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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary

Romans 5

 

 

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Verses 1-11

Chapter 12

PEACE, LOVE, AND JOY FOR THE JUSTIFIED

Romans 5:1-11

WE reached a pause in the Apostle’s thought with the close of the last paragraph. We may reverently imagine, as in spirit we listen to his dictation, that a pause comes also in his work; that he is silent, and Tertius puts down the pen, and they spend their hearts awhile on worshipping recollection and realisation. The Lord delivered up; His people justified; the Lord risen again, alive for evermore-here was matter for love, joy, and wonder.

But the Letter must proceed, and the argument has its fullest and most wonderful developments yet to come. It has now already expounded the tremendous need of justifying mercy, for every soul of man. It has shown how faith, always and only, is the way to appropriate that mercy-the way of God’s will, and manifestly also in its own nature the way of deepest fitness. We have been allowed to see faith in illustrative action, in Abraham, who by faith, absolutely, without the least advantage of traditional privilege, received justification, with the vast concurrent blessings which it carried. Lastly we have heard St. Paul dictate to Tertius, for the Romans and for us, those summarising words [Romans 4:25] in which we now have God’s own certificate of the triumphant efficacy of that Atoning Work, which sustains the Promise in order that the Promise may sustain us believing.

We are now to approach the glorious theme of the Life of the Justified. This is to be seen not only as a state whose basis is the reconciliation of the Law, and whose gate and walls are the covenant Promise. It is to appear as a state warmed with eternal Love; irradiated with the prospect of glory. In it the man, knit up with Christ his Head, his Bridegroom, his all, yields himself with joy to the God who has received him. In the living power of the heavenly Spirit, who perpetually delivers him from himself, he obeys, prays, works, and suffers, in a liberty which is only not yet that of heaven, and in which he is maintained to the end by Him who has planned his full personal salvation from eternity to eternity.

It has been the temptation of Christians sometimes to regard the truth and exposition of Justification as if there were a certain hardness and as it were dryness about it; as if it were a topic rather for the schools than for life. If excuses have ever been given for such a view, they must come from other quarters than the Epistle to the Romans. Christian teachers, of many periods, may have discussed Justification as coldly as if they were writing a law book. Or again they may have examined it as if it were a truth terminating in itself, the Omega as well as the Alpha of salvation; and then it has been misrepresented, of course. For the Apostle certainly does not discuss it drily; he lays deep indeed the foundations of Law and Atonement, but he does it in the manner of a man who is not drawing the plan of a refuge, but calling his reader from the tempest into what is not only a refuge but a home. And again he does not discuss it in isolation. He spends his fullest, largest, and most loving expositions on its intense and vital connection with concurrent truths. He is about now to take us, through a noble vestibule, into the sanctuary of the life of the accepted, the life of union, of surrender, of the Holy Ghost.

Justified therefore on terms of faith, we have peace towards our God, we possess in regard of Him the "quietness and assurance" of acceptance, through our Lord Jesus Christ, thus delivered up, and raised up, for us; through whom we have actually found our introduction, our free admission, by our faith, into this grace, this unearned acceptance for Another’s sake, in which we stand, instead of falling ruined, sentenced, at the tribunal. And we exult, not with the sinful "boasting" of the legalist, but in hope (literally, "on hope," as reposing on the promised prospect) of the glory of our God, the light of the heavenly vision and fruition of our Justifier, and the splendour of an eternal service of Him in that fruition. Nor only so, but we exult too in our tribulations, with a better fortitude than the Stoic’s artificial serenity, knowing that the tribulation works out, develops, patient persistency, as it occasions proof after proof of the power of God in our weakness, and thus generates the habit of reliance; and then the patient persistency develops proof, brings out in experience, as a proved fact, that through Christ we are not what we were; and then the proof develops hope, solid and definite expectation of continuing grace and final glory, and, in particular, of the Lord’s Return; and the hope does not shame, does not disappoint; it is a hope sure and steadfast, for it is the hope of those who now know that they are objects of eternal Love; because the love of our God has been poured out in our hearts; His love to us has been as it were diffused through our consciousness, poured out in a glad experience as rain from the cloud, as floods from the rising spring, through the Holy Spirit that was given to us.

Here first is mentioned explicitly, in the Apostle’s argument (we do not Romans 1:4 as in the argument), the blessed Spirit, the Lord the Holy Ghost. Hitherto the occasion for the mention has hardly arisen. The considerations have been mainly upon the personal guilt of the sinner, and the objective fact of the Atonement, and the exercise of faith, of trust in God, as a genuine personal act of man. With a definite purpose, we may reverently think, the discussion of faith has been kept thus far clear of the thought of anything lying behind faith, of any "grace" giving faith. For whether or no faith is the gift of God, it is most certainly the act of man; none should assert this more decidedly than those who hold (as we do) that Ephesians 2:8 does teach that where saving faith is, it is there because God has "given" it. But how does He "give" it? Not, surely, by implanting a new faculty, but by so opening the soul to God in Christ that the divine magnet effectually draws the man to a willing repose upon such a God. But the man does this, as an act, himself. He trusts God as genuinely, as personally, as much with his own faculty of trust, as he trusts a man whom he sees to be quite trustworthy and precisely fit to meet an imperative need. Thus it is often the work of the evangelist and the teacher to insist upon the duty rather than the grace of faith; to bid men rather thank God for faith when they have believed than wait for the sense of an afflatus before believing. And is this not what St. Paul does here? At this point of his argument, and not before, he reminds the believer that his possession of peace, of happiness, of hope, has been attained and realised not, ultimately, of himself, but through the working of the Eternal Spirit. The insight into mercy, into a propitiation provided by divine love, and so into the holy secret of the divine love itself, has been given him by the Holy Ghost, who has taken of the things of Christ, and shown them to him, and secretly handled his "heart" so that the fact of the love of God is a part of experience at last. The man has been told of his great need, and of the sure and open refuge, and has stepped through its peaceful gate in the act of trusting the message and the will of God. Now he is asked to look round, to look back, and bless the hand which, when he was outside in the naked field of death, opened his eyes to see, and guided his will to choose.

What a retrospect it is! Let us trace it from the first words of this paragraph again. First, here is the sure fact of our acceptance, and the reason of it, and the method. "Therefore"; let not that word be forgotten. Our Justification is no arbitrary matter, whose causelessness suggests an illusion, or a precarious peace. "Therefore"; it rests upon an antecedent, in the logical chain of divine facts. We have read that antecedent, Romans 4:25; "Jesus our Lord was given up because of our transgressions, and was raised up because of our justification." We assented to that fact; we have accepted Him, only and altogether, in this work of His. Therefore we are justified, δικαιωθεντες, placed by an act of divine Love, working in the line of divine Law, among those whom the Judge accepts, that He may embrace them as Father. Then, in this possession of the "peace" of our acceptance, thus led in ( προσαγωγη), through the gate of the promise, with the footstep of faith, we find inside our Refuge far more than merely safety. We look up from within the blessed walls, sprinkled with atoning blood, and we see above them the hope of glory, invisible outside. And we turn to our present life within them (for all our life is to be lived within that broad sanctuary now), and we find resources provided there for a present as well as a prospective joy. We address ourselves to the discipline of the place; for it has its discipline; the refuge is home, but it is also school; and we find, when we begin to try it, that the discipline is full of joy. It brings out into a joyful consciousness the power we now have, in Him who has accepted us, in Him who is our Acceptance, to suffer and to serve in love. Our life has become a life not of peace only, but of the hope which animates peace, and makes it flow "as a river." From hour to hour we enjoy the never-disappointing hope of "grace for grace," new grace for the next new need; and beyond it, and above it, the certainties of the hope of glory. To drop our metaphor of the sanctuary for that of the pilgrimage, we find ourselves upon a pathway, steep and rocky, but always mounting into purer air, and so as to show us nobler prospects; and at the summit-the pathway will be continued, and transfigured, into the golden street of the City; the same track, but within the gate of heaven.

Into all this the Holy Ghost has led us. He has been at the heart of the whole internal process. He made the thunder of the Law articulate to our conscience. He gave us faith by manifesting Christ. And, in Christ, He has "poured out in our hearts the love of God."

For now the Apostle takes up that word, "the Love of God," and holds it to our sight, and we see in its pure glory no vague abstraction, but the face, and the work, of Jesus Christ. Such is the context into which we now advance. He is reasoning on; "For Christ, when we still were weak." He has set justification before us in its majestic lawfulness. But he has now to expand its mighty love, of which the Holy Ghost has made us conscious in our hearts. We are to see in the Atonement not only a guarantee that we have a valid title to a just acceptance. We are to see in it the love of the Father and the Son, so that not our security only, but our bliss, may be full.

For Christ, we still being weak (gentle euphemism for our utter impotence, our guilty inability to meet the sinless claim of the Law of God), in season, in the fulness of time, when the ages of precept and of failure had done their work, and man had learnt something to purpose of the lesson of self-despair, for the ungodly-died. "For the ungodly," "concerning them," "with reference to them," that is to say, in this context of saving mercy, "in their interests, for their rescue, as their propitiation." "The ungodly," or, more literally still, without the article, "ungodly ones"; a designation general and inclusive for those for whom He died. Above [Romans 4:5] we saw the word used with a certain limitation, as of the worst among the sinful. But here, surely, with a solemn paradox, it covers the whole field of the Fall. The ungodly here are not the flagrant and disreputable only; they are all who are not in harmony with God; the potential as well as the actual doers of grievous sin. For them "Christ died"; not "lived," let us remember, but "died." It was a question not of example, nor of suasion, nor even of utterances of divine compassion. It was a question of law and guilt; and it was to be met only by the death sentence and the death fact; such death as He died of whom, a little while before, this same Correspondent had written to the converts of Galatia; [Galatians 3:13] "Christ bought us out from the curse of the Law, when He became a curse for us." All the untold emphasis of the sentence, and of the thought, lies here upon those last words, upon each and all of them, "for ungodly ones-He died." The sequel shows this to us; he proceeds: For scarcely, with difficulty, and in rare instances, for a just man will one die; "scarcely," he will not say "never," for, for the good man, the man answering in some measure the ideal of gracious and not only of legal goodness, perhaps someone actually ventures to die. But God commends, as by a glorious contrast, His love, "His" as above all current human love, "His own love," towards us, because while we were still sinners, and as such repulsive to the Holy, One, Christ for us did die.

We are not to read this passage as if it were a statistical assertion as to the facts of human love and its possible sacrifices. The moral argument will not be affected if we are able, as we shall be, to adduce cases where unregenerate man has given even his life to save the life of one, or of many, to whom he is not emotionally or naturally attracted. All that is necessary to St. Paul’s tender plea for the love of God is the certain fact that the cases of death even on behalf of one who morally deserves a great sacrifice are relatively very, very few. The thought of merit is the ruling thought in the connection. He labours to bring out the sovereign Lovingkindness, which went even to the length and depth of death, by reminding us, that, whatever moved it, it was not moved, even in the lowest imaginable degree, by any merit, no, nor by any "congruity," in us. And yet we were sought, and saved. He who planned the salvation, and provided it, was the eternal Lawgiver and Judge. He who loved us is Himself eternal Right, to whom all our wrong is unutterably repellent. What then is He as Love, who, being also Right, stays not till He has given His Son to the death of the Atonement?

So we have indeed a warrant to "believe the love of God". [1 John 4:16] Yes, to believe it. We look within us, and it is incredible. If we have really seen ourselves, we have seen ground for a sorrowful conviction that He who is eternal Right must view us with aversion. But if we have really seen Christ, we have seen ground for-not feeling at all, it may be, at this moment, but-believing that God is Love, and loves us. What is it to believe Him? It is to take Him at His word; to act altogether not upon our internal consciousness but upon His warrant. We look at the Cross, or rather, we look at the crucified. Lord Jesus in His Resurrection; we read at His feet these words of His Apostle; and we go away to take God at His assurance that we, unlovely, are beloved.

"My child," said a dying French saint, as she gave a last embrace to her daughter, "I have loved you because of what you are; my heavenly Father, to whom I go, has loved me malgre moi."

And how does the divine reasoning now advance? "From glory to glory"; from acceptance by the Holy One, who is Love, to present and endless preservation in His Beloved One. Therefore much more, justified now in His blood, as it were "in" its laver of ablution, or again "within" its circle of sprinkling as it marks the precincts of our inviolable sanctuary, we. shall be kept safe through Him, who now lives to administer the blessings of His death, from the wrath, the wrath of God, in its present imminence over the head. of the unreconciled, and in its final fall "in that day." For if, being enemies, with no initial love to Him who is Love, nay, when we were hostile to His claims, and as such subject to the hostility of His Law, we were reconciled to our God through the death of His Son (God coming to judicial peace with us, and we brought to submissive peace with Him), much more, being reconciled, we shall be kept safe in His life, in the life of the Risen One who now lives for us, and in us, and we in Him. Nor, only so, but we shall be kept exulting too in our God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom now we have received this reconciliation.

Here, by anticipation, he indicates already the mighty issues of the act of Justification, in our life of Union with the Lord who died for us, and lived again. In the sixth chapter this will be more fully unfolded; but he cannot altogether reserve it so long. As he has advanced from the law aspect of our acceptance to its love aspect, so now with this latter he gives us at once the life aspect, our vital incorporation with our Redeemer, our part and lot in His resurrection-life. Nowhere in this whole Epistle is that subject expounded so fully as in the later Epistles, Colossians and Ephesians; the Inspirer led His servant all over that region then, in his Roman prison, but not now. But He had brought him into the region from the first, and we see it here present to his thought, though not in the foreground of his discourse. "Kept safe in His life"; not "by" His life, but "in" His life. We are livingly knit to Him the Living One. From one point of view we are accused men, at the bar, wonderfully transformed, by the Judge’s provision, into welcomed and honoured friends of the Law and the Lawgiver. From another point of view we are dead men, in the grave, wonderfully vivified, and put into a spiritual connection with the mighty life of our Lifegiving Redeemer. ‘The aspects are perfectly distinct. They belong to different orders of thought. Yet they are in the closest and most genuine relation. The Justifying Sacrifice procures the possibility of our regeneration into the Life of Christ. Our union by faith with the Lord who died and lives brings us into actual part and lot in His justifying merits. And our part and lot in those merits, our "acceptance in the Beloved," assures us again of the permanence of the mighty Love which will maintain us in our part and lot "in His life." This is the view of the matter which is before us here.

Thus the Apostle meets our need on every side. He shows us the holy Law satisfied for us. He shows us the eternal love liberated upon us. He shows us the Lord’s own Life clasped around us, imparted to us; "our life is hid in God with Christ, who is our Life". [Colossians 3:3-4] Shall we not "exult in God through Him"?

And now we are to learn something of that great Covenant-Headship, in which we and He are one.


Verses 12-21

Chapter 13

CHRIST AND ADAM

Romans 5:12-21

WE approach a paragraph of the Epistle pregnant with mystery. It leads us back to Primal Man, to the Adam of the first brief pages of the Scripture record, to his encounter with the. suggestion to follow himself rather than his Maker, to his sin, and then to the results of that sin in his race. We shall find those results given in terms which certainly we should not have devised a priori. We shall find the Apostle teaching, or rather stating, for he writes as to those who know, that mankind inherits from primal Man, tried and fallen, not only taint but guilt, not only moral hurt but legal fault.

This is "a thing heard in the darkness." It has been said that Holy Scripture "is not a sun, but a lamp." The words may be grievously misused, by undue emphasis on the negative clause; but they convey a sure truth, used aright. Nowhere does the Divine Book undertake to tell us all about everything it contains. It undertakes to tell us truth, and to tell it from God. It undertakes to give us pure light, yea, "to bring life and immortality out into the light,". [2 Timothy 1:10] But it reminds us that we know "in part," and that even prophecy, even the inspired message, is "in part". [1 Corinthians 13:9] It illuminates immensely much, but it leaves yet more to be seen hereafter. It does not yet kindle the whole firmament and the whole landscape like an oriental sun. It sheds its glory upon our Guide, and upon our path.

A passage like this calls for such recollections. It tells us, with the voice of the Apostle’s Lord, great facts about our own race, and its relations to its primeval Head, such that every individual man has a profound moral and also judicial nexus with the first Man. It does not tell us how those inscrutable but solid facts fit into the whole plan of God’s creative wisdom and moral government. The lamp shines there, upon the edges of a deep ravine beside the road; it does not shine sun-like over the whole mountain land.

As with other mysteries which will meet us later, so with this; we approach it as those who "know in part," and who know that the apostolic Prophet, by no defect of inspiration, but by the limits of the case, "prophesies in part." Thus with awful reverence, with godly fear, and free from the wish to explain away, yet without anxiety lest God should be proved unrighteous, we listen as Paul dictates, and receive his witness about our fall and our guilt in that mysterious "First Father."

We remember also another fact of this case. This paragraph deals only incidentally with Adam; its main theme is Christ. Adam is the illustration; Christ is the subject. We are to be shown in Adam, by contrast, some of "the unsearchable riches of Christ." So that our main attention is called not to the brief outline of the mystery of the Fall, but to the assertions of the related splendour of the Redemption.

St. Paul is drawing again to a close, a cadence. He is about to conclude his exposition of the Way of Acceptance, and to pass its junction with the Way of Holiness. And he shows us here last, in the matter of Justification, this fragment from "the bottoms of the mountains"-the union of the justified with their redeeming Lord as race with Head; the nexus in that respect between them and Him which makes His "righteous act" of such infinite value to them. In the previous paragraph, as we have seen, he has gravitated toward the deeper regions of the blessed subject; he has indicated our connection with the Lord’s Life as well as with His Merit. Now, recurring to the thought of the Merit, he still tends to the depths of truth, and Christ our Righteousness is lifted before our eyes from those pure depths as not the Propitiation only, but the Propitiation who is also our Covenant-Head, our Second Adam, holding His mighty merits for a new race, bound up with Himself in the bond of real unity.

He "prophesies in part," meanwhile, even in respect of this element of his message. As we saw just above, the fullest explanations of our union with the Lord Christ in His life were reserved by St. Paul’s Master for other Letters than this. In the present passage we have not, what probably we should have had if the Epistle had been written five years later, a definite statement of the connection between our Union with Christ in His covenant and our Union with Him in His life; a connection deep, necessary, significant. It is not quite absent from this passage, if we read verses 17, 18 (Romans 5:17-18) aright; but it is not prominent. The main thought is of merit, righteousness, acceptance; of covenant, of law. As we have said, this paragraph is the climax of the Epistle to the Romans as to its doctrine of our peace with God through the merits of His Son. It is enough for the purpose of that subject that it should indicate, and only indicate, the doctrine that His Son is also our Life, our indwelling Cause and Spring of purity and power.

Recollecting thus the scope and the connection of the passage, let us listen to its wording.

On this account, on account of the aspects of our justification and reconciliation "through our Lord Jesus Christ" which he has just presented, it is just as through one man sin entered into the world, the world of man, and, through sin, death, and so to all men death travelled, penetrated, pervaded, inasmuch as all sinned; the Race sinning in its Head, the Nature in its representative Bearer. The facts of human life and death show that sin did thus pervade the race, as to liability, and as to penalty: For until law came sin was in the world: it was present all along, in the ages previous to the great Legislation. But sin is not imputed, is not put down as debt for penalty, where law does not exist, where in no sense in there statute to be obeyed or broken, whether that statute takes articulate expression or not. But death became king, from Adam down to Moses, even over those who did not sin on the model of the transgression of Adam-who is (in the present tense of the plan of God) pattern of the Coming One.

He argues from the fact of death, and from its universality, which implies a universality of liability, of guilt. According to the Scriptures, death is essentially penal in the case of man, who was created not to die but to live. How that purpose would have been fulfilled if "the image of God" had not sinned against Him, we do not know. We need not think that. the fulfilment would have violated any natural process; higher processes might have governed the case, in perfect harmony with the surroundings of terrestrial life, till perhaps that life was transfigured, as by a necessary development, into the celestial and immortal. But, however, the record does connect, for man, the fact of death with the fact of sin, offence, transgression. And the fact of death is universal, and so has been from the first. And thus it includes generations most remote from the knowledge of a revealed code. And it includes individuals most incapable of a conscious act of transgression such as Adam’s was; it includes the heathen, and the infant, and the imbecile. Therefore wherever there is human nature, since Adam fell, there is sin, in its form of guilt. And therefore, in some sense which perhaps only the Supreme Theologian Himself fully knows, but which we can follow a little way, all men offended in the First Man-so favourably conditioned, so gently tested. The guilt contracted by him is possessed also by them. And thus is he "the pattern of the Coming One."

For now the glorious Coming One, the Seed of the Woman, the blessed Lord of the Promise, rises on the view, in His likeness and in His contrast. Writing to Corinth from Macedonia, about a year before, St. Paul had called him [1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Corinthians 15:47] "the Second Adam," "the Second Man"; and had drawn in outline the parallel he here elaborates. "In Adam all die; even so in Christ all shall be made alive." It was a thought which he had learned in Judaism, but which his Master had affirmed to him in Christianity; and noble indeed and far reaching is its use of it in this exposition of the sinner’s hope.

But not as the transgression, so the gracious gift. For if, by the transgression of the one, the many, the many affected by it, died, much rather did the grace of God, His benignant action, and the gift, the grant of our acceptance, in the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, ("in His grace," because involved in His benignant action, in His redeeming work) abound unto the many whom it, whom He, affected.

We observe here some of the phrases in detail. "The One"; "the One Man":-"the one," in each case, is related to "the many" involved, in bane or in blessing respectively. "The One Man":-so the Second Adam is designated, not the First. As to the First, "it goes unsaid" that he is man. As to the Second, it is infinitely wonderful, and Of eternal import, that He, as truly, as completely, is one with us, is Man of men. "Much rather did the grace, and the gift, abound":-the thought given here is that while the dread secret of the Fall was solemnly permitted, as good in law, the sequel of the divine counter work was gladly sped by the Lord’s willing love, and was carried to a glorious overflow, to an altogether unmerited effect, in the present and eternal blessing of the justified. "The many," twice mentioned in this verse, are the whole company which, in each case, stands related to the respective Representative. It is the whole race in the case of the Fall; it is the "many brethren" of the Second Adam in the case of the Reconciliation. The question is not of numerical comparison between the two, but of the numerousness of each host in relation to the oneness of its covenant Head. What the numerousness of the "many brethren" will be we know-and we do not know; for it will be "‘a great multitude, which no one can number." But that is not in the question here. The emphasis, the "much rather," the "abundance," lies not on the compared numbers, but on the amplitude of the blessing which overflows upon "the many" from the justifying work of the One.

He proceeds, developing the thought. From the act of each Representative, from Adam’s Fall and Christ’s Atonement, there issued results of dominion, of royalty. But what was the contrast of the cases! In the Fall, the sin of the One brought upon "the many" judgment, sentence, and the reign of death over them. In the Atonement, the righteousness of the One brought upon "the many" an "abundance," an overflow, a generous largeness and love of acceptance, and the power of life eternal, and a prerogative of royal rule over sin and death; the emancipated captives treading upon their tyrant’s necks. We follow out the Apostle’s wording:

And not as through the one who sinned, who fell, so is the gift; our acceptance in our Second Head does not follow the law of mere and strict retribution which appears in our fall in our first Head. (For, he adds in emphatic parenthesis, the judgment did issue, from one transgression, in condemnation, in sentence of death; but the gracious gift issued, from many transgressions, -not indeed as if earned by them, as if caused by them, but as occasioned by them; for this wonderful process of mercy found in our sing, as well as, in our Fall, a reason for the Cross-in a deed of justification.) For if in one transgression, "in" it, as the effect is involved in its cause, death came to reign through the one offender, much rather those who are receiving, in their successive cases and generations, that abundance of the grace just spoken of, and of the free gift of righteousness, of acceptance, shall in life, life eternal, begun now, to end never, reign over their former tyrants through the One, their glorious One, Jesus Christ.

And now he sums up the whole in one comprehensive inference and affirmation. "The One" "the many"; "the One," "the all"; the whole mercy for the all due to the one work of the One; -such is the ground thought all along. It is illustrated by "the one" and "the many" of the Fall, but still so as to throw the real weight of every word not upon the Fall but upon the Acceptance. Here, as throughout this paragraph, we should greatly mistake if we thought that the illustration and the object illustrated were to be pressed, detail by detail, into one mould. To cite an instance to the contrary, we are certainly not to take him to mean that because Adam’s "many" are not only fallen in him, but actually guilty, therefore Christ’s "many" are not only accepted in Him, but actually and personally meritorious of acceptance. The whole Epistle negatives that thought. Nor again are we to think, as we ponder ver. 18 (Romans 5:18), that because "the condemnation" was "to all men" in the sense of their being not only condemnable but actually condemned, therefore "the justification of life" was "to all men" in the sense that all mankind are actually justified. Here again the whole Epistle, and the whole message of St. Paul about our acceptance, are on the other side. The provision is for the genus, for man; but the possession is for men-who believe. No; these great details in the parallel need our reverent caution, lest we think peace where there is, and can be, none. The force of the parallel lies in the broader and deeper factors of the two matters. It lies in the mysterious phenomenon of covenant headship, as affecting both our Fall and our Acceptance; in the power upon the many, in each case, of the deed of the One; and then in the magnificent fulness and positiveness of result in the case of our salvation. In our Fall, sin merely worked itself out into doom and death. In our Acceptance, the Judge’s award is positively crowned and as it were loaded with gifts and treasures. It brings with it, in ways not described here, but amply shown in other Scriptures, a living union with a Head who is our life, and in whom we possess already the powers of heavenly being in their essence. It brings with it not only the approval of the Law, but accession to a throne. The justified sinner is a king already, in his Head, over the power of sin, over the fear of death. And he is on his way to a royalty in the eternal future which shall make him great indeed, great in his Lord.

The absolute dependence of our justification upon the Atoning Act of our Head, and the relation of our Head to us accordingly as our Centre and our Root of blessing, this is the main message of the passage we are tracing. The mystery of our congenital guilt is there, though it is only incidentally there. And after all what is that mystery? It is assuredly a fact. The statement of this paragraph, that the many were "constituted sinners by the disobedience of the one," what is it? It is the Scripture expression, and in some guarded sense the Scripture explanation of a consciousness deep as the awakened soul of man; that I, a member of this homogeneous race, made in God’s image, not only have sinned, but have been a sinful being from my first personal beginning; and that I ought not to be so, and ought never to have been so. It is my calamity, but it is also my accusation. This I cannot explain; but this I know. And to know this, with a knowledge that is not merely speculative but moral, is to be "’ shut up unto Christ," in a self-despair that can go nowhere else than to Him for acceptance, for peace, for holiness, for power.

Let us translate, as they stand, the closing sentences before us:

Accordingly therefore, as through one transgression there came a result to all men, to condemnation, to sentence of death, so through one deed of righteousness there came a result to all men, (to "all" in the sense we have indicated, so that whoever of mankind receives the acceptance owes it always and wholly to the Act of Christ,) to justification of life, to an acceptance which not only bids the guilty "not die," but opens to the accepted the secret, in Him who is their Sacrifice, of powers which live in Him for them as He is their Life. For as, by the disobedience of the one man, the many, the many of that case, were constituted sinners, constituted guilty of the fall of their nature from God, so that their being sinful is not only their calamity but their sin, so too by the obedience of the One, "not according to their works," that is, to their conduct, past, present, or to come, but "by the obedience of the One," the many, His "many brethren," His Father’s children through faith in Him, shall be, as each comes to Him in all time, and then by the final open proclamation of eternity, constituted righteous, qualified for the acceptance of the holy Judge.

Before he closes this page of his message, and turns the next, he has as it were a parenthetic word to say, indicating a theme to be discussed more largely later. It is the function of the law, the moral place of the perceptive Fiat, in view of this wonderful Acceptance of the guilty. He has suggested the question already, Romans 3:31; he will treat some aspects of it more fully later. But it is urgent here to enquire at least this, Was law a mere anomaly, impossible to put into relation with justifying grace? Might it have been as well out of the way, never heard of in the human world? No, God forbid. One deep purpose of acceptance was to glorify the Law, making the perceptive Will of God as dear to the justified as it is terrible to the guilty.

But now, besides this, it has a function antecedent as well as consequent to justification. Applied as positive precept to the human will in the Fall, what does it do? It does not create sinfulness; God forbid. Not God’s will but the creature’s will did that. But it occasions sin’s declaration of war. It brings out the latent rebellion of the will. It forces the disease to the surface - merciful force, for it shows the sick man his danger, and it gives point to his Physician’s words of warning and of hope. It reveals to the criminal his guilt; as it is sometimes found that information of a statutory human penalty awakens a malefactor’s conscience in the midst of a half-unconscious course of crime. And so it brings out to the opening eyes of the soul the wonder of the remedy in Christ. He sees the Law; he sees himself; and now at last it becomes a profound reality to him to see the Cross. He believes, adores, and loves. The merit of his Lord covers his demerit, as the waters the sea. And he passes from the dread but salutary view of "the reign" of sin over him, in a death he cannot fathom, to submit to "the reign" of grace, in life, in death, forever.

Now law came sideways in; law, in its largest sense, as it affects the fallen, but with a special reference, doubtless, to its articulation at Sinai. It came in "sideways," as to its relation to our acceptance; as a thing which should indirectly promote it, by not causing but occasioning the blessing; that the transgression might abound, that sin, that sins, in the most inclusive sense, might develop the latent evil, and as it were expose it to the work of grace. But where the sin multiplied, in the place, the region, of fallen humanity, there did superabound the grace; with that mighty overflow of the bright ocean of love which we have watched already. That just as our sin came to reign in our death, our penal death, so too might the grace come to reign, having its glorious way against our foes and over us, through righteousness, through the justifying work, to life eternal, which here we have, and which hereafter will receive us into itself, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

"The last words of Mr. Honest were, Grace reigns. So he left the world." Let us walk with the same watchword through the world, till we too, crossing that Jordan, lean with a final simplicity of faith upon "the obedience of the One."

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Romans 5:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/romans-5.html.

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