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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.

18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


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17. For if by—"the"

one man's offence death reigned by one—"through the one."

much more shall they which receive—"the"

abundance of grace and of the gift of—justifying

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 verses.

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 came."

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 transgression.

But where sin abounded—or, "was multiplied."

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 appalling case.

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?"