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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Romans 5



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Verse 1

Romans 5:1. Therefore being justified — In the way shown in the preceding chapter, we receive many blessed privileges and advantages in consequence thereof. Here, to comfort the believers at Rome, and elsewhere, under the sufferings which the profession of the gospel brought upon them, the apostle proceeds to enumerate the privileges which belong to true believers in general. And from his account it appears, that the privileges of Abraham’s seed by faith, are far greater than those which belong to such as were his seed by natural descent, and which are described, Romans 2:17-20. The first privilege of this spiritual seed is, that, being justified by faith, we have peace with God — Being alienated from God and exposed to condemnation and wrath no longer, but brought into a state of reconciliation and peace with him. “Our guilty fears are silenced, and we are taught to look up to him with sweet serenity of soul, while we no longer conceive of him as an enemy, but under the endearing character of a Friend and a Father.” Through our Lord Jesus Christ — Through his mediation and grace. They have also divers other privileges and blessings here enumerated, which are all the fruits of justifying faith; so that where they are not, that faith is not. “It seems very unreasonable,” says Dr. Doddridge, “that when the apostle wrote such passages as this, and Ephesians 1:1-3, he should mean to exclude himself, who was no Gentile; they are not therefore to be expounded as spoken particularly of the Gentiles; nor could he surely intend by these grand descriptions, and pathetic representations, to speak only of such external privileges as might have been common to Simon Magus, or any other hypocritical and wicked professor of Christianity. And if he did not intend this, he must speak of all true Christians as such, and as taking it for granted that those to whom he addressed this and his other epistles were, in the general, such, though there might be some few excepted cases, which he did not think it necessary often to touch upon. And this is the true key to such passages in his epistles as I have more particularly stated and vindicated in the postscript which I have added to the preface of my Sermons on Regeneration, to which I must beg leave to refer my reader, and hope I shall be excused from a more particular examination of that very different scheme of interpretation which Dr. Taylor has so laboriously attempted to revive. The main principles of it are, I think, well confuted by my pious and worthy friend, Dr. Guyse, in the preface to his Paraphrase on this epistle.

Verse 2

Romans 5:2. By whom also we have access — Greek, την προσαγωγην, admittance, entrance, or introduction. The word, as Raphelius has shown from the heathen historian, Herodotus, is often used as a sacerdotal phrase, and signifies, “being with great solemnity introduced as into the more immediate presence of a deity in his temple, so as (by a supposed interpreter, from thence called προσαγωγευς, the introducer) to have a kind of conference with such a deity.” By faith into this grace — Into this state of favour, and a state in which we receive, or may receive, grace to help in every time of need. The word also shows that the blessing here spoken of is different from and superior to the peace with God, mentioned in the preceding verse. Wherein we stand — Remain, abide; or rather, stand firm, as the word εστηκαμεν signifies. “As the apostle often compares the conflicts which the first Christians maintained, against persecutors and false teachers, to the Grecian combats, perhaps, by standing firm, he meant that, as stout wrestlers, they successfully maintained their faith in the gospel, in opposition both to the Jews and heathen, notwithstanding the sufferings which the profession of their faith had brought on them.” And rejoice in hope of the glory of God — Here two other blessings are mentioned, rising in degree above both the preceding; a hope of the glory of God, and joy arising therefrom. By the glory of God is meant the vision and enjoyment of the God of glory in a future state, particularly after the resurrection and the general judgment; including a full conformity to Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, in soul and body; (to whom we shall be made like, because we shall see him as he is, 1 John 3:2;) also the glorious society of saints and angels, and a glorious world, the place of our eternal abode. Of this, those that are justified by faith have a lively and well-grounded hope, being heirs of it in consequence of their justification, Titus 3:7; and of their adoption, Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:6-7; and through this hope, to which they are begotten again by faith in the resurrection of Christ, who rose the first-fruits of them that sleep, and by pardoning and renewing grace, communicated in and through him, they rejoice frequently with joy unspeakable and full of glory, 1 Peter 1:3-8; being sealed to the day of redemption and having an earnest of their future inheritance by God’s Spirit in their hearts.

Verse 3-4

Romans 5:3-4. And not only so — Not only do we possess the four fore- mentioned inestimable blessings; but we glory in tribulations also — Which we are so far from esteeming a mark of God’s displeasure, that we receive them as tokens of his fatherly love, whereby we may be enabled to do him more singular honour, and be prepared for a more exalted happiness. The Jews often objected the persecuted state of the Christians as inconsistent with what they concluded would be the condition of the people of the Messiah. It is therefore with great propriety that the apostle so often discourses on the benefit arising from this very thing. The apostles and first Christians gloried in tribulations: 1st, Because hereby their state was made to resemble that of Christ, with whom they died, that they might live; suffered, that they might reign, Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:11-12. 2d, Because their graces were hereby exercised, and therefore increased. And, 3d, They were hereby purified and refined, as gold and silver in the furnace. See Isaiah 1:4-5; Zechariah 13:9. Knowing that tribulation — Under the influence of divine grace, without which it could produce no such effect; worketh patience — Calls into exercise, and so gradually increases our patience; even an humble, resigned, quiet, contented state of mind: suggesting those considerations which at once show the reasonableness of that duty, and lay a solid foundation for it. And patience, experience — The patient enduring of tribulation gives us more experience of the truth and degree of our grace, of God’s care of us, and of his power, and love, and faithfulness, engaged in supporting us under our sufferings, and causing them to work for our good. The original expression, δοκιμη, rendered experience, signifies being approved on trial. Before we are brought into tribulation, knowing God’s power, we may believe he can deliver; and knowing his love and faithfulness to his word, we may believe he will deliver: but after we have been actually brought into tribulation, and have been supported under it, and delivered out of it, we can say, from experience, he hath delivered; and are thus encouraged to trust in him in time to come. Thus Shadrach and his companions, before they were cast into the furnace, could say (Daniel 3:17) to Nebuchadnezzar, Our God: whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and they could also add, He will deliver us. But after they had been cast into the furnace, and their faith in, and obedience to, their God had been put to that fiery trial, their patience wrought experience; and they could say, from experience, He hath delivered us, as was acknowledged by the haughty monarch himself, saying, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, &c., who hath delivered his servants that trusted in him. And experience, hope — That is, an increased and more confirmed hope than is possessed before experience is attained; namely, 1st, Of continued help, support, and deliverance. 2d, Of a comfortable issue of our trials in due time. 3d, Of eternal salvation at last, Matthew 5:12, John 16:20-22. Observe, reader, as soon as we are justified, and made the children and heirs of God, chap. Romans 8:17, we hope, on good grounds, for the glory of God; but our faith and other graces not having then been tried, our hope of eternal life must be mixed with doubts and fears respecting our steadfastness when exposed to trials, (which we are taught in the word of God to expect,) and our enduring to the end. But when we have been brought into and have passed through various and long-continued trials, and in the midst of them have been so supported by divine grace as to be enabled to continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and not to be moved away from the hope of the gospel, our expectation of persevering in the good way, and being finally saved, attains a confirmation and establishment: and our gratitude and joy, 1 Peter 1:3, our patience, purity, and diligence in all the works of piety and virtue, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 1 John 3:3; 1 Corinthians 15:58, are increased and confirmed in proportion thereto.

Verse 5

Romans 5:5. And hope — Such hope as is the fruit of faith, patience, and experience, namely, the full assurance of hope; maketh not ashamed — Does not shame and confound us with disappointment, but we shall certainly obtain the good things hoped for; yea, we know it cannot shame or disappoint us, because we have already within ourselves the very beginning of that heaven at which it aspires. For the love of God — That is, love to God, arising from a manifestation of his love to us, even that love which constitutes us at once both holy and happy, and is therefore an earnest of our future inheritance in our hearts; that love, in the perfection of which the blessedness of that celestial world consists; is shed abroad — Greek, εκκεχυται, is poured out; into our hearts, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us — The efficient cause of all these present blessings, and the earnest of those to come. As a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, the Holy Ghost enables us to discern God’s love to us; and as a Spirit of holiness and consolation, he enables us to delight ourselves daily in him, though for the present he appoint us trials which may seem rigorous and severe.

Verses 6-8

Romans 5:6-8. For — How can we now doubt of God’s love, since when we were without strength — Either to think, will, or do any thing good; were utterly incapable of making any atonement for our transgressions, or of delivering ourselves from the depth of guilt and misery into which we were plunged; in due time — Neither too soon nor too late, but in that very point of time which the wisdom of God knew to be more proper than any other; Christ died for the ungodly — For the sake, and instead of, such as were enemies to God, (Romans 5:10,) and could not merit any favour from him: that is, for Jews and Gentiles, when they were, as has been proved in the first three chapters, all under sin. Observe, reader, Christ not only died to set us an example, or to procure us power to follow it, but to atone for our sins; for it does not appear that this expression, of dying for any one, has any other signification than that of rescuing his life by laying down our own. “By the ungodly here, Mr. Locke understands Gentiles, as also by weak, sinners, enemies, &c. They are undoubtedly included; but it seems very inconsistent with the whole strain of the apostle’s argument in the preceding chapters, to confine it to them. Compare Romans 3:9-20; Romans 3:22-23; Romans 4:5; Romans 5:20. I therefore,” says Dr. Doddridge, “all along explain such passages in the most extensive sense; and think nothing in the whole New Testament plainer, than that the gospel supposes every human creature, to whom it is addressed, to be in a state of guilt and condemnation, and incapable of being accepted with God, any otherwise than through the grace and mercy which it proclaims. Compare John 3:16; John 3:36; John 5:24; 1 John 3:14; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; and especially 1 John 1:10, than which no assertion can be more positive and express.” For scarcely for a righteous, or rather, honest, just, and unblameable man — One who gives to all what is strictly their due; would one be willing to die — Though apprehended to be in the most immediate danger: yet for a good man — A kind, merciful, compassionate, bountiful man; peradventure some would even dare to die — Every word increases the strangeness of the thing, and declares even this to be something great and unusual. But God commendeth — Greek, συνιστησι, recommendeth. A most elegant and proper expression; for those are wont to be recommended to us who were before either unknown to, or alienated from us. In that while we were yet sinners — So far from being good, that we were not even just; and were not only undeserving of his favour, but obnoxious to wrath and punishment; Christ died for us — Died in our stead, that our guilt might be cancelled, and we brought into a state of acceptance with God.

Verses 9-11

Romans 5:9-11. Much more then — Since, therefore, it hath pleased the blessed God to give us such an unexampled display of his love as this, how high may our expectations rise, and how confidently may we conclude, that much more, being now justified by his blood — Shed for us: that is, by his death, which is the meritorious cause of our justification, while faith in that blood is the instrumental cause; we shall be saved from wrath — From future punishment, from the vengeance of eternal fire; through him — If he so loved us as to give his Son to die for us, when we were mere guilty sinners, we may assure ourselves that, having now constituted us righteous, and accepted us as such, pardoning all our sins for the sake of the sacrifice of Christ’s blood, he will certainly save us from eternal damnation; us who continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel. For if when we were enemies — Through the perverseness of our minds, and the rebellion of our lives, (see Colossians 1:21;) we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son — Which expiated our sins, and rendered God reconcileable, and which procured for us the Holy Spirit, to remove the enmity from our minds, giving us, at the same time, such a display of the love of God to us, as won our affections over to him; much more, being thus reconciled, we shall be saved — Sanctified and glorified; by his life — Restored in order to our being thus saved: that is, by his ever living to make intercession, and his thereby receiving for us, and communicating to us, continual supplies of grace. He that has done the greater thing, which is, of enemies to make us friends, will certainly do the lesser, which is, when we are friends to treat us as such, and be kind and gracious to us. But the opposition is not only between reconciling enemies, and preserving friends, the latter being less difficult than the former, but also between Christ’s death and life; his life here spoken of, being not his life in the flesh, but his life in heaven, that life which ensued after his death. See Romans 14:9. Now if his death, when he was crucified in weakness, performed the harder work, that is, reconciled his enemies, shall not his life, which is stronger, (for he liveth by his divine power as the Prince of life, that could not be held in death,) effect the easier work, and preserve and save to the uttermost, those that are already made his friends? For, we are reconciled by Christ humbled, and finally saved by Christ exalted, it being in consequence of his exaltation to the right hand of God, and his being invested with all power in heaven and on earth, and made head over all things to his church, that he completes and consummates our salvation. And not only so — Namely, that we should be reconciled and saved; but we also joy, Greek, καυχωμενοι, glory, in God — In the relation in which he stands to us as our God, and in all his glorious and boundless perfections, which we see are engaged for us; through our Lord Jesus Christ — By whom we are introduced into this happy state, who is our peace, and hath made God and us one; by whom we have now — That we are believers; received the atonement — Greek, την καταλλαγην, the reconciliation. So the word signifies, and in all other passages where it occurs is so translated, being derived from the verb καταλλασσω, which is twice rendered reconcile in the preceding verse, and to which it has so apparent a reference, that it is surprising it should have been here rendered by so different a word as atonement, especially as it is quite improper to speak of our receiving an atonement which God receives as made for our sins. But, when we are made true believers in Christ, we receive the reconciliation, and that not only averts the terrors of God’s wrath, but opens upon us all the blessings of his perpetual friendship and love; so that the Father and the Son come unto us, and make their abode with us, John 14:23; and we know and believe the love that he hath to us, and in consequence thereof dwell in love, and therefore dwell in God, and God in us. The whole paragraph from Romans 5:3-11 may be taken together thus: We not only rejoice in hope of the glory of God, but also in the midst of tribulations, we glory in God himself through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the reconciliation.

Verse 12-13

Romans 5:12-13. Wherefore — This refers to all the preceding discourse, from which the apostle infers what follows: he does not therefore make a digression, but returns to speak again of sin and righteousness; as if he had said, “We may from these premises infer, that the benefit which we believers receive from Christ is equal to the detriment we derive from Adam; yea, is on the whole greater than that.” For, as by one man — That is, Adam, the common father of the human species; (he is mentioned, and not Eve, as being the representative of mankind;) sin entered into the world — Actual sin, namely, the transgression of Adam and its consequence, a sinful nature, which took place in him, through his first sin, and which he conveyed to all his posterity; and death — With all its attendants. It entered into the world when it entered into being; for till then it did not exist; by sin — Therefore it could not enter in before sin; and so — Namely, by one man; death passed — From one generation to another; upon all men, for that all have sinned — Namely, in Adam, their representative, and as being in his loins. That is, they are so far involved in his first transgression and its consequences, and so certainly derive a sinful nature from him, that they become obnoxious to death. Instead of, for that, Dr. Doddridge renders εφω, unto which, (namely, unto death, mentioned in the preceding clause,) all have sinned. In which ever way the expression is rendered, the words are evidently intended to assign the reason why death came upon all men, infants themselves not excepted. For until the law — For, from the fall of Adam, unto the time when God gave the law by Moses, as well as after it; sin was in the world — As appeared by the continual execution of its punishment; that is, death: but — It is a self- evident principle that sin is not, and cannot be, imputed where there is no law — Since the very essence of sin consists in the violation of a law. And consequently, since we see, in fact, that sin was imputed, we must conclude that the persons, to whose account it was charged, were under some law. Now this, with respect to infants, could not be the law of nature, (any more than the law of Moses,) for infants could not transgress that; it must therefore have been the law given to Adam, the transgression whereof is, in some sense, imputed to all, even to infants, he being the representative of all his posterity, and they all being in his loins. In other words, they do not die for any actual sins of their own, being incapable, while in infancy, of committing any, but through Adam’s sin alone.

Verse 14

Romans 5:14. Nevertheless — Though the law was not yet given by Moses, yet sin was in the world, and was imputed, as appears by this, that death, which is the punishment of sin, was in the world at that time, and reigned — Brought all under its power, from Adam to Moses — As Romans 5:21, and Romans 6:12, even over them, &c. — Not only over them that had sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, but also over infants that had not committed actual sin, as Adam had done, and over others who had not, like him, sinned against an express law. Who is the figure of him that was to come — A lively type of Christ in his public capacity, each of them being a public person, and a federal head of mankind: the one the fountain of sin and death to mankind by his offence, the other of righteousness and life by his free gift. Thus far the apostle shows the agreement between the first and second Adam: afterward he shows the difference between them. The agreement may be summed up thus: As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so by one man righteousness entered into the world, and life by righteousness. As death passed upon all men, in that all had sinned; so life passed upon all men, (who are in the second Adam by faith,) in that all are justified. And as death, through the sin of the first Adam, reigned even over them who had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression: so through the righteousness of Christ, even those who have not obeyed after the likeness of his obedience, shall reign in life. We may add, as the sin of Adam, without the sins which we afterward committed, brought us death: so the righteousness of Christ, without the good works which we afterward perform, brings us life, although still every good as well as evil work will receive its due reward.

Verse 15-16

Romans 5:15-16. But not as the offence, &c. — The apostle now describes the difference between Adam and Christ, and that much more directly and expressly than the agreement between them. Now, the fall and the free gift differ, 1st, In amplitude, Romans 5:15; Romans 2 d, He, from whom sin came, and He from whom the free gift came, (termed also the gift of righteousness,) differ in power, Romans 5:16; Romans 3 d, The reason of both is subjoined, Romans 5:17; Romans 4 th, This premised, the offence and the free gift are compared with regard to their effect, Romans 5:18. And with regard to their cause, Romans 5:19. Not as the offence — The sin of Adam, and the misery that follows upon it; so also is the free gift — The benefit that arises to us from the obedience of Christ; that is, there is not a perfect equality and proportion between the evil that comes through Adam, and the benefit that comes by Christ: they are not equal in their influence and efficacy. For if through the offence of one many be dead — If the transgression of one mere man was effectual to bring down death, condemnation, and wrath upon all his posterity, or natural seed; much more the grace of God — His love and favour; and the gift — The salvation; by grace, which is by one man — Who, however, is God as well as man; even Jesus Christ — The divinely-commissioned and anointed Saviour; hath abounded unto many — Is more abundantly efficacious to procure reconciliation, pardon, righteousness, and life, for all that will accept them, and become his spiritual seed. The apostle’s design here is to compare Adam’s sin and Christ’s obedience, in respect of their virtue and efficacy, and to show that the efficacy of Christ’s obedience must needs be much more abundant than that of Adam’s sin. And not, &c. — As there is a difference in respect of the persons from whom these effects are derived, and the advantage is on the side of Christ; so there is a difference also in respect of the extent of the efficacy of their acts: thus, one sin brought condemnation; the mischief arose from one offence: here not only that one sin, but also many sins, — yea, all the sins of believers, — are pardoned, and their nature is renewed: so that the benefit exceeds the mischief. For the judgment — The guilt which exposed to judgment; was by one — Namely, by one offence; to Adam’s condemnation — Occasioning the sentence of death to be passed upon him, which, by consequence, overwhelmed his posterity: but the free gift — To χαρισμα, the gift of grace, is of many offences — Extends to the pardon not only of that original sin, but of all other personal and actual sins; unto justification — Unto the purchasing of it for all men, notwithstanding their many offences, and the conferring of it upon all the truly penitent that believe in Christ.

Verse 17

Romans 5:17. For, &c. — Here he shows the difference in respect of the consequence of those acts, or the different nature of the effects, that death came from one, life from the other; as if he had said, Moreover, there is another important article, in which the grace of the gospel exceeds the seeming severity which attended the imputation of guilt from our first father, Adam, namely, that, if by one man’s offence death reigned by one — Over all his posterity, as we observed above; they who receive — By faith, John 1:12; abundance of grace — An abundant measure of God’s love, of the influences of his Spirit, and the gift of righteousness, exhibited in the gospel; namely, those benefits which Christ, by his obedience unto death, has purchased for us; shall much more reign in life, by one — The great restorer and recoverer of his seed; Jesus Christ — That is, believers shall by him be brought to a much nobler and more excellent life than that from which Adam fell, and which they lost in him.

Verse 18-19

Romans 5:18-19. Therefore, &c. — Here the apostle compares Christ and Adam together again, as he began to do Romans 5:12, with which this verse seems to be connected, (all the intermediate verses coming in as a parenthesis,) and he makes the comparison full in both members; which there, by reason of intervening matter, was left off imperfect. As if he had said, On the whole you see, as I began to observe to you before, that as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation — Or, the condemnatory sentence was passed upon all men; even so, by the righteousness of one — The obedience of Christ, the free gift — Or gift of grace; came upon all men — Is provided for, and offered to, the whole human race, and is actually conferred on all the spiritual seed of the second Adam, on all true believers; unto justification of life — Unto that justification by grace through faith, whereby we have a right and title to eternal life. Or, leaving out the words in Italics, which are not in the original, the verse may be paraphrased thus: “As the consequence of one offence on the one hand extended to all men, to bring condemnation upon them; so also, on the other side, the consequence of one grand act of righteousness extended to all men, who receive and embrace it; securing to them that justification which will be crowned with the enjoyment of eternal life.” For, as by one man’s disobedience many — That is, all men; were made, or constituted sinners — Being then in the loins of their first parent, the common head and representative of them all, and became obnoxious to death; so by the obedience of one — By his obedience unto death, by his dying for us; many — Namely, all that believe with a faith working by love; shall be, or are, constituted righteous — That is, pardoned, justified, and sanctified, and shall be treated as such in the day of God’s final account; though they have no perfect righteousness of their own to plead, in consequence of which they should stand before God and claim the reward. With respect to Dr. Taylor’s scheme of interpretation, it is justly observed here by Dr. Doddridge, that although “to become liable to death for the offence of another is indeed being thereby constituted, or rather treated, as a sinner, since death is in its primary view to be considered as the wages of sin, or the animadversion of a righteous God upon it;” yet, “simply to be raised from the dead is not being made righteous, or treated as a righteous person; since it is a very supposable case, and will in fact be the case of millions, that a sinner may be raised in order to more condign and dreadful punishment. The whole interpretation, therefore, which Dr. Taylor has given of this text, in this view, appears to me destitute of a sufficient foundation.”

Romans 5:20-21, Moreover the law entered Made a little entrance, as Dr. Doddridge translates παρε ισηλθεν; the sense also given it by the Vulgate, sub intravit. Thus the partial and limited entrance of the law is distinguished from that universal entrance of sin which passed on all. Others, however, as L’Enfant and Wesley, render it, The law intervened, or came between Adam and Christ, the offence and the free gift; that the offence might abound — That is, the consequence (not the design) of the law’s coming in, was not the taking away of sin, but the increase of it; yet where sin abounded, grace did much more abound — Not only in the remission of that sin which Adam brought on us, but of all our own sins; not only in remission of sins, but infusion of holiness; not only in deliverance from death, but admission to everlasting life; a far more noble and excellent life than that which we lost by Adam’s fall. That as sin hath reigned unto death — In the wide and universal destruction made of those whom it had brought under that fatal sentence; so grace might reign — Which could not reign before the fall, before man had sinned; through righteousness — Imputed, implanted, and practised; through the justification of men’s persons, the renovation of their nature, and their practical obedience to God’s holy law; unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord — Here is pointed out, 1st, The source of all our blessings, the rich and free grace of God. 2d, The meritorious cause; not any works or righteousness of man, but the alone merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. 3d, The effect or end of all; not only pardon, but life, divine life, leading to glory.


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Romans 5:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

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