The weighty theme of justification has been now fully treated, on the side both of Christ’s blood shed in expiation and of His resurrection as carried through death in the power of God; that is to say, both negatively and positively, bearing all the consequences of our sins and manifesting the new estate in which He stands before God.
In the former half of our chapter the apostle draws out the consequences of justification. From verse 12 he enters on a new part of his subject which runs down to the end of Romans 8 and is practically an appendix to what goes before.
“Having therefore been justified by faith, we have13 peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also had access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.”
Peace with God we have as the first notable result of justification. Our previous state was enmity and war with God. But now that He has justified us by faith of Christ, we can look back at all the past, so humiliating to our souls, and yet we have peace with God.
It is a mistake to confound this with the ordinary apostolic salutation, which desires grace to the saints and “peace from God.” These we need continually, and feel so much the more to be needed because we have peace with God. Again, “the peace of God,” of which the apostle speaks in Philippians 4, is quite distinct; for it too is the want of the Christian in his daily circumstances. While he is enjoying peace with God as to his state, spite of the deep sense he may have of past guilt, he may not have the peace of God guarding his heart and his thoughts by Christ Jesus. He may be tried greatly and distracted, because anxious about this or that; if in one thing and another he fail by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to make known his requests to God, he will assuredly fail to enjoy the guardian power of His peace. This therefore differs indisputably from that primary blessedness, the fruit of justification, which the apostle treats as the common portion of believers in his Epistle to the Romans.
The next effect it is as important as sweet to take into account. Through our Lord Jesus Christ we have also, as a permanent blessing given already to us, the title of access into this favour wherein we stand. If the former was in view of all we had done in past hostility to God, this contemplates our actual place and the feeling which reigns where we stand. Blessed be God! it is grace that reigns there. Not a breath is there, save of favour toward us who deserved alas! to be cast out and contemned for our unworthy ways, even since we have been brought to God. We do not stand under law: this were to fall from grace, the sure precursor of falling into sin, as well as the denial of the Saviour and of His precious redemption, and of our own blessing. The access we have had through our Lord Jesus Christ is into the grace, the true grace of God, and there alone we stand; anywhere else we must fall from everything good and into all evil.
But there is a third result which must not be passed by. The greater the boon, whether you look at the past with its dark sin or at the present with the settled sunshine of God’s favour, so much the less can one bear to think of such blessedness coming to nought; and to nought it must all come, did the rich effects of justification depend on ourselves. But they do not. They come to us faith-wise, and they rest on Christ through whom alone they are our portion. They are not temporal like Adam’s tenure of Eden, or Israel’s possession of Canaan. They are secured through Him who died for our sins and is raised out of the dead. Can He lose the blessings He has thus won? No more can we for whom He won them. Hence we can exultingly look on the future. Not more certainly do we stand in present grace than “boast in hope of the glory of God.” Less than this does not suit our God to hold out before us. He will have us to be with and as Christ in His own glory. With, us who believe He deals as to past, present, and future, according to what our Lord Jesus deserves and His eternal redemption. If the righteousness be God’s righteousness, not man’s, if divine righteousness be the starting-point, no wonder that the grace of God is the ground in which we stand, and that the glory of God is the sole adequate hope, whether we consider the person or the work of the Saviour. May we boast of it and Him!
The soul that believes has been thus shown us enjoying the results of justification absolute and complete. Admirable as a groundwork, nevertheless it is not everything. God would bless the believer according to what is in His heart, yet with full consideration of passing circumstances. And this last is what the apostle can speak of, now that the course is clear from the starting-point to the goal of God’s glory, the hope of which makes the heart exult.
Nevertheless we are in the place of trial still, we are in the wilderness, though sheltered by the blood of the Lamb and redeemed from Egypt and its prince. Indeed properly here above all are we put to the proof; here, where no resources appear, God calls us to depend on and confide in Himself; here especially the enemy seeks to make us murmur in unbelief both as to the journey and as to the hope at the end of it. Egypt is the house of bondage; the wilderness is the scene of temptation; the land calls for conflict with the powers of darkness. The first two verses suppose us outside Egypt, and looking onward with joyful anticipation to the mountain of Jehovah’s inheritance, the place He has made for Himself to dwell in.
Meanwhile there is nothing but desert around. Do we boast in hope notwithstanding? Assuredly, “and not only [so], but we boast in tribulations also.” This flesh can never do; it may affect stoical insensibility: but faith, while it increases our feeling, alone gives us to triumph.
Here, however, there is a process to which we need to take heed. In hoping for the glory of God, our boast is direct. It is not so with our tribulations. We should and do boast in them, but it is not immediate. It is the fruit of intelligent apprehension of God’s gracious aim in these afflictions. Hence the apostle proceeds to set out how we are brought thus to traverse the judgment of nature. We boast in tribulations, says he; “knowing that tribulation worketh endurance; and endurance, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost that was given to us.”
Such is the shining pathway of the Christian even here, because Christ is before the heart: otherwise, tribulation works out the impatience of the first man, not endurance through the Second. Then endurance sustained in faith works out experience (i.e., the proof of what is tested and stands); as this again, from what God is shown to be in gracious present care, strengthens hope; and this does not put to shame by failure and disappointment; because the Holy Ghost sheds abroad in our hearts the love of God, who loved us when there was nothing lovable in us, as we are shown after self is thus detected and judged, the world seen in its true colours, and God more than ever proved, and prized, and trusted.
This verse is remarkable as the first which speaks either of the Spirit given to us, or of the love of God which is thereby shed forth in us. We have His righteousness fully displayed and applied before there is any allusion to either. That God is wise in this, it is almost needless to remark. It is well that the soul should be shut up to that which is absolutely perfect outside ourselves on God’s part and in virtue, not of the Spirit’s work in us, but of Christ’s for us. And so it is. Then in the path of subsequent christian experience, he can touch on and in due time unfold the love of God shed abroad in us, and the Holy Ghost given to us. We can then bear it safely. Had it been brought in before this, the heart would have readily turned to its own workings and affections from Christ and God’s righteousness revealed in the gospel.
It may have been noticed that, though the apostle had carefully proved the ruin of man and the righteousness of God in which the believer has part, it is not so with His love. Of this he first speaks here as a thing not demonstrated but known and enjoyed. He assumes it from the common consciousness of Christians. It is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given to us.
Next we have God’s love not thus subjectively viewed, but its display pointed out and grounded on the great objective fact of the death of Christ for us and outside us. “For while we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for [the] ungodly.” (Ver. 6.) How admirable the wisdom of God, and how wholesome! For even the believer convinced of his ungodliness is slow to appreciate his powerlessness. It was good to know that as man all was lost, and he had to do either with God’s wrath in unbelief, or with His righteousness by faith. There is then the love of God in us, yea, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost; but the foundation of it is in Christ’s death, when we had as little strength as we were far from godliness. This was just the opportunity for grace; and for such Christ died.
It is not after this sort that the creature — that man — loves. “For scarcely for a just [man] will one die.” Righteousness, as such, one esteems and values; but it does not draw out love so that one would die for a merely righteous person. Not that man’s heart is not capable of strong affections; “for one might for the good14 [man] even dare to die.” (Ver. 7.) None among the sons of Adam could surpass such love as this.
“But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Ver. 8.) This is characteristically divine and sovereign. We were powerless, unjust, evil, nothing but sinners, on the one hand; and God, on the other, had no motive for His love other than itself. It is emphatically His own love. As another apostle puts it, God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Only God can love thus. Man, the saint even, must have a motive without; God has none. He, and He only, is love. The spring is within, and He needs no object without to call it forth. Those whom His grace makes objects of His love are wholly and absolutely unlovable as to themselves, yet He loves them spite of all they are. While they were yet sinners, Christ died for them — the fullest proof of their sin and of God’s love. Nothing less could avail; nothing more blessed could be done even by Him; nothing different would suit Himself. Thus He commends His own love. What a resting-place for both heart and conscience! He forgets nothing, judges all, yet loves us with a love that is perfect and altogether peculiar.
How admirable are the ways of God in Christianity! There is nothing which opens so vast a field for activity, either in love or in mind; for the truth revealed is the revelation in Christ of Him who is infinite. Yet withal is it the most simple adaptation to the wants of every heart awakened to its real state in relation to God and indeed also to man. Thus the display of His love in the death of Christ comes down to the child, while it wholly transcends the highest soarings of poor but proud philosophy. There is the most profound truth, but it is embodied in facts which speak to every heart and conscience when the will has been dealt with by the Holy Spirit. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us; and in this God commends His own love toward us.
We have now to note the reasoning of the apostle, not indeed to prove the love of God; but, beginning with it as known through the Holy Ghost given to us, he draws conclusions after a truly divine sort. Thus the consciousness of the Christian has its just and full place, and so has the proof of divine love. However shed abroad in the heart, its demonstration rests on the gift of Christ and His death for us, wholly without us. This presents the love of God toward us absolutely free from mixture with anything in us or of us. Hence, as there was nothing to draw it out and fix it on us, the result is no less sure. The reasoning is not at all from divine counsels about us or promises made to us, but from what God is; and He is love — love proved in Christ’s dying for us, while we were yet sinners. “Much more therefore, having been now justified by15 his blood, we shall be saved through him from wrath.” Most sound and conclusive!
But he proceeds in the next place to develop and apply it yet more definitely. “For if, being enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Neither the weakness nor the positive enmity of man hindered that love but furnished the deepest occasion for its display. Certainly there is nothing that can frustrate its results now. We were but sinners then; we have been justified in virtue of Christ’s blood now. We were foes of God, but have now been reconciled to Him through the death of His Son — infinitely precious in His sight, infinitely efficacious in its effects for us. Impossible that such love could fail for those whom it placed in a relationship so excellent. Assuredly the blood, the death, of Christ has done great things for us: now that he is risen again for our justifying, is all to prove abortive? It could not be. The wrath of God awaits the unbelieving soul, yea, abides on him that submits not to the Son. But we have received Him, believing on His name; we have been justified in the power of His blood; and we shall be saved through Him from that wrath.
How could it be otherwise? For us even now there is reconciliation. On the ground of the blood of Christ God has reconciled us to Himself. Not only are we no longer alienated, but He has brought us back and put us before Him according to His own grace, not reinstated merely (as if it were a replacing us in Adamic blessing), but according to His own nature and purpose by redemption. It is the due and normal place before God who would bless us in view of Christ and the results of His work for us on the cross. God reconciles: man, the believer, is reconciled, and this through the death of His Son. There was His own love without limit in Christ; nevertheless, even that love alone could not have sufficed to meet the case. No love in se could have saved us who were enemies from His just wrath. The death of Christ puts everything in its due place, and conciliates all. Neither wrath on God’s part nor enmity on ours is ignored. Christ shed His blood, and died; the believer is justified and reconciled, and God’s love, which so wrought in Christ and for us, will yet have the results of His gracious purpose in perfection. If He justified us when evil and rebellious by the death of Christ, much more (now that we stand in a new and holy relationship where all is made good for us by and with God) shall we be saved by His life.
Yet there is another boast we have as believers, in virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection; and it is infinite, though entered on already. It is not now simply in hope of the glory of God; nor is it in our tribulations, looking on to the end of the Lord in them and the consequent profit meanwhile. This had drawn out a most blessed unfolding of what God is. His love is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost given to us. He commends His own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. There are consequences drawn; but they are not drawn from counsels about us, but from what He is, and has done for us when we were in our sins. There was no motive but in Himself; the objects of His love were the merest sinners. Hence we exult in much more than His ways with us, or the glorious hoped for result; “and not only [so], but also [we are] boasting in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we now received the reconciliation.”
Truly this is the climax: we exult in God! Higher we cannot go. In this we do boast through our Lord Jesus Christ. He has given us the most excellent gifts, but, better than all, Himself. For this, as for all the rest, we are indebted to Jesus; and we may even say, boldly yet most truly, that only through Jesus could God be what He is as the highest spring, ground, and object, of our boasting. “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him,” said the Saviour, “God will glorify him in himself and will straightway glorify him.” “And not only so, but we glory in God through our Lord Jesus.” Blessed fruit above, yea and even below!
Through Him also now we received the reconciliation; for so the apostle wrote, not the propitiation, but the “reconciliation.” Without that mighty work of Christ on the cross we could not indeed, being sinners, be reconciled to God; but this is the theme here — the complete making good of our case with God with whom we had been at war, and from whom we were wholly estranged by our sins. In Romans 3:25, we were shown how God justified us freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom He set forth a propitiatory (or mercy-seat) through faith in His blood. Thus He could be propitious spite of our sins which were fully met by the blood of Jesus. But the first half of Romans 5 brings in His love and consequently the reconciliation, which we have now received through Christ, impossible without His atoning death, but going much farther in itself.
The chapters that follow can scarcely be thought to carry the soul into a deeper blessedness. Privileges are there very fully developed, security is more elaborately affirmed of the Christian in the face of adverse circumstances and enemies, in Romans 8 above all; but I know not that any joy even there rises up to the boasting in God we find here. It is at once the occasion for the heart both of the most profound repose and of the utmost spiritual activity. Worship is its expression. The outflow of the joy of the redeemed in the rest of God is thus anticipated. We begin the new song that will never end; and as it is here and now through our Lord Jesus, is it not so much the sweeter to our God? Thus the deepest inward poison that Satan insinuated into man at the fall is not merely counteracted but triumphed over to the praise of God. He thus acquires His due place; but it is such a place of trustful delight as never could have been for the creature save as the result of Himself known as He is now by redemption — the God who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.
From this verse to the end of Romans 8, we have not so much a distinct portion of the Epistle as a needed and most weighty appendix to that which precedes. Hitherto the great truth of the remission of the believer’s sins has been fully set forth, closing with the blessed privileges which belong to the justified man, but still in that connection — the expiatory efficacy of the blood of Jesus, and this displayed in His resurrection. Precious as it all is, it is not every thing the believer wants. He may be miserable in the discovery of what he finds within himself, and if he know not the truth that applies to his difficulties on this score, he is in danger of yielding to hardness on one side, or of bearing a burdened spirit of bondage on the other. How many saints have never learnt the extent of their deliverance, and go mourning from day to day under efforts which they would be the first to confess unavailing against their inward corruption! How many settle down callously balancing their faith in the forgiveness of their sins by the blood of Christ as a set-off against a plague which they suppose must needs be, and of course with no more power over it than those who are honestly but in vain struggling to get better. Neither the one nor the other understands the value to them of the sentence already executed on the old man in the cross, nor their own new place before God in Christ risen from the dead. This it is the Spirit’s object to unfold in what follows.
“On this account, as by one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed unto all men for that all sinned.” (Ver. 12.)
There is no need to reduce the apostle’s language to a formal regularity. The utterance of the Spirit’s mind, through a heart and understanding which felt its value as none ever did, clothed itself in a form more akin to that which was enunciated than man’s rhetoric ever conceived. A broken sentence, with a long interruption following before the answer was given, suits the subject here, no less than the most parenthetic chapter in the scripture falls in with the task the apostle had in hand in Ephesians 3. This coincidence of the remarkable form with the great facts and doctrines under discussion cannot be questioned even by those who see nothing beyond the fortuitous even in the Bible. Verses 13-17 form a digression that ends in meeting objections and helping on the argument; and then verse 18 resumes the matter of verse 12 under a more compact shape and furnishes the consequent of what was there introduced but left unfinished.
Nor does there seem to be any great difficulty in apprehending the propriety and bearing of particular phrases in this verse. The opening words have given rise to much needless and unintelligent questioning. The connection is as evident as it is important. God’s love being the source, and Christ — the death and resurrection of Christ especially — the channel of redemption with such wondrous results to the believer, “on this account” (
διὰ τοῦτο) we are free to approach another side of this mighty and fruitful theme — the two heads with their respective families and the two natures of the believer, derived from Adam and Christ, with the relation of the Holy Ghost to us. In the same verse the last words have also been much debated. Undoubtedly the new subject is sin, the fallen estate of man, marked and closed by death; but there is no right reason to exclude from this and other expressions of the section the actual sinning of mankind.
Ἐφ᾽ ῳ does not mean “in whom;” nor is there warrant, while translating these words correctly, to add to the sentence that all died in the person of Adam. The point beyond all prominent is the way in which one man may affect the world. However preoccupied the Jew might be by the individual dealing of the law with each soul under it, it was impossible even for him to deny that such is the plain fact standing in the written word at the beginning of the world’s sad moral history. Undoubtedly by one man, sin, the thing sin, entered; and this at once broke up the ground on which all was then ordered. As it was rebellion against God, so was it fatal to man. Thereby death, the enemy so dreaded of man, entered.
Thus the change most solemnly affecting the world came in long before the Jew existed or consequently before their boasted law was given. The Jew must look somewhere more largely, and accurately too, into the scriptures. He must not flatter his national vanity or religious pride with the delusion that all hinges either on Israel or on their law. Adam was before them both and affects all mankind (the Jews not excepted). True, the momentous history that shows us how sin and death entered is humbling indeed; but anything will the heart turn into a vaunt. At any rate, that incalculably grave event was outside the Jew in itself, and in consequences went far beyond them. It was not outside man, but contrariwise “by one man;” yet its effect, death, permeated the world.
But the apostle takes care to add to this one man’s sin those of all others — “and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned.” Thus the last clause is expressly to guard against the exclusion of the sins of men generally. We must therefore beware of enfeebling either side of the case. In the very scripture which opens the discussion of the universal bearing of Adam’s sin on the human race (for it is no question here of Israel in particular) the connection of men’s own sins with their death is carefully added. No one doubts that infants and idiots die, and this through Adam’s sin; but the Spirit does not exclude the consequence where personal guilt can apply. The position of ruin to which the fall consigned the race is not severed from the evil workings of the nature now fallen in all men. Adam’s sin is the cause but not the sole account and whole case of the bitter lot of man.
Now if one man, according to God’s word and consistently with His character and ways, could plunge the world in death by sin, was it inconsistent with the true God by one man to bring in justification of life which addresses itself to all men? This the apostle proceeds to show elaborately and with divine precision in the verses that follow, which I will not further anticipate.
The parenthesis now begins. The apostle meets a possible objection, and certainly proves that the existence of sin is independent of law. “For until [the] law sin was in [the] world; but sin is not put to account when there is no law.” Thus the Jew could not even make the miserable boast (for what will not man boast of?) that the law preceded sin. The very object of law is to prove the sin of men. Alas! it is not confined to Israel; it is universal. “Sin was in the world,” where the law was not. When it was given by Moses, it put sin to account; but sin was already there, and far more widely than the sphere which law contemplated when it came. Law could work no remedy for sinners; it could only register — not get rid of — sin. Law gave sin the character of offence; sin, where law spoke, became the transgression of a positive and known commandment. “Where no law is, there is no transgression.” It is a pernicious mistake to understand that the apostle denies sin to be where no law exists. Sin is not the transgression of the law, though transgression assuredly is sin. But sin is a wider and deeper thing. The Authorized Version notwithstanding, 1 John 3:4 teaches really otherwise — that sin is lawlessness, and not necessarily the violation of law. Thus both apostles are restored to harmony, instead of either clashing mischievously or tempting an expositor to a still more mischievous paring down of the truth to save appearances. Never is this needed with scripture. As being the word of God, we must eschew and resent all such manipulations of its language. It is only our ignorance which finds difficulties; it is ill-will which sets one passage in antagonism to another. If John could have meant us to gather that sin and transgression of law are the same thing, nothing could save the statement from opposition to our text.
This is yet more apparent from the support the Apostle Paul adds in verse 14 to what was laid down in verse 13: “But death reigned from Adam to Moses even over those that sinned not in the likeness of Adam’s transgression, who is a figure of him that was coming.” The two points are named when a positive commandment was imposed by God. Adam had a law; by Moses the law was made known. Between them there was no dealing with men by either the one or the other; yet men sinned as scripture abundantly shows. Hence death reigned, for it is the wages (not of transgression only but) of sin. It reigned in the case of Adam and Eve; it reigned from Moses’ day; but not at either epoch only, but between them, when there was no law. Death reigned over all those that sinned; for sin they did, even though it was not in the likeness of our first parents’ transgression. Their antediluvian posterity, as well as those who followed the flood down to the gift of law from Sinai, could not sin as their father in Eden or the children of Israel after they heard the ten words. But they sinned, they did their own will, they were corrupt and violent, as they afterwards added idolatry to their evil ways. Accordingly death reigned even over them; for they were sinners, though not transgressors, like Adam at first and Israel afterwards.
It is interesting to note that the apostle refers here to Hosea 6:7: “But they, like men, transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.” The margin gives the true sense, which is lost in the vagueness of “men” in the text. “They, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant.” Israel had the law, as Adam a law; and both transgressed the bond by which they were held. But all between Adam and Moses were on a different footing. They were not a whit less truly sinners, but they had no law or laws proposed to them by God which they broke. So the nations in contrast with Israel are ever styled “sinners of the Gentiles.” Having sinned without law, they perished without law; while the Jews who had the law sinned in the law and were thus transgressors, which the Gentiles who had not the law could not be. But the Jews were not sinners only but transgressors. Hence it is written, “Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” The law put sin to their account. Not so with the Gentiles: God winked at these times of ignorance.
Nothing, however, is said of Gentiles in our verses, for we are here led up to times before the Jews were called, or the Gentiles consequently could be left aside. We see the sons of Adam down to the promulgation of God’s law at Sinai. If on the one hand there was no law to charge sin to the account of the guilty, there was on the other hand the reign of death, and this over sinners, if not transgressors, even over those that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression. Men at large were guilty and died accordingly. We are here then in presence, not of the law and its special aims and its peculiar sphere, but of sin flowing down from its first source, Adam, through all the streams which descended thence. If law was not there to set sin to account, as it does precisely and in detail, their death was the witness that they were all sinners, whose dread wages were duly paid. Thus Adam, as we shall see more fully soon, is a figure of the coming One, of Christ (i.e., of a federal head who was to follow the first).16
Having spoken of Adam as typical of Christ, the apostle at once proceeds to guard and clear the statement. The point of comparison is the bearing of a head on his family. He that believed the scripture (and every Jew was tenacious of the Pentateuch) must own that Adam’s fall brought a condition of sin and a sentence of death on his descendants. Such was the sorrowful beginning of the Old Testament, such the key to the history of the race ever since. It was in vain then to make all a question of law. Not so: granted that what the law says it speaks to those under the law. The fact was plain that the fundamental book of the law shows a far deeper, wider, earlier principle, yea, so early that it embraces all the children of Adam from the first. Could any Jew deny the scripture, the facts, or the moral ground? It was certain then, and must be conceded by hint who believes the first book of Moses that Adam’s fall involved in universal ruin those who sprang from him; for he, while innocent, had no son! His family headship was only after he sinned.
Now if it were a righteous dealing, as no Jew would dispute, so to involve a whole race in the consequences of what one man, their father, did amiss, Israel of all men should be the last to question the principle and the wondrous grace of God in the headship of the Lord Jesus. What Adam was to his descendants in evil and its consequences, Christ is in good to all who are His by faith. Thus the first man is a figure of the Second.
“But not as [is] the offence, so also the free gift; for if by the offence of the one the many died, much more the grace of God and the gift in the grace of the one man Jesus Christ abounded unto the many.” (Ver. 15.) Thus the apostle qualifies the analogy. The difference is an immense advantage on the side of good. How could it be otherwise with such a source of goodness as God, and with such a channel and ground and object as the man Christ Jesus? To punish, smite, destroy, was a grief, so to speak, to God; to bless is His delight, and now to the full, since Christ has made it righteous by the removal of all hindrances. The superior dignity of Christ and the exhaustless fountain of God’s grace of which He was the expression secure the vast preponderance for the free gift, as against the offence.
Nor is it a difference of measure only but of kind. “And not as by one having sinned [is] the gift; for the judgment [was] from one unto condemnation, but the free gift from many offences unto justification.” (Ver. 16.) The people or parties affected were before us in verse 15; the things which indicate it are prominent here. In the former contrast “the many” were respectively made to depend on “the one,” though “much more” for those in relation to Christ. In the contrast before us one act on the part of the head that sinned sentenced into condemnation; whereas the free gift, spite of many offences, was for a state of accomplished righteousness.
And this he confirms by the overflowing results in the next verse 17: “For if by the offence of the one death reigned by the one, much more they that receive the abundance of the grace and the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by the one, Jesus Christ.” Thus the result is triumphant, and this not only for men dead by sin, but also for those that had the aggravation of offences under law. Believers being Christ’s, let them have been what they may, Gentile no less than Jewish, receive abundance of grace and of the free gift of righteousness, and shall reign in life by the one Jesus Christ. It is not merely that life is to reign, in contrast with death, but they shall reign in life through Christ. Calvin thinks these two equivalent; what is said is really far more blessed. For faith the contrast of grace with the first man always exceeds. If the balance is not so exact in rhetoric, the believer may enjoy so much the more the precious affluence of the word and the Spirit now, as he will the crowning blessedness in glory by and by.
It is evidently an argument drawn from the righteous governmental ways of God to His grace. If, looking at Adam, the head of nature, it was worthy of Him not to limit the consequences of sin to him who fell, surely it was much more worthy to extend the effects of grace according to His own nature and the glory of Christ from Him who rose to all who derived their life from such a source! and this whether we consider the objects (ver. 15), the circumstances (ver. 16), or the results. (Ver. 17.)
The argument is now resumed from verse 12, but strengthened by the parenthetical instruction of verses 13-17. This both enforced the analogy between Adam and Christ for evil and good over those who pertain to them respectively, and also pointed out the enormous preponderance of good over evil in Christ, as is but due to the glory of His person and the grace of His work. If the one by a single offence involved all that were his in death, the other brings blessing to His family spite of countless offences.
“So then as by one offence [the bearing was] unto all men unto condemnation, so also by one accomplished righteousness unto all men unto justifying of life. For as by the disobedience of the one man the many were constituted sinners, so also by the obedience of the one the many shall be constituted righteous.” (Ver. 18, 19.)
There is no reasonable doubt that the marginal correction of our English Bible (“by one offence”) should be adopted, in preference to the text — “by one man’s offence,” however weighty and from various sides the names which have espoused the latter. The Sinai Manuscript actually inserts
ἀνθρώπου here, as we find in some minuscules also. But this is an unquestionable error. The point of the verse, as it appears to me, was to present the direction respectively, apart from the actual issues, whether on Adam’s part or on Christ’s. Hence the strikingly elliptic, as well as the broadly characteristic, form of verse 18. There is no need (as in the Authorized Version) to bring in
χάρισμα from the parenthesis. If we understand
ἐγένετο17 [it was], this suffices, though we may conform the phrase more to English ears by saying “the bearing was.” But it is more to maintain the idea of direction here by giving
εἰς the force of “unto,” “for,” or “towards” rather than “upon,” which is more suited to convey the notion of the definitive effect or result. This, we shall see, it is the object of the following verse 19 to supply, and in contradistinction from verse 18. And, as has been observed by another, this is confirmed by Romans 3:22 where we have two classes distinguished —
εἰς πάντας, καὶ ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς πιστεύοντας (easily merged into one
δἰ ὁμοιοτέλευτον or the double occurrence of
πάντας, whereas it is hardly possible to conceive one clause enlarged into two). Here the distinctive force of
ἐπί is plain: the former gives the bearing of God’s righteousness by faith of Jesus Christ “unto all” (and so the gospel is preached to every creature); the latter gives the result (and, as we know the gospel has its blessed effect “upon all those that believe,” and upon them only).
The meaning, then, I conceive to be that “as through one offence” all men were threatened with condemnation; so through one accomplished righteousness all had the door opened unto a justifying (not by blood alone, but) of life in Christ risen from the dead. But therein we see only the native tendency, on one side of Adam’s act, and on the other of Christ’s, without taking into account the modification of God’s effectual grace or of man’s persistent unbelief.
Accordingly, verse 19 is requisite to complete this part of the subject. “For as by one man’s disobedience the many were constituted sinners, so by the obedience of the one shall the many be constituted righteous.” It is the final result which is here contemplated; and as this is certainly and necessarily limited to the household of faith, it would have been false to have said
πάντας “all” in the last clause. For it is not a question in any of these verses of merely raising the dead just and unjust, as many divines in old and modern times have unintelligently imagined. For the vast majority of mankind, dying in unbelief, must rise for a resurrection of judgment, which is as far removed as it is possible for facts and words to make it from justification or justifying of life.
First the scope and then the result of Adam’s position and of Christ’s are here set before us and explained by the Holy Spirit. As it is certain from scripture that not all men but only such as are Christ’s have life, eternal life, and are justified by faith, so in this verse, devoted to the presentation of the result, it was not possible to adopt a larger term common to the two heads (the disobedient and the obedient) than “the many” or “the mass” (
οἱ πόλλοι) identified with each. In point of fact the Adam party, according to nature and for some time, embraces the whole human race; and therefore in this way “the many” in the first clause of verse 19 may be said to answer to “all men” in verse 18. But this I must be forgiven for considering a superficial method of solving the question, and altogether unwarrantable as applied to both classes. The second
οἱ πόλλοι is unequivocally and exclusively “the children” given to Christ and in no possible sense humanity as actually saved and recovered. They are not identical with the “all men” of the verse before; for there it was but the gracious aspect of the work of Christ, and therefore not (as some say) all men who receive and embrace its truth, but universal. Here it is the positive effect, and so restricted to those who believe (i.e., those who live through Christ, as the preceding
οἱ πόλλοι derive their being from fallen Adam). There is no “total” in this verse, but “the [known] many” in relation to “the one” definite person who represented each his own company. It is not the same total in the two verses, nor is there any total expressed in the latter of them. As the ruin of Adam went to destroy all the race, so the work of Christ goes out for the blessing of all. As in fact the Adam mass were constituted sinners through his disobedience, so by Christ’s obedience His own are constituted righteous. Here all is explicit result, and not character; and hence the article is used in Greek as pointedly as the preceding verse exhibited the anarthrous construction: in both cases with the utmost accuracy, and with a perfection altogether admirable, with which no writings of man can compare. Where the apostle speaks of “all men,” the aim is to show the tendency whether from the first man or from the Second; where he speaks of “the many,” the definitive effect is set before us.
Thus Calvinism and Arminianism are both at fault; and the truth conveyed is larger than the one and more definite than the other, refusing the fetters of human system, and yet exhibiting a precise as well as an infinite character, being the revealed truth of God.
Thus the doctrine of headship, and of a race or family depending on the head for evil or good, has been distinctly laid down; and Adam and Christ stand confronted as those respectively under whom all ultimately must be classed. This necessarily brought in a wholly different principle from the law which is necessarily individual in its character, and claims from each under itself what he must do if he pretends to stand for himself before God. But the apostle does not close this part of the subject without a notice of the relative place of the law. Since he introduced the theme of sin, as distinguished from sins, in connection with the two heads, he had only alluded to the law negatively to show that sin is a deeper question than law, and, so far from depending on it, existed before it: only it is not put to account when no law exists.
Now we are told what was the true object of law. The Jew, and all Judaizers, at once assume that it could be for nothing else than righteousness. Alas! the blindness of man at his best estate where human thoughts prevail, and not the understanding of the revealed mind of God. But he is fallen; and fallen man thinks as highly of himself as meanly of Christ. Nothing but this can account for the perverse ingenuity with which, even in spite of the blessed light of the gospel, the truth as to this is eluded and opposed. What can be plainer than the inspired statement? “But law came in that the offence might abound.” One can see how it is that men dislike a sentence which annihilates their moral ground; but it is an astonishing proof of the deleterious effects of theology that christian men can uphold their false systems of thought against such words of inspiration.
Every word is uttered with the greatest accuracy. Thus the apostle speaks of the legal state of things, and hence employs the word
νόμος, “law,” here as in verse 13 without the article. It is clearly the Mosaic law that is in question; yet if it be, Middleton allows that the rejection of the article is not here authorized by any of the canons (i.e., of his own treatise). And this is true. The case is one which demonstrates the defectiveness of his theory. Even in verse 13 the preposition has nothing to do with the true solution; and his notion though still followed by very many scholars, that the use or non-use of the article is a license after prepositions, is a total fallacy. It may call for more nicety of observation to account for cases with certain prepositions, but nothing more. The regular usage, with or without prepositions, is to present a phrase in the anarthrous form wherever a characteristic state is meant rather than a fact or an abstraction. So here it was the state of things when God gave His law through Moses to Israel which enters the discussion; and, hence,
ὁ ν.) was the correct form. Again, the reasoning of Macknight is of no force; for it is not the point whether the Mosaic law was ushered into the world with pomp and notoriety, or privily. Not the historical fact, but the resulting state is here meant. Further, there is no need to take
παρεισῆλθεν as necessarily implying in entrance by stealth or privily. The true idea appears to be that the legal state came in by the by. Neither was it the original mould, in which man was made, nor is it the final condition to which he is destined. It came in not directly, but ancillarily, for a special though subordinate purpose, between the entrance of sin and the coming of the Saviour. Hence law in the abstract is uncalled for, even if the phrase would admit of it. But this is carefully excluded, quite as much as giving prominence to the objective historical fact, which also would be out of place.
But law, the legal state, came in by the way in order that the offence might abound. The sense is not that sin might abound: God is in no way or degree its author. Sin, as had been already shown, was in the world, quite independently of law and before it was given by Moses. But law came in, that the offence might abound; that, sin being already there, its evil might be made manifest and horrible by taking the shape of open contempt of God’s known authority. This was worthy of God and wholesome for man. And such was the object and issue of the legal state. Sin, I repeat, was not created by it; but it was provoked by the restraint put on its gratification: the very presence of God’s revealed claim on man’s conscience made the offence to abound. The evil of man was there and at work; and the expression and authoritative demand of his duty only drew out unmistakably what was at work. Self-will only the more chafes, the more it is subjected to an authority which opposes its every desire. But this is the truth of man’s moral state; and it is good, as far as it goes, that he should know the truth about himself.
There is no reason therefore to escape from the plain and certain meaning of these inspired words. Chrysostom was wrong in this, and has misled thousands. He denied that the apostle spoke of intention or aim, but only of result, and fell into the error of saying that the law was given, not that the offence might abound, but to diminish and take it away. This was to contradict the apostle, not to expound him.
So, again, Macknight asks if one can imagine that no offence abounded in the world which could be punished with death till the law of Moses was promulgated? and that grace did not superabound till the offence against the law abounded? He therefore argues for “the law of Nature,” which silently entered the moment Adam and Eve were reprieved. What can be more distressing than this confusion?
It must be evident to him who believes the word of God, and understands His dealings ever so little, that between the fall and the promulgation of the law at Sinai was precisely the time when men were left to prove what flesh is without the restraint of law; that afterward Israel became the proof that a legal state did not in itself mend matters, but caused the offence to abound. So the apostle instructs us in this chapter, the truth of which is otherwise apparent in the facts of the Old Testament and the condition of Israel.
“But where sin abounded, grace far exceeded; that, as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Here too it is impossible to conceive language more apposite or precise. The apostle does not say, it will be noticed, where “the offence” abounded; for this would limit the sphere to the area of the legal state. All that wherein a Jew boasted was the causing the offence to abound. What a withering of pride without an exaggeration or an effort! But grace went out in its triumph far beyond the narrow bounds of law; it went out into the world where sinful man lay, not to Israel only. “Where sin abounded, grace far exceeded.” And grace too had its characteristic purpose, or God rather by it. What was this? “That as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here if anywhere is an aim and result which do honour even to God and His Son. In presence of such a gospel we are not ashamed, but boast. To vaunt of law is to vaunt of what condemns and kills, for it makes the offence to abound. In grace we may and ought to exult. God delights in it. It came, as did truth, by Christ Jesus who is full of both. And specially may we boast, that grace reigned. Had law reigned, what must have been our just doom! But grace reigns (not without but) through righteousness; for the work of redemption is done, and God justifies in consequence according to His sense of its worth. Thus it is not more surely a fountain of grace than a righteous ground and channel. And hence the issue is according to God; it is eternal life, and this through Jesus Christ our Lord. He is risen from the dead, and gives life more abundantly. All is thus as secure as it is perfect. God is glorified as He should be; and this, as it ought to be, through the only One, even Jesus, who has retrieved all and turned by His death and resurrection even sin itself into an occasion of such a glorifying of God, and such a blessing of the believer, as could never else have been. These are the ways, and this the victory, grace through our Lord Jesus.
13 This is an instance of a reading which differs from that given in the great majority of first-class authorities (the Sinai, Alexandrian, Vatican, Rescript of Paris, Clermont uncials, many excellent cursives, ancient versions, and fathers), yet, as it appears to me, most in keeping with the requirements of the context. For
ἔχωμεν (“let us have”) brings in an exhortation which agrees neither with what goes before nor with what follows, as the christian reader can judge for himself. The fact is that nothing is easier than to account for the various reading, for the interchange of the short with the long vowel or a diphthong that corresponds to it is most familiar to all acquainted with the critical history of the text. Thus inadvertence may have introduced the long
ω instead of the short
ο. Besides, the subjunctive suits man’s mind, when conscious of wants Godward (and such is the state of most), rather than the indicative which expresses the blessing possessed already. Just so we see in 1 Corinthians 15, as another has remarked, where the Vatican stands alone of the Uncials in supporting some modern copies against the mass of ancient MSS., which favour an unquestionable error. , A, C, D, E, F, G, J, K, with the great majority of cursives, the Italic, Vulgate, Coptic, Gothic, Sclavonic, and many ancient ecclesiastical writers read
φορέσωμεν, the subjunctive (instead of the indicative as in the common and correct text).
14 The article is here inserted, not before
δικαίου but before
ἀγαθοῦ. One would hardly die for any just person simply as such; but it might be for some known good man, whose excellence had powerfully acted on the heart of another.
15 The preposition
ἐν here and in the next verse I have translated “by.” It is a far more intimate relation (= “in virtue of,” “in the power of”) than is expressed by
διά, which, with the genitive as in each of these verses, signifies a means or instrument (“through”), as sometimes also in a certain condition (“with”)- a sense which it occasionally bears in the accusative also. Compare Galatians 4:13 with Romans 2:27.
16 I am surprised Mr. Green should understand
τοῦ μέλλοντος “of the future;” for the context points unequivocally to a person, and to one person only, Christ, not to time coming merely.
17 It appears to me, because of contextual reasons, that
ἀπέβη (as Meyer, Winer, etc.) is rather strong.