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15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
15. But not as the offense, etc. Now follows the rectifying or the completion of the comparison already introduced. The Apostle does not, however, very minutely state the points of difference between Christ and Adam, but he obviates errors into which we might
otherwise easily fall, and what is needful for an explanation we shall add. Though he mentions oftentimes a difference, yet there are none of these repetitions in which there is not a want of a corresponding clause, or in which there is not at least an ellipsis. Such instances are indeed defects in a discourse; but they are not prejudicial to the majesty of that celestial wisdom which is taught us by the Apostle; it has, on the contrary, so happened through the providence of God, that the
highest mysteries have been delivered to us in the garb of an humble style,
“Sub contemptibili verborum humilitate.” This sort of derogatory language as to the style of Scripture, Calvin had evidently learnt from the fathers. Chrysostom and Jerome did sometimes say most unwarrantable things in this respect, and that in a great measure because they did not understand the
style of the New Testament, and in part with the view of taking away, by an admission, the force of objections alleged by admirers of Grecian and refined diction. The style of the New Testament is that of the Old; and hardly any of the fathers, except Origen and Jerome knew Hebrew, and the latter learnt it only in his old age, so that he could have had no great insight into its peculiarities. One like Chrysostom brought up in the refinements of Grecian literature, was a very unfit judge of the style of the New Testament, and hence it is that the criticisms of the Greek fathers in general are comparatively of very little value.
The whole of this passage, 12-19, is constructed according to the model of the Hebrew style; and when rightly understood, it will appear to contain none of those defects ascribed to it. — Ed. in order that our faith may not depend on the potency of human eloquence, but on the efficacious working of the Spirit alone.
He does not indeed even now expressly supply the deficiency of the former sentence, but simply teaches us, that there is a greater measure of grace procured by Christ, than of condemnation introduced by the first man. What some think, that the Apostle carries on here a chain of reasoning, I know not whether it will be deemed by all sufficiently evident. It may indeed be justly inferred, that since the fall of Adam had such an effect as to produce the ruin of many, much more efficacious is the grace of God to the benefit of many; inasmuch as it is admitted, that Christ is much more powerful to save, than Adam was to destroy. But as they cannot be disproved, who wish to take the passage without this inference, I am willing that they should choose either of these views; though what next follows cannot be deemed an inference, yet it is of the same meaning. It is hence probable, that Paul rectifies, or by way of exception modifies, what he had said of the likeness between Christ and Adam.
But observe, that a larger number (plures) are not here contrasted with many (multis,) for he speaks not of the number of men: but as the sin of Adam has destroyed many, he draws this conclusion, — that the righteousness of Christ will be no less efficacious to save many.
It is evident that is the many οἱ πολλοί, include those connected with the two parties — the many descendants of Adam, and the many believers in Christ. And “the many” was adopted to form a contrast with the “one.”
“The many” are termed “all” in verse Romans 5:18, and again, “the many,” in Romans 5:19. They are called “the many” and “all” alike with regard both to Adam and to Christ. Some maintain that the terms are coextensive in the two instances. That the whole race of man is meant in the one instances cannot be doubted: and is there any reason why the whole race of man should not be included in the second? Most clearly there is. The Apostle speaks of Adam and his posterity, and also of Christ and his people, or those “who receive abundance of grace,” or, “are made righteous;” and “the many” and the “all” are evidently those who belong to each separately. In no other way can the words with any consistency be understood. All who fell in Adam do not certainly “receive abundance of grace,” and are not “made righteous.” And it is not possible, as Professor Hodge observes, “so to eviscerate such declarations as these, as to make them to contain nothing more than that the chance of salvation is offered to all men.” This is indeed contrary to evident facts. Nor can they mean, that a way of acceptance has been opened, which is suitable to all; for though this is true, it yet cannot be the meaning here. Hence “the many” and the “all,” as to Adam, are all his descendants; and “the many” and the “all,” as to Christ, are those who believe. — Ed.
When he says, by the offense of one, etc., understand him as meaning this, — that corruption has from him descended to us: for we perish not through his fault, as though we were blameless; but as his sin is the cause of our sin, Paul ascribes to him our ruin: our sin I call that which is implanted in us, and with which we are born.
The grace of God and the gift of God through grace, etc. Grace is properly set in opposition to offense; the gift which proceeds from grace, to death. Hence grace means the free goodness of God or gratuitous love, of which he has given us a proof in Christ, that he might relieve our misery: and gift is the fruit of this mercy, and hath come to us, even the reconciliation by which we have obtained life and salvation, righteousness, newness of life, and every other blessing. We hence see how absurdly the schoolmen have defined grace, who have taught that it is nothing else but a quality infused into the hearts of men: for grace, properly speaking, is in God; and what is in us is the effect of grace. And he says, that it is by one man; for the Father has made him the fountain out of whose fullness all must draw. And thus he teaches us, that not even the least drop of life can be found out of Christ, — that there is no other remedy for our poverty and want, than what he conveys to us from his own abundance.
16. This is especially an explanation of what he had said before, — that by one offense guilt issued in the condemnation of us all, but that grace, or rather the gratuitous gift, is efficacious to our justification from many offenses. It is indeed an expansion of what the last verse contains; for he had not hitherto expressed, how or in what respect Christ excelled Adam. This difference being settled, it appears evident, that their opinion is impious, who have taught that we recover nothing else by Christ but a freedom from original sin, or the corruption derived from Adam. Observe also, that these many offenses, from which he affirms we are freed through Christ, are not to be understood only of those which every one must have committed before baptism, but also of those by which the saints contract daily new guilt; and on account of which they would be justly exposed to condemnation, were they not continually relieved by this grace.
He sets gift in opposition to judgment: by the latter he means strict justice; by the former, gratuitous pardon. From strict justice comes condemnation; from pardon, absolution. Or, which is the same thing, were God to deal with us according to justice, we should be all undone; but he justifies us freely in Christ.
17. For if the offense of one, etc. He again subjoins a general explanation, on which he dwells still further; for it was by no means his purpose to explain every part of the subject, but to state the main points. He had before declared, that the power of grace had surpassed that of sin: and by this he consoles and strengthens the faithful, and, at the same time, stimulates and encourages them to meditate on the benignity of God. Indeed the design of so studious a repetition was, — that the grace of God might be worthily set forth, that men might be led from self-confidence to trust in Christ, that having obtained his grace they might enjoy full assurance; and hence at length arises gratitude. The sum of the whole is this — that Christ surpasses Adam; the sin of one is overcome by the righteousness of the other; the curse of one is effaced by the grace of the other; from one, death has proceeded, which is absorbed by the life which the other bestows.
But the parts of this comparison do not correspond; instead of adding, “the gift of life shall more fully reign and flourish through the exuberance of grace,” he says, that “the faithful shall reign;” which amounts to the same thing; for the reign of the faithful is in life, and the reign of life is in the faithful.
It may further be useful to notice here the difference between Christ and Adam, which the Apostle omitted, not because he deemed it of no importance, but unconnected with his present subject.
The first is, that by Adam’s sin we are not condemned through imputation alone, as though we were punished only for the sin of another; but we suffer his punishment, because we also ourselves are guilty; for as our nature is vitiated in him, it is regarded by God as having committed sin. But through the righteousness of Christ we are restored in a different way to salvation; for it is not said to be accepted for us, because it is in us, but because we possess Christ himself with all his blessings, as given to us through the bountiful kindness of the Father. Hence the gift of righteousness is not a quality with which God endows us, as some absurdly explain it, but a gratuitous imputation of righteousness; for the Apostle plainly declares what he understood by the word grace. The other difference is, that the benefit of Christ does not come to all men, while Adam has involved his whole race in condemnation; and the reason of this is indeed evident; for as the curse we derive from Adam is conveyed to us by nature, it is no wonder that it includes the whole mass; but that we may come to a participation of the grace of Christ, we must be ingrafted in whim by faith. Hence, in order to partake of the miserable inheritance of sin, it is enough for thee to be man, for it dwells in flesh and blood; but in order to enjoy the righteousness of Christ it is necessary for thee to be a believer; for a participation of him is attained only by faith. He is communicated to infants in a peculiar way; for they have by covenant the right of adoption, by which they pass over unto a participation of Christ. 172172 The original is, “Habent enim in fœdere jus adoptionis, quo in Christi communionem transeunt.” — Ed. Of the children of the godly I speak, to whom the promise of grace is addressed; for others are by no means exempted from the common lot.