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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 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.

18. Therefore, etc. This is a defective sentence; it will be complete if the words condemnation and justification be read in the nominative case; as doubtless you must do in order to complete the sense. We have here the general conclusion from the preceding comparison; for, omitting the mention of the intervening explanation, he now completes the comparison, “As by the offense of one we were made (constitute) sinners; so the righteousness of Christ is efficacious to justify us. He does not say the righteousness — δικαιοσύνην, but the justification — δικαίωμα, 173173     The meaning of this word is evident here; for it stands in contrast with παράπτωμα — offense or transgression, in the former clause, and is identical in sense with ὑπακόη — obedience, in the next verse. It means what is appointed and adjudged as right; and hence it is rendered “ordinance,” Luke 1:6; “judgment,” Romans 1:32; and, in Romans 5:16, “justification,” when it stands opposed to κατάκριμα — condemnation, and means absolution, acquittal, as the determination of the judge. It signifies here, that what Christ did was according to God’s appointment; it was something directly contrary to offense or transgression; and what it was is explained in the next verse by the word “obedience.” Wolfius says, that δικαίωμα is the satisfaction of Christ, or his active and passive obedience, Romans 5:19, — that δικαιοσύνη is the merit of Christ, obtained by has death and applied to us by faith, Romans 3:22, — and that δικαίωσις is the act of justification which follows from the satisfaction of Christ, apprehended by faith. — Ed. of Christ, in order to remind us that he was not as an individual just for himself, but that the righteousness with which he was endued reached farther, in order that, by conferring this gift, he might enrich the faithful. He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him. 174174     “Nam etsi passus est Christus pro peccatis totius mundi. atque omnibus indifferenter Dei benignitate offertur; non tamen omnes apprehendum.” It appears from this sentence that Calvin held general redemption. — Ed.

These two words, which he had before used, judgment and grace, may be also introduced here in this form, “As it was through God’s judgment that the sin of one issued in the condemnation of many, so grace will be efficacious to the justification of many.” Justification of life is to be taken, in my judgment, for remission, which restores life to us, as though he called it life-giving. 175175     It is an Hebraistic form of speaking, genitivus effectûs Its meaning is that it is a justification unto life, whose end is life, or, which issues in life, that is, eternal life, according to its import in Romans 5:17, when reigning in life — ἐν ζωὟ, is spoken of; and the word “eternal,” is added to it in the last verse. This life commences with justification, and therefore this view includes what Calvin says, though it extends farther. — Ed. For whence comes the hope of salvation, except that God is propitious to us; and we must be just, in order to be accepted. Then life proceeds from justification. 176176     In our version are introduced “judgment” and “free-gift,” from verse 16; and it is what has been done by most interpreters. The words are found here in no MSS.; but there is another reading countenanced by four MSS., as given by Griesbach, and two of them ancient; the word for offense is put in the nominative case, τὸ παράπτωμα, and the word for righteousness the same, τὸ δικαίωμα. Then the reading would be —
   18. So then, as through one the transgression was, as to all men, unto condemnation; so also through one the righteousness is, as to all men, unto justification of life.

   This agrees better with the following verse, though the meaning is substantially the same with what is given in our version. — Ed.

19. This is no tautology, but a necessary explanation of the former verse. For he shows that we are guilty through the offense of one man, in such a manner as not to be ourselves innocent. He had said before, that we are condemned; but that no one might claim for himself innocence, he also subjoined, that every one is condemned because he is a sinner. And then, as he declares that we are made righteous through the obedience of Christ, we hence conclude that Christ, in satisfying the Father, has provided a righteousness for us. It then follows, that righteousness is in Christ, and that it is to be received by us as what peculiarly belongs to him. He at the same time shows what sort of righteousness it is, by calling it obedience. And here let us especially observe what we must bring into God’s presence, if we seek to be justified by works, even obedience to the law, not to this or to that part, but in every respect perfect; for when a just man falls, all his former righteousness will not be remembered. We may also hence learn, how false are the schemes which they take to pacify God, who of themselves devise what they obtrude on him. For then only we truly worship him when we follow what he has commanded us, and render obedience to his word. Away then with those who confidently lay claim to the righteousness of works, which cannot otherwise exist than when there is a full and complete observance of the law; and it is certain that this is nowhere to be found. We also learn, that they are madly foolish who vaunt before God of works invented by themselves, which he regards as the filthiest things; for obedience is better than sacrifices.

20. But the law intervened, etc. This subject depends on what he had said before — that there was sin before the law was published. This being the case, then follows immediately this question — For what purpose was the law given? It was therefore necessary to solve this difficulty; but as a longer digression was not suitable, he deferred the subject and handled it in another place: and now by the way he only says, that the law entered, 178178     “Intercessisse legem — that the law came between,” i.e., Adam and Christ; παρεισὢλθεν from παρὰ, with, besides, or between, and εἰσέρχομαι, to enter. It occurs elsewhere only in Galatians 2:4, where it is rendered, “came in privily,” as required by the context. But it cannot be so rendered here. Schleusner says, that it simply means to enter, and that it is so used by Philo. It is thus rendered by the Syriac and Arabic versions. Erasmus has “obiter subiit, vel, irrepsit — came, or, crept in by the by;” Hammond has the same; but Beza attaches the idea of besides to παρὰ, — præterea introiit — entered in besides,” i.e., in addition to the disease under which all men labored, having been contaminated by that of the first sin. “Intervenit — intervened,” is the rendering of Grotius; that is, the law intervened between the beginning of sin and the beginning of new righteousness. “The law,” says Hodge, “was superinduced on a plan already laid. It was not designed for the accomplishment of man’s salvation, that is, either for his justification or sanctification, but for the accomplishment of a very subordinate part in the great scheme of mercy.” — Ed. that sin might abound; for he describes not here the whole office and use of the law, but only touches on one part, which served his present purpose. He indeed teaches us, that it was needful that men’s ruin should be more fully discovered to them, in order that a passage might be opened for the favor of God. They were indeed shipwrecked before the law was given; as however they seemed to themselves to swim, while in their destruction, they were thrust down into the deep, that their deliverance might appear more evident, when they thence emerge beyond all human expectation. Nor was it unreasonable, that the law should be partly introduced for this end — that it might again condemn men already condemned; for nothing is more reasonable than that men should, through all means be brought, nay, forced, by being proved guilty, to know their own evils.

That offense might abound, etc. It is well known how some, following Augustine, usually explain this passage, — that lust is irritated the more, while it is checked by the restraints of the law; for it is man’s nature to strive for what is forbidden. But I understand no other increase to be intended here than that of knowledge and of obstinacy; for sin is set by the law before the eyes of man, that he may be continually forced to see that condemnation is prepared for him. Thus sin disturbs the conscience, which, when cast behind them, men forget. And farther, he who before only passed over the bounds of justice, becomes now, when the law is introduced, a despiser of God’s authority, since the will of God is made known to him, which he now wantonly tramples under feet. It hence follows, that sin is increased by the law, since now the authority of the lawgiver is despised and his majesty degraded. 179179     Chrysostom regarded ἵνα here as denoting not the final cause, but the event, and thought the meaning to be, that the law entered, so that the effect or event was, that sin increased. Its rendering would then be, so that: and this seems to be the meaning given to it by Calvin. The law did not create sin, but made it known, and by discovering it, increased its guilt when persisted in, and by discovering it showed the necessity of a Savior.

Grace has superabounded. After sin has held men sunk in ruin, grace then comes to their help: for he teaches us, that the abundance of grace becomes for this reason more illustrious. — that while sin is overflowing, it pours itself forth so exuberantly, that it not only overcomes the flood of sin, but wholly absorbs it. 180180     The superabounding has a reference to the increasing of sin by means of the law. Grace not only abounded so as to be sufficient to remedy the first sin and the sins which followed it; but it abounded still more, so as to be an adequate provision for sin when increased by the law, through the perverseness of human nature. — Ed. And we may hence learn, that our condemnation is not set before us in the law, that we may abide in it; but that having fully known our misery, we may be led to Christ, who is sent to be a physician to the sick, a deliverer to the captives, a comforter to the afflicted, a defender to the oppressed. (Isaiah 61:1.)

21. That as sin has reigned, etc. As sin is said to be the sting of death, and as death has no power over men, except on account of sin; so sin executes its power by death: it is hence said to exercise thereby its dominion. In the last clause the order of the words is deranged, but yet not without reason. The simple contrast might have been thus formed, — “That righteousness may reign through Christ.” But Paul was not content to oppose what is contrary to what is contrary, but adds the word grace, that he might more deeply print this truth on the memory — that the whole is to be ascribed, not to our merit, but to the kindness of God. 181181     The antithesis to “sin” is properly “righteousness;” but, as Calvin observes, “grace” is connected with it. To preserve the contrast, the sentence might be rendered, “grace through righteousness;” and then to show the medium or channel through which this “grace through righteousness” is to reign so as to issue in “eternal life,” it is added, “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” So that in this single sentence, we have the origin, “grace,” the means or the meritorious cause, “righteousness,” the agent, or the procurer of it, “Jesus Christ,” and the end, “eternal life.” Some take “grace” as antithetic to sin, and connect “righteousness” with “eternal life,” and render it “justification;” but this does not so well preserve the antithetic character of the clause. Those who render it “holiness” completely misunderstand the drift of the passage.
   The first part is differently rendered: instead of “unto death,” Hammond renders it, like Calvin, “through death,” and Grotius, “by (per) death.” The preposition is εν and not εἰ, and its common meaning is “in,” and it may be here translated, “in death,” i.e., in a state of death. The reign of sin was that of death and misery; the reign of grace through Christ’s righteousness is that of life and happiness, which is never to end. — Ed.
He had previously said, that death reigned; he now ascribes reigning to sin; but its end or, effect is death. And he says, that it has reigned, in the past tense; not that it has ceased to reign in those who are born only of flesh, and he thus distinguishes between Adam and Christ, and assigns to each his own time. Hence as soon as the grace of Christ begins to prevail in any one, the reign of sin and death ceases. 182182     That the antitheses of this remarkable passage, from verse 12 to the end, may be more clearly seen, it shall be presented in lines. The contrast in Romans 5:12 and 20 will be found in the first and last line and in the second and the third; and as to all the other verses, in the first and the third line and in the second and the fourth, except Romans 5:13 and 14, which are an explanation of the 12th. The 17th includes the two ideas of the 15th and 16th, in an inverted order. The 18th and l9th contain the summing up of the argument, —
   12. For this reason, — as by one man sin entered into the world, And death by sin, Even so death came upon all men, — Because all had sinned:

   13. Sin indeed was until the law in the world, But sin is not imputed when there is no law;

   14. Yet reign did death from Adam to Moses. Even over those who had not sinned, After the likeness of the transgression of Adam, Who is the type of him who was to come.

   15. But not as the transgression, So also the free favor; For if through the transgression of one Many died. Much more has God’s grace, and his free gift through the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, Abounded unto many:

   16. And not as through one sin, So the free gift; For judgment was indeed Through one sir to condemnation, But the free favor Is from many transgressions to justification, —

   17. For if for one transgression, Death reigned through one; Much more shall they, who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness, Reign in life through one, Jesus Christ.

   18. So then, as through one transgression, Judgment was on all men to condemnation; So also through one righteousness, The free favor is on all men to justification of life:

   19. For as through the disobedience of one man, Sinful were made many; So also through the obedience of one, Righteous shall be made many.

   20. But the law entered in, That multiplied might be transgression; But where sin multiplied, Superabounded has grace: So that as sin reigned Into death; So also grace shall reign through righteousness, Into eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Ed.