Paul's Epistle to the Romans

 (19) Headship of Christ
Romans 5:15-21  
 
                             

 

15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.
17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.
19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,
21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord
.

When we belonged to the old creation under Adam, death and sin reigned; now that we are in Christ in the new creation—“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17), grace is reigning, and we are reigning in life—“For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ”  (v. 17). You can live like a king by the grace of God!

15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.

But the free gift is not like the offense. Here, Paul continues the contrast between Adam and Christ, but what is the contrast between the two men? God created Adam a free moral agent, with the right to choose. God placed him in a garden of perfection, and instructed him what to do and what not to do. Adam willfully sinned; his sin was the result of willful disobedience on his part. Through the offense of Adam the many (i.e., all of Adam’s descendants) incurred the penalty of death. Similarly, the many (i.e., all the redeemed) have incurred the free gift of eternal life through the Last Adam, Jesus Christ. The free gift is the marvelous expression of the grace of God abounding to a race of sinners. Death here may include spiritual as well as physical death.

There are some who will read these lines that will object by saying, “Why should I suffer, why should I burn in hell for Adam’s mistake and his disobedience to God’s command?” You will not! If you burn in hell it will be your own choice; it will not be because of Adam’s transgression.

For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God.  The grace of God, which is the ground of our justification, is contrasted with the sin of Adam, because it is greater in quality and greater in degree than Adam’s sin. Paul has already established that all people, without exception, bear the guilt of sin and are therefore subject to death. In Adam we got what we deserved, condemnation and guilt. In Christ we have received much more of what we do not deserve, mercy and grace. Today, we are looking forward to something more wonderful than the Garden of Eden. Paul tells us, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).

In these verses, Paul has put forth a reality which the modern world must be aware of. It is that the life of one person affects many others—“no man is an island.” No man lives to himself, and this truth can be amplified to prove that no one is so obscure that his actions do not reach out in ever-widening circles to effect men whose name he doesn’t know and of whose very existence he has been completely unaware. What Christ has done for us can alter the character of every single person and can transform the nature of the common life which all men share together.

And the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ.  The free gift was made possible by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ. Christ’s one act of redemption was immeasurably greater than Adam’s one act of condemnation. It was amazing grace on His part to die for His rebellious creatures. Through His death, God has provided a way of escape…a remedy. God gave the best heaven had, and all you need to do to miss hell is to accept the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. Receive Him and God will do the rest—“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:12-13).

Abounded to many. The two “manys” in this verse do not refer to the same people. The first many includes all who became subject to death as a result of Adam’s trespass. The second many means all who become members of the new creation, of which Christ is the Head. It includes only those to whom God’s grace has abounded—that is, true believers. While God’s mercy is showered on all, His grace is given only to those who trust the Savior.

16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.

And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. Paul highlights the differences between Adam’s sin and Christ’s gift, between the terrible havoc wrought by one sin and the tremendous deliverance wrought from many sins, and finally between the verdict of condemnation and the verdict of justification. The heart of Paul’s argument is that grace is mightier than sin.

For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation. Not only is our guilt derived from one man’s sin, but it is derived from only one sin of that man. Notice that Paul never refers to the “offenses” of one man, but to the offense (singular) of one man (vss. 14–15, 17–20). It is not the sins of Adam’s lifetime that have been imputed to us, but only his original sin. That one sin brought inevitable judgment, and the verdict was “Condemned.” Those who refuse to receive the salvation of Christ are condemned to death and an eternity of separation from God—in hell.

But the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. The righteousness which is imputed to us by Christ, through the free gift of God’s grace, covers not just that one offense but many offenses, and brought about the verdict of “Acquitted.”  Paul clearly means that the benefits from being pardoned by God’s grace is “for all,” and he has in mind an abundant life which is given to all those who will accept the benefits. Grace is amazing in the way it operates. No matter how widely we have strayed or how often we have fallen, the offer of mercy is always there. Here grace is called a “free gift” because we don’t deserve it and there is no way we can earn it.

Now I realize that this is a difficult section of the Bible to understand and this is one of the most difficult passages. To make it a little simpler, all this section means is this: one transgression plunged the whole human race into sin; and one act of obedience and the death of Christ on the Cross makes it possible for lost men to be saved.
 
17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

In this verse, we have the two ideas of verses 15 and 16 combined into one by Paul through divine inspiration.

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one. Due to Adam’s sin death reigned as a cruel tyrant. As the representative head of the human race, Adam’s offense dethroned him as the ruler of God’s creation. Consequently, death became the ruler of nature. Adam became the representative of a death-destined society. As long as we are born into that society, death is our destiny as well.

Death reigned as a cruel tyrant. Adam transgressed God’s commandment that he must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). This command was a test of Man’s obedience to God. Man failed the test, and with the coming of sin into man’s experience, death also came. Death became king. It reigned supreme. Adam’s actions brought the reign of death.


Much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. The Last Adam, Jesus Christ, is also the representative of a society. Since all are born into the society of death, the only way to enter Christ’s society, in which men are born unto newness of life, is to be born again. By the new birth experience, we pass from our old relationship to Adam into a new and living relationship with Christ. By the gracious gift of righteousness, a gift of overflowing grace, all believers reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. What wonderful grace this is! We are not only delivered from death’s reign as a tyrant over us, but we reign as kings, enjoying life now and eternally. Do we really understand and appreciate this? Do we live as the royalty of heaven, or do we grovel among the muckheaps of this world?

The abundance of grace has to do with all that God has accomplished and promised to do in Christ.

The gift of righteousness is bestowed by God on the basis of faith. Those who are receiving the righteous which Christ supplies will rein in life with Him. Because of what Jesus accomplished on the Cross, death no longer reins, but men reign in life. But why aren’t there as many who reign in life as there are who reign in death? It’s because grace and the gift of righteousness are rejected by more men than receive it.

18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.

The two alls in this verse do not refer to the same people. The first all means all who are in Adam. The second all means all who are in Christ. This verse contains the underlying principal of the imputation of righteousness. This is the doctrine of the federal headship of the race in Adam and in Christ.

Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation. The offense of Adam brought condemnation to all men. All sinners are spiritually dead. This truth is clearly taught in the New Testament—“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Therefore, all sinners are dead.

Even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. The righteous act of Christ brought justification of life to all. The righteous act was not the Savior’s life or His keeping of the law, but rather His substitutionary death on Calvary. This is what brought justification of life—that is, the justification that results in life—and brought it to all men. This is clear from the words in the preceding verse “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (v. 17). The gift must be received by faith. Only those who trust the Lord receive justification of life. Those who were dead in their sins are made alive, because of the obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ that brought the grace of God down to all men. And through His obedience and finished work the Father can be just and even justify the most ungodly man who ever lived, when that man exercises faith in the lord Jesus Christ.

One Man’s righteous act is not a reference to a single event, but generally to Christ’s obedience, culminating in the greatest demonstration of that obedience, death on a Cross—“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:9).

Free gift came to all men. This cannot mean that all people will be saved; salvation is only for those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ—“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).

Adam and Christ: Comparison and Contrast

 

Adam

Christ

Made in the divine image.

Is the form and very essence of God.

Thought it was a prize to be grasped at—to be as God.

Thought it was not a prize to be grasped at— to be as God.

Aspired to have a reputation.

Made Himself of no reputation.

Spurned the role of God’s servant.

Took upon Himself the form of a bondservant.

Seeking to be like God.

Coming in the likeness of men.

And being made a man (of dust, now doomed).

And being found in appearance as a
man (Rom. 8:3).

He exalted himself.

He humbled Himself.

He became disobedient unto death.

And became obedient to the point of death.

He was condemned and disgraced.

God highly exalted Him and gave Him the
name and position of Lord.

19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

Here the contrast that is drawn is between deliberate disobedience and intentional obedience. God’s command to our representative Adam concerning the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was, “thou shall not eat of it” (Gen 2:17). Almost immediately the head of the human race disobeyed that divine command. However, Christ Jesus, the Last Adam, totally obeyed the will of God and testified to that when He said, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (Jn 17:4). The difference between obedience and disobedience is the difference between life and death. It was due to Adam’s disobedience to God’s command that many were made sinners, and in a similar way, it was by Christ’s obedience to the Father that many who trust Him are declared righteous. His obedience led Him to the cross as our Sin Bearer.  It is futile for universalists to use these verses to try to prove that all men will eventually be saved. The passage deals with two federal headships, and it is clear that just as Adam’s sin affects those who are “in him,” so Christ’s righteous act benefits only those who are “in Him.”

Made righteous. This expression probably stands for a persons legal standing before God and not an actual change in character, since man will always have Adam’s sinful nature, and therefore will continue to sin under certain circumstances. It is also true, that Paul hasn’t introduced the doctrine of sanctification yet. Sanctification is the process through which the actual transformation of a sinner takes place. The term “made righteous” suggests the following meanings: “appoint,” “put down in the category of,” “constitute,” or “establish.” Because of the sin of Adam many were put intro the category of sinners. Because of the obedience of Christ many will be put into the category of the righteous.

20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.

Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. At this point the Jew might ask, “Well then, what is the law for?” The law is “the necessary yardstick of God’s holiness which served to bring out into sharp relief the guilt of man in revolt against God, showing him the hopelessness of attempting to earn salvation by good works” (Gleason L. Archer, Jr., The Epistle to the Romans, p. 32). The law came not to make a man a sinner, but to show him how great a sinner he is. Paul added this explanation in his letter to the Galatians: “What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator” (Gal.3:19).

But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. The Law did not save anyone from sin, but what it did do was to revealed sin in all of its awful character. But God’s grace proves to be greater than all man’s sin. What a contrast! No matter how great human sin becomes God’s grace abundantly exceeds it. No wonder Paul wrote that God’s grace “is sufficient”—“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9). Where sin abounded, God’s grace at Calvary abounded much more!

Grace did not set aside the law, but rather grace was able to completely satisfy it. As deep as sin goes, God’s grace goes deeper. As wide as sin is, God’s grace is wider. When sin abounded, grace super-abounded. God’s grace is greater than all our sin—the grace which sent Jesus to be the Savior 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.”

The law entered. There is nothing wrong with the Law—“Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Rom. 7:12). It made people more aware of their own sinfulness and their inability to keep God’s perfect standard—“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet” (Rom. 7:7). The Law served as a teacher in order to drive men to Christ—“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24).

21 So that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This verse contains the double contrast between sin and righteousness and between death and life.

So that as sin reigned in death. From the very moment sin entered the universe it has reigned, bringing about physical and spiritual death. Its effect has been to separate mankind from his Creator and to cause his end to be death.

Even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. But through the blood of Jesus Christ, sin has been dethroned and righteousness now rules in its place. While death was the order of the day in Adam’s society, now life eternal is the order of the day for those who have believed in Jesus Christ. The contrast is a great one. It is a contrast between man’s sin and Christ’s obedience, between the wages of sin and the gift of God.

Some have thought that universal salvation is taught in this passage, thinking that just because all were condemned, now all will be saved. Such is not the case. New birth is mandatory for eternal life and the expression, “they which receive” in verse 17, teaches that faith in Jesus Christ is absolutely essential for salvation.

Notice that grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life. Grace reigns with a goal in view—eternal life. Eternal life is a quality of life; it is living by God’s life and for God. Believers have this life now. But eternal life means not only living with God, and for Him, but in an environment that He has made perfect—free from all sin. That's why eternal life is both the believers destiny and immediate reality. How will this life be attained? It will be attained through a person—Jesus Christ our Lord. All the demands of God’s holiness have been met, and the penalty of the Law has been paid, so God can now grant eternal life to all who come to faith in Christ, their Substitute.

Perhaps we have in these verses a partial answer to the familiar question, “Why did God allow sin to enter the world?” The answer is that God has received more glory and man has received more blessings through Christ’s sacrifice than if sin had never entered. We are better off in Christ than we ever could have been in an unfallen Adam. If Adam had never sinned, he would have enjoyed continued life on earth in the Garden of Eden. But he had no prospect of becoming a redeemed child of God, an heir of God, or a joint-heir with Jesus Christ. He had no promise of a home in heaven or of being with Christ and like Him forever. These blessings come only through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

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