From The Grace New Testament Commentary (Revised Edition)
By Zane Hodges
The Description of this Victory (5:1-5)
5:1. The first of the results of by-faith justification is the blessing of peace with God. When God justifies a sinner who believes in Jesus, a fundamental peace is established between the sinner and God.
The nature of this peace is of course judicial, since justification is the act of God as our Judge. We should avoid understanding the idea as inner tranquility. The peace involved here is like that which results when two warring nations are no longer in a hostile relationship to each other.
The sinner is fully accepted as righteous in God’s eyes. Thus, this peace is realized through our Lord Jesus Christ who in His own Person is our “Mercy Seat.”
5:2. Another result is that justified persons also possess access…into this grace. Paul appears to be thinking of the presence of God as a place of grace into which we now have a right to enter at any time (cf. Heb 4:16). Prayer is the obvious way in which we utilize the access we now have as justified persons.
A third benefit that flows from justification by faith is the expectation of the glory of God. So exciting is this expectation, in fact, that the justified person can exult in it.
Paul is likely thinking especially of corporate Christian worship in which assembled Christians come boldly before God to offer exultant praise (cf. Heb 10:19-25).
Paul’s initial statement in this unit proclaims a “trinity” of benefits that flow from justification: (1) peace, (2) access, and (3) joy (i.e., exultation). In vv 3-4 he discusses another benefit that is equally remarkable.
5:3-4. The justified believer can now see his afflictions in a new light and can regard them as a process that produces endurance. This, in turn, creates an approvedness that results in yet further expectation.
The person who is righteous by faith can learn to view afflictions from a new vantage point. How this can be true Paul will elaborate later (8:18-38), but for now he simply summarizes the important truth that our afflictions can have positive results.
Paul is saying that our afflictions can produce the ability to bear up under difficulties (endurance), and this capacity in turn results in our becoming people upon whom God’s divine approbation can rest (cf. 1 Pet 1:6-9).
This represents a remarkable progression in human experience. Since God’s wrath (see 1:18ff) expresses His disapproval of unrighteous men and their conduct, the justified person can now achieve a state of approvedness as a result of his personal conduct under trial. This approvedness bestows on him a further endowment of expectation, though the exact nature of this expectation is not spelled out here. Paul will deal with it more explicitly later (see 8:17-25).
5:5. The expectation that is produced in us through enduring our trials and becoming approved in God’s sight promotes a boldness about our Christian profession. What Paul means is that we can unashamedly (i.e., boldy) confess such a believing expectation.
Afflictions can usher in a deeper appreciation of the love of God. It is as though the love of God is poured forth in our hearts. That is to say that our hearts are suffused with His love as the Holy Spirit makes that love a joyous realization within us.
With these words, Paul has reached the climax of his “staircase” treatment of the benefits of justification in 5:1-5.
The Basis for this Victory (5:6-11)
5:6. Paul stresses the fact that the basis of the experience he has just described in vv 1-5 arose while we were still weak.
But God had a solution for this profound weakness on our part, and thus when the proper time came, Christ died…for the ungodly. The death of Christ, which was for the ungodly, came at precisely the point in human history that God had foreordained for it. It thereby became the fundamental starting point by which weak and ungodly people like ourselves could be brought into the experience of spiritual strength.
5:7-8. Paul returns to the theme of divine love that had climaxed in vv 1-5. A willingness to die for a righteous man is found only rarely. On the other hand, the willingness to die for a good man can conceivably (perhaps) be thought of as more natural. It is something someone might even dare to do.
Clearly Paul means here that mere moral rectitude (i.e., a righteous man) rarely inspires the laying down of life, while goodness (particularly to others) could perhaps more readily do so. But in contrast to both examples is the way that God demonstrates His own love for us. For although we were neither righteous nor good (see 3:10-12), but instead were still sinners, nevertheless Christ died for us. The starting point for all human realization of the Creator’s love for His creatures is always the cross of Christ.
5:9. Few verses in this epistle are more crucial to the correct understanding of Paul’s letter than the present verse and the next.
Here the Greek participle dikaiōthentes (since we have…been justified) is the functional equivalent of a conditional clause that is assumed to be true. The conclusion to be drawn (we shall be delivered) is naturally expressed in the future tense since it refers to something that is logically expected, but not guaranteed, to follow from it.
Paul does not assume that the “deliverance” he is speaking of is independent of our willingness to avail ourselves of God’s provision for it.
In addition, it needs to be stated that Paul’s assertion must necessarily be understood in the light of the argument of the epistle thus far. When Paul writes that we shall be delivered from wrath through Him, it is illegitimate to refer the word wrath to eternal damnation. No such use of wrath occurs in Romans.
But now that Paul has established that God imputes righteousness to (i.e., He justifies) the believer in Jesus, the question becomes profoundly relevant: What is the relationship of the justified believer to this universal display of heaven-sent wrath?
Paul’s answer is that it is reasonable and fully to be expected that the person who has now been justified by His blood shall be delivered from wrath through this very Jesus. This implies the necessity of a change in mindset and lifestyle and that is precisely the subject Paul will now proceed to discuss (5:12–8:39).
It is important to observe here (and also in v 10) that the word translated delivered (sōzō) has a very wide range of meanings in normal Greek usage. The word delivered is used in my translation to avoid the almost automatic reflex most readers have that assumes the reference is to salvation from hell. That assumption in vv 9-10 would be false to the progression of Paul’s thought.
So important is the transitional statement of this verse that Paul at once repeats it, in carefully altered form, in the next verse.
5:10. In our former condition, as unrighteous people, we were God’s enemies. But now through the death of His Son, we have been reconciled to God. The fundamental state of enmity has been removed, and God accepts us as righteous people based on our faith in His Son.
As a result of standing in this new friendly relationship to God, we can expect to be delivered by His [Christ’s] life. The sense here of course is precisely what we observed in the previous verse. Our “deliverance” is from the wrath which formed the starting point of Paul’s argumentation at 1:18 and is explicitly referred to in v 9. It is logical in the highest degree that those who have received this “reconciliation” should no longer be objects of divine anger. Logical, but not guaranteed, as Paul will proceed to show.
This deliverance from wrath is by His life. The sense can be paraphrased as follows: we shall be delivered in the experience of His life. Paul will develop this concept in the following chapters.
5:11. In this verse Paul brings to a climax his anticipation that a justified person will be delivered from the divine anger under which mankind in general lives.
We should expect to be delivered from temporal wrath, but also we should anticipate that this experience will be accompanied by exulting in God (cf. 5:3). Deliverance and joy are therefore the keynotes of the experience Paul will describe in chaps. 6–8.
But this kind of experience can only come to us through our Lord Jesus Christ since He is the One through whom we have now received this reconciliation.
With this verse, Paul reaches the conclusion of an extensive section that began in 3:21. His theme has been the righteousness of God that sinful man can obtain through faith in Jesus.
In what follows this great Apostle teaches about the nature of, and the means for, a truly Christian life-experience.
The Sin Problem and Its Solution (5:12-21)
5:12. Paul’s sentence is never actually finished. The idea left unexpressed here is not picked up again by Paul until vv 18-19.
In view of the truth just mentioned in vv 9-11, life has become available through one Man (Jesus Christ), just as sin, as well as death, have entered the world through one man (Adam).
The entrance of sin and death into mankind’s experience has become universal: death came to all men because all have sinned. Death became a universal experience precisely because all human beings have sinned (cf. 6:23).
Paul is not concerned here with the “mechanics” of the transmission of a sinful nature from generation to generation. It is enough to know that what Adam and Eve did in the garden has produced descendants who, without exception, have committed sin. Since everyone is sinful in word and deed, everyone also dies. This is the straightforward reality described by Paul here.
5:13. Since Paul has just stated that “all have sinned” (v 12), the question might be raised as to how human beings could sin in the absence of God’s law.
Paul flatly asserts that until the law sin was in the world. Even a cursory examination of the book of Genesis would prove it, beginning with the murder of Abel.
The only distinction between the pre- and post-law eras is expressed by the words but sin is not itemized when there is no law.
As he has already told us (in 2:14-16), Gentiles without the law will be judged in terms of their conscience as this is manifested by their discussions about right and wrong among themselves. Though badly defaced, the law is nevertheless written on each conscience in a way that permits God to judge individuals as individuals.
5:14. Despite the fact that there could be no itemization of sins in the pre-law period, nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses.
With the word reigned, Paul is implying that death exercised a tyranny over humanity by which man was somehow enslaved. This makes death part of the spiritual bondage under which humanity lives.
It was a “reign” even over those who had not sinned in a way that resembled the transgression of Adam. Death was able to extend its “domain” over all mankind despite the differences between humanity’s many transgressions and the single transgression of Adam.
Here Paul specifically introduces the comparison of Adam with Christ by describing Adam as a type of the Coming One.
Adam and Christ are two Headships. Adam is the “head” of the fallen race of men since their fallenness is derived from his sin. By contrast, Christ is the “Head” of the redeemed race since He is the source of their redemption.
5:15. The effect of Adam’s offense was that many died. The effect of Jesus Christ is the reception of the free gift that is bestowed through His grace.
The word offense is a contrast with the grace of God and the grace of…Jesus Christ. God is certainly not the Source of Adam’s disastrous offense, but He is most emphatically the Source of the gift given through the grace of…Jesus Christ. “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).
Furthermore, the gift given through the grace of one Man has abounded to many. Those who have been justified by faith can live so triumphantly that they can even exult in God in the face of all their tribulations (cf. 5:3-4, 9-13; 8:31-38).
5:16. The effect of the free gift is not like what happened when a quite different effect was produced through one man who sinned. The latter resulted in servitude to sin, while the free gift results in righteous action (or, conduct).
In the case of the one man who sinned the result was that the judgment came for one offense. By contrast the free gift brings release from many offenses. Paul’s reference here to the judgment is undoubtedly a reference to the divine decree that brought death to Adam, and to the sinful race which has descended from him, as a result of his single sin.
Moreover, the judgment of death on Adam produced for him and his race servitude to sin (eis katakrima). The word katakrima is used here and also in v 18 and is then picked up again in the important statement of 8:1. Its treatment in the commentaries has been largely inadequate.
The judgment passed on Adam led to a penalty, i.e., servitude to sin. Adam was now spiritually dead, and physically dying, and in this condition, he fell under bondage to sin.
By contrast with this, however, the free gift of justification from many offenses leads to righteous action (dikaiōma). Dikaiōma is the reversal of katakrima, slavery to sin. The person who has received the free gift (imputed righteousness) can now be “restored” to an experience consistent with this imputation, so that he can produce righteous action.
The contrasted terms are katakrima (servitude) and dikaiōma (righteous action). Adam’s sin led to the former (slavery to sin), while the free gift leads to the latter (righteous action).
5:17. Once the offense of one man, Adam, had occurred, his descendants became “subjects” of death in the sense that their “servitude” to sin (v 16) became inescapable.
However, in contrast to this, one Man, Jesus Christ, makes possible a different kind of experience. This new experience is described as one in which the participants in it shall reign in life (cf. 5:9 and the discussion there).
On the one hand, death itself reigns. But on the other, certain people shall reign in life. And, as Paul has already said, the life in question is nothing less than the very life of God’s Son (5:9-10). Thus the participants in this life are identified as those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness (= the abundantly gracious gift of righteousness). For Paul, the abundance of God’s grace is magnified by its enormous potential for transforming human experience.
5:18. Paul now recaptures the thought that he had begun, but not completed, in v 12.
The intervening verses (13-17) have prepared us for the other half of Paul’s comparison. As surely as God’s judgment has brought servitude to sin, so also the righteous action of “one Man, Jesus Christ” has made available justification sourced in life.
In sum, Paul’s statement in this verse points to two diametrically opposite experiences traceable to two “men” whose single actions result in widely varying outcomes. On the one hand, Adam’s single offense produced universal servitude to sin. On the other hand, Christ’s righteous act on the cross is efficacious for all men so that they can now possess, by faith, righteousness sourced in life, in consequence of which they will be able to live (1:17).
5:19. Verse 19 is the climactic back-reference to v 12. As indicated in v 12 by the words “all have sinned,” so here Paul reaffirms this fact in the statement many have been constituted sinners.
The initial word many (hoi polloi) indicates the totality of those who have been constituted sinners as a result of the disobedience of one man. The second many indicates the totality of those who shall be constituted righteous as a result of the obedience of one Man.
Thus the repetition of v 18 in this verse presents the second Man as the supreme model of obedience to God in a world where the disobedience of the first man has wrought the calamitous tragedies of sin and death. Paul is now moving toward a discussion of our own obedience to God in the Christian life (chaps. 6–8).
5:20-21. Since “sin was in the world” even before the law (cf. v 13), why then was the law added? The reason, says Paul, is that the offense might become greater.
But in sharp contrast to this grim reality stands God’s magnificent (superlatively great) grace.
This excelling of human sin by divine grace makes possible an astounding result, which reverses the reign of sin. Although through Adam “death came to all men” (v 12) and made the world an arena of death in which sin held human beings in bondage, through Jesus Christ our Lord a different experience is possible. Thus Paul tells us that just as sin has reigned in the sphere of death, so also can grace…reign through righteousness unto eternal life.
When the believer gains victory over sin, grace is reigning in his life experience. The means by which this victory is attained is the subject of the following chapters (Romans 6–8). The present passage (5:12-21) is intended as an introduction, stating the fundamental problem and anticipating the solution about to be expounded.
The unit Paul had commenced in 5:12 closes here with the words through Jesus Christ our Lord (cf. 5:1 and 5:11). When eternal life is experienced, as grace reigns in the Christian’s life, this experience comes through Jesus Christ our Lord. As Paul will show, this is true because we have been united with our Lord in His death, burial and in His resurrection life (see 6:1-11).
The following unit (6:1-23) expounds the truth stated in the present verse. Both in 5:21 and 6:23 the expression our Lord is climactic (contrast 5:1 and 11), since we are now about to consider truth which relates directly to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the life of the believer.
Zane Hodges was a Bible teacher and Professor of Greek at Dallas Theological Seminary. He was promoted to glory in 2008.