Romans 5:20-21

20. Moreover, the law entered, that the offense might abound; 1 but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

20. Lex vero intervenit, ut abundaret delictum; ubi vero abundavit delictum, superabundavit et gratia:

21. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

21. Quo, sicut regnavit peccatum per mortem, sic et gratia regnet per justitiam in vitam æternam per Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum.

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, 2 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. 3

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. 4 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. 5 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. 6

1 Pleona>sh, which means to grow more and more, to increase, to multiply: it is a different verb from that in the last clause. What he calls "offense" or "fall" in this member of the sentence, he calls "sin" in the next. It is still "the fall" or "the sin" which caused it: for that is the parent of every other sin. -- Ed.

2 "Intercessisse legem -- that the law came between," i.e., Adam and Christ; pareish~lqen from para<, with, besides, or between, and eijse>rcomai, 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 he 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 para<, -- 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.

3 Chrysostom regarded i[na 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.

4 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.

5 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 en and not eij, 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.

6 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.