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Sunday, December 10th, 2023
the Second Week of Advent
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Bible Commentaries
Romans 5

Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and RevelationNewell's Commentary

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Verses 1-11


Verses 12-21


Romans 5:12-21


ADAM CHRIST } Verse 14.


ADAM--one trespass: Verses 12,15,17,18,19.

CHRIST--one righteous act (on the cross): Verse. 18.


By ADAM--Condemnation, guilt, death: Verses 15, 16, 18, 19.

By CHRIST--Justification, life, kingship: Verses 17, 18, 19.


In degree (Verse 15 ) {God the Creator's grace by Christ, abounds beyond the sin of the creature, Adam..

In kind or operation (Verse 16) {One sin, by Adam--condemnation and reign of death.

Many sins on Christ--justification and "reigning in life" for

those accepting God's grace by Him.


SIN--reigning through Death: Verse 17.

GRACE--reigning through Righteousness: Verse 21.






12 Therefore it [salvation through Christ's work] is just as when through one man sin entered the world, and through the sin, death: and in that way death passed to all men, for that all sinned [in Adam]: for before the Law [of Moses]13 sin was in the world: but sin is not put to account if there is not law [against it]. 14 Notwithstanding, death reigned-as-king from Adam until Moses, even over those not having sinned after the likeness of the transgression of Adam,--who is a type of the Coming One [Christ]. 15 But not as the trespass, so also is the grace-bestowal (charisma). For if by the trespass of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the free-gift (dorea) of the One Man. Jesus Christ, abound unto the many! 16 And not as through one that sinned, so is the act of giving (dorema): for the judgment came out of one [trespass] unto condemnation; but the grace-bestowal (charisma) came out of many trespasses unto a righteous [or justifying] act (dikaioma) [at the cross]. 17 For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned-as-king through the one, much more those accepting the abundance of grace and of the free-gift (dorea) of righteousness, shall reign-as-kings in life through the One, Jesus Christ! 18 So then just as [the principle was] through one trespass unto all men to condemnation; even so also [the principle is] through one righteous [or justifying] act [dikaioma] unto all men to justification of life! 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were set down as sinners, even so, through the obedience of the One the many shall be set down as righteous. 20 Law, moreover, came in alongside, that trespass [of law] might abound. But, where the sin abounded, the grace overflowed! 21 In order that, just as sin reigned-as-king by means of death: grace might reign-as-king, through righteousness, unto life eternal, through Jesus Christ our Lord.


We have seen, in Chapters One to Three, the fact of universal human guilt, that all thus are "falling short of God's glory"; and we have seen Christ set forth by God as a "propitiation through faith in His blood." We also found that believers were declared righteous; and seen connected with a Risen Christ, in Chapter Four. Then we saw, in the first part of Chapter Five, the blessed results of this "justification by faith."

When we come to Romans 5:12, a new phase or view of our salvation appears. (Although note our comments on Chapter 3:23 (Romans 3:23).) A general view of the passage will be helpful.

The two men, Adam and Christ, with their distinct federal [Federal: in this book we use this word as indicating the action of one for all in a representative manner; or for the consequences of such action.] or representative consequences, are before us. It is no longer what we have done--our sins, but the one trespass of Adam that is in view. And it is the work of Christ, also, looked at as an "Adam,"--His "righteous act" of death; with its effect of justification for us. So now we look back to the act that set us down as sinners, instead of to our own deeds; and to the act that sets us down righteous, apart from our own works.

There is no more direct statement in Scripture concerning justification than we find in verse 19: Through the obedience of the One shall the many be constituted righteous [before God]. It is true that up to verse 11 the question has been one of sins rather than the thing sin itself. It is true also that in verse 18, in the expression justification of life, the resurrection-side of salvation is before us. But we need to mark that God, in the great passage from verse 12 to verse 21, grounds our justification wholly in the work of Another than ourselves, even Christ; showing also the incidental place that the Law had--"that the trespass might abound"; thus opening the flood-gates of Grace!

The key word of this great passage is "one." You will find it as follows (14 times in all) (Romans 5:12-19):

"One man"--"one man"--"one man"--verses 12, 15, 19.

"The one"--"the one"--"the One"--verses 15, 17, 19.

"One"--"one"--"one" (trespass) "one" (righteous act)--verses 16 (twice), 18 (twice).

"Through--one act of righteousness"--verse 18. "Through--the obedience of THE ONE"--verse 19.

"Through {one trespass"--verses 15, 17, 18.

one man's disobedience"--verse 19

"Through { one act of righteousness"--verse 18.

the obedience of THE ONE"--verse 19.

It will never do to go about counting ourselves justified in the sense merely of having our own trespasses, those we have committed, forgiven; for this would amount to counting ourselves as innocent before we personally sinned, and to have become guilty merely because we personally sinned. But this is to forget that we all were made sinners by Adam's act,--not our own. Nor does this mean that we got a "sinful nature" from our "first parents": "By nature" we were, indeed, "children of wrath," Paul tells us in Ephesians 2; and David declares: "In sin did my mother conceive me." But Romans Five does not talk of a nature of sin received by us from Adam, but of our being made guilty by his act. We were so connected with the first Adam that we did not have to wait to be born, or to have a sinful nature; but when Adam, our representative, acted, we acted. Romans 5:19 plainly says, Through the one man's disobedience the many were set down as sinners, while the preceding verse says the principle was, through one trespass--unto all men to condemnation.

"Condemnation" is a forensic word, it belongs to the court, not to the birth-chamber.

The same Divine principle is illustrated in the fact that "through Abraham even Levi," Abraham's great-grandson, who receiveth tithes, hath paid tithes, for he was yet in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him" (Hebrews 7:9). God says of Levi, who was not yet born, whose father was not yet born, whose grandfather (Isaac) was not yet born: "LEVI PAID TITHES!"

The great truth of Romans 5:12-21 is that a representative acted, involving those connected with him.

We see immediately how Paul in a seven-fold way insists on the fact that Adam's act of sin affected his race:

1. Through one man sin entered into the world (vs. 12a).

2. So in that way death passed unto all men, for that all sinned, [when Adam sinned] (vs. 12b).

3. By the trespass of the one the many died (vs. 15).

4. The judgment came out of one [trespass] unto condemnation (vs. 16).

5. By the trespass of the one, death reigned-as-king through the one (vs. 17).

6. Through one trespass [the effect was] towards all men to condemnation (vs. 18).

7. Through the one man's disobedience the many were set down as [or made to become] sinners (vs. 19).

On the other hand, as regards Christ, we find:

That He is also an Adam--a representative or federal Man who acts for all, and in whom all in Him are seen. Adam is called a figure [Greek: typos--type] of Him that was to come--Christ (vs. 14).

1. That by the One Man Jesus Christ, the grace of God, and the free-gift [by that grace] did abound unto the many much beyond the evil results of Adam's sin (vs. 15).

2. That through our Lord's one righteous act [His death on the cross] the free-gift goes out to all men to justification of life, just as through [Adam's] one trespass the judgment came to all men to condemnation (vs. 18).

3. That through the obedience [unto death] of the One [Christ] the many [those who received the gift] shall be set down righteous [before God] (vs. 19).

4. That those who receive the abundance of [God's] grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign-as-kings in life through the One, Jesus Christ,--much beyond death s reigning through the one [Adam] (vs. 17).


We may now consider this passage briefly, verse by verse:

Verse 12:

This whole plan of salvation,--by Christ's work, not ours, which we have been considering in Chapters Three, Four and Five, gives rise to the "therefore" which introduces this verse: Therefore [this plan of salvation of all by a single Redeemer], is on the same principle as when through [the other] one man sin entered the world; and, with it, its wages, death. Paul proceeds to emphasize that it was in that way,--that is, by one man, that death passed to all men, because when Adam sinned, all sinned. It was a federal representative act. Evidently physical death is primarily in view. "Man's breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psalms 146:4). And read carefully the note below. [Death is a Divine decree: "It is appointed unto men once to die and after this cometh judgment," Death involves four consequences: First, the utter ending of what we call human life. Second, falling consciously into the fearful hands of that power under which men have during their lifetime lightly lived, unprotected from the indescribable terrors and horrors connected therewith. Third, being imprisoned in Sheol or Hades--in "the pit wherein is no water," as was Dives in Luke 16. Compare Zechariah 9:11. fourth, exposure to the coming judgment and its eternal consequences. Of course, the believer is rescued from all this--even physical death,--from bodily. "falling asleep," if Christ comes during his lifetime! while it is true of all saints, those who keep Christ's word, that they shall "never see death" (John 8:51). Death and judgment are past for the believer, Christ his Substitute having endured them. Nevertheless, in this day of mad pleasure-seeking, it certainly behooves all of us to reflect on the fearful realities connected with death! (See also Note on Chapter 6:23 (Romans 6:23).)] So death passed unto all men, for that all sinned--The word "so" refers to the sin of the one man, but the words all sinned must not be read "all have sinned" (as the King James Version unfortunately mistranslates). The whole point is that all acted when Adam acted: all sinned. We have remarked on the aorist tense, "sinned" (Greek: h marton) in connection with its use in Chapter Three. To translate it here (Romans 5:12) "have sinned" is utterly to obscure the Scripture, making man's "sinnership" to depend on his own acts rather than on Adam's--which latter is the whole point of the passage.

Verses 13:

Now comes the remarkable statement that although sin was in the world during the first 2500 years, from Adam to Moses, it is not put to account when there is no law. The Greek word "put to account" used here occurs only one other time-- Philemon 1:18. It signifies to charge up something to anyone as a due. (The wholly different word "reckon" in Chapters 3:24 (Romans 3:24) and Romans 4:23, Romans 4:24 regards the person; this word in Romans 5:13 regards some item put to one's account.) It was to Adam, not to us, that God said: "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." It was to Israel through Moses that God gave the ten commandments. The general argument of the apostle here is to show the effect of a federal or representative sin, in which an Adam acted, bringing an effect upon the individuals connected with him. Paul is about to prove that death passed to all men not because they sinned, but because Adam sinned. He is also about to show (verse 18) that all men were condemned by Adam's act,--were made to become sinners.

To understand, therefore, the force of the words, sin is not put to account where there is no law,--or, as Conybeare enlighteningly paraphrases, "Sin is not put to the account of the sinner when there is no law forbidding it,"--we must remember:

1. That sin was in the world, between Adam and Moses.

2. That, according to Chapter One, the race had rejected light and were without excuse; though they were "without law" (anomos (G459)): for God's definition of sin is not "transgression of law" (1 John 3:4, A.V.), but anomia (G458), which means refusal to be controlled--self-will.

3. That there was a "work" (working) written in their hearts, to which their consciences bore witness, either accusing or else excusing them; and that this working necessarily corresponded morally to any law to be afterwards revealed by Jehovah.

4. That condign judgments, such as the Flood, and the overthrow of Sodom, and the destruction of the Canaanites, followed the "filling up of the cup of iniquity" at such times: for such sinners both trampled on their own consciences, and inherited the previous generations of guilt.

5. That, nevertheless, the sins between Adam and Moses did not bring about the sentence of death upon humanity, however much individuals or nations might hasten death's overtaking them. For these people, though they sinned, had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression, which was a wilful violation of a direct command of a revealed God; as was Israel's making, through Aaron, the calf at Sinai: evolving judicial consequences to others besides themselves. For we read in Exodus 32:34 of a set future "visitation" on Israel, because of that sin at Sinai of their fathers: "In the day that I visit, I will visit their sin upon them"; this will be in "the time of Jacob's trouble," in the Great Tribulation--long after the calf-worship; indeed, still future!

6. We therefore must regard the human race as under a sentence of death they did not bring upon themselves: death reigned from Adam until Moses (vs. 14). Unlike Adam, and unlike Israel after Moses, those who lived between the two had no positive outward Divine law, the breaking of which would be a direct transgression and a threatening of death therefor. Nevertheless "death reigned"--even over them. Constantly before our eyes is the attestation to the same truth: babes that know nothing of right or wrong, die. Every little white coffin,--yea, every coffin, should remind us of the universal effect of that sin of Adam, for it was thus and thus only that "death passed to all men."

We see then, that from Adam until Moses, death "reigned-as-king" [We say, "reigned-as-king," because the Greek word means that. Not the power of sin to hold in bondage, as in Chapter Six, is here meant; but the royal word, basileuo, is used, denoting sovereignty, not mere lordship.] on account of Adam's sin. Paul has said (Romans 4:15), "Where there is no law neither is there transgression"; so that those between Adam and Moses, not having direct commands of God, consequently had not transgressed known commands as Adam had done. Nevertheless, Adam's transgression had involved his whole race.

Verse 14:

Here Adam is declared a type of the One who was to come--that is, of Christ, the last Adam. We cannot sufficiently urge the study of this great passage: until the mind sees, and the heart understands--and that gladly, condemnation by the one, and justification by the Other. It is just as necessary to see this "by the one" doctrine regarding our spirits, as regarding our bodies. As to the latter, Paul says, "As in Adam all die, so also In Christ shall all be made alive"; "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second Man is of heaven . . . And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (1 Corinthians 15:22; 1 Corinthians 15:47; 1 Corinthians 15:49). To discover that we are even now no longer connected with that first Adam in which we were born, but with the Risen Christ, the last Adam--this will be our joy in Chapters Six to Eight. But the foundation of this blessed truth is laid here in the Doctrine of the Two Men.

We find in verses 15 to 17 a sort of parenthesis in which the results of Adam's trespass and Christ's act of obedience are shown to differ in two respects (but not at all in the principle of the one involving the many). In the first case (verse 15) there is the difference of degree in the result, because of the infinite chasm between the creature Adam, and the Creator--God and His Son Jesus Christ! So we read:

Verse 15:

For if by the trespass of the one [Adam] death came to the many; MUCH MORE did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of THE ONE MAN, JESUS CHRIST, abound unto the many! It takes faith to esteem this true now, seeing, as we do, the cemeteries all about us; death on every hand,--the general dire results of sin; but we must believe that the free gift will finally be seen, in its results, to be as far beyond the results of the trespass, as God and Christ are greater than the creature Adam! [David Brown (in Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's excellent commentary) disagrees here, saying: "The much more' here does not mean that we get much more of good by Christ than of evil by Adam (for it is not a case of quantity at all); but, that we have much more reason to expect,--or, it is much more agreeable to our ideas of God, that the many should be benefited by the merits of one; and, if the latter has happened, much more' may we assure ourselves of the former." But after all this does not disagree with what we have above said, for it is Adam, the sinning creature, on the one hand; and the infinitely great and good God, and His grace by His Son Christ, on the other. Measure, quantity, must enter in: as, indeed, in saying of God "we have much more reason to expect," Dr. Brown tacitly admits. "Much more," says Paul, "did the grace"--of whom? GOD. This emphasizing God brings out everything!]

Verse 16:

And not as through one that sinned, so is the act of giving: for the judgment came out of one unto condemnation; but the grace-bestowal came out of many trespasses unto a righteous act. This tells us that out of Adam's one trespass came judgment, but that out of many trespasses laid upon Christ came not judgment, but a righteous act (dikaioma). [To the student of Greek (and to others, also), it is most instructive to note Paul's use of the words connected with righteousness: dikaios means righteous; dikaiosune means righteousness; dikaioO is to declare righteous; dikaiOsis means justification, or the act of declaring one righteous; dikaiOma, the "righteous act," that makes justification possible.] In short, all men acted,--sinned in Adam's act of sin. They that receive is on the principle of "the one for the many," but manifestly does not include all men, because some reject; although we find in verse 18 that the free gift "came" unto them,--"unto all men."

Note what it is that believing ones "receive":

1. First, abundance of grace: The cross having met righteously all the claims of the Divine being, and the Divine throne, against sinners, God has now spoken to us as He is, in abounding grace, for "God is Love." Over and over are "abound," "abundance" used here to express God's attitude; and the free motion, since the cross, of His infinitely loving heart toward sinners, in gracious kindness. Those who "receive" God's grace give Him the honor of His graciousness.

2. Second, Those that "receive" this abundance of grace have therewith the gift of righteousness. What a gift! Apart from works, apart from the Law, apart from ordinances, apart from worthiness, an out and out gift of righteousness from God! Many times in teaching this passage to Bible classes I have asked them to repeat three times over each of these expressions: "The abundance of grace," "the gift of righteousness." We earnestly commend this to you, dear reader! Try it.

Alas, how few believers have the courage of faith! We have looked so long at our unworthiness that the very thought of pushing away from the shore-lines and launching out on the limitless, fathomless ocean of Divine grace makes us shrink and waver. When some saint here or there does begin to believe the facts and walk in shouting liberty, we say (perhaps secretly), "He must be an especially holy, consecrated man." No, he is just a poor sinner like you, who is believing in the abundance of grace! And if we hear some one praising God for the gift of righteousness, because he is now righteous in Christ before God, we are ready to accuse him of thinking too highly of himself. No, he is just a poor sinner like you and me, but one who has dared to believe that he has received an outright gift of righteousness, and is rejoicing in it.

Verse 17:

For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned-as-king through the one, much more those accepting the abundance of grace and of the free-gift of righteousness, shall reign-as-kings in life through the One, Jesus Christ! It is not only that you have life, and that eternal life, in Christ: but here in verse 17 we find two kingdoms:

First, By the trespass of the one death reigned-as-king through the one. And is that not true? I travelled around this world from west to east, beginning from Chicago. As we went eastward to the older parts of the States, we saw the stones thicker and thicker in the cemeteries. Then in England and Scotland, still more cemeteries, with still more monuments to the reign of death. But when we got out to old China, I was literally appalled at the number of the tombs and the coffins! Surely death has reigned, through Adam!

But second (for the fourth time in this chapter), God now uses the words "much more," applying them to those who accept the abundance of His grace and of His gift of righteousness, saying these shall reign-as-kings in life through the One, even Jesus Christ. Look now at this expression, reign-as-kings in life. I am writing this during the week of the coronation of George VI of England, and have heard of the splendors with which the ceremony was attended; and we do thank God for the British Empire, and honor, with her subjects, her monarch. But, ah, believer, look closely at these words of Paul, reigning in life. Here is a kingdom before which all of earth is dust. And who are the kings here? Believers! Those whose humble faith has "received the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness": these shall reign-as-kings through Jesus Christ.

God has "the ages to come" in which to manifest fully this mighty reigning! But it is already begun for those in Christ. Gideon, speaking of certain Israelites, asked the kings of Midian, "What manner of men were they?" "As thou art, so were they," they answered; "each one resembled the children of a king." "They shall reign forever and ever," is God's description of the saints of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:5). And their reign has already, in this life, begun; because they are in Christ the mighty Victor! Satan would fain keep from your ears this news, believer, that you stand in the abundance of God's grace; that you have received the gift of righteousness in Christ; and that you are to reign-as-a-king-in-life now and forever, through the One, Jesus Christ. May God awaken us to the facts! [When Israel inquired of the Lord about Saul, the eon of Kish, who had been anointed as their King (for they could not find him), the Lord answered, you remember' "Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff." "And they ran and fetched him thence" (1 Samuel 10:22-23). How sad if some of us who have received the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness, and whom God desires to be reigning in life in Christ, have gotten ourselves hidden "among the stuff,"--of earthly goods, and ambitions, "religious" traditions, and the literature of this world!] Satan is deathly jealous of the Church of God, which is already in the heavenlies, from which he is soon to be cast out. He knows that the Church will share Christ's throne and soon reign with Him in indescribable glory. Therefore he will blind you, if he can, to your present place of royal power of life in Christ. It will, we are sure, be a matter of fathomless regret to many Christians, at Christ's coming, that their lives on earth were characterized by doubt, defeat and depression; rather than by victorious reigning in life in Christ. God has no favorites. Each one who is in Christ has a complete Christ. The exhortations of the Epistles are addressed alike to all. David Livingstone early wrote in his diary, "I have found that I have no unusual endowments of intellect, but I this day resolved that I would be an uncommon Christian." Concerning such it is written, "Considering the issue of their manner of life, imitate their faith" (Hebrews 13:7). Let us refuse to be content with a Christian existence that cannot finally be summed up as "He reigned in life through Jesus Christ,"--over sin, Satan, the world, difficulties, adverse surroundings and circumstances. Let us remember the apostles, the martyrs. Reformers, godly Puritans, the holy Wesleys, and Whitefields, the Havergals and Crosbys; and the humble saints we know, whose existence is described by Paul's glorious phrase "reigning in life through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Verse 18:

So then, just as [the principle was] through one trespass unto all men to condemnation; even so also through one righteous [or justifying] act [the principle is] unto all men to justification of life! Through one trespass [it was] unto all men to condemnation--The expression "the many" in verses 15 and 19 indicates the principle of the evil effect of the act of the one going forth to others; the expression "all men," of verse 18, emphasizes the extent of the application of that principle: absolutely all human beings were condemned when Adam sinned.

Now do not question either God's right or His wisdom here, or His love. He had the right to have a judgment day of our whole race in Eden, in our head, Adam; and He did so. He always does right. Furthermore, He knew that creatures would ever fail,--there is no sufficiency in the creature, but only in the Creator. You and I would fail, as did Adam! and God desired that believers should be secure forever, by Christ's work. It was in love He held that judgment day in Eden. In love He judged us, condemned us, in our federal head, Adam, that He might justify us in the work and Person of the other federal Head, Christ!

The ordinary conception of justification does not go beyond the pardon of sin. This indeed is first; and we should also have confidence that our sins will never be reckoned against us--whether they be past, present, or future sins. This is seen in Chapter 4:7, 8 (Romans 4:7, Romans 4:8); and in Chapter 5:9 (Romans 5:9), we see ourselves "justified in His blood," "justified from all things," as Paul says in Acts 13:39. But this leaves the believer without a positive standing. We do not come to "justification of life" [The expression "justification of life" seems to stand over against that condemnation and death which came by Adam's trespass. It is a characterizing word: What is offered unto all men, through Christ's act of righteousness at the cross is not only a cancellation of guilt, but life in the Risen One. For, since Adam's sin, there was only spiritual death in his race. The words of John 1:4, regarding Christ, "In Him was life," describe the only source of life for man. And justification must be of life: for those justified are most certainly taken, out of their place of death in Adam, and given a place of life in Christ.] until Chapter 5:18 (Romans 5:18).

Now it is Christ Risen who is made our "standing": so that, as we see else where, we do not need aught else: for we are in Christ. Justification provides therefore not only release from the penalty of sin, but also a place in the Risen Christ Himself. This begins to be indicated in Chapter Four, where righteousness is reckoned to those who "believe on Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead." It is, of course, necessarily comprehended in the astonishing phrase IN CHRIST JESUS,--used first in Chapter 6:11 (Romans 6:11)! And it is amplified and developed through the rest of Paul's epistles. In 1 Corinthians 1:30 we see that Christ Himself, Risen, was made unto the believer, righteousness. Paul also in Galatians 2:20; Galatians 2:21 directly connects his having been "crucified with Christ" with righteousness. That is, the history in Adam of believers was ended at the cross. (Yet always remember that it was as ungodly ones that they believed!)

In Colossians 1:12 we read: "Giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." Then hear again that most stupendous utterance of all: "Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is this glorious revelation, which men have been loathe to read, teach, or refer to, which we must apprehend by God's grace, and by that grace believe!

Now, how, in what sense, are we "the righteousness of God" in Christ?

It is at once evident that to set us in His own presence in Christ as He has done, God must ( I ) reckon to us the infinitely perfect expiation of Christ in putting away our sin by His blood; (2) make us one with Christ in His death; and (3) place us in Christ Risen, even as Christ is received before Him. All this He has done; so that He says we are the righteousness of God in Christ. If we are in Christ, we are before God in Christ, "even as He,"--"accepted in Him."

Verse 19:

For just as through the disobedience ot the one man the many were set down as sinners, even so, through the obedience of the One the many shall be set down as righteous.

Set down as sinners--the word "sinners," here, is not an adjective (sinful), but a substantive,--sinners. [The Greek word (hamartolos) means not merely one possessed of a sinful nature or tendency, but one who is regarded as having committed sin. The same word is used in 3:7 and 5:8. "Substantive, hamartOlos, a sinner; common acceptance, LXX, New Testament, etc."--Liddell and Scott. This word is used in N.T. to designate sinners 41 times' beginning with Matthew 9:10; five times in Luke 15:1-31, and four times in John 9:1-41; and only four times in an adjectival sense (Mark 8:38; Luke 5:8; Luke 24:7; Romans 7:13).] Verse 19 first sums up the doctrine of our federal guilt by Adam's sin, then sums up our justification by Christ's death.

The whole emphasis of verses 12 to 19 is upon the fact that the effect, whether in the case of Adam or in the case of Christ was produced by a federal head acting apart from any actions of those affected. There was a judgment held in Eden, by the righteous God, the pronouncement of which is, "unto all men to condemnation.'' [Human reasoning is futile and dangerous here. Men form themselves into "schools of theology" over this subject, each founding a "system" upon his notion of how Adam's trespass affected all. But that a man may act before he is born in person of his responsible forbear is evident, as we have shown, in the case of Levi, in Hebrews 7:9.] This, of course, has no reference to eternal damnation, which is a consequence of the rejection of "the Light which has come into the world"--men loving darkness rather than light "because their deeds are evil." But it does assert a judgment of sinnerhood, by the guilt of Adam's action, upon the whole human race.

The whole lesson of this passage is, that just as we have Christ only as our righteousness, we have Adam only as sin and death to us. (God's Word, however, puts Adam's act and its effect first, as a type of Christ's work.) We repeat these things over and over, because of their importance, both for our settled peace, and also for our enjoyment of the normal, joyous Christian life.

Even so through the obedience of the One--This was our Lord's death, as an act of obedience: [Vaughan (as so frequently) gives a rendering of startling accuracy concerning disobedience and obedience in verse 19: "The one (parakoees) is properly, mishearing; the other, hupakoees, submissive hearing." Disobedience in its essence is refusal to hearken; and obedience is bowing the ear to submissive listening.] "He became obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross." He was of course always obedient to His Father, but it cannot be too strongly emphasized that His life before the cross,--His "active obedience" as it is called, is not in any sense counted to us for righteousness. "I delivered to you," says Paul, "first of all, that Christ died for our sins." Before His death He was "holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners." He Himself said: "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." Do you not see that those who claim that our Lord's righteous life under Moses' Law is reckoned to us for our "active" righteousness; while His death in which He put away our sins, is, as they claim, the "passive" side, are really leaving you, and the Lord too, under the authority of the Law?

"Justified in (the value or power of) His blood," and of that alone, gives the direct lie to the claim that man must have "an active righteousness" as well as "a passive righteousness." The specious assertion is, that "inasmuch as we have all broken the Law (although God says that Gentiles were without law'--and those in Christ are not under it!) and inasmuch as man cannot by his works himself recover his righteous standing, Christ, forsooth, came and kept The Law in man's place (!); and then went to the cross and suffered the penalty of death for man's guilt so that the result is an active righteousness' reckoned to man:--that is, Christ's keeping The Law in man's place; and, second, a passive righteousness,' which consists in the putting away of all guilt by the blood of Christ."

Now, the awful thing here is the unbelief concerning man's irrecoverable state before God. For not only must Christ's blood be shed in expiation of our guilt; but we had to die with Christ. We were connected with the old Adam; and the old man--all we had and were in Adam, must be crucified--if we were to be "joined to Another, even to Him that was raised from the dead." Theological teaching since the Reformation has never set forth clearly our utter end in death with Christ, at the cross.

The fatal result of this terrible error is to leave The Law as claiment over those in Christ: for, "Law has dominion over a man as long as he liveth" (Romans 7:1). Unless you are able to believe in your very heart that you died with Christ, that your old man was crucified with Him, and that you were buried, and that your history before God in Adam the first came to an utter end at Calvary, you will never get free from the claims of Law upon your conscience. (123)

[123] "Both Calvinists and Arminians think that the flesh is not so bad that it cannot be acted on for God by Christ using the Law of God and giving it power through the Spirit"--This is Wm. Kelly's shrewd and correct comment.

I say again, that the Law was given to neither Adam. The first Adam had life: God did not give him law whereby to get life! Not until Moses did the Law come in, and then only as an incidental thing to reveal to man his condition. The Law was not given to the first Adam, nor to the human race; but to Israel only (Deuteronomy 4:5-8; Deuteronomy 33:1-5; Psalms 147:19; Psalms 147:20). Again, the Law was not given to the Last Adam! "The Last Man Adam became a life-giving spirit": this is Christ, Risen from the dead, at God's right hand, communicating spiritual life. Is He under law? It is only the desperate legality of man's heart, his self-confidence, that makes him drag in the Law, and cling to the Law,--even though Christ must fulfil it for him! "Vicarious law-keeping" is Galatian heresy!

Our Lord said plainly that His work in this world was to die: "The Son of Man came to give His life a ransom"; and indeed, "through the Eternal Spirit He offered Himself without blemish unto God." True, He must be a spotless Lamb. But for what? For sacrifice! He did not touch our case, had no connection with us, until God laid our sins upon Him and made Him to become sin for us at the cross. Christ was not one of our race, "the sons of men": He was the Seed of the woman, not the man. He was the Son of Man, indeed, for God prepared for Him a body (Psalms 40; Hebrews 10), by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). But, though He moved among sinners, He was "separated from sinners," and had no connection with them until God made Him their sin offering at the cross.

Christ Himself, Risen, is our righteousness. His earthly life under the Law is not our righteousness. We have no connection with a Christ on earth and under the Law. We are expressly told in Romans 7:1-6, that even Jewish believers who have been under law were made dead to the Law by the Body of Christ, that they might be joined to Another, even to Him who was raised from the dead. One has beautifully said, "Christianity begins with the resurrection."

Verse 20:

Law, moreover, came in alongside [of sin] that the trespass [of law] might abound--The reference to law here shows that Paul has justification from guilt, and not our state of sinfulness, in view. "Law entered alongside" (pareis lthen) [It is very striking to note that in verse 13 where we read "through one man sin entered into the world," the word for entered is eiselthen; and now law enters alongside,--the word being the same--eiselthen--with the preposition para, alongside, prefixed. And so, "through law is the knowledge of sin." Sin entered, and law, entering alongside, revealed the sin.] not, in this connection, to reveal sinfulness, but thatthe trespass of law,--the act of law-breaking might abound. The Law, being given to neither Adam, came in alongside sin,--after sin had been there 2500 years, that vain self-confident Israel (as a public example for us all!) might see God's standard for those in the first Adam, and promising to obey it, fail; and thus know sin in order that Grace might overflow. That so, where sin had reigned, Grace might reign-as-king, through the righteous work of Christ on the cross, unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thus neither our sins nor our "sinful nature" has, in this passage, anything to do with our condemnation: but Adam's act only. And not our new life in Christ, nor our walking in the good works unto which we are created (Ephesians 2:10), has anything to do with constituting us righteous, but Christ's act of death only (vv. 18, 19). As we have said, law "came in alongside,"--not as in any sense a means of salvation, but that Israel (and through Israel, all of us) might discover guiltiness by breaking law; for law gives no power to keep law!

But, where sin abounded, grace did completely overflow. Grace began to work for Israel immediately after the Law was broken! For instead of cutting off Israel as a nation, God appointed Moses a mediator; and when sin came to a climax with the Jews' crucifying their Messiah, the Lord's words were "Father, forgive them." And as we shall read in Chapter Eleven, God will indeed yet forgive them,--will take away their sins and "bring in everlasting righteousness." Grace will yet over flow for Israel, nationally, as it has now overflowed to us as individual sinners, both Jews and Gentiles.

"Where sin abounded, grace overflowed," for such is ever the result of the work of the cross. Paul, who had been Christ's greatest enemy, the chief of sinners, declares himself to be the great example of mercy and grace: "I obtained mercy," he says "that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all His long-suffering, for an example of them that should hereafter believe on Him unto eternal life." And again: "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Corinthians 15:10; 1 Timothy 1:16).

We might turn to David and Manasseh in the Old Testament as examples of the overflowing heart of mercy of God. Or we might call up such examples in Church History as the reckless profligate Augustine, whom God made a shining light in His Church; or John Bunyan, the profane tinker, who wrote his wonderful experience of the Divine goodness in "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners"; or John Newton, once a libertine and infidel, "a servant of slaves in Africa," as he wrote of himself for his epitaph,--whom God transformed into one of the great vessels of mercy of the eighteenth century, and whose hymns of praise all the saints sing. It was Newton who wrote:

"Amazing grace! how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me."

and who told his own experience--so really that of all the saints--in the words of the beautiful hymn:

"In evil long I took delight

Unawed by shame or fear,

Till a new object met my sight,

And stopped my wild career.

"I saw One hanging on a tree,

In agonies and blood;

Who fixed His languid eyes on me,

As near His cross I stood.

"Sure, never till my latest breath,

Can I forget that look;

It seemed to charge me with His death,

Though not a word He spoke.

"My conscience felt and owned the guilt,

And plunged me in despair,

I saw my sins His blood had spilt,

And helped to nail Him there.

"Alas, I knew not what I did,

But all my tears were vain;

Where could my trembling soul be hid,

For I the Lord had slain!

"A second look He gave, that said,

I freely all forgive!

This blood is for thy ransom paid,

I died that thou mayest live.'"

On November 18, 1834, Robert Murray McCheyne, of St. Peter's Free Church, Dundee, Scotland, whose memory is like ointment poured forth, wrote his remarkable confession that his sins had caused Christ's death. The title, "Jehovah Tsidk nu," is the Hebrew for "The Lord Our Righteousness." Let it serve our use also, as it has that of thousands:


"I once was a stranger to grace and to God,

I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;

Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree,

Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.

"I oft read with pleasure, to soothe or engage,

Isaiah's wild measure, and John's simple page;

But e'en when they pictured the blood-sprinkled tree,

Jehovah Tsidkenu seemed nothing to me.

"Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,

I wept when the waters went over His soul;

Yet thought not that my sins had nailed to the tree

Jehovah Tsidkenu--'twas nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me, with light from on high

Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die;

No refuge, no safety, in self could I see,--

Jehovah Tsidkenu my Savior must he.

"My terrors all vanished before the sweet Name;

My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came

To drink at the fountain, life-giving and free--

Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.

"Jehovah Tsidkenu! my treasure and boast;

Jehovah Tsidkenu! I ne'er can be lost;

In Thee I shall conquer, by flood and by field--

My cable, my anchor, my breastplate and shield!"

We might multiply examples like these: but these words, "Where sin abounded, grace did completely overflow," with the salvation of Saul of Tarsus as the Scripture example, will suffice. I stood on the bluff at Memphis, Tennessee, and saw the mighty Mississippi, normally a mile wide, stretch over forty miles in flood, covering deep under its multitude of waters the land as far as I could see. So, where sin abounded, the grace of God overflowed everything. [Two entirely different Greek words are translated, in the Authorized Version, "abounded." But the first, used of sin, means to increase, he augmented; while the Second, used of grace, means to abound beyond measure, to overflow. Second (Thayer) These words come from entirely different roots, and should have been so distinguished in translation. But one who undertakes to express in English the depth of the Hebrew, and the extent of the Greek language, will soon discover the frequent poverty of the English tongue. Hebrew seems to be the language in which God first spoke with men; it is the vehicle of praise. But to the Greeks He gave that great intellectual development of their "Golden Age" in which their endeavor to perfect their language extended even to public assemblies where the most exact possible phrasing to express an idea was decided by contest. So when our Lord came as "the Savior of the World," that coming, according to the grand old Hebrew prophecies, was recorded in the Greek, which Alexander the Great had spread throughout the known world. The Romans, to whom had been given the power to govern, themselves admitted that they must borrow from the Greeks not only their philosophy, but also their method and manner of literary expression. Then also when the Roman Empire went into collapse, and the dark "Middle Ages" came in, the so-called Renaissance was the bringing of the Greek classics into crude Europe after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. And above all, the translation directly from the Greek New Testament manuscripts of our English Scriptures; for men had so long depended upon the faulty Latin (or Vulgate) translation. Perhaps the greatest wonder the last century and a quarter has seen is the translation into over 800 tongues and dialects of these same Hebrew and Greek Scriptures--with such transforming power that It is written of one Bible-bearing missionary, a man of God, in the South Sea Islands: "When he came, there were no Christians; when he left, there were no heathen." How wonderful that God should have a language of spiritual praise and worship--the Hebrew; and a language exact, intellectually rich,--the Greek, in which He could express the great doctrines concerning His Son! And both languages capable of being reproduced as to their spirit and meaning, not only in English, German, and French, but in the dialects of the most benighted heathen tribes,-- "every man in his own language."]

Verse 21:

In order that, just as sin reigned-as-king by means of death: grace might reign-as-king, through righteousness, unto life eternal, through Jesus Christ our Lord. This verse unfolds God's great object: that Grace should have a kingdom where Death had had its kingdom: and that, of course, through righteousness,--that is, that all Divine claims should be first righteously met at the cross, and thus that all should be "through Jesus Christ our Lord."

The question of justification is still on in Chapter Five, and not until Chapter Six is "our old man"--all we were from Adam--brought in. Furthermore, to bring into Chapter Five our sinful state by nature, is to confuse our sinful condition with that condemnation which over and over God says was brought about by Adam's single act, and by that only. "The judgment came of ONE TRESPASS unto condemnation," etc.

Now if you and I were condemned in Adam's sin, it is plain that to be justified we must be cleared not only of our own sins, but of our condemnation in Adam: our justification must cover all our condemnation.

Our justification, is, therefore, in this great passage, related not to our personal sins, as in Chapters Three and Four; but to our guilt by and in Adam, from which we are cleared by Christ's death. And Christ being now raised, we, connected with Him at the cross, now share His life: so that our justification is called "justification of life" (vs. 18).

It is true that we are not spoken of as "in Christ" until Chapter Six, where death with Christ is unfolded and our history in the first Adam, and our relation to sin, ended. But Paul speaks of being "justified in Christ" (Galatians 2:17). And certainly the subject in the last section of Chapter Five is justification: condemnation by Adam's trespass, and justification by Christ's righteous act of death.

Thus, not until we come to Chapter Six is our walk, our sanctification, taken up. It is true that the doctrine of the two men (Romans 5:12-21) makes possible of understanding the great fact of Chapter Six,--that we died with Christ. But the subject of the latter section of Chapter Five is condemnation by Adam, justification by Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Newell, William. "Commentary on Romans 5". Newell's Commentary on Romans, Hebrews and Revelation. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wnc/romans-5.html. 1938.
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