corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Romans 5



Other Authors
Verse 1

Romans 5:1. Therefore being justified. The connection is with chap. Romans 4:25, but through this with the whole argument in the second division (chaps. Romans 3:21 to Romans 4:25). The single act of justification is indicated in the original. The sense ‘make righteous,’ is altogether inappropriate here, destroying the whole force of the Apostle’s inference.

Let us have; or, ‘we have.’ The two senses are represented in Greek by two forms of the same verb, which differ only in a single letter (long or short ο). The weight of authorities is decidedly in favor of the form which must be translated, ‘let us have.’ But there are considerations which weigh in favor of the other reading: (1.) The early transcribers frequently interchanged long and short o; (2.) The form ‘let us have,’ if once occurring, would be retained, because the doctrine of justification was early obscured, and this form is not so confident as the other; (3.) the exhortation seems inappropriate here. These reasons are so strong, that many who would not, in other cases, hesitate to give way to manuscript authority, here retain the reading: ‘we have.’ But it is safer to follow the better supported reading, and to give it the sense: ‘let us have peace,’ in full measure, let us accept fully what God has provided for us; comp. Hebrews 12:28 : ‘let us have grace.’ The sense of Romans 5:2-3 is affected by this reading.

Peace with God. Not, ‘toward God.’ We are, as a result of justification, no longer under condemnation (chap. Romans 8:1): God is at peace with us. Our feeling towards Him may and ought to correspond; but it is subject to change. God’s relation to us is the great matter; on that is based true peace of conscience. When God has accepted the believing sinner as righteous, He looks at him as in Christ, who is our Peace (Ephesians 2:14-16). The hindrance to peace has been removed by the death of Christ; God’s wrath against our sin is removed. Peace that does not rest upon this great fact is a dream and a delusion.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ. This full form gives a tone of triumph to the verse. This personal Lord has made peace, satisfied justice, removed the curse, made it possible for a holy God to be righteous in accounting righteous those, who by nature and character, are sinners. God is love, He first loved the world, but loved it in this way, that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16); through this Son of His love, we have peace with God.

Verses 1-11

1. The Blessed Inward Condition of the Justified.

Justification has as its proper result peace with God (Romans 5:1), which becomes hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2), is actually increased by tribulation (Romans 5:3-4), because of God’s love (Romans 5:5). This love is assured by the vicarious death of Christ (Romans 5:6; Romans 5:8); and this is a proof and pledge that reconciled sinners will be ‘saved in his life’ (Romans 5:9-10), and may glory in God who through Christ provides this reconciliation (Romans 5:11).

Verses 1-39


In this third division of the doctrinal part of the Epistle, the Apostle presents the gospel as ‘the power of God unto salvation,’ setting forth how God’s power becomes efficient in men, as the result of gratuitous justification. Death is shown to be connected with Sin, and Life with Righteousness.

Chap. 5 treats of the immediate result of justification, peace with God (Romans 5:1-11) enforced by the parallel and contrast between the relations to the first and second Adam (Romans 5:12-21). Chaps. 6-7 treat of the moral results of justification; namely, sanctification. Stated more generally: chap. 5 treats of the effect upon the feeling (peace); chaps. 6-8 upon the will (holiness). As, however, the Apostle has shown the need of justification by faith from the guilt of all, so he proves the need of sanctification by the gospel method from the failure of the law to sanctify (chaps, 6, 7), before passing to the positive statements of chap. 8 (There is therefore good ground for the view which regards chaps. Romans 3:21-25. as treating of justification, and chaps. 6-8 of sanctification.) But the course of thought is not that of a formal treatise; the letter follows to a great extent the order of Christian experience, taking up difficulties as they are presented in the Christian life. Even the parallel and contrast between Adam and Christ, in chap. Romans 5:12-21, is not an exception; for thus the connection between sin and death, and righteousness and life is set forth in its most extended form; grace is shown to abound, and the gratuitous nature of justification enforced for the comfort of the believer. Moreover this apparent digression is but a more pronounced example of what occurs in well-nigh every section of the Epistle. Chap. 6 takes up an objection, which constantly recurs: will not this abounding grace allow men to continue in sin? Paul answers, that Christians have a fellowship of life with Christ, are dead to sin and dedicated to God. Moreover, they are thus freed from the law (chap. Romans 7:1-6). This thought suggests another objection (as constantly recurring as the previous one); will not freedom from the law lead to continued sin? The Apostle, in reply, defends the spirituality of the law (chap. Romans 7:7-12), but shows that it is not the power of God unto salvation (chap. Romans 7:13-25). In the experience he portrays, the prominent distinction is between law and grace, not sin and grace. This part of the Epistle, so far from being adapted for Jewish readers only, or for that age alone, is the part which touches our experience most closely. The antithesis between law and grace is one constantly felt; the Christian is in constant danger from legalism; and few have learned to sympathize with the joyous utterances of chap. 8 without having proved in their own case that the law as a means of sanctification leads to wretchedness (chap. Romans 7:24), quite as truly as it fails to justify. Chap. 8 presents the work of the Spirit over against the failure of the law, showing the happy condition of the justified man, in the freedom of the new life, the consciousness of adoption and the assurance of future glory.

Verse 2

Romans 5:2. Through whom. The Personal Redeemer is kept in the foreground.

We have also had; have obtained as our own. ‘Also’ is misplaced in the E. V., since it should be joined with the verb.

Access; ‘the access,’ something well-known. (Some prefer to render it ‘introduction.’) This access is the result of justification and the ground of peace. We have peace, because at the time of our justification we obtained as our possession this access into this grace.

By faith. Some important manuscripts omit this, but the probabilities favor its genuineness. Paul constantly presents the personal Redeemer, but is ever reminding his readers that by faith we appropriate what He has done for us.

Into this grace, i.e., the state of justification, which is preeminently a position of ‘grace,’ wherein we stand, have our permanent position, as accepted of God.

And let us rejoice. The form here (and in Romans 5:3) may be either imperative or indicative; but, as the sentence corresponds with the beginning of Romans 5:1, we must translate in accordance with the reading there. (The E. V. gives the impression that ‘stand’ and ‘rejoice’ are closely connected.) The word itself means to glory, boast, triumph, rejoice, exult. The first is the usual rendering, but is infelicitous here, where ‘glory’ (another word in the Greek) immediately follows. So Romans 5:3 in E. V.)

In the hope of the glory of God. The ground of rejoicing is the hope of sharing in that glory which belongs to God; comp. John 7:22; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 21:11. That God will give this glory is implied, rather than expressed. The Roman Catholic doctrine of the uncertainty of salvation is opposed to this triumphant assurance of faith. We may, how ever, distinguish between assurance of a present state of grace, which is implied in true faith, personally apprehending Christ as a Saviour, and assurance of future redemption, which is an article of ‘hope,’ to be accompanied by constant watchfulness.

Verse 3

Romans 5:3. And not only so; not only let us rejoice (or, do we rejoice) in the hope of glory; but let us also rejoice in our tribulations. The construction is the same as in Romans 5:2. ‘In’ is not the same word used in Romans 5:2; there the ‘hope’ was the direct ground of the glorying, here the ‘tribulations’ are the indirect ground, since they become the means of sanctification. ‘Our tribulations,’ lit, ‘the tribulations,’ which Christians then knew so well. Lord Bacon says: ‘Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament, adversity of the New.’ See marginal references. ‘Christians do not glory in suffering, as such, or for its own sake; but as the Bible teaches: 1. Because they consider it an honor to suffer for Christ. 2. Because they rejoice in being the occasion of manifesting His power in their support and deliverance; and, 3. Because suffering is made the means of their own sanctification and preparation for usefulness here, and for heaven hereafter. The last of these reasons is that to which the Apostle refers in the context’ (Hodge).

Knowing that, since we know that; the believer finds this out in his own experience. This knowledge extends to the whole series of successive results; the climax is set forth in Romans 5:5.

Worketh patience. Not ‘patience’ as we generally understand it, but ‘constancy,’ patient endurance, steadfastness, holding out bravely against trials and persecutions.

Verse 4

Romans 5:4. Approval. ‘Experience’ is too wide, since it may include the whole Christian life. The term here used refers to the state of one who has successfully stood a test. In itself it might refer to the act of testing (2 Corinthians 8:2), but here the result is evidently meant.

Hope. As in Romans 5:2, ‘hope of the glory of God.’ But while this hope precedes the ‘approval,’ in an increased measure it is the further result of the approval. ‘The more the Christian has become tried, the more also will hope continually possess him’ (Meyer). Like faith and love, and every other Christian grace, hope is never done in this world, but always growing. Every enlargement of Christian life enlarges this also.

Verse 5

Romans 5:5. Putteth not to shame. It will not disappoint or mock us; it even now gives triumphant certainty.

Because God’s love. ‘The love of God,’ while more literal, is ambiguous; the Apostle means the love God has toward us. We are assured that hope shall not put us to shame, not by anything in ourselves, but because of the love of Gold. This love has been outwardly manifested and inwardly given to us: hath been poured out in our hearts. The love of God did not descend upon us as dew in drops, but as a stream which spreads itself through the whole soul, filling it with a consciousness of His love and favor’ (Philippi).

Through the Holy Ghost which was given unto us. The outward manifestation of God’s love is through Christ (Romans 5:8), but the inward (and abundant) experience of it as ours comes only through the Holy Ghost. ‘Was given’ points to a single bestowal; not, however, to the outpouring on the day of Pentecost, since this could not apply to Paul himself, but to the gift of the Spirit at the time of the regeneration of each Christian.

Verse 6

Romans 5:6. For. This introduces the outward proof, or manifestation, of the love of God, the same love which hath been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Ghost (Romans 5:5). But the internal experience would be a delusion, were it not based on this historical fact, in which God’s love was specially displayed.

While we were yet weak, i.e., spiritually weak, without the Holy Spirit, through which we must receive spiritual life. ‘The sinfulness is purposely described as weakness (need of help), in order to characterize it as the motive for the love of God interfering to save’ (Meyer). ‘Yet’ is repeated in the original, according to the best manuscripts, and thus receives an emphasis which we can scarcely reproduce in English.

In due time. At the proper season, which was also the appointed time. Christ appeared when all the preparation for His coming was complete, and when the disease of sin had reached its crisis. It was, therefore, the ‘due time,’ and in Paul’s mind the death of Christ was the central point of all human history (comp. Galatians 4:4; where, however, the word rendered ‘time’ is a different one).

Died for the ungodly. The term ‘ungodly’ is chosen rather than ‘us,’ which would have been otherwise correct, to bring out more forcibly the strength of God’s love. ‘For,’ in itself, means ‘in behalf of’; ‘but where the question is concerning a dying for those who are worthy of death, the conception naturally involves a will, understood “instead of;” see Matthew 20:28’(Lange). The doctrine of the substitutionary death of Christ (His vicarious atonement) rests, not on the preposition, but on the context, on the whole sweep of Biblical thought, and, as far as Paul’s view is concerned, on such passages as chap. Romans 3:25; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Timothy 2:6.

Verse 7

Romans 5:7. For. This death of Christ for the ungodly shows the greatness of God’s love (comp. Romans 5:8), since among men it is true that scarcely for a righteous man, still less for the ‘ungodly,’ will one die.

For peradventure; not, ‘yet.’ The Apostle adds another confirmatory clause, which admits the possibility of some one dying for the good man. The exact sense is open to discussion. Explanations; (1.) that there is no distinction between ‘righteous’ and ‘good,’ so far as the Apostle’s argument is concerned, the second clause bringing out the thought of the first in another form, more with reference to the possibility of such rare cases. (2.) That ‘the good man’ means one who is a benefactor, or who has a noble, admirable, kind character, not merely a just one. This is the usual view, though the presence of the article is variously explained. ‘A righteous man,’ fulfilling all just demands, calls forth respect and admiration; but ‘the good man’ himself prompted by love, evokes our love, and for him some one would oven dare to die. (3.) The phrase is taken as neuter by some: ‘that which is good,’ but this is very flat, and quite unlikely in a discussion where persons are so constantly in mind.

Verse 8

Romans 5:8. But God commendeth, or, ‘doth establish’ (comp. chap. Romans 3:5). Probably both meanings are included; the proof is of such a character as to render the love conspicuous, and thus to ‘commend’ it. The word has an emphatic position in the original. The present tense is used, because the atoning death of Christ is the fact which remains the most striking manifestation of the love of God.

His own love; possibly in contrast with the love of men, but certainly suggesting it was God’s love (of benevolence) which led to the Atonement.

Toward us. To be joined with ‘love,’ and referring, as does the whole section, to Christians.

While we were yet sinners. So in character, and so before God, who had not yet justified us.

Christ died for us. (Comp. Romans 5:6.) His death was the ground of our justification; God’s love provided this ground, while we were yet sinners.

Verse 9

Romans 5:9. Much more therefore. The inference from God’s love as displayed in the death of Christ (Romans 5:6-8), is the assurance of full salvation. An argument from the greater to the less. ‘If Christ died for His enemies, He will surely save His friends’ (Hodge).

Being now justified, or, ‘having been justified,’ at the present time, ‘now,’ in contrast with ‘while we were yet sinners’ (Romans 5:8).

By his blood, lit., ‘in.’ A concrete expression for the atoning death of Christ, which is the meritorious cause of our justification (comp. chap. Romans 3:25).

Saved through him from the wrath. That this means the wrath of God admits of no doubt. The full final escape from wrath, at the last judgment, is suggested, but this is only a negative expression for ‘the hope of the glory of God’ (Romans 5:2); there being no middle position between objects of wrath and heirs of glory. The Apostle thus joins together the certainty of salvation with the fact of God’s wrath against sin and the certainty of its execution upon unbelieving sinners. As respects the word wrath, ‘it denotes a personal emotion, and not merely an abstract attribute. A divine emotion is a divine attribute in energy. In relation to it, the oblation of Christ is called “propitiation” (1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). The feeling of anger towards sin is not incompatible with the feeling of com-passionate benevolence (Romans 5:7) towards the sinner. The very Being who is displeased, is the very same Being who, through a placatory atonement of His own providing, saves from the displeasure’ (Shedd).

Verse 10

Romans 5:10. For. A further setting forth of the thought of Romans 5:9.

Being enemies; i.e., being, as we were, the objects of God’s holy wrath. That this was while we, on our part, were opposed to God is certainly true; but the best commentators agree in declaring that the other sense is the logical one. The only objection to it rests on a mechanical and false view of Scripture language. It is supposed to imply a wrong state of feeling on the part of God. But this is impossible. When the Scriptures say that God has wrath against sinners (which really means that they are ‘enemies’ in the sense we advocate), they do not assert that He has the revengeful, passionate feelings which naturally belong to human enmity. Every assertion, even in our ordinary use of language, is modified by the character of the person spoken of; much more in this case, for God must be right, if there is any distinction between right and wrong. Nor does this view contradict the love of God: His love shines out conspicuously, becomes effective, by means of the plan which removes His enmity without detriment to His holiness.

We were reconciled to God, etc. In accordance with the last remark, we refer this to God’s act by means of which we cease to be the objects of His holy wrath. (Comp. Romans 5:11, where ‘reconciliation’ should be substituted for ‘atonement,’ and where this ‘reconciliation’ is said to be ‘received.’) The primary sense, therefore, points to the great change which has taken place in the relation of God to us, by means of the voluntary atoning sacrifice of Christ (‘through the death of His Son’). Thus God’s wrath was removed, His justice satisfied, and, in consequence, men are reunited to Him as a loving and reconciled Father. While it is true that man is reconciled to God ‘through the death of His Son,’ this is not the thought from which the Apostle is arguing, nor is it justified by correct laws of interpretation. ‘All attempts to make this, the secondary meaning of the word, to be the primary, rest not on an unprejudiced exegesis, but on a foregone determination to get rid of the reality of God’s anger against sin’ (Trench). On the other hand, it is clear that the two sides are practically inseparable; and this because our reconciliation to God, as a moral process on our side is prompted and encouraged by the assurance that God has been reconciled to us, resting on the demonstration of His love to us in the atoning death of Christ, which was the meritorious ground of His reconciliation to us. Our privilege will seem all the greater, our duty the more imperative, from holding fast to the plain meaning of the passage.

Much more, being reconciled, or, ‘having been reconciled,’ once for all. The former participle (‘being’) pointed to a past state; this indicates a past act Paul is speaking of Christians, who have been justified (Romans 5:1), who have embraced this plan of reconciliation, to whom God is actually reconciled. On this accomplished fact he bases his argument: We shall be saved by (or, ‘in’) his life. Fellowship with the life of the ascended and reigning Lord is here suggested. ‘The death of Christ effected our reconciliation; all the less can His exalted life leave our deliverance unfinished. The living Christ cannot leave without final success what His death effected. This, however, is accomplished not merely through His intercession (chap. Romans 8:34), but also through His whole working in His kingly office for believers up to the completion of His work and kingdom; 1 Corinthians 15:22’ (Meyer). ‘This same Saviour that died for them still lives, and ever lives, to sanctify, protect, and save them’ (Hodge).

Verse 11

Romans 5:11. And not only so. Not only have we been reconciled. Some explain: not only shall we be saved; but this is not so grammatical, since the participle ‘rejoicing’ (glorying) is the correct reading in the next clause. This verse then introduces the side of human feeling. The reconciliation is God’s act, it gives assurance of complete salvation in the living Christ; but this produces present joy, triumph, glory (comp. Romans 5:2-3).

Rejoicing in God. The verb is the same as in Romans 5:2-3, rendered in three different ways in the E. V. (The correct reading requires us to connect this verse more closely with the preceding; see foot-note.) Our glory is this: ‘that God is ours, and we are His, and that we have in all confidence all blessings in common from Him and with Him’ (Luther).

Through our Lord Jesus Christ. No glorying that we have as Christians comes to us other than through Him. He reconciles God to us, but He also reconciles us to God; for it is through Him we have now received the reconciliation. In itself ‘the reconciliation’ primarily means a new relation of God to us, not a moral change in us. The article points to the well-known reconciliation, spoken of in Romans 5:10. But here the Apostle directly refers to the believing act of reception and appropriation. ‘Our’ is open to the objection that it suggests too exclusively a reconciliation on our part, which exclusive reference is forbidden by the word ‘received.’ When we were justified by faith, we received this reconciliation, it became ours, through our Lord Jesus Christ who procured it for us, and who by being our personal Saviour makes us glory in God. Thus is completed the circle of thought began in Romans 5:1-2.

The word ‘atonement,’ found here in the English version, has led to much useless discussion. Within the last half century voluminous controversies have been carried on, which failed to recognize the mistranslation, or recognizing it ignored it in the interest of dogmatic prejudices. The reader must bear in mind the following facts: (1.) That the word corresponds with that rendered (twice) ‘reconciled’ in Romans 5:10; hence ‘reconciliation’ is in any case preferable. (2.) ‘Atonement’ in its old sense (= at-one-ment) meant ‘reconciliation,’ but does not now mean this. (3.) It is now a technical term applied to the death of Christ, as an expiation, propitiation, satisfaction (see chap. Romans 3:25). All arguments as to the nature of the atonement which fail to recognize these linguistic facts, imply ignorance or dishonesty; neither of which should characterize one reconciled to God.

Verse 12

Romans 5:12. On this account, or, ‘therefore,’ First of all on account of the statement of Romans 5:11, but virtually on account of all that precedes, since Romans 5:11 sums up the whole doctrine of righteousness and salvation. Since ‘reconciliation’ is received through our Lord Jesus Christ in the manner already set forth, ‘therefore’ the following parallel between Adam and Christ holds good.

As, etc. The main difficulty is in regard to what should correspond with ‘as,’ the construction not being regular. The view of Meyer, which is grammatically most defensible, is that indicated in the analysis at the beginning of the section. The correspondence is suggested in Romans 5:12, the second member (‘the coming One’) indicated in Romans 5:14; expressed, after some points of difference, in Romans 5:18-19. In the rush of ideas suggested by the parallel, Paul intentionally suspends the mention of the second half, until he has proven one point in regard to the first half (Romans 5:13-14), and stated three important contrasts. In full form the parallel would be: ‘so also by one man, Jesus Christ, righteousness entered into the world, and life through righteousness, and thus life shall extend to all men, on condition that all believe, or are justified.’ But the parallel cannot hold in the last clause; for all men are sinners, but not all are believers; all are one with Adam, but not all are one with Christ. Other unsatisfactory explanations: that there is a designed suppression, because the parallel would not hold; that Romans 5:13-17 are parenthetical (so E. V.); that we should supply: ‘It was,’ or, ‘Christ wrought,’ before ‘as.’

Through one man, i.e., Adam (Romans 5:14). Eve is not mentioned, for Adam had received the commandment, was the head of the woman, and had he not transgressed, his posterity would not have sinned (Bengel). The comparison between Adam and Christ is the only apt one, and there is no reference to Satan, because the Apostle is concerned with the effect, not the mode, of the fall (Meyer).

Sin. The presence of the definite article in the Greek, and the course of thought sustain the view that ‘sin’ is here regarded as a power or principle, personified as a fearful tyrant, who has acquired universal dominion over the human race. Compare the characteristics of ‘sin,’ as given in this Epistle: he ‘reigns in death’ (Romans 5:21); ‘lords it over us’ (chap. Romans 6:14); ‘deceives and slays’ the sinner (chap. Romans 7:11); ‘works death’ in us (chap. Romans 7:13). This view is further sustained by the distinction made, throughout this section, between ‘sin’ and ‘transgression,’ ‘offence’ (or ‘trespass’). The term is, therefore, not to be limited, either to original sin on the one hand, or to actual sin on the other.

Entered into the world; the world of man. ‘According to the Apostle’s conviction, evil was already in existence in another world’ (Tholuck), that of the angels. Hence our passage sheds no light on the origin of evil, except in the human race.

Death. The entrance of death into the world of humanity was through sin, death as a power in the world resulted from the entrance of sin as a power; the two are uniformly connected in the Bible, beginning with Genesis 2:17. Some limit the reference here to physical death, which undoubtedly was the first result. But the results of ‘sin’ are more extensive, and the contrast with ‘life’ in Romans 5:17-18; Romans 5:21, points to the evident sense of ‘death’ throughout the entire passage. This includes all physical and moral evil, the entire penal consequences of sin, death of the body, spiritual death, and eternal death of both soul and body (‘the second death,’ Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:8). The fact that physical death did not immediately follow the first transgression, shows that Genesis 2:17 included a more extensive penalty.

Passed upon, lit., ‘came through unto,’ all men. The universal reign of death is thus connected, chronologically and logically, with its cause, the universal reign of sin. ‘All men’ here represents the several individuals making up ‘the world.’

For that, or, ‘because,’ ‘on the ground that.’ This is the view now generally accepted. Other views: ‘In’ whom, i.e., Adam; an ancient view (so Augustine) now generally rejected as ungrammatical. ‘On the condition that;’ but this is unusual, and designed to meet a doctrinal difficulty.

All sinned, not, ‘have sinned.’ A single historical act is meant, namely, the past event of Adam’s fall, which was at the same time virtually the fall of the human race as represented by him and germinally contained in him. (For the views of this connection between Adam and his posterity see Excursus at the close of the section.) As regards the interpretation of the words, it may be insisted that ‘simned’ is not equivalent to ‘became sinful.’ There remain two views: (1.) As a historical fact, when Adam sinned all sinned, because of the vital connection between him and his posterity. (2.) When Adam sinned, all were declared sinners, he being the representative of the race. The objection to this is, that ‘sinned’ is not equivalent to ‘were regarded as sinners,’ It makes the parallel between Adam and Christ more close than the passage, thus far, appears to warrant.

Verses 12-21


Excursus on Romans 5:12-21.

(Comp. Lange, Romans, pp. 191-195; where will be found the fuller statements of Dr. Schaff, here presented in an abridged form.)

The universal dominion of sin and death over the human race is a fact, clearly taught by the Apostle here, and daily confirmed by our religious experience. This dominion extends in an unbroken line to our first parents, as the transgression of Adam stands in a causal relation to the guilt and sin of his posterity. The Apostle assumes this connection, in order to illustrate the blessed truth, that the power and principle of righteousness and life so back to Jesus Christ, the second Adam. However explained, the existence of sin remains a stubborn, terrible reality. Least of all can it be explained by the denial of the parallel, yet contrasted, saving facts which are prominent in the Apostle’s mind throughout this section. The leading points which he asserts, and which therefore must enter into any consistent theory respecting his view of original sin, are: (1.) That the sin of Adam was the sin of all his posterity (see Romans 5:12); in what sense this is true, must be determined by the passage as a whole. (2.) That there is a parallel and contrast between the connection of Adam and his posterity, and Christ and His people (see Romans 5:14-19). (3.) That this parallel applies to the point which has been so fully discussed in the previous part of the Epistle, namely, that believers are reckoned righteous (sec Romans 5:12-18). (4.) That the connection with the two representative heads of the race has moral results; that guilt and sin, righteousness and life, are inseparably connected (see Romans 5:17-19).

The various theories may be reviewed in the light of these positions:—

I. The PANTHEISTIC and NECESSITARIAN theory, which regards sin as an essential attribute (a limitation) of the finite, destroys the radical antagonism between good and evil, and has nothing in common with Paul’s views of sin or grace.

II. The PELAGIAN heresy resolves the fall of Adam into a comparatively trivial childish act of disobedience, which sets a bad example. It holds that every child is born as innocent and perfect, though as fallible, as Adam when created. This view explains nothing, and virtually denies all the assertions made in this section. Its affinities, logically and historically, are with Socinianism and the multifarious forms of Rationalism. It and every other theory which denies the connection with Adam fails to meet the great question respecting the salvation of those dying in infancy. Such theories logically exclude them from the heaven of the redeemed, either by denying their need of salvation, or by rejecting the only principle in accordance with which such salvation, if they need it, is possible, namely, that of imputation.

III. The theory of a PRE-ADAMIC fall of all men, which implies the preexistence of souls, as held by Plato and Origen, is a pure speculation, and inconsistent with Romans 5:12 as well as with Genesis 3. It is incidentally opposed in chap. Romans 9:12.

IV. The AUGUSTINIAN or REALISTIC theory holds that the connection between Adam and his posterity was such, that by his individual transgression he vitiated human nature, and transmitted it in this corrupt and guilty state to his descendants by physical generation, so that there was an impersonal and unconscious participation of the whole human race in the fall of Adam. There is this difference, however: Adam’s individual transgression resulted in a sinful nature; while, in the case of his descendants, the sinful nature or depraved will results in individual transgression. This view accords in the main with the grammatical exegesis of Romans 5:12, but Augustine himself incorrectly explained ‘for that,’ as ‘in whom,’ i.e., Adam. It accepts, but does not explain, the relation between genus and species. Like all other matters pertaining to life, it confronts us with a mystery.

1. In the application of this theory to the positions (3) and (4) named above, different views have arisen, mainly in regard to imputation, whether it is immediate (or antecedent), mediate (or consequent), or both conjoined and inseparable. That is, whether the imputation of the guilt of Adam’s sin preceded or followed the guilt of man’s inherent and hereditary depravity. (‘Gull?’ is here used in the technical sense of ‘liability to punishment,’ not in the ethical sense of sinfulness.) This distinction was not made by Augustine and the Reformers. But examining their views in the light of subsequent discussions, we may say that both kinds of imputation were recognized by them; some laying stress upon one side, some on the other, but not to the exclusion of either. It was only in later times that the two were sharply defined, in order to divide them.

2. Mediate (or consequent) imputation makes inherent depravity derived from Adam, and this alone, the ground of condemnation. This view, however, as a matter of history, passes rapidly into a denial of any imputation.

3. Immediate (or antecedent) imputation, as opposed to mediate imputation, makes the sin of Adam, as the sin of the federal head of the race, the exclusive ground of condemnation, independently of, and prior to, native depravity and personal transgressions. Hereditary guilt precedes hereditary sin. From this view the transition was easy to the next theory.

V. The FEDERAL theory of a vicarious representation of mankind by Adam, in virtue of a covenant (foedus, hence ‘federal’) made with him. It supposes a (one-sided) covenant, called the covenant of works (in distinction from the covenant of grace), to the effect that Adam should stand a moral probation on behalf of all his descendants, so that his act of obedience or disobedience, with all its consequences, should be accounted theirs, just as the righteousness of the second Adam is reckoned as that of His people. This transaction, because unilateral (one-sided), finds its ultimate ground in the sovereign pleasure of God. It is a part of the theological system developed in Holland, and largely incorporated in the standards of the Westminster Assembly. Yet here, too, a distinction has been made.

1. The founders and chief advocates of the federal scheme combined with it the Augustinian view of an unconscious and impersonal participation of the whole human race in the fall of Adam, and thus made imputation to rest on ethical as well as legal grounds. The supporters of this view, which differs very slightly from IV., hold that it accords best with the four leading points of this section, since it recognizes Adam as both federal and natural head of the race. It is preferred by Professor Riddle.

2. The purely federal school holds, that by virtue of the federal headship of Adam, on the ground of a sovereign arrangement, his sin and guilt are justly, directly, and immediately imputed to his posterity. It makes the parallel between Adam and Christ exact, in the matter of the imputation of sin and of righteousness. ‘In virtue of the union between him and his descendants, his sin is the judicial ground of the condemnation of the race, precisely as the righteousness of Christ is the judicial ground of the justification of His people.’ This view does not deny that Adam is the natural head of the race, but asserts that ‘over and beyond this natural relation which exists between a man and his posterity, there was a special divine constitution by which he was appointed the head and representative of his whole race’ (C. Hodge, Theology, it, pp. 195, 197).

VI. In sharp antagonism to the last view, most of the recent New England theologians have virtually rejected imputation altogether. They ‘maintain that the sinfulness of the descendants of Adam results with infallible certainty (though not with necessity) from his transgression; the one class holding to hereditary depravity prior to sinful choice, the other class teaching that the first moral choice of all is universally sinful, yet with the power of contrary choice.’ In this view a nice distinction is made between natural ability and moral inability. When consistently held, it denies that ‘all sinned’ (Romans 5:12) refers to the sin of Adam, taking it as equivalent to the perfect, ‘all have sinned,’ namely, personally with the first responsible act.

VII. The SEMI-PELAGIAN and kindred ARMINIAN theories, though differing from each other, agree in admitting the Adamic unity, and the disastrous effects of Adam’s transgression, but regard hereditary corruption as an evil or misfortune, not properly as sin and guilt, of itself exposing us to punishment. Arminianism, however, on this point, inclines toward Augustinianism more than Semi-Pelagianism does. The latter fails to give full force to the language of the Apostle in this section, and to sympathize with his profound sense of the guilt and sinfulness of sin. The advocates of each theory fail to present explicit and uniform statements on this doctrinal point.

Those views which seem to keep most closely to the grammatical sense of the Apostle’s words involve mysteries of physiology, psychology, ethics, and theology. Outside the revelation there confronts us the undeniable, stubborn, terrible fact, of the universal dominion of sin and death over the entire race, infants as well as adults. No system of philosophy explains this; outside the Christian redemption, the mystery is entirely one of darkness, unillumined by the greater mystery of love. Hence the wisdom of following as closely as possible the words which reveal the cure, as we attempt to penetrate the gloom that envelops the origin of the disease. The more so when the obvious purpose of the Apostle here is to bring into proper prominence the Person and Work of the Second Adam. Here alone can we find any practical solution of the problem respecting the first head of the race; only herein do we perceive the triumphant vindication of Divine justice and mercy. The best help to unity in the doctrine of Original Sin will be by larger experiences of the ‘much more’ which is our portion in Christ Jesus. Only when we are assured of righteousness and life in Him, can we fearlessly face the fact of sin and death in Adam.

Verse 13

Romans 5:13. For until the law. Romans 5:13-14 present a historical confirmation of the statement that ‘all sinned.’ All sinned when Adam sinned, far the penalty of sin came from the very first, and that, too, when there was no such transgression of positive precept as in the case of Adam. Hence the penalty was the result of Adam’s sin, an idea familiar to all who believed the Old Testament.

Sin was in the world. Sin as a tyrant, with its penal consequences. This thought is resumed and expounded in Romans 5:14.

But sin is not reckoned; ‘fully reckoned’ is perhaps the best reading of the compound verb in the original. In a certain sense it is reckoned (comp. chap. Romans 2:9-16), but it cannot be fully reckoned as ‘transgression,’ where law is not, or, in the absence of law. This proposition would be self-evident to the readers, and it was emphatically true of the Mosaic law, which, as Romans 5:14 shows, was in the Apostle’s mind.

Verse 14

Romans 5:14. Nevertheless. Although sin is not fully reckoned when the law is absent.

Death reigned. ‘Lorded it.’ The consequence of sin (‘death through sin,’ Romans 5:12) was universal, even before the law: from Adam until Moses. The word ‘until’ represents here a different word from that used in Romans 5:13, but there is no appreciable difference in sense.

Even over them that, etc. Death, which here includes more than physical death, as the penalty of sin, lorded it over even such as did not sin, etc., i.e., were not guilty of a definite transgression, the transgression of a definite command of God. The Apostle’s argument is that death came upon these as a consequence of the sin of Adam, and thus he proves that ‘death came through unto all men, because all sinned’ in that transgression. The class ‘that did not sin,’ etc., is not further described. Infants are doubtless included, though not specially referred to. In the period between Adam and Moses divine commands were given; those who transgressed them were punished accordingly, but even those, whoever they were, who had not received positive command came under the consequence of sin, thus proving that Adam’s sin was the cause.

Who if a type of the coming One, i.e., the second Adam, ‘Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:15). Here we have suggested the second member of the parallel begun in Romans 5:12. The first Adam, the one man through whom sin and death entered into the world, is the type of the one man Jesus Christ. The word ‘type’ is derived from the verb meaning to strike, and hence signifies first, a blow, an impression, then form, figure, pattern, model; at length we find the technical sense, a person or thing bearing a designed resemblance to some higher person or thing, foreshadowing or symbolizing an ‘antitype.’ Christ is here spoken of as ‘the coming One,’ as historically related to the first Adam. Comp. 1 Corinthians 15:45, where Paul directly contrasts the first and second Adam.

Verse 15

Romans 5:15. But not as the fall, or, ‘trespass.’ The word here used refers to an act of sin, and is almost the same as ‘transgression’ (Romans 5:14), and ‘disobedience’ (Romans 5:19). Perhaps this suggests, more than the other terms, the idea of weakness, hence ‘fall’ expresses one phase of the meaning. But it is usually rendered ‘trespass.’ All these words are less inclusive than ‘sin’ (Romans 5:12-13). ‘But’ marks a strong contrast.

So also is the free gift, or, ‘gift of grace,’ the atoning and justifying act of divine grace in Jesus Christ (Meyer). Four different words are used in this passage to express the same thought of free grace, and it is difficult to distinguish them in English.

For introduces the proof of the difference just stated.

If, as is certainly the case, by (not ‘through,’ as the E. V. incorrectly renders) the fall of the one. The article must, of course, be restored in English, to bring out the sense: ‘the one,’ ‘the many.’ In this case Adam is ‘the one,’ and the consequence to all of the immense multitude of his posterity is tersely expressed: the many died. ‘The many,’ over against ‘the one;’ not ‘many’ (as in the E. V.), implying a contrast with ‘few’; here it is equivalent to ‘all’; comp. Romans 5:12; Romans 5:18.

Much more. Not simply that the gift was more abundant, but with much more certainty is it to be expected from God, or has God proved, that grace abounds.

The grace of God. This is the source of the gift, namely, the gift of justification.

By (lit., ‘in’) the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ. This may be joined either with ‘gift,’ or with the verb; the latter is preferable.

Abound onto the many. ‘The many’ in Christ Meyer, who refers it to all mankind, as in the previous clause, says: ‘To this multitude has the grace of God been plentifully imparted, namely; from the objective point of view, in so far as Christ’s act of redemption has acquired for all the divine grace and gift, although the subjective reception of it is conditioned by faith.’

Verses 15-17

Romans 5:15-17. The parallel has been suggested, but the points of difference are brought out before the correspondence is fully stated (Romans 5:18-19). The symmetry of the clauses will appear from the following arrangement of the passage:—

Romans 5:15

But not as the fall (trespass)

So also is the free gift

Of the one man

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.

Romans 5:16

And not as through one that sinned

so (is) the gift:

for the judgment (came)

from one (man or trespass)

unto condemnation,

but the gracious gift (came)

from many falls (trespasses)

unto a righteous act (or verdict).

Romans 5:17

For if by the fall (trespass) of the one

death reigned

Through the one;

much more

will they who receive the abundance

of the grace and the gift of righteousness

reign in life

through the one Jesus Christ.

The question arises whether ‘much more’ expresses a stronger degree of evidence or a higher degree of efficacy. In Romans 5:16-17 the former is certainly preferable, and probably in Romans 5:15 also. It is not that more are saved than are lost, this cannot be; nor yet that what is gained is more than what is lost, though this is true enough; but the character of God, from a Christian point of view, is such that the comparison gives a ‘much more’ certain basis for belief in what is gained through the second Adam than in the certainties of sin and death through the first Adam.

Verse 16

Romans 5:16. And not as through one that sinned. There is some (but insufficient) authority for another reading: ‘through one sin,’ A single act of sin is referred to in either case.

So is the gift. It is only necessary to supply ‘is;’ though some suggest fuller explanations: ‘judgment came,’ etc., in the first clause, ‘gift’ is a different word from that in Romans 5:15, but refers to the same thing.

For the judgment. The judicial sentence of God. The word itself may refer to a favorable or unfavorable sentence.

Came. This, or some verb of motion, is to be supplied; the prepositions involving the idea of motion, or result.

Of, or, ‘from,’ one. (Not ‘by.’) This may refer to one trespass, in accordance with the next clause, or to one man, namely, ‘one that sinned,’ in the previous clause. The latter is preferable; what precedes usually determines the sense of an elliptical phrase.

Unto condemnation. The judicial sentence (‘judgment’), in consequence of the act of one man, resulted in ‘condemnation;’ as set forth in Romans 5:12.

But the free gift, or, ‘gift of grace’ (as in Romans 5:15).

Of, or, ‘from,’ many falls, or, ‘trespasses,’ The many sins of men could be pardoned only by a ‘free gift.’ In this sense they were the origin or occasion of the free gift. As a result this free gift came unto a righteous (or, justifying) act. ‘A righteous verdict,’ or, an act that justifies. This is not the word usually rendered ‘justification.’ But the meaning is substantially the same. The word, derived from the verb meaning ‘to account righteous,’ here denotes either, in opposition to ‘condemnation,’ the righteous decree or verdict which God pronounces on account of the perfect obedience of Christ, or, in opposition to ‘trespass’ (as in Romans 5:18), the righteous act of Christ on which that verdict is based. It seems improper to refer it to the subjective state of justification. See further on Romans 5:18.

Verse 17

Romans 5:17. For if. A confirmation of Romans 5:16, yet an advance of thought

By the fall (or, ‘trespass’) of the one. A briefer reading: ‘in one trespass,’ is found in good authorities, but the longer reading is now clearly established.

Death reigned through the one, i.e., Adam. The repetition is probably to prepare for the triumphant close of the verse, contrasting the two persons. The correspondence between the clauses is in other respects not exact.

Much more. Here certainly not numerical: if this was God’s way of justice, with much more certainty will His way of grace be, as is now described.

They who receive the abundance of the grace. The change of form brings into the foreground the persons who are the subjects of grace. With ‘the trespass of the one’ is contrasted the abundance of the grace as bestowed on, and accepted by, living persons.

The gift of righteousness. ‘Righteousness’ is ‘the gift,’ righteousness imputed.

Shall reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ ‘In life’ is to be taken in its fullest sense; this is the sphere in which those who receive the abundance of the grace shall reign. The whole clause has a triumphant tone, pointing from present grace to future glory, all mediated through the one, Jesus Christ. This is the emphatic side of the contrast. If, as a fact, sin and death were through Adam, then much more certain is it that abundant present grace and triumphant future glory shall be through our one head, Jesus Christ.

Verse 18

Romans 5:18. So then (not, ‘therefore’). With this phrase, which means ‘in consequence of all this, it follows that,’ Paul resumes the parallel, summing up all the previously stated points of resemblance and difference; the design being to show how the inheritance and imputation of sin confirms, renders more certain, the imputation of righteousness and the abounding reign of grace.

Through one fall, or, ‘trespass.’ The E. V. is incorrect, since the acts, not the persons are here contrasted.

It came. Some verb of motion must be supplied here, as in Romans 5:16. The E. V. (borrowing from Romans 5:16) brings out the sense clearly enough, but ‘it came’ is sufficient in both clauses.

Upon (lit, ‘unto’) all men unto condemnation. Here ‘all men’ without exception.

So also, or, ‘even so;’ but the former is preferable.

Through one righteous act, or, ‘verdict;’ the same word rendered ‘justification’ in Romans 5:16. Here Christ’s obedience, viewed as one act, as the ground of justification, seems to be meant, yet a reference to the justifying verdict gives a good sense.

Came, not, ‘shall come,’ since the Apostle is speaking of the objective side.

All men unto justification of life. ‘All men’ may be taken in a universal, but not in a Universalist sense. The ‘righteous act’ which forms the meritorious ground of God’s justifying act is sufficient for all men without exception; and the Apostle speaks of it in this light. But the subjective application of it implies the receiving of it (Romans 5:17) by faith. See further on Romans 5:19, which contrasts the actual results as respects ‘the many’ on the one side, and ‘the many’ on the other. ‘Justification’ is here the proper rendering. ‘Of life,’ i.e., leading to life, in the fullest sense; the interpretation ‘justification which is life’ confuses the Apostle’s thought.

Verse 19

Romans 5:19. For. This word shows that we have here the explanation of Romans 5:18, and thus of the whole passage. The sense is: As a consequence of the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many (including all his posterity) were constituted sinners (put in the category of sinners, subject to condemnation), so also in consequence of the obedience of the one (Christ) shall the many (as many as believe in Him, Romans 5:17) be constituted righteous (be placed in that category). The contrasts are exact, except that ‘the many,’ comes in as a middle term of quantity, that ‘man’ is omitted in the second clause, where moreover the future is substituted for the past, showing that the actual efficacy of the gospel is here spoken of, and not the objective sufficiency, as in Romans 5:18.

Constituted sinners—constituted righteous. The main point open to discussion, is respecting the exact sense of the word ‘constituted’ or ‘made.’ Three views: (1) set down, placed, as such, in a declarative sense; (2.) placed in the category, because of a vital connection; (3) becoming so ethically, not declaratively. The last seems contrary to the whole course of thought. The first gives a grammatical sense, but is often held in a way which carries the parallel beyond Paul’s statements. The second is sustained by the best of modern commentators, though with considerable difference in regard to the mode, and the extent of the parallel. Meyer’s position is: Through the disobedience of the one man, because all had a part in it, has the position of all become that of sinners, consequently they were subjected to punishment; on the other hand, God has forgiven believers on account of the death of Christ, and counted their faith as righteousness; thus the obedience of the one has caused that at the judgment the many shall by God’s sentence enter into the category of the righteous. Actual sin and inwrought righteousness are results, on either side, but these results are not here under discussion. ‘Obedience’ is chosen, in contrast with ‘disobedience,’ with a reference, either to Christ’s death as the culminating act of His obedience, or to His whole life of obedience culminating in that act. It must be noticed, that the emphasis in this verse and throughout is placed by Paul upon the positive and gracious side of the parallel: righteousness and life to the many through the One Jesus Christ, while interpreters too often dwell well-nigh exclusively upon the other side. The inference of a universal salvation cannot properly be drawn from Romans 5:15; Romans 5:18. Paul teaches the universal sufficiency of the gospel salvation, but we must, in view of his language elsewhere and of the facts which meet us everywhere, make the important distinction between this and the subjective efficacy of Christ’s atonement. All men may be saved, hence we invite all; how many and which individuals will be saved, is known only to God. Dr. Hodge says: ‘We have reason to believe that the lost shall bear to the saved no greater proportion than the inmates of a prison do to the mass of a community.’ Yet many adults die in Christian lands and surrounded by gospel privileges, without giving any evidence of their faith in Christ, and of a second state of probation we have no proof whatever.

Verse 20

Romans 5:20. But the law. The Mosaic law is meant, although the article is wanting in the original. ‘What of the law then?’ was the question the Jew, and, indeed, any early Christian would ask. ‘But’ is therefore preferable to ‘and.’

Came in besides. The same phrase is used in a bad sense, Galatians 2:4, but here it indicates coming in addition to, not coming in between, though the latter is true.

That the trespass might multiply. This was the immediate, but not the final purpose (see Romans 5:21). The Apostle says ‘trespass’ not ‘sin,’ because the design of the law was not to multiply sin as such, but to make it appear, to reveal it to the conscience, as a transgression of the law of God. Yet the presence of the law does provoke to sin, and this thought is not to be ruled out in this passage.

But where sin multiplied. In the very sphere, in the world of men where ‘sin’ (as a power, tyrant).

Grace exceedingly abounded; ‘over-abounded.’ The verb is a compound one, differing in form entirely from that previously used; the force of ‘over’ is superlative, not comparative. Hence we substitute ‘exceedingly’ for ‘much more.’ This clause is explained in Romans 5:21. Romans 5:21.

That as sin reigned in death. The ultimate purpose of the exceeding abounding of grace is set forth in this verse, especially in the last clause. The first clause simply takes up the other side of the parallel. In Romans 5:14 death is represented as the tyrant, here ‘sin’ is presented under the same figure, ‘death’ being the sphere of its dominion or tyranny, and referring to all the penal consequences of sin. Some would render ‘by death,’ but this is objectionable.

So also might grace reign. This is the purpose. ‘The design of God in permitting sin, and allowing it to abound was to bring good out of evil; to make it the occasion of the most wonderful display of his glory and grace, so that the benefits of redemption should infinitely transcend the evil of the apostacy’ (Hodge).

Through righteousness. This refers to imputed righteousness, in conformity with the entire course of thought. Righteousness of life might be included, but cannot be the main idea.

Unto eternal life. ‘Life’ in contrast with ‘death,’ and ‘eternal’ in contrast with temporal. Physical death is not abolished, but grace reigns through righteousness, eternal life as the result.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord. This full form is solemnly triumphant. Adam is lost sight of; the personal redeemer, the king, is the One through whom grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life.—‘Sin, death, grace, righteousness, life. These five stand thus: Grace rises highest in the middle; the two conquering giants, sin and death at the left; the double prize of victory, righteousness and life, at the right; and over the buried name of Adam the glory of the name of Jesus blooms’ (Besser).


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Romans 5:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology