what is more, that is the very love which He now spreads abroad in the hearts of His own (Romans 5:5). In other words He loved us and He gave His Son for us so that we might become participants in that love. Consider the greatness of that love. ‘In this was love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 4:10). ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life --’ (John 3:16). What greater love could there be than that? And as a result of the cross He spreads it abroad in our hearts so that we might learn to love as He did (Romans 5:5).


Verse 9

‘Much more then, being now accounted as in the right by his blood, will we be saved from the wrath (of God) through him.’

And as a consequence of being accounted as righteous by His sacrificial death for us, we will ‘much more’ be saved from ‘the wrath’ (God’s wrath) through Him. Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:23 had concentrated on the fact that God’s wrath had been revealed towards us as worked out through this present era, bringing about man’s degradation (Romans 1:24-27) and making man’s mind go astray and become ‘unfitting’, resulting in deeper and deeper sin (Romans 1:28-30), and Romans 2:5 had pointed ahead to ‘the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God’. Thus wrath is both present and future, being experienced to some extent now, but coming to its climax on the day of Judgment. Now, however, Paul emphasises that for those who believe in Him (Romans 5:1) the consequences of that wrath have been removed from us ‘through Him’ (Jesus Christ). Thus while we may still be subjected to ‘tribulations’ (Romans 5:3), or to chastening (Hebrews 12:3-11; 1 Corinthians 11:30-32), we may be sure that we will never again suffer under the wrath of God. And this results from the fact that we have been ‘justified (accounted as righteous) by His blood’ (compare Romans 3:24-25), that is, as a result of His sacrificial death for us. The Judge of all men thus now ‘accounts us as righteous’, that is as ‘free from all charges’, because of His righteousness given to us through Christ (Romans 1:17). It is this that enables God to actively give us ‘life’.


Verse 10

‘For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, will we be saved by his life,’

Paul’s language now moves from the law court to the question of our personal relationship to God. In Paul’s day the King/Emperor was both the supreme court and the ‘father’ of his people. Thus transgressing the law was in itself an act of rebellion, both against the law, and against the King’s ‘fatherhood’. So sin, Paul brings out, is nothing less than rebellion against God. It is not just a breaking of the Law but a personal affront to God. It thus reveals us as being at enmity with God. As we were sinners, so were we enemies. But it goes further, for it also results in His enmity towards us, it results in His wrath revealed against us because of sin (Romans 1:18; Romans 2:5). That is why propitiation is needed (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:1-2). That is why He ‘gave us up’ to the consequences of sin (Romans 1:24; Romans 1:28). It was because He was ‘angry’ (filled with aversion to our sin). There is no avoiding the thought of a broken relationship on both sides, something which on God’s side could only be remedied by the death of His Son. For in Scripture reconciliation always comes from God’s side. Being accounted as righteous through His blood (affecting God’s attitude towards us - Romans 5:9), we are reconciled though His death (affecting God’s attitude towards us). And this is made possible by the shedding of Jesus’ blood as a ‘propitiation’, for averting of wrath is one of the purposes of sacrifice. Thus, as a consequence of coming to Christ and believing ‘into Him’ and in His death for us (committing our lives to His saving activity), we have now been reconciled to God. His wrath is no longer directed at us. ‘In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself not imputing their trespasses towards them’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). It was God Who reconciled us to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18), not we who reconciled ourselves towards God, and it is as a consequence that we become reconciled towards Him. Thus there is now total reconciliation.

However, there is not only reconciliation but much more. ‘Much more, being reconciled, will we be saved by his life.’ Reconciliation through His death brings us into powerful contact with the power of His risen life (Romans 1:4). The contrasting of His death with His life prevents us from seeing ‘His life’ here as simply indicating His life given up in death. It is clearly a further step forward. But how then are we to be ‘saved by His life’? The initial answer to that lies in Romans 1:4. It is because He was ‘declared to be the Son of God with power’ by His resurrection from the dead, that He is able to save. It is thus this power revealed by His resurrection, ‘the power of God unto salvation’ (Romans 1:16), that undergirds the whole letter. His death was certainly essential but it is the risen Christ, in all His risen power (Matthew 28:19; Ephesians 1:19-22), Who finally brings about our total salvation.

It is the risen Christ Who, acting as our High Priest, has reconciled us to God, for He is ‘a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people’ (Hebrews 2:17), and it is He Who continually makes intercession for us as a result of His resurrection (Romans 8:34). And it is the risen Christ Who will now save us by His life. This will indeed be the theme of coming chapters (e.g. Romans 5:17; Romans 6:1-11; Romans 8:9-10; Romans 8:34-35). It is by being made one with Him and being united with Him that we will be saved as a consequence of participating in His life. ‘Because I live, you will live as well’ (John 14:19). For when God comes to us bringing us His righteousness, and we are ‘made the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ’ in the same way as He ‘was made sin for us’ by divine transference (2 Corinthians 5:21), it not only results in our being ‘accounted as righteous’, but has a consequence of giving us ‘a hunger and thirst after righteousness’ that we might be filled (Matthew 5:6). It is not possible to experience the righteousness of God coming upon us without it affecting our whole lives. It is not a legal fiction. And such a hunger and thirst can only be met by Christ’s life being fulfilled through us as we ‘walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:3). ‘Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave His life for me (and now lives in me) (Galatians 2:20). ‘For we (the Father and the Son) will come to him and will make our dwelling with him’ (John 14:23).


Verse 11

‘And not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.’

Paul now exults in the glory of reconciliation with and from God. We (Paul and the Roman Christians, but of course including all Christians) ‘rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ because of it. We cannot get over the wonder of it. Sinners, and yet reconciled to God and therefore no longer under His disapprobation and wrath, but with all enmity removed. It is a cause for rejoicing indeed. He emphasises that it is ‘through our Lord Jesus Christ’. It is the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ, into the world that has made all the difference. It is through God having sent His Son (Romans 1:2-4).

Notice the glorious progression that has taken place:

· While we were yet sinners God commended His love towards us, in that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

· Being accounted as righteous through His blood as a result, we will ‘much more’ be saved from wrath ‘through Him’ as a result of His sacrificial death (Romans 5:9).

· The consequence is that we will be reconciled to God (Romans 5:10 a).

· Being reconciled we will be saved by His life (Romans 5:10 b).

· Consequently we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have received reconciliation (Romans 5:11).

‘Through whom we have now received the reconciliation.’ The reconciliation has been effected by God through the blood sacrifice of Christ and is something that we ‘receive’. Thus as we come under His blood we ‘enter into the sphere of reconciliation with God’ having been accounted as righteous before Him. Both justification (legal acceptance) and propitiation (relational acceptance) are necessary if we are to be acceptable to God. And they are offered to us in Christ.


Verse 12

‘Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death passed to all men, for that all sinned:—,’

The opening statement is a simple one based on the fall of man in Genesis 3. By this sin entered into the world, with its subsequent penalty of death. In the beginning there was one man (in Hebrew ‘man’ = ‘adam’). And through that one man sin and death entered into the world as a result of his own deliberate choice (1 Timothy 2:14). As a consequence both sin and death passed to all men, for the subsequent death of all men demonstrated that all had sinned. Adam had tainted his seed making all men sinful, something proved by the fact that they died.

‘Sin entered into the world --.’ That is by an act which established within man a certain disposition to sin. Sin had become a principle within man. Note how, in the passages that follow, sin is constantly seen as a pervasive influence, a kind of tyrant, which affects men and drives them to sin. Compare Romans 5:20; Romans 6:16; Romans 6:23; Romans 7:8; Romans 7:11; Romans 7:13-23.

‘For that all sinned --.’ Eph ho pantes hemarton. For pantes hemarton compare Romans 3:23. Paul is once again taking up his theme that all without exception have sinned. ‘Eph ho’ has caused great controversy. If the pronoun is taken as masculine we could translate ‘in whom’, a translation which led on to the idea of original guilt. But eph is an unnatural preposition for signifying such an idea, and taking the pronoun as neuter gives us better sense in the light of Paul’s whole argument that ‘all have sinned’. Compare in this regard the use of eph ho in 2 Corinthians 5:4; Philippians 3:12. Thus we translate as ‘for that, because’.

There is a diversity of opinion in Jewish tradition concerning man’s relationship to Adam’s sin, and the teaching is by no means clear, but it may in the main probably be summed up in the words of 2 Baruch 54:15, 19, ‘Adam sinned first and brought death upon all -- Adam is not the cause, except only for himself, but each of us has become the Adam of his own soul’.

‘Therefore just as (howsper) --’ would normally require a comparison to follow (‘so also’), something which does not obviously occur in the text. Most would see the comparison as occurring in Romans 5:18-19, as Paul again takes up his point (e.g. ‘as by one man sin entered into the world -- even so through the obedience of one will many be made righteous’). Others see the comparison as being taken up by, ‘who is a figure of the one who is to come’. But this is not the only occasion when Paul appears to drop a line of argument when diverted by something important that he wants to say. And it may be that we should leave it there. What is important is that the explanation is finally given.


Verses 12-14

Adam Brought Sin And Death For All Into The World, Because All Have Sinned (5:12-14).

Having previously proved that all men have sinned (Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20), Paul now introduces the clinching argument in terms of our descent from Adam. The effect of Adam’s sin is to be seen in that all men subsequently die, demonstrating once more that all have sinned (compare Romans 3:23).

Note how powerfully Paul sets up ‘sin’ as a principle at work in the world, almost as though it was personal, a theme which continues throughout Romans 5:12 to Romans 8:13. Sin entered into the world (Romans 5:12). Sin was in the world (Romans 5:13). Sin reigns over men (Romans 5:20). Men can be servants of sin (Romans 6:16). Sin pays wages (Romans 6:23). Sin seizes its opportunity to make men exceedingly sinful (Romans 7:8). Sin can beguile us and kill us (Romans 7:11). Sin works death in us (Romans 7:13). Indeed, as with the snake in Genesis 3, we can see behind ‘sin’ the subtle hand of the great Deceiver. The whole world lies in the arms of the Evil One (or ‘of evil’ - 1 John 5:19). But we must not in consequence confuse the two. In the end it is man who is responsible for what he does, and sin is part of what he has become.


Verses 12-21

Paul Now Describes Man’s Oneness With Adam In Judgment And Compares It With The Believer’s Oneness With Christ In Deliverance (5:12-21).

This passage can be seen as summarising all that has gone before, whilst also introducing new concepts that lie ahead. It is transitional. Here Paul enters into the depths of the world’s sin, and of God’s provision for that sin through Christ, as dealt with in Romans 1:18 to Romans 4:25. But at the same time his words lead into what lies ahead as he considers the reign of sin over men’s lives. These verses demonstrate the sinfulness of all men from the beginning, and contrast it with the remedy that God has provided in Christ (Romans 1:18 to Romans 5:11). They then lead into the idea of man’s bondage to sin, and the way of release through Christ which will be described from Romans 6:1 onwards.

It commences by taking up the earlier theme of Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:23, and emphasising that ‘all have sinned’. In order to do this Paul goes back into history and demonstrates that all men have sinned, because all are sons of Adam. And they did that in a time when there was no Law. Thus there was at that time no distinction between Jew and Gentile. And the corollary is that the same is true now. Now also there is no longer a thought of a distinction between Jew and Gentile. All participate equally in Adam’s sinfulness and are therefore seen as one in him, for they are descended from him. The whole world thus shares in the same problem, and none can escape it. And that includes Jew as well as Gentile. He will then go on to say that in the same way all who would be saved have to participate in the righteousness and obedience of Christ (Romans 5:17-19; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:2). There is no alternative. There is no other way of avoiding sin and death, the two tyrants which lord it over mankind. We must choose between Adam or Christ.

In both cases there is imputation and impartation. Adam’s sin is in some way imputed to us, although it should be noted that that is because we ourselves sin, as is evidenced by the fact that we die (Romans 5:13-15). And yet Adam’s sin is also seen as imparted to us because we were made actual sinners through the sin of Adam (Romans 5:12). It should be noted what imputation here means. It signifies ‘sharing in the blame for sin’. It does not indicate the direct forensic application to men of Adam’s sin. This is evident from the fact that had they had the Law sin would have been ‘imputed’ to them by the Law. (‘Sin is not imputed where there is no law’). The idea of imputation here therefore is that of putting the blame where it belongs, on those who sinned because they were affected by Adam’s sin. It is not saying that they bore the guilt of Adam’s own sin.

In a parallel fashion we can be looked on as righteous as Christ’s righteousness comes upon us (Romans 5:18), and this through our benefiting from His obedience (Romans 5:19). As a consequence we are to ‘reign in life through Christ’, something which requires imparted righteousness, although only through the grace of God (Romans 5:17; Romans 5:20-21).

Thus the theme of the second part of this passage is that as in Adam all struggle and die, as a result of their connection with Adam, so in Christ will all who are connected with Him be made spiritually alive, and reign in life. A secondary theme, lying in the background, might be seen as the indication that, when we get down to the foundations, the Law is of secondary (although real) importance. It neither initially caused the condemnation of mankind (Romans 5:13), nor could it provide a way of escape from sin (Romans 5:20-21). All it could do was bring man’s many transgressions into the open. It was a half way measure.

This passage can thus be divided into three sections:

1) The first emphasises the fact of universal sin and death. Adam brought sin and death for all into the world because all have sinned (12-14). Death therefore reigns.

2) The second emphasises the difference that God has made by acting in grace, and through providing the gift of righteousness. For in contrast to Adam’s bringing of sin into the world, Jesus Christ has brought into the world three things. Firstly the free gift of true righteousness (Romans 5:16-19), thereby offering to those who believe in Him acceptability with God through ‘justification’, through ‘being accounted as righteous’ (Romans 5:16), thus dealing with the penalty of sin; secondly the ability to reign in life through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17), thus dealing with the power and grip of sin; and thirdly the final right to eternal life (Romans 5:18) which is again ‘through Jesus Christ our LORD’ (Romans 5:21), which will result in deliverance from sin in every way. Thus it is our LORD Jesus Christ Who has dealt with the problem of death, the final consequences of sin, and all this as a result of His obedience (15-19).

3) The third introduces the effect of the introduction of the Law. The Jew might well be asking at this stage, ‘but what about the Law?’ Paul’s reply is that the entrance of the Law in fact simply made man’s sin to abound. Fortunately, however, God intervened and His grace abounded even more. So while sin reigned, resulting in death, grace reigned through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (20-21).


Verse 13

‘For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.’

Sin was in the world from the moment of Adam’s fall. This happened before the Law came into the world, the Law which made sin apparent for what it was. As a consequence men sinned, but as there was no God-given Law by which they could be demonstrated as blameworthy, man could not pass judgment on men. Judgment was very much left in the hands of God, for man was in no position to pronounce on what was sin. Man was unable to ‘impute sin’. Once, however, the Law was there man could impute sin. In other words he was able to demonstrate that it was blameworthy in the eyes of God and could therefore act as judge on God’s behalf. But he had not been able to do that before. We can consider how Cain’s sin was brought home to him by God, not by Adam (Genesis 4).

We cannot really suggest that Paul was saying thatGodcould not impute sin, for he would have been very much aware that God had clearly imputed it to Cain (Genesis 4:7), and had equally clearly imputed it to mankind when He destroyed them by the Flood (Genesis 6-9). Consider also the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah which were clearly imputed to them (Genesis 18-19). In each case God called them to account on the basis of what He and of what they knew to be wrong. How else could He have been seen as the Judge of all the earth Who did what was right (Genesis 18:25)? It was thus man who, in so far as it was so, was left in the dark as to what was sin. And even then he had received various directions from God (e.g. Genesis 9:6; Genesis 18:19; Genesis 26:5), so that he knew of some things which were displeasing in God’s eyes. Indeed for Paul to suggest that God would not impute sin would be partly to negate his earlier argument about the law written in men’s hearts. The point being made here, therefore, is not that God could not impute sin, but that men were unable to point the finger at each other, and sentence each other on the basis of it. It was they who were unable to identify sin and bring it into condemnation.

The importance of this for Paul’s argument lies in the fact that a Jew might argue against all being seen as having sinned on the basis that sin could not be imputed before the giving of the Law. ‘Nevertheless,’ says Paul, ‘that all sinned is demonstrated by the fact that all died.’


Verse 14

‘Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression, who is a figure of him who was to come.’

Nevertheless, in spite of men being unable to impute sin before the giving of the Law, the fact that all men had sinned was demonstrated by the fact that all men died. Death reigned over all, even though they had not openly flouted a direct command of God like Adam had. And this of course demonstrated what Adam’s sin had done to mankind. It had in some way tainted all men with sin, with the final result being that all sinned and came under God’s judgment on sin. The universality of death demonstrated the universality of sin. Thus by the trespass of this one man all were made sinners, and all died. The consequences of his sin brought condemnation on all men, and the resulting reign of death (Romans 5:18-20).

Note that Paul does not deny that all men had sinned. He simply indicates that they had not sinned quite as directly as Adam. They had not sinned in such a way that men could point the finger at them as direct God-rejecters. But the fact that death reigned over all, demonstrated that sin also reigned over all, the sin that was the fruit of Adam’s sinfulness. The essence of what Paul is saying is once again that all men, both Jew and Gentile, have sinned.

‘Death reigned.’ Initially this signifies physical death, for that was what was observable by man. But behind physical death, unhealed, lies eternal death. Thus both must be seen as finally included, for the death described is in the end the death of those who do not receive eternal life.

It may then be asked. ‘What of those who died in infancy?’ If individual sin is indicated why should they have died? The answer must lie in the idea that in some way the sin of mankind was accounted to them also. They were also seen as ‘sinners’. And why? Because by nature they were born with the same tendency to sin as all men and would therefore undoubtedly have sinned. ‘The wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies’ (Psalms 58:3). This tendency to sin found in all men is something which can hardly be denied unless we can introduce into the equation men who have never actually sinned, which is of course a total impossibility. It is why the One Who was to save could not be born in the ordinary way.

‘Who is a figure of him who was to come.’ Paul then points out that Adam can be seen as pointing forward to Jesus Christ. Just as Adam, as one man, had brought sin and death into the world, so Jesus Christ, as one man, has brought grace and reconciliation and deliverance. ‘Him Who was to come’ may well in context have in mind the seed of the Man who was to bruise the serpent’s head in Genesis 3:15 (compare Romans 16:20). Or it may prefigure the ‘second Man’, the ‘last Adam’ of Jewish tradition, as interpreted by Paul (1 Corinthians 15:45-47). Or it may have in mind great David’s greater Son, the Messiah (Romans 1:2-4; Matthew 11:3 - ‘are you he who is coming’; Luke 7:19-20; John 1:19-22). Or indeed it may incorporate all three.

But why should he add this comment here? The answer would appear to be that it is transitional to the verses that follow. Having temporarily diverted to deal in more depth with the effects of sin, he is now reverting back to his intended comparison with the ‘Coming One’ (compare Matthew 11:3). From now on each reference to sin will be paralleled by a reference to the deliverance that has been made available from that sin through ‘the Coming One’.


Verse 15

‘But not as the trespass, so also is the free gift. For if by the trespass of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound unto the many.’

Paul begins by emphasising that God’s gift was not like the trespass. For while the original trespass was simply the one thoughtless act of the one which resulted in many dying, a grim prospect indeed, in the case of God’s response God’s gracious and unmerited activity of love, and the gift of true righteousness which came to men by the gracious and unmerited activity and love of Jesus Christ, ‘abounded’ to many. It flowed over in abundant measure. It was carefully planned, and there was no stinting when it came to God’s activity and the activity of Jesus Christ. The gift was basically of Himself, bringing His atonement (in respect of many trespasses), and His saving righteousness, to men, as a result of which they would have eternal life.

It should be noted that the exact parallels as we might see them do not come until Romans 5:18-19, where they are expressed in terms of one act of trespass (paraptoma - a slip, a lapse, a false step), as compared with one act of righteousness (Romans 5:18), and of Adam’s disobedience as compared with Christ’s obedience (Romans 5:19). In Romans 5:15-17 the emphasis is more on the fact that what God does is far greater than what Adam brought about, although then accompanied by comparisons in explanation. Thus here in Romans 5:15 the emphasis is on the fact that the free gift (which is the gift of Christ’s righteousness - Romans 5:17) is far superior to the trespass that made it necessary, although this is then followed by the comparison of the ‘many’ who died through the trespass of one, and the ‘many’ who benefit by the grace of God and the gift by grace of One. What Paul is apparently attempting to do is to prevent us from seeing the things that are being compared as being on the same level. Here, for example, he is comparing ‘the trespass’ (demonstrating man’s truculence) with ‘the gift by grace’ (demonstrating God’s beneficence), to the great advantage of the latter. The continuing reference to ‘the many’ almost certainly reflects Isaiah 53:11-12 where the Servant of the LORD ‘justifies the many’ as a result of His previous humiliation, and where He bears the sin of ‘many’.

So having established the fact of the superiority of the free gift Paul now contrasts the trespass with the free gift. By the one trespass of ‘the one’ the many died. This was a cold, sad fact of history. But in contrast to it is the grace of God and the gift arising from the grace of ‘the One’ Man, Christ. This offers a gift of righteousness which ‘abounded’ to many, something which was far better. One man had trespassed, and therefore through One Man God responded in gracious and unmerited love, and this as especially revealed in the gift of righteousness which has been brought to us by the grace of One Man, Jesus Christ. All Adam could gloomily bestow on us was his trespass. What Christ has bestowed on us ‘abundantly’ is His gift of His righteousness. And in contrast with the trespass, that gift ‘abounds to many’. Its results are positive and good and widespread. There is nothing stinting about it. The whole emphasis is on God’s abundance of grace.


Verses 15-19

In Direct Contrast To Adam Who Introduced Sin and Death Jesus Christ Has Brought Into The World The Gift Of Righteousness And Life In Abundant Measure (5:15-19).

Paul now provides us succinctly with a number of contrasts between Adam, the first man, and Jesus Christ, ‘the coming One’. Elsewhere he can describe Jesus as ‘the Second Man’ (1 Corinthians 15:47) and ‘the Last Adam’ (1 Corinthians 15:45). Adam brought to mankind gloom and death, Jesus Christ has brought to man joy and life. The reason for the introduction of Adam here has not only been in order to demonstrate that ‘all have sinned’, but also in order to establish that God has provided a remedy. It is in order to bring out the contrast between sin and death, and the abundance of the grace of God revealed towards man in Jesus Christ in His providing the gift of righteousness. To look back to our origins is to look back to what brought sin and death. But our hope lies in looking forward on the basis of what God offers to do for us in Christ. It is now Jesus Christ Himself Who is being thrust into prominence as the greater than Adam.

The consequence of this is clear. All who do not respond to Christ, the ‘second man’, are still ‘in Adam’, whether they be Jew or Gentile. There is no salvation outside of Christ (Acts 4:12). Any who are not ‘in Christ’ are still ‘in Adam’.

It will be noted that here in this second section there is a progression of thought concerning the consequences of sin as we advance through the statements:

· Through the trespass of one the many died (Romans 5:15).

· The judgment came of one trespass to condemnation (Romans 5:16).

· By the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one (Romans 5:17).

· Through the one trespass, condemnation came to all men (Romans 5:18).

· Through one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners (Romans 5:19).

The progression reveals that through what Adam had done many died, that his sin resulted in condemnation, that this caused death to reign in the world, that as a result condemnation came on all men, because through one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.

The second progression of thought is that:

· The grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ abounded to many (Romans 5:15).

· The free gift came for the purposes of men being accounted as righteous in the face of many offences (Romans 5:16).

· Those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).

· From the one act of righteousness came the justification that results in life (Romans 5:18).

· Through the obedience of One many will be constituted righteous (Romans 5:19).

God’s gift by grace abounded to many, it came for the purpose of men being accounted as righteous in the face of many offences, it results in men reigning in life through Christ, its consequence is the justification which results in life, and its final result is that many will be constituted righteous.

We note also how this passage continues the theme of wrath being revealed (Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20), and in contrast the righteousness of God being revealed (Romans 1:17; Romans 3:24 to Romans 5:11). Thus we have here in microcosm the teaching of Romans 1:18 to Romans 5:11, but now presented in such a way as to accentuate God’s grace (His gracious unmerited activity) and God’s gift of righteousness in Christ, and in order to stress that what Paul has described has its roots in things as they have been since creation. It should be underlined that God’s grace and its success is the underlying theme of the latter part of this passage (Romans 5:15 twice, Romans 5:17, Romans 5:20, Romans 5:21), in parallel with His gracious giving of the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:15 twice, Romans 5:16 twice, Romans 5:17, Romans 5:18 by inference). It is these which lie at the root of man’s salvation.


Verse 16

‘And not as through one who sinned, so is the gift, for the judgment came of one unto punishment after sentence, but the free gift came of many trespasses unto justification.’

Again Paul’s ‘not as’ emphasises the superiority of the gift, this time the contrast being between Adam’s one act of sinning resulting in punishment following sentence, and the free gift of righteousness (possibly seen as inclusive of many acts of righteousness in the life of Christ) which covers many trespasses, and results in many being ‘declared righteous’. In the one case punishment following sentence came for many as a result of the one trespass (because that one trespass permeates all men), in the other the free gift of His righteousness covers many trespasses with a declaration of righteousness. When we recognise that the ‘many trespasses’ covers both ‘the sins done aforetime’ of Romans 3:25, the sins of all God’s Old Testament people who found salvation, and the sins of all who have become God’s people since, we recognise its huge coverage. And all these people have been covered with His free gift of righteousness, so that they have been accounted as righteous by God.


Verse 17

‘For if, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one, much more will they who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ.’

Having established that through the free gift of righteousness we can experience ‘justification’ (being accounted as righteous before God), Paul now declares that through it, and the grace of God, we can also triumph in life, and experience eternal life. Through the trespass of one death reigned. All died under the reign of death. Man may think that he is free, but he has no control over death. Rather death has control over him. Death reigns. But those who receive the abundance of grace (of God and of Christ - Romans 5:15), and of the gift of righteousness, will escape from the reign of death. They will enjoy new life, a reigning life, and that through Jesus Christ. This reigning life, which begins now and goes on into eternity will be exemplified in Romans 6:1 to Romans 8:16. Note that it is not said to be life which reigns. It is the believer who reigns. There is an active choice whereby men and women respond to Christ, and as a consequence it is they who reign in life through Him. Nevertheless we may gather the implication that the life of Christ does reign triumphant, enabling us to reign in life. Christ lives in and through us (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:17; John 14:23).

Such a life of triumph results from the abundance of God’s grace shown to us continually in and through Jesus Christ, as He works salvation in us (Philippians 2:13), and from our having received the gift of righteousness, the free gift that makes us confident of our acceptability to God (Romans 5:16; Romans 5:18). That the righteousness described is the righteousness of Christ is made clear in Romans 5:18-19. Through this One Man death is defeated and we experience life and immortality (2 Timothy 1:10), reigning in life, both now and hereafter, through Him.

Sometimes in practise we may not feel that we are ‘reigning in life’ but the fact that we are doing so comes out in the fact that we persevere in the way of righteousness, however inadequately, and that in our stumbling we are constantly upheld by Christ.


Verse 18

‘So then as through one trespass (the judgment came) unto all men to punishment following sentence; even so through one act of righteousness (the free gift came) unto all men to justification of life.’

The words in brackets are not in the Greek, but the sense is clear. The one trespass began the process which resulted in the condemnation of all men. In contrast the ‘one act of righteousness’ resulted in the declaration of righteousness on all who truly believe.

The ‘one act of righteousness’ may either see His whole life as one act resulting from His act of coming into the world (Philippians 2:5-11), or may specifically indicate His obedience unto death (Philippians 3:8). Either way it contrasts with the one trespass. Alternatively we might translate dikaioma as ‘the one declaration of righteousness’, which resulted in the offer of the free gift of His righteousness, which came to ‘all men’. But the ‘one act of righteousness’ provides a better parallel to the ‘one trespass’.

‘All men’ may signify ‘came to all types of men’, thus including both Jew and Gentile, or it may mean ‘came to all men as an offer’. Once accepted it brings about their acceptance before God, through Christ’s righteousness (their ‘justification’), on their believing in Him, an acceptance which results in ‘life’, both now (John 5:24) and in eternity (John 5:28-29).


Verse 19

‘For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were constituted sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be constituted righteous.’

It will be noted all through that Paul never states quite how the one man’s trespass/disobedience constituted many as sinners, only that it did so, as something evident from the facts of history. The most reasonable explanation is that it did so by passing on the taint of sin so that all men sinned as Romans 5:12 declares. Here again then we are reminded that the one man’s disobedience resulted in many being constituted sinners. In contrast through the obedience of the One many will be ‘constituted righteous’. That this refers to our being ‘reckoned as righteous’ has been the emphasis of Romans 3:24 to Romans 5:11. Thus because Jesus Christ was fully obedient in all things (Hebrews 10:5-10), and especially in relation to His death (He was ‘obedient unto death’ - Philippians 2:8), He is able to put that obedience to our account. Through it we can be ‘constituted righteous’, that is, ‘accounted as righteous’. The idea is taken from Isaiah 53:11, ‘by His humiliation will my righteous Servant make many to be accounted righteous’. (The Hebrew word yatha‘, normally translated ‘knowledge’, also at Ugarit signifies ‘humiliation’).


Verse 20

‘And the law came in besides, that the trespass might abound, but where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly,’

The emphasis here is on the fact that the Law could not save, it could only condemn, and indeed on the fact that it ‘multiplied sin’, partly because its detailed requirements, by their very nature, increased the number of indefensible sins, and partly because it even provided an incentive to sin. For the more men are told not to do something, the more they tend to do it. Thus the consequence of the coming of the Law was that ‘the trespass’, which resulted in all men’s trespasses, abounded.

But fortunately for mankind God did not leave them in that situation. Where sin abounded, God’s grace abounded even more, so much so that He provided a remedy for the situation. He provided for man a righteousness which would cover his trespasses, and could enable him to be presented as ‘not guilty’ in the eyes of the eternal Judge, thus making him fully acceptable to God.


Verse 20-21

The Effect Of The Law And The Consequence Of Christ’s Obedience (5:20-21).

In case anyone may question how the giving of the Law came into the equation Paul now explains. All that the Law accomplished was to make the trespass abound. By laying down God’s requirements in great detail it increased the number of deliberate offences against the Law. And, because of man’s perverse nature, it actually also encouraged him to sin more. It caused sin to ‘abound’. While its purpose was good in seeking to guide men, and enlighten them, it did in the end simply result in sin abounding. And after that it could do nothing. But however that might be, the grace of God has abounded ‘more exceedingly’. And as a consequence, in contrast with the reign of sin which brought death, the grace of God reigns through His gift of righteousness unto eternal life, and that through Jesus Christ our LORD.


Verse 21

‘That, as sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’

For God came to a world where sin reigned in death, where all men were subject to death because of sin, and He acted in totally unmerited favour. He provided a means of righteousness, a gift of righteousness, freely given to the undeserving, so that He was able through His grace to give men and women eternal life as a consequence of that gift. He was able to give them ‘justification of life’ (Romans 5:18). And all this was through what our LORD Jesus Christ has wrought for us and provided for us.

Thus the end result is that His people can reign in life now (Romans 5:17), and can, through reigning grace, enjoy eternal life in the future in all its fullness. These two aspects will be underlined in what follows.

But as we come to the end of this passage let us pause to consider the wonder of these words, ‘grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ our LORD’. The whole hope of eternal life for all God’s people is the result of the grace of God (God acting towards men in unmerited favour) ‘reigning’ on behalf of men, a reigning which is made possible by the righteousness of Christ being made available to us. And it is all ‘through Jesus Christ our LORD’.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Romans 5:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/romans-5.html. 2013.

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