Chapter four proved that justification is by faith and not by law. It taught that God made justification possible and that He offered it to those who will come to Him by faith.
This chapter begins by describing what justification does for us. The blessing which we receive at once is “having been justified by faith”. This is described as having peace with God. Before we are justified we cannot have peace with God. Until a man is justified he is condemned by God for his sins and his sins cause him to be at war with God. But when his sins are forgiven, no longer credited to him, there is nothing to keep a man from God. We are reconciled (made to be friends again), all bad feeling is taken away, and man is at peace with God. Sin has always been and always will be the one and only thing which can come between God and man.
This peace comes through our Lord Jesus Christ. He reconciled both Jew and Gentile unto God in one body through the cross (Ephesians 2:16). By His death on the cross, Christ put to death the enmity (condition of being an enemy) between God and man. This is the same as saying that He abolished the Law so that Jew and Gentile can be reconciled to one another in one body, and that He made the sacrifice for sins for all so that we can all be reconciled to God (Ephesians 2:13-18).
God is in Christ reconciling the world (mankind) to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). Peace with God comes only to those who are reconciled through Christ; those who are out of Christ cannot be reconciled to God. Or, to say the same thing in a different way, those who are reconciled to God through Christ are reconciled in Him. They are baptized into Him (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27), and being in Him they are new creatures (Romans 6:4). In Him we are to let the peace of God guard our hearts (Philippians 4:7), to which He has called us in one body (Colossians 3:15), and be thankful.
Among those who claim to be followers of Christ, the greatest contradiction is when those who claim to be at peace with God are enemies of one another. We are to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). The worst condition of human life is to be cut off from God, and the second one is when His children are enemies of one another. The most blessed condition we can think about is to be at peace with God.
Also through Christ we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand. That is, we are introduced into this grace through what Christ does, and by our faith in Him. Without what Christ has done, we can have no peace. Without our faith in Him, we cannot get into this grace.
Many are fooling themselves into believing that they have peace with God when they have not done what Jesus tells us to do. They depend upon their feelings to tell them that they have peace. But our feelings are not evidence of what God has done. To have peace with God, we must listen to Christ.
But not only do we become Christians by grace, but in this grace…we stand. We stand in a state of grace, and by this grace we are able “having done all to stand” (Ephesians 6:13) and we receive blessings without end. Just as we cannot become children of God without grace, we cannot continue being saved without God’s continuing grace.
When we stand by grace in this sure salvation we receive the fruits of salvation. The first is that we exult (rejoice). The eunuch from Ethiopia came up from the water of baptism a saved man and went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:39). Anyone who understands that he is a guilty sinner will rejoice when he understands that he is saved from those sins. But our rejoicing is for more than our past salvation. We exult in hope of the glory of God. The glory of God is the glory which God gives to the saved. It is the eternal life given to those who seek for glory and honour and immortality (Romans 2:7). When we are delivered from the slavery of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21), then we will receive what we hope for. Until that time, we rejoice in this hope.
Our hope is strengthened by our troubles, therefore we also exult in our tribulations. When we suffer because we are faithful to Christ, our sufferings produce good fruit. We are warned not to suffer because of doing wrong things (1 Peter 3:17). But if we suffer as Christians, we are to glory. We glory knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance. No one will get to heaven unless he perseveres—keeps on serving God in spite of troubles. Those who have little faith will stop serving God when the scorching winds of persecution blow on them, but those who are rooted and grounded in the faith will become stronger and more steadfast when such troubles come. James says that we should count it all joy when we fall into many trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance (James 1:2-3). James also says, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). Paul is saying the same thing here. He says that perseverance when we are tested produces proven character. And proven character gives us hope.
The reason we have hope is that God approves of us. It is not what man approves which counts, it is he whom God approves. “For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:18). This hope does not disappoint. We are not disappointed now and we are not ashamed for people to know that we are Christians. It will not disappoint in the future. When the final judgment comes we will be with Christ.
Our hope comes from the love of God. Because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. We must know about this love so that we can have hope. Hope rests on faith, and faith comes from the testimony of God given by the Spirit. He gave this testimony in the gospel which the apostles gave and wrote down. I believe that this is the way the Holy Spirit has shed abroad in our hearts this love of God for us. We understand God’s love because of what He has done for us. This knowledge causes the hope that we have and continues to strengthen that hope.
Paul writes here that the Holy Spirit was given to us. We cannot tell from these words in what sense the Holy Spirit was “given to us.” Perhaps he means that the Holy Spirit was given to the apostles and prophets to reveal the gospel to them (John 16:13). This is certainly true. Or Paul may mean that the Holy Spirit is given to us as promised in Acts 2:38. The New Testament teaches both of these things.
(Note: Paul uses the present tense, as Peter did in Acts 2:38. The people Paul was writing about had the Holy Spirit when he wrote, and the people Peter preached to were promised “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” We cannot necessarily infer from those statements that the Holy Spirit is given to people today. PKW)
Read these verses. Your heart will thrill with thanksgiving to Christ and our Father above. Here is the heart of the plan of salvation. Here we find why God decided to save us and how He finally accomplished this. We were helpless. We could do nothing to take away our sins. Then at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. He did not die at a time which was not right. He did not die too soon or too late. In the fulness of time God sent forth his son, born under the Law to redeem those who are under the Law (Galatians 4:4-5).
But there are some who think Jesus did not die at the right time. They teach that He came to establish His kingdom but found that the Jews would not accept Him as king. They teach that He changed His mind and decided to establish the church instead of the kingdom, intending to come again and set up His kingdom when the Jews would accept Him. If this theory is correct, then Jesus came at the WRONG time.
The truth is that Jesus did exactly what He came to do. The church IS the kingdom, and it was in the eternal purpose of God (Ephesians 3:11; Colossians 1:13). He came at the right time.
Because of what Christ did we have the assurance of our hope. We can never be ashamed of this hope. He died for us to give us eternal life, therefore our hope will never disappoint.
The death of Jesus was for our benefit. We were still helpless. We could not save ourselves. Though man is able to sin, he is not able to deliver himself from his sins. This is why Jesus died, that freedom from sin might be ours. Christ died for the ungodly. But Hebrews 2:9 says: *“But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone*”. If He died for the ungodly, and He died for everyone, that means everyone is ungodly. Of course. That is exactly what Paul proved in the first three chapters of Romans.
To show how great God’s love is Paul describes how men feel about dying for others. He says: For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. This means that the good man is the person who is better than the righteous man. A righteous man is one who is fair in all his dealings with others; he is never guilty of wrongdoing in these relations. But a good man is not merely just. He is generous toward others.
But in the sight of God all men are unrighteous and bad. Man will hardly die for a righteous man; but Christ died for the ungodly. Man might die for a good man; Christ died for bad or wicked men. These verses are a commentary on the famous verse in John 3:16 —“God so loved the world”.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We can never completely understand the greatness of God’s love toward us. We can only think about how God showed His love by allowing Christ to suffer on the cross. He died “that we might have eternal life”. When we understand why Christ died, we can begin to understand how great God’s love is. What God wants for us is the final blessedness of being with Him in heaven. We can only humbly fall down and praise our God!
This passage tells us that because we are now blessed (justified by His blood), we have confidence that we will have future blessings. We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son. But His life after His death does something for us. His death was not enough to bring us these blessings. He had to be raised from the dead. All the benefits of His death come about because He has been raised. Truly, then, if Christ was not raised from the dead we are of all men to be most pitied, because there is no blessed future for us.
In both verse 9 and verse 10 there is the expression “*much more*”. These words are used to compare what Jesus has done with what Jesus shall do. We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son. In verse one Paul says we are justified by faith, and here he says we are reconciled by the death of Jesus. It is His death and our faith in His death that together bring about our salvation. Being reconciled, we are to “live by faith”. When we live by faith, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life from the punishment to come.
It seems that Jesus does more for us by his life than He did with His death. To be saved by his life means that in living He works for our final salvation. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them”. Romans 8:34 says: “who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us”. He is now living, sitting at the right hand of God as King. He is also our high priest who intercedes (pleads) for us before the throne of God. What comfort and encouragement this gives to us! Are you afraid to become a Christian because you may not be able to live the life God wants you to live? Then take courage. Christ is always working for those who are His. Yes it is true that “in many things we all offend (sin)” (James 3:2), but we have a great High Priest who is over the house of God. Through Him we will be able to receive our final salvation from the wrath of God. He who gave so much to save us from our past sins will be sure to do everything needed to finish the work of saving us eternally.
Verses 11-12: 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
12 ¶ Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned–
Christians rejoice (exult ) in their troubles (verse 3). Now Paul tells us that we also exult in God because we receive reconciliation through the blood of Christ. The word “reconciliation” comes from the verb “reconcile” which means “to change from being enemies to being friends”. No longer is there trouble between us and God. We have received the reconciliation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, we should rejoice greatly.
Reconciliation came through the Lord Jesus Christ. Two things were required from Him—the shedding of His blood and the offering of His blood as our High Priest (Hebrews 9:11-12). He died for our sins and went to heaven as our High Priest. In heaven God accepted the offering of His blood and Christ sat down at His right hand. We are no longer the enemies of God—we are friends because of what Jesus Christ did for us.
Now Paul introduces a contrast between two persons, one who introduced sin into the world, and one who provided the escape from sin.
There are two very different ideas about what the word death means in this passage. It can mean physical death or spiritual death. Both are the fruits of sin. The statement which Paul makes here does not tell us which death he means. We will have to decide which death Paul means by looking at everything Paul is writing about.
Moses E. Lard in his commentary on Romans argues that physical death is the death meant by Paul. However, I am persuaded that it is not physical death, but rather spiritual death which Paul is here discussing.
First, let us examine the position that the death is physical. If it is physical death it means that not only did Adam die as a punishment for his first sin, but all men so die. The words “because all sinned” gives the reason why all men die. Because all men sin, all men die. It is true that in one sense we all sinned when Adam ate the forbidden fruit. Since he represented the human race as the first man, humanity sinned when he sinned. This is the sense in which the writer of the Hebrew letter says that Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:4-10). He was not living in the days of Melchizedek, but since he was still in the body of Abraham, when Abraham paid tithes Levi paid tithes through him. If Paul means physical death, this has to be the way “all sinned” when Adam sinned.
It is true that we all die physically because of Adam’s sin—his one and first sin—though we are not guilty of that sin. We may say that we should not suffer because of someone else’s sin but we often do. Children suffer much when their father commits the sin of drunkenness. Because Adam ate the forbidden fruit Adam was driven from the garden where the tree bearing the fruit of life was. If he had continued to live in the garden he would have eaten of the fruit and continued to live physically. So God drove him out. Because we cannot eat of the tree of life we also have to die. Why? Because we are created with mortal bodies and only the fruit of the tree of life can stop death.
But what was Paul discussing in the verses before this passage? Paul was writing about reconciliation. Reconciliation was necessary because sin, which was introduced by Adam when he obeyed Satan, separated us from God and made us enemies of God. Paul contrasts the work of two persons—Adam and Christ. Through one man sin entered the world; by the other righteousness entered the world. The fruit of Adam’s sin is death and the fruit of Jesus’ work is life. The life is life with God, spiritual life; therefore the death must be spiritual death, which is what sin brings immediately.
But we are not separated from God by reason of Adam’s sin, but only by our own sins. Hence we are dead in trespasses and sins because of our sins—because all sinned.
Paul does not teach that we inherit the guilt of sin. He used chapters 1-3 to show that all are sinners because they commit sin. He did not say that we are sinners because we inherit sin. And here in verse 12 he says that all die because all sinned. Each one of us commits his own sins, therefore each one dies.
Verses 13-17 are parenthetical. To show this in the King James Version these verses are enclosed in parentheses, and in the New American Standard Bible they begin with a dash. They explain in greater detail what Paul has already said. Paul’s argument continues in verse 18.
Verses 13-14: 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
“For until the Law sin was in the world” tells us that even before God gave the Law of Moses there was sin in the world. “But sin is not imputed when there is no law” means that no man can be guilty of sin if there is no law. The conclusion, then, is that whenever man sinned there was law because sin is transgression of law (1 John 3:4). Paul was writing about the time before the Law of Moses. God had law before the Law. Death reigned from Adam until Moses because men were sinning against God’s law. It reigned (ruled) over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam.
It is clear that Paul is not saying that all humanity sinned in Adam. If we sinned in Adam then we all sinned the one sin. But Paul writes that death reigned over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam. From Adam to Moses people died, not for the sin of Adam, but for their own sins which were different from the sin of Adam.
We conclude from this that Paul is writing about spiritual death, not physical death. Physical death is the result of Adam’s one sin. It is not the result of each person’s sins. But it is spiritual death which we all suffer when we sin, even when we do not sin after the likeness of Adam’s sin. This spiritual death is separation from God.
Adam is a type of Him who was to come. Adam is a type of Christ. When Paul wrote Christ had already come. The reason he used the present tense (“is”) is that he was writing about the period of time which stretched from Adam to Moses. At that time Christ was to come.
Here I wish to copy the comments of Moses E. Lard: “Type is from the Greek tupos, and this from tupo, to strike; and it means an impression or print made on something by a blow designed to produce it. It has also several other similar meanings, and means the metallic form which produces printed letters on a page. Religiously, type applies to anything that is given for the purpose of likeness to something else. A type is a shadow of something which is to come. The type may be a person, a thing, or an event. The thing which the type is like is the antitype. Moses delivering the Israelites from Egypt was a type of Christ delivering people from sin; the snake Moses put on a pole which healed people from snakebite when they looked at it was a type of the crucifixion of Christ and the fact that people are healed by believing in Him who died on the cross. A type may be like the antitype in many different ways. It can be like the antitype, or it can be a contrast, in one point or in many. In the case of Adam, he was like Christ in many ways. He was the natural head of the human family; Christ is the spiritual head of the redeemed. But the thing Paul wrote about is the likeness between their acts and what happened as a result of their acts. Adam did one thing—a sin; Christ did one thing—obedience to death. Adam’s sin affected the whole human race, Christ’s crucifixion did also; but their acts affected mankind in different ways.”
Lard then wrote that Adam’s sin brought physical death on all men, and the one act of obedience by Christ caused all men to be raised from the dead. Although I believe this to be true, I believe the similarity between Adam and Christ is simply that sin was introduced by the type— Adam; the remedy for sin (justification by faith) was introduced by the antitype—Christ. The verses which follow show that this is so.
When Adam sinned he broke a positive law—“you shall not eat”. When he sinned he did not break a moral law; it was not immoral to eat the fruit. But man is a moral creature and he is under moral law because of his nature. Therefore though Adam sinned by breaking a positive law, men since that time have been breaking many moral laws. This seems to be the meaning of the words “even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam”. (v. 14)
The action of Jesus overcame more than the results of Adam’s first sin. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. Jesus came to overcome everything produced by all the sins of all the people who have ever lived or who shall live on this earth. Much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
Let us study the words “life” and “death” in these verses. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
Whatever happened to mankind because of Adam’s sin happened to everyone. That means that no matter what anyone did or will do, Adam’s sin affects him exactly the same as everyone else. By that argument we have to conclude that it is physical death which came to all men because of Adam’s sin. Men are mortal, and because Adam was driven from the Garden in Eden men cannot eat of the tree of life and live. If Adam had stayed in the garden, he and all others who have been born could have eaten of the tree of life and lived forever on the earth.
According to this argument, what we lost unconditionally in Adam we unconditionally gain again in Christ. If Paul is talking about physical death, which we all suffer whether we sin or not (unconditionally), then all men must gain physical life because of Christ’s death on the cross. What men lost was the life in the garden of Eden which Adam had before he was driven out. If Christ came to restore that then all men must live again on this earth in a perfect Eden.
But this is not why Christ came! It is true that all men will be raised from the dead (John 5:28-29), but they will not be raised to the same circumstances as Adam had in the garden. The unsaved will be raised to an unending existence, not to unending life! There is a definite difference between existence and life. The unsaved will be raised to an unending death, spiritual death, and so far as I can determine, to all the experiences of mortality. Nowhere does the Bible say that the wicked will have immortality. Only the saved will be immortal. But only those who receive immortality will receive the complete life which Adam had before his sin. The wicked will not receive that. And if we say that Christ came to restore physical life to all, what good is that “life” to the wicked who will be lost forever?
Verse 17 says: For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. We see that death reigned through Adam and life reigns through Christ. If the death is physical, then the life must be physical, but this is clearly not true. The life is spiritual, and therefore we must conclude that the death is also spiritual. Death reigned because of the transgression of Adam. He was the first one to sin, and through him sin entered into the world.
But we have all sinned, and we are under the reign of death even while we continue to live physically. We are delivered from the reign of death when we receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ. But when we receive the gift of righteousness, we are already living physically. The death we have experienced is spiritual death. Therefore the life we receive is spiritual life.
But how do the righteous reign? They will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. The redeemed are now reigning with Christ! These verses tell us about two conditions of man while he is living on the earth. Death reigns before a man is saved, and life reigns after he is saved.
These verses connect with verse twelve and say the same thing that verse says. The condemnation came because of the sins men committed. Growing out of what one man did, sin spread to the whole family of mankind. Because all sinned there resulted condemnation to all men.
And so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. No one is condemned unconditionally (without sinning), and no one is made righteous unconditionally (without obeying). These verses are not talking about the conditions which bring about condemnation and life, but they are showing where condemnation and life come from. Jesus was made perfect through his obedience to the will of God. This is why He became the author of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:8-9). It was disobedience by Adam that brought him ruin; it is by the obedience of Christ than many are able to become righteous. A sinner is one who has or does sin, and sin is an act. An act by one cannot be put into another, and Adam’s sin cannot cause us to be guilty. We are guilty because of our own sins. It is the same with what Jesus has done. His obedience does not become our obedience. We have to obey Christ ourselves. If Christ’s obedience could be “imputed” (become ours), then everyone would be saved without obeying, and this is clearly not true.
How were we all made sinners by the sin of Adam? It was through the conditions brought about by Adam’s sin. The temptations and environmental influences tended to cause man to sin, so that by Adam’s disobedience the many were made sinners. Actually they were made sinners by their own sins, and not his. How are we all made righteous by the obedience of Christ? It was by the obedience of Christ that we are able to be made righteous, by our own obedience to the faith.
The Law came by Moses but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). But does this mean that there was no truth and grace in the Law, and no law with grace and truth? No one can think that! But these terms are placed against one another to show that the ministry of Jesus is greater than the ministry of Moses. God blessed those who lived under the Law of Moses, and Paul in this letter says that the Law was good. And the Law was true; it was the true will of God to the Israelites.
But here we are told that the purpose of the Law was that the transgression would increase. Why? The more laws one must obey, the more will be his violations of law. Since this Law was God’s Law, any breaking of the Law is sin. Where sin increased, and where people understood that the Law was not able to save from sin, there was a sense of helplessness. This caused a desire to escape from sin and to accept anything which God gave to bring about that escape. This escape is provided in the gospel.
When we need something but understand we cannot do anything to get it, we rejoice greatly when someone gives us what we need. God is able to save us no matter how many sins we commit. “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25).
Paul writes: as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign. Sin and grace are ruling forces. Sin rules “in death”, while grace rules in life. This means that the final result of sin is death and the final purpose of grace is life. Clearly this means that the death is spiritual and, unless grace saves us, it will be eternal. But no matter how powerful the rule of sin is, the power in the grace of the gospel of Christ is able to overcome it.
This passage was given to make us sure that God is able to save us no matter what our sins. We need have no fears. Every sin that one may commit can be forgiven, except the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31). What God has provided by His grace is able to justify all who come to Him through faith in Christ. And this grace reigns through the system of righteousness. This righteousness brings eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Truly, He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).