The Blessed Effects of Justification by
The proof of this doctrine being now
concluded, the apostle comes here to treat of its fruits,
reserving the full consideration of this topic to another stage of the
argument (Ro 8:1-39).
1. Therefore being—"having been."
justified by faith, we have peace with God,
&c.—If we are to be guided by manuscript authority, the true
reading here, beyond doubt, is, "Let us have peace"; a reading,
however, which most reject, because they think it unnatural to exhort
men to have what it belongs to God to give, because the
apostle is not here giving exhortations, but stating matters of fact.
But as it seems hazardous to set aside the decisive testimony of
manuscripts, as to what the apostle did write, in favor of what
we merely think he ought to have written, let us pause and
ask—If it be the privilege of the justified to "have peace
with God," why might not the apostle begin his enumeration of the
fruits of justification by calling on believers to "realize" this peace
as belonged to them, or cherish the joyful consciousness of it as their
own? And if this is what he has done, it would not be necessary to
continue in the same style, and the other fruits of justification might
be set down, simply as matters of fact. This "peace" is first a change
in God's relation to us; and next, as the consequence of this, a change
on our part towards Him. God, on the one hand, has "reconciled us to
Himself by Jesus Christ" (2Co 5:18);
and we, on the other hand, setting our seal to this, "are reconciled to
5:20). The "propitiation" is
the meeting-place; there the controversy on both sides terminates in an
honorable and eternal "peace."
2. By whom also we have—"have had"
access by faith into this grace—favor
wherein we stand—that is "To that same
faith which first gave us 'peace with God' we owe our
introduction into that permanent standing in the favor of God
which the justified enjoy." As it is difficult to distinguish this from
the peace first mentioned, we regard it as merely an additional phase
of the same [Meyer, Philippi, Mehring],
rather than something new [Beza, Tholuck, Hodge].
and rejoice—"glory," "boast,"
"triumph"—"rejoice" is not strong enough.
in hope of the glory of God—On "hope,"
see on Ro 5:4.
3, 4. we glory in tribulation also; knowing that
tribulation worketh patience—Patience is the quiet endurance
of what we cannot but wish removed, whether it be the withholding of
promised good (Ro 8:25), or
the continued experience of positive ill (as here). There is indeed a
patience of unrenewed nature, which has something noble in it, though
in many cases the offspring of pride, if not of something lower. Men
have been known to endure every form of privation, torture, and death,
without a murmur and without even visible emotion, merely because they
deemed it unworthy of them to sink under unavoidable ill. But this
proud, stoical hardihood has nothing in common with the grace of
patience—which is either the meek endurance of ill because it is
of God (Job 1:21, 22; 2:10), or the calm waiting for promised good
till His time to dispense it come (Heb 10:36); in the full persuasion that such
trials are divinely appointed, are the needed discipline of God's
children, are but for a definite period, and are not sent without
abundant promises of "songs in the night." If such be the "patience"
which "tribulation worketh," no wonder that
4. patience worketh experience—rather,
"proof," as the same word is rendered in 2Co 2:9; 13:3; Php 2:22; that is, experimental
evidence that we have "believed through grace."
hope—"of the glory of God," as
prepared for us. Thus have we hope in two distinct ways, and at two
successive stages of the Christian life: first, immediately on
believing, along with the sense of peace and abiding access to God
(Ro 5:1); next, after the reality
of this faith has been "proved," particularly by the patient endurance
of trials sent to test it. We first get it by looking away from
ourselves to the Lamb of God; next by looking into or
upon ourselves as transformed by that "looking unto Jesus." In
the one case, the mind acts (as they say) objectively; in the
other, subjectively. The one is (as divines say) the
assurance of faith; the other, the assurance of
5. And hope maketh not ashamed—putteth
not to shame, as empty hopes do.
because the love of God—that is, not
"our love to God," as the Romish and some Protestant expositors
(following some of the Fathers) represent it; but clearly "God's love
to us"—as most expositors agree.
is shed abroad—literally, "poured
forth," that is, copiously diffused (compare Joh 7:38; Tit
by the Holy Ghost which is—rather,
given unto us—that is, at the great
Pentecostal effusion, which is viewed as the formal donation of the
Spirit to the Church of God, for all time and for each believer.
(The Holy Ghost is here first introduced in this Epistle.) It is
as if the apostle had said, "And how can this hope of glory, which as
believers we cherish, put us to shame, when we feel God Himself, by His
Spirit given to us, drenching our hearts in sweet, all-subduing
sensations of His wondrous love to us in Christ Jesus?" This leads the
apostle to expatiate on the amazing character of that love.
6-8. For when we were yet without
strength—that is, powerless to deliver ourselves, and so
ready to perish.
in due time—at the appointed
Christ died for the ungodly—Three
signal properties of God's love are here given: First, "Christ died
for the ungodly," whose character, so far from meriting any
interposition in their behalf, was altogether repulsive to the eye of
God; second, He did this "when they were without
strength"—with nothing between them and perdition but that
self-originating divine compassion; third, He did this "at the due
time," when it was most fitting that it should take place (compare
Ga 4:4), The two former of these
properties the apostle now proceeds to illustrate.
7. For scarcely for a righteous man—a
man of simply unexceptionable character.
will one—"any one"
die: yet peradventure for a good man—a
man who, besides being unexceptionable, is distinguished for
goodness, a benefactor to society.
even dare to die—"Scarce an instance
occurs of self-sacrifice for one merely upright; though for one who
makes himself a blessing to society there may be found an
example of such noble surrender of life" (So Bengel, Olshausen,
Tholuck, Alford, Philippi).
(To make the "righteous" and the "good" man here to mean the same
person, and the whole sense to be that "though rare, the case may
occur, of one making a sacrifice of life for a worthy character" [as
Calvin, Beza, Fritzsche,
Jowett], is extremely flat.)
8. But God commendeth—"setteth off,"
"displayeth"—in glorious contrast with all that men will do for
his love toward us, in that, while we were yet
sinners—that is, in a state not of positive "goodness," nor
even of negative "righteousness," but on the contrary, "sinners," a
state which His soul hateth.
Christ died for us—Now comes the
overpowering inference, emphatically redoubled.
9, 10. Much more then, being—"having
now justified by his blood, we shall be saved
from wrath through him.
10. For if, when we were enemies, we were
reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being
now—"having now been"
reconciled, we shall be saved by his
life—that is "If that part of the Saviour's work which cost
Him His blood, and which had to be wrought for persons incapable of the
least sympathy either with His love or His labors in their
behalf—even our 'justification,' our 'reconciliation'—is
already completed; how much more will He do all that remains to be
done, since He has it to do, not by death agonies any more, but in
untroubled 'life,' and no longer for enemies, but for
friends—from whom, at every stage of it, He receives the grateful
response of redeemed and adoring souls?" To be "saved from wrath
through Him," denotes here the whole work of Christ towards
believers, from the moment of justification, when the wrath of
God is turned away from them, till the Judge on the great white throne
shall discharge that wrath upon them that "obey not the Gospel of our
Lord Jesus Christ"; and that work may all be summed up in "keeping them
from falling, and presenting them faultless before the presence of His
glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24):
thus are they "saved from wrath through Him."
11. And not only so, but we also
in God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
whom we have now received the
atonement—rather, "the reconciliation" (Margin), as
the same word is rendered in Ro 5:10 and
5:18, 19. (In fact, the
earlier meaning of the English word "atonement" was "the
reconciliation of two estranged parties") [Trench]. The foregoing effects of justification were
all benefits to ourselves, calling for gratitude; this last may be
termed a purely disinterested one. Our first feeling towards God, after
we have found peace with Him, is that of clinging gratitude for so
costly a salvation; but no sooner have we learned to cry, Abba, Father,
under the sweet sense of reconciliation, than "gloriation" in Him takes
the place of dread of Him, and now He appears to us "altogether
On this section, Note, (1) How gloriously does
the Gospel evince its divine origin by basing all acceptable obedience
on "peace with God," laying the foundations of this peace in a
righteous "justification" of the sinner "through our Lord Jesus
Christ," and making this the entrance to a permanent standing in the
divine favor, and a triumphant expectation of future glory! (Ro 5:1, 2). Other peace, worthy of the name,
there is none; and as those who are strangers to it rise not to the
enjoyment of such high fellowship with God, so they have neither any
taste for it nor desire after it. (2) As only believers possess the
true secret of patience under trials, so, although "not joyous but
grievous" in themselves (Heb 12:17),
when trials divinely sent afford them the opportunity of evidencing
their faith by the grace of patience under them, they should "count it
all joy" (Ro 5:3, 4;
and see Jas 1:2, 3).
(3) "Hope," in the New Testament sense of the term, is not a lower
degree of faith or assurance (as many now say, I hope for
heaven, but am not sure of it); but invariably means "the
confident expectation of future good." It presupposes faith; and what
faith assures us will be ours, hope accordingly expects.
In the nourishment of this hope, the soul's look outward to
Christ for the ground of it, and inward upon ourselves for
evidence of its reality, must act and react upon each other (Ro 5:2 and Ro 5:4 compared). (4) It is the proper office
of the Holy Ghost to beget in the soul the full conviction and joyful
consciousness of the love of God in Christ Jesus to sinners of mankind,
and to ourselves in particular; and where this exists, it carries with
it such an assurance of final salvation as cannot deceive (Ro 5:5). (5) The justification of sinful
men is not in virtue of their amendment, but of "the blood of
God's Son"; and while this is expressly affirmed in Ro 5:9, our reconciliation to God by the
"death of His Son," affirmed in Ro 5:10, is but a variety of the same statement.
In both, the blessing meant is the restoration of the sinner to a
righteous standing in the sight of God; and in both, the
meritorious ground of this, which is intended to be conveyed, is the
expiatory sacrifice of God's Son. (6) Gratitude to God for
redeeming love, if it could exist without delight in God Himself, would
be a selfish and worthless feeling; but when the one rises into the
other—the transporting sense of eternal "reconciliation" passing
into "gloriation in God" Himself—then the lower is sanctified and
sustained by the higher, and each feeling is perfective of the other
Ro 5:12-21. Comparison and
Contrast between Adam and Christ in Their Relation to the Human
(This profound and most weighty section has
occasioned an immense deal of critical and theological discussion, in
which every point, and almost every clause, has been contested. We can
here but set down what appears to us to be the only tenable view of it
as a whole and of its successive clauses, with some slight indication
of the grounds of our judgment).
12. Wherefore—that is, Things being so;
referring back to the whole preceding argument.
as by one man—Adam.
sin—considered here in its guilt,
criminality, penal desert.
entered into the world, and death by
sin—as the penalty of sin.
and so death passed upon all men, for that all
have sinned—rather, "all sinned," that is, in that one man's
first sin. Thus death reaches every individual of the human family, as
the penalty due to himself. (So, in substance, Bengel, Hodge, Philippi). Here we should have expected the
apostle to finish his sentence, in some such way as this: "Even so, by
one man righteousness has entered into the world, and life by
righteousness." But, instead of this, we have a digression, extending
to five verses, to illustrate the important statement of Ro 5:12; and it is only at Ro 5:18 that the comparison is resumed and
13, 14. For until the law sin was in the
world—that is during all the period from Adam "until the law"
of Moses was given, God continued to treat men as sinners.
but sin is not imputed where there is no
law—"There must therefore have been a law during that period,
because sin was then imputed"; as is now to be shown.
14. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses,
even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's
transgression—But who are they?—a much contested
question. Infants (say some), who being guiltless of actual
sin, may be said not to have sinned in the way that Adam did [Augustine, Beza, Hodge]. But why
should infants be specially connected with the period "from Adam to
Moses," since they die alike in every period? And if the apostle meant
to express here the death of infants, why has he done it so
enigmatically? Besides, the death of infants is comprehended in the
universal mortality on account of the first sin, so emphatically
expressed in Ro 5:12; what
need then to specify it here? and why, if not necessary, should we
presume it to be meant here, unless the language unmistakably point to
it—which it certainly does not? The meaning then must be, that
"death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those that had not, like
Adam, transgressed against a positive commandment, threatening death to
the disobedient." (So most interpreters). In this case, the particle
"even," instead of specifying one particular class of those who lived
"from Adam to Moses" (as the other interpretation supposes), merely
explains what it was that made the case of those who died from Adam to
Moses worthy of special notice—namely, that "though unlike Adam
and all since Moses, those who lived between the two had no positive
threatening of death for transgression, nevertheless, death reigned
even over them."
who is the figure—or, "a type."
of him that was to come—Christ. "This
clause is inserted on the first mention of the name "Adam," the one
man of whom he is speaking, to recall the purpose for which he is
treating of him, as the figure of Christ" [Alford]. The point of analogy intended here is
plainly the public character which both sustained, neither of
the two being regarded in the divine procedure towards men as mere
individual men, but both alike as representative men.
(Some take the proper supplement here to be "Him [that is] to come";
understanding the apostle to speak from his own time, and to refer to
Christ's second coming [Fritzsche, De Wette, Alford]. But this is unnatural, since the analogy of
the second Adam to the first has been in full development ever since
"God exalted Him to be a Prince and a Saviour," and it will only remain
to be consummated at His second coming. The simple meaning is, as
nearly all interpreters agree, that Adam is a type of Him who was to
come after him in the same public character, and so to be "the second
15. But—"Yet," "Howbeit."
not as the offence—"trespass."
so also is the free gift—or "the
gracious gift," "the gift of grace." The two cases present points of
contrast as well as resemblance.
For if, &c.—rather, "For if
through the offense of the one the many died (that is, in that one
man's first sin), much more did the grace of God, and the free gift by
grace, even that of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound unto the many."
By "the many" is meant the mass of mankind represented
respectively by Adam and Christ, as opposed, not to few, but to
"the one" who represented them. By "the free gift" is meant (as in
Ro 5:17) the glorious gift of
justifying righteousness; this is expressly distinguished from
"the grace of God," as the effect from the cause; and
both are said to "abound" towards us in Christ—in what sense will
appear in Ro 5:16, 17. And the "much more," of the one case
than the other, 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 merit of
one, than that they should suffer for the sin of one; and if the latter
has happened, much more may we assure ourselves of the former
16. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is
the gift—"Another point of contrast may be mentioned."
for the judgment—"sentence."
was by one—rather, "was of one,"
meaning not "one man," but, as appears from the next clause, "one
to condemnation, but the free
gift—"gift of grace."
is of many offences unto
justification—a glorious point of contrast. "The condemnation
by Adam was for one sin; but the justification by Christ is an
absolution not only from the guilt of that first offense, mysteriously
attaching to every individual of the race, but from the countless
offenses it, to which, as a germ lodged in the bosom of every child
of Adam, it unfolds itself in his life." This is the meaning of "grace
abounding towards us in the abundance of the gift of
righteousness." It is a grace not only rich in its character,
but rich in detail; it is a "righteousness" not only rich in a
complete justification of the guilty, condemned sinner; but rich
in the amplitude of the ground which it covers, leaving no one
sin of any of the justified uncancelled, but making him, though loaded
with the guilt of myriads of offenses, "the righteousness of God in
17. For if by—"the"
one man's offence death reigned by
one—"through the one."
much more shall they which
abundance of grace and of the gift
righteousness … reign in life by one Jesus
Christ—"through the one." We have here the two ideas of Ro 5:15 and Ro
5:16 sublimely combined into
one, as if the subject had grown upon the apostle as he advanced in his
comparison of the two cases. Here, for the first time in this section,
he speaks of that LIFE which springs out
of justification, in contrast with the death which springs from sin and
follows condemnation. The proper idea of it therefore is, "Right to
live"—"Righteous life"—life possessed and enjoyed with the
good will, and in conformity with the eternal law, of "Him that sitteth
on the Throne"; life therefore in its widest sense—life in the
whole man and throughout the whole duration of human existence, the
life of blissful and loving relationship to God in soul and body, for
ever and ever. It is worthy of note, too, that while he says death
"reigned over" us through Adam, he does not say Life "reigns over us"
through Christ; lest he should seem to invest this new life with the
very attribute of death—that of fell and malignant tyranny, of
which we were the hapless victims. Nor does he say Life reigns
in us, which would have been a scriptural enough idea; but,
which is much more pregnant, "We shall reign in life." While
freedom and might are implied in the figure of
"reigning," "life" is represented as the glorious territory or
atmosphere of that reign. And by recurring to the idea of Ro 5:16, as to the "many offenses" whose
complete pardon shows "the abundance of grace and of the gift of
righteousness," the whole statement is to this effect: "If one man's
one offense let loose against us the tyrant power of Death, to hold us
as its victims in helpless bondage, 'much more,' when we stand forth
enriched with God's 'abounding grace' and in the beauty of a complete
absolution from countless offenses, shall we expatiate in a life
divinely owned and legally secured, 'reigning' in exultant freedom and
unchallenged might, through that other matchless 'One,' Jesus Christ!"
(On the import of the future tense in this last clause, see on
Ro 5:19, and Ro 6:5).
18. Therefore—now at length resuming the
unfinished comparison of Ro 5:12, in
order to give formally the concluding member of it, which had
been done once and again substantially, in the intermediate
as by the offence of one judgment
came—or, more simply, "it came."
upon all men to condenmation; even so by the
righteousness of one the free gift came—rather, "it
upon all men to justification of
life—(So Calvin, Bengel, Olshausen,
Tholuck, Hodge, Philippi). But
better, as we judge: "As through one offense it [came] upon all men to
condemnation; even so through one righteousness [it came] upon all men
to justification of life"—(So Beza, Grotius, Ferme, Meyer,
De Wette, Alford, Revised Version). In this case, the
apostle, resuming the statement of Ro 5:12, expresses it in a more concentrated and
vivid form—suggested no doubt by the expression in Ro 5:16, "through one offense," representing
Christ's whole work, considered as the ground of our justification, as
"ONE RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Some would render
the peculiar word here employed, "one righteous act" [Alford, &c.]; understanding by it Christ's
death as the one redeeming act which reversed the one undoing
act of Adam. But this is to limit the apostle's idea too much; for as
the same word is properly rendered "righteousness" in Ro 8:4, where it means "the righteousness of
the law as fulfilled by us who walk not after the flesh, but after the
Spirit," so here it denotes Christ's whole "obedience unto death,"
considered as the one meritorious ground of the reversal of the
condemnation which came by Adam. But on this, and on the expression,
"all men," see on Ro 5:19. The expression
"justification of life," is a vivid combination of two ideas already
expatiated upon, meaning "justification entitling to and issuing in the
rightful possession and enjoyment of life").
19. For, &c.—better, "For as by the
one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so by the
obedience of the One shall the many be made righteous." On this great
verse observe: First, By the "obedience" of Christ here is
plainly not meant more than what divines call His active
obedience, as distinguished from His sufferings and death; it is the
entire work of Christ in its obediential character. Our Lord
Himself represents even His death as His great act of obedience to the
Father: "This commandment (that is, to lay down and resume His life)
have I received of My Father" (Joh 10:8). Second, The significant word
twice rendered made, does not signify to work a change
upon a person or thing, but to constitute or ordain,
as will be seen from all the places where it is used. Here,
accordingly, it is intended to express that judicial act which
holds men, in virtue of their connection with Adam, as sinners; and, in
connection with Christ, as righteous. Third, The change of
tense from the past to the future—"as through Adam we
were made sinners, so through Christ we shall be made
righteous"—delightfully expresses the enduring character of the
act, and of the economy to which such acts belong, in contrast with the
for-ever-past ruin of believers in Adam. (See on Ro
6:5). Fourth, The "all men" of Ro 5:18 and the "many" of Ro 5:19 are the same party, though under a
slightly different aspect. In the latter case, the contrast is between
the one representative (Adam—Christ) and the many
whom he represented; in the former case, it is between the one
head (Adam—Christ) and the human race, affected for
death and life respectively by the actings of that one. Only in this
latter case it is the redeemed family of man that is alone in view; it
is humanity as actually lost, but also as actually saved, as
ruined and recovered. Such as refuse to fall in with the high purpose
of God to constitute His Son a "second Adam," the Head of a new race,
and as impenitent and unbelieving finally perish, have no place in this
section of the Epistle, whose sole object is to show how God repairs in
the second Adam the evil done by the first. (Thus the doctrine of
universal restoration has no place here. Thus too the forced
interpretation by which the "justification of all" is made to mean a
justification merely in possibility and offer to all, and
the "justification of the many" to mean the actual justification
of as many as believe [Alford, &c.],
is completely avoided. And thus the harshness of comparing a
whole fallen family with a recovered part is got rid of.
However true it be in fact that part of mankind is not saved,
this is not the aspect in which the subject is here presented.
It is totals that are compared and contrasted; and it is the
same total in two successive conditions—namely, the
human race as ruined in Adam and recovered in Christ).
20, 21. Moreover the law—"The law,
however." The Jew might say, If the whole purposes of God towards men
center in Adam and Christ, where does "the law" come in, and what was
the use of it? Answer: It
entered—But the word expresses an
important idea besides "entering." It signifies, "entered
incidentally," or "parenthetically." (In Ga 2:4 the same word is rendered, "came in
privily.") The meaning is, that the promulgation of the law at
Sinai was no primary or essential feature of the divine plan, but it
was "added" (Ga 3:19) for
a subordinate purpose—the more fully to reveal the evil
occasioned by Adam, and the need and glory of the remedy by Christ.
that the offence might abound—or, "be
multiplied." But what offense? Throughout all this section "the
offense" (four times repeated besides here) has one definite meaning,
namely, "the one first offense of Adam"; and this, in our judgment, is
its meaning here also: "All our multitudinous breaches of the law are
nothing but that one first offense, lodged mysteriously in the
bosom of every child of Adam as an offending principal, and
multiplying itself into myriads of particular offenses in the
life of each." What was one act of disobedience in the head has
been converted into a vital and virulent principle of
disobedience in all the members of the human family, whose every act of
wilful rebellion proclaims itself the child of the original
But where sin abounded—or, "was
grace did much more abound—rather,
"did exceedingly abound," or "superabound." The comparison here is
between the multiplication of one offense into countless
transgressions, and such an overflow of grace as more than meets that
21. That as sin—Observe, the word
"offense" is no more used, as that had been sufficiently illustrated;
but—what better befitted this comprehensive summation of the
whole matter—the great general term sin.
hath reigned unto death—rather, "in
death," triumphing and (as it were) revelling in that complete
destruction of its victims.
even so might grace reign—In Ro 5:14,
17 we had the reign of
death over the guilty and condemned in Adam; here it is the
reign of the mighty causes of these—of Sin which clothes Death a Sovereign with venomous
power (1Co 15:56)
and with awful authority (Ro 6:23), and of Grace, the grace which originated the scheme of
salvation, the grace which "sent the Son to be the Saviour of the
world," the grace which "made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin,"
the grace which "makes us to be the righteousness of God in Him," so
that "we who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of
righteousness do reign in life by One, Jesus Christ!"
through righteousness—not ours
certainly ("the obedience of Christians," to use the wretched language
of Grotius) nor yet exactly
"justification" [Stuart, Hodge]; but rather, "the (justifying) righteousness
of Christ" [Beza, Alford, and in substance, Olshausen, Meyer];
the same which in Ro 5:19 is
called His "obedience," meaning His whole mediatorial work in the
flesh. This is here represented as the righteous medium through
which grace reaches its objects and attains all its ends, the stable
throne from which Grace as a Sovereign dispenses its saving benefits to
as many as are brought under its benign sway.
unto eternal life—which is salvation
in its highest form and fullest development for ever.
by Jesus Christ our Lord—Thus, on that
"Name which is above every name," the echoes of this hymn to the glory
of "Grace" die away, and "Jesus is left alone."
On reviewing this golden section of our Epistle, the
following additional remarks occur: (1) If this section does not teach
that the whole race of Adam, standing in him as their federal head,
"sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression," we may
despair of any intelligible exposition of it. The apostle, after saying
that Adam's sin introduced death into the world, does not say "and so
death passed upon all men for that Adam "sinned," but "for that
all sinned." Thus, according to the teaching of the apostle,
"the death of all is for the sin of all"; and as this cannot mean the
personal sins of each individual, but some sin of which unconscious
infants are guilty equally with adults, it can mean nothing but the one
"first transgression" of their common head, regarded as the sin of
each of his race, and punished, as such, with death. It is vain to
start back from this imputation to all of the guilt of Adam's first
sin, as wearing the appearance of injustice. For not only are
all other theories liable to the same objection, in some other
form—besides being inconsistent with the text—but the
actual facts of human nature, which none dispute, and which
cannot be explained away, involve essentially the same difficulties as
the great principle on which the apostle here explains them. If
we admit this principle, on the authority of our apostle, a flood of
light is at once thrown upon certain features of the divine procedure,
and certain portions of the divine oracles, which otherwise are
involved in much darkness; and if the principle itself seem hard to
digest, it is not harder than the existence of evil, which, as a
fact, admits of no dispute, but, as a feature in the divine
administration, admits of no explanation in the present state. (2) What
is called original sin—or that depraved tendency to evil
with which every child of Adam comes into the world—is not
formally treated of in this section (and even in the seventh chapter,
it is rather its nature and operation than its connection with the
first sin which is handled). But indirectly, this section bears
testimony to it; representing the one original offense, unlike every
other, as having an enduring vitality in the bosom of every
child of Adam, as a principle of disobedience, whose virulence has
gotten it the familiar name of "original sin." (3) In what sense is the
word "death" used throughout this section? Not certainly as mere
temporal death, as Arminian commentators affirm. For as Christ
came to undo what Adam did, which is all comprehended in the word
"death," it would hence follow that Christ has merely dissolved the
sentence by which soul and body are parted in death; in other words,
merely procured the resurrection of the body. But the New Testament
throughout teaches that the salvation of Christ is from a vastly more
comprehensive "death" than that. But neither is death here used merely
in the sense of penal evil, that is, "any evil inflicted in
punishment of sin and for the support of law" [Hodge]. This is too indefinite, making death a mere
figure of speech to denote "penal evil" in general—an idea
foreign to the simplicity of Scripture—or at least making death,
strictly so called, only one part of the thing meant by it, which ought
not to be resorted to if a more simple and natural explanation can be
found. By "death" then, in this section, we understand the sinner's
destruction, in the only sense in which he is capable of it.
Even temporal death is called "destruction" (De 7:23; 1Sa
5:11, &c.), as
extinguishing all that men regard as life. But a destruction extending
to the soul as well as the body, and into the future
world, is clearly expressed in Mt 7:13; 2Th 1:9; 2Pe
3:16, &c. This is the
penal "death" of our section, and in this view of it we retain its
proper sense. Life—as a state of enjoyment of the favor of God,
of pure fellowship with Him, and voluntary subjection to Him—is a
blighted thing from the moment that sin is found in the creature's
skirts; in that sense, the threatening, "In the day that thou eatest
thereof thou shalt surely die," was carried into immediate effect in
the case of Adam when he fell; who was thenceforward "dead while he
lived." Such are all his posterity from their birth. The separation of
soul and body in temporal death carries the sinner's destruction" a
stage farther; dissolving his connection with that world out of which
he extracted a pleasurable, though unblest, existence, and ushering him
into the presence of his Judge—first as a disembodied spirit, but
ultimately in the body too, in an enduring condition—"to be
punished (and this is the final state) with everlasting
destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of
His power." This final extinction in soul and body of all that
constitutes life, but yet eternal consciousness of a blighted
existence—this, in its amplest and most awful sense, is "DEATH"! Not that Adam understood all that. It
is enough that he understood "the day" of his disobedience to be the
terminating period of his blissful "life." In that simple idea was
wrapt up all the rest. But that he should comprehend its details
was not necessary. Nor is it necessary to suppose all that to be
intended in every passage of Scripture where the word occurs. Enough
that all we have described is in the bosom of the thing, and
will be realized in as many as are not the happy subjects of the Reign
of Grace. Beyond doubt, the whole of this is intended in such sublime
and comprehensive passages as this: "God … gave His … Son
that whosoever believeth in Him might not PERISH, but have everlasting LIFE" (Joh 3:16).
And should not the untold horrors of that "DEATH"—already "reigning over" all that are
not in Christ, and hastening to its consummation—quicken our
flight into "the second Adam," that having "received the abundance of
grace and of the gift of righteousness, we may reign in LIFE by the One, Jesus Christ?"