The Blessed Consequences of Justification. Rom. 5, 1-11.
A recital of the blessings: V.1. Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; v.2. by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. V.3. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; v.4. and patience, experience; and experience, hope; v.5a. and hope maketh not ashamed. The apostle takes up the thread of his discussion by naming some of the blessed results that follow from the state of being justified, by picturing the work of God in our behalf, as He shows it to justified sinners, by showing the relation of the believers to God arising from the expiation of sin and the consequent justification. Having therefore been justified out of faith, the apostle writes. The state or condition of righteousness, of justification, has become ours, we have entered into it as the result of faith. And therefore we, literally, have peace toward God through our Lord Jesus Christ. As the result of the vicarious work of Christ, the enmity which existed between God and us as the result of our sins has been taken away; through Him peace in relation to God was acquired and is now made the property of men in justification. This peace, then, is not the result of absolute forgiveness of our sins, but is based upon the reconciliation founded upon the atonement, which has completely altered the relation of God to them. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ this peace has been brought about, through Him by whose agency we also have had access by faith to that grace in which we now stand. The entrance, the way to salvation, lies open before us; Christ has opened the door which leads directly to grace; through Him we now have a standing as Christians. Hence the relation of peace toward God. We are justified from sins, our sins are forgiven, there is no obstruction between God and us. As a consequence, we boast upon the basis of hope of the glory of God. The Christian's hope is a precious possession, on account of which he rejoices and glories, because the object of this hope is the glory of God, of which we shall finally be partakers, chap. 8, 17. The future which opens up before the eyes of the believer is of a nature well calculated to make his entire life a waiting of eager anticipation. And therefore we glory in tribulations also, we make our boast of them. Their presence and affliction is not a source of grief to us, but of rejoicing, since we know that tribulation is followed by patience, and patience by approval, and approval by hope. The afflictions of the present life all result in our benefit, for in these trials our faith is exercised and approved. The first benefit is patience, endurance, steadfastness. The more severe the trials, the more need there is of patient endurance of suffering, of faithfulness to truth and duty. And this endurance produces approvedness, the state of the mind which has endured the test, Jas. 1, 12. During the affliction, faith is on trial, is being tested out. If it is of the right kind, it will emerge from the crucible purified and refined, it will be strengthened in the hope of the glory of God. And the hope of the Christian will not make ashamed; its fulfillment is absolutely certain, it must bring salvation, chap. 9, 33, it cannot disappoint, Ps. 22, 5. This is the golden chain of blessings which come upon the believer on account of his justification, which make his whole life a happy awaiting of the glory which shall be revealed unto us on the great day. The basis of the Christian's hope: V.5b. Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. V.6. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. V.7. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. V.8. But God commendeth His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. V.9. Much more, then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. V.10. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. v.11. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. Why the hope of the Christian will not put him to shame, will not prove delusive: is now explained by the apostle: For the love of God is poured out in our hearts through the Holy Ghost that is given to us. The love of God, that love which He has toward us, of which He gave us a definite proof and demonstration in the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, that love has been, and continues to be, shed abroad into our hearts, to be communicated to us abundantly. Not in small measure, but in a full and rich stream of divine affection, it spreads itself abroad through the whole soul, filling it with the consciousness and the extreme happiness of His presence and favor. And this has been done through the Holy Ghost that has been given to us, Acts 10, 4 5; Titus 3, 6. It is the testimony of the Spirit that convinces us, richly and daily, that God loves us, that His love is our full property in Christ, our Savior; we are absolutely sure and certain of our blessedness. The love of God, resting upon Christ’s vicarious death, is the sufficient and certain foundation of our hope of the future salvation.
In what respect the love of God is the surety of the Christian’s hope is now explained, v.6 ff. For Christ already when we were still weak, when we were in a condition of inability to do anything good, at the appointed time, at the time fixed by God in His eternal counsel of love: died for the ungodly. Christ died for us godless people, and that fact reveals the mysteriousness of the divine love. On the part of man there was only a total moral worthlessness; on the part of man there was not a single item to call forth the favorable contemplation of God. It was rather that godlessness had reached a crisis, with no hope held out for the transgressors. But then came the vicarious work of Christ, culminating in His death on the cross, a death in our stead, as our Substitute. 1 John 4, 10. Thus was the love of God manifested, thus, in the completeness of Christ’s sacrifice, do we have the assurance of the continuance and constancy of the love of God. The apostle brings out the greatness of this love by another comparison, v.7: For hardly will one die for a righteous man; for a good cause, namely, one might perhaps venture to die. There is some possibility that a man might, under circumstances, die in the stead of a righteous person, as his substitute; there is more probability that a person will give his life in a good cause, as a mere proposition in civic righteousness. Such is the condition among men when all things are peculiarly favorable to an external morality. But God demonstrates and proves His love toward us that, while we mere yet sinners, Christ died in our stead, for our sakes. There was not a single feature to recommend us: we were not righteous, our cause was anything but good and commendable. Therefore the love of God in Christ stands out so prominently by contrast: He proves His love toward us in that which Christ did for us. The salutary effects of the death of Christ continue for all time: they are there today for all men, even if the latter are utterly worthless and do not merit the slightest show of love. That is the singular, incomparable love of God, a love which exceeds all that we can conceive of, which our human mind vainly tries to grasp and to measure, and therefore the apostle: from the fact of God’s fervent love for us worthless sinners, draws the conclusion, v.9. Consequently, if such grace was shown us then, when we were in sin and godlessness, how much more, how much rather, how much more certainly will we now, justified as we have been by the blood of Christ, be saved from the wrath of God through Him! As enemies, we were justified by the blood of Jesus; as being His fellow-participants in peace, we shall be preserved from the wrath and punishment of the last great day. Our justification is our guarantee of our deliverance from the wrath to come; godless we were, but have now become righteous and just, we are exactly as God wants us to be, due to His act of pronouncing us just: therefore we are safe against condemnation. This thought the apostle repeats in order to impress its comforting truth upon the believers. If, when we were enemies, when we were the objects of God’s displeasure, we were reconciled to God, were put into possession of His grace, were placed into such a relation toward Him that He no longer had to be our adversary, how much rather will we be saved by His life, since we have been reconciled, since we have been restored to His grace! While objects of the divine hostility, such unbounded mercy was shown to us; therefore it follows that the love which wrought in such a wonderful measure for us in our extremity will undoubtedly carry out our salvation to the end. The same Savior that died for us has arisen to everlasting, perfect life, and His life is devoted to that one end, to sanctify, protect, and save us eternally, to bring us into that wonderful life of divine glory. And so the apostle breaks forth in the joyful exclamation: But not only that, we also glory in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Nothing could illustrate more thoroughly and exactly the complete restitution of the relation of love toward sinners than these words. The reconciliation of God toward the sinners is so thorough that He feels the warmest friendship for them, and that they, in turn, rejoice and glory in their God. Every believer that is reconciled to God through Christ is sure that all further enmity is excluded. “We glory in God that God is ours and we are His, and that we have all goods in common from Him and with Him in all confidence.” (Luther.) This is no self-righteous boasting, for that would result in the immediate loss of all spiritual gifts and blessings, but a cheerfulness and confidence through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has expiated our guilt, canceled our debt. And thus all apprehension as to the final outcome is removed from our hearts; the hope of eternal salvation, which is a consequence of our justification, is a certain and definite hope, a hope which fills the heart of the believers with quiet joy, and causes them to be absorbed with all their mind in the glorious fact of their justification.
The First and the Second Adam. Rom. 5, 12-21.
Death the consequence of sin: V.12. Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. V.13. (for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. V.14. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come. The apostle here introduces an extended comparison between the salvation which we owe to Christ, and the calamity of Adam’s transgression with its results. Very emphatically he opens this section: Wherefore, or, because. From the facts which he has adduced regarding the method of justification, it follows that as by one man all became sinners, so by one all are constituted righteous. By one man, through Adam, who followed Eve in eating the forbidden fruit, sin came into the world. Sin is every transgression of the divine Law, when the works, thoughts, and desires of men miss their object, do not conform to the will of God. By the disobedience of Adam sin came into the world, it made its appearance in the world, it began to exist. And through sin death came. The disobedience of Adam bore bitter fruits: first, he was the cause of sin, he brought it to mankind, he was instrumental in having it invade the race; and therefore, by means of sin, men became subject to death. Adam sinned, and the consequence, the punishment of his sin, was death; the death of Adam was the beginning of human mortality. On the day that Adam ate of the forbidden fruit began the performance of the threatened disaster, the execution of the sentence of death; from that hour the germ of death was in his nature, his body was a mortal body, and it was only a question of time when it would return to dust. And thus, in this manner, death passed through to all men, reached all, because all sinned. Death is universal because sin is universal; all men, even by their conception and birth, are subject to death; their entire life is a course which has death as its object. So absolutely is man subject to death, from the very first moment of conception, that St. Paul makes the statement only of death that it has passed through to all men. And this is true because all sinned, sinned in Adam, sinned through or by that one man. Not as though they all had actually, in the person of their progenitor, performed that first transgression of the command of God, but that through his disobedience all men are regarded and treated as sinners by God. On account of the disobedience of Adam, God looks upon them all as sinners; God has imputed to all men the sin of Adam. It is a principle which runs through all the great dispensations of Providence: posterity, natural and federal, bears the blame (Canaan, Gehazi, Moabites and Amalekites, etc.). As a proof for the statement just made, Paul introduces a historical fact. He refers to the time before the Law, before the Law was formally given, written, and codified. At that time sin was nevertheless in the world, people did transgress the holy will of God. But sin is not charged to the transgressor’s account in the absence of a definite law, it is not entered on the debit side by God as a transgression of a divine commandment. Cp. chap. 4, 15. And yet death ruled in the human race, had absolute kingly authority from Adam to Moses, during the entire interval, even over those that had not sinned after the similitude of the transgression of Adam. There was unrestrained sovereignty and tyranny of death with regard to all men, not only those that had never broken any positive, codified law, but also those that had never in their own persons violated any individual command, by which their sentence of death could be accounted for. Paul thus plainly teaches that the sinners of the first period of the world, before Moses, became subject to death on account of the one transgression of Adam. Death came upon them before they had committed positive sins of their own; but as the punishment of death implies a violation of law, it follows that God regarded and treated them as sinners on the ground of Adam’s disobedience. This is true at all times. The one transgression of Adam was the cause that brought about the death of all men. It is true indeed that every sin merits death, even if it has not become a conscious transgression of the divine Law, even if it exists only in the innermost desire of the heart which is contrary to the holiness of God. But it is true also that the disobedience of Adam, which drew down upon him the curse of death, is so thoroughly imputed to all men that they are actually born into death. But this same death God now uses to punish individual sins and sinfulness. Of Adam the apostle finally says: Who is the impression, the figure, the type of Him that was to come. The first Adam is a prophetical type, 1 Cor. 10, 6. 11, of the Adam that was to come, of Christ. The resemblance between the two is not casual, but predetermined. The sin of the first Adam was the ground of our condemnation; the righteousness of the second Adam is the ground of our justification. Parallelism and contrast: V.15. But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. V.16. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift; for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. V.17. For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) The apostle here explains his statement as to Adam’s being a type of Christ. But not as the offense, the transgression, so also is the gift of grace, the gift which is freely provided for sinners in the Gospel, in its effects upon men. The emphasis upon righteousness and life, in which the salvation in Christ consists, is brought very strongly by the apostle. The fall is not like the gracious restoration. It is true, of course, that through the fall of the one, of Adam, the many, all the other people in the world, have become subject to death and have died; but, on the other hand, it is true, also, that the grace of God and the gift in the grace of the one man Jesus Christ has much more, much more certainly, abounded to those same people, the many. The regrettable mistake, the transgression of the one man indeed had evil, terrible consequences, but the blessings procured by Christ are infinitely greater than the evils caused by Adam. And not only that, but the grace of God and that gift which is expressed in, consists in, the grace of the one man Jesus Christ, by which we have salvation, is much more certainly to be relied upon. The one thing has indeed happened - condemnation is come upon all men; but the other fact has such indubitable evidence on its side that we can safely place our trust in it in life and death. And closely connected with this thought is another: Not as through one that sinned the gift. On the side of the type, Adam, that which was done, which came upon all men, was occasioned by the one person that sinned. On the other side, in the antitype, in the gift of Christ, the same condition does not obtain. The sentence of condemnation which passed on all men for the sake of Adam was for one offense of one man, whereas we are justified by Christ for many offenses. For the judgment is from one man unto a sentence of condemnation, but the gift of grace from the trespasses of many unto a condition of righteousness, a judgment of justification. God judged the people, all men, and His finding has resulted in a sentence of condemnation on account of the one man, Adam. Since the sin of Adam has been imputed to all men, therefore the curse of sin, death, resulted as the consequence of the condemnatory sentence upon sin. On the other hand, the gift of grace has resulted in the condition of righteousness from the trespasses of many. That was the former condition of the many, of all men: they were in trespasses and sins, Eph. 2, 1. But that condition has now been left behind, and they have entered into a new, a different status, that of imputed righteousness, of justification, not only is the one transgression of Adam, which was imputed to them all, forgiven, but they are absolved from all their individual sins and transgressions, they have been pronounced just. This fact, that we are justified through Christ not only from the guilt of Adam’s first sin, but from our own innumerable transgressions, receives further confirmation: For if, through the trespass of one, death has reigned through the one, much more, much sooner, much more certainly, those that receive the abundance of the grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ. On the one hand we have the type: Through the one man, Adam, through his offense or trespass, it has come to pass that death now has sovereign power on earth; his offense was the cause of death’s coming upon all men, his sin was the ground of the sentence of condemnation, which has been passed upon all mankind. But now, on the other hand, if this is really the case, therefore the other will happen all the more certainly, namely, that we shall reign in life. Eternal life is deliverance, liberty; it elevates those that receive it to a position of authority and dominion, 1 Cor. 4. 8; 6, 2. 3; 2 Tim. 2, 12. This right and authority is transmitted to us because me receive by faith the abundance of the grace and of the gift of righteousness. The grace of God has abounded toward us, we receive it richly and daily; and it is the source of the gift of righteousness, righteousness itself being the gift offered and received. And all this is ours through Jesus Christ, for He it is that merited life for us, that has prepared the fullness of righteousness for us. And the dominion of life is much more certain than the dominion of death. Christ has not only repaired the damage inflicted by Adam, but also justified all men from their individual transgressions; and therefore it is much more certain that they that receive this incomparable gift and blessing of righteousness will reign in life than that the sin of the one has brought death to all the children of men. There is only one thing more certain to the believer, that has been justified through the merits of Christ, than the fact that he must die, and that is the fact that he will live and reign with Christ, in the life which is his by the free gift of God. A summary of the argument: V.18. Therefore, as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. V.19. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous. V.20. Moreover, the Law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound, v.21. that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ, our Lord. Paul now takes up the thread of the argument which he introduced in v.12. He introduces the inference from the whole discussion with “wherefore.” As by the trespass of one the result for all men was condemnation, so through the righteousness of One the result for all men is justification of life. When Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, it was a single act of disobedience; but as the consequence of that one trespass the sentence of condemnation has been passed upon all men. On the other hand, the righteousness of Christ, His fulfilling all the demands of the righteousness of the Law, has resulted in the fact that all men are declared to be righteous, the judgment of life being pronounced upon them. And in close connection herewith are two other facts: For just as through the disobedience of the one man many, all men, were presented before God as sinners, so also through the obedience of One all men are presented as just and righteous. First the disobedience of Adam was imputed to all men: God looked upon them as disobedient on account of the sin of Adam; but then came Christ with His perfect obedience for all men, with His complete fulfillment of the Law, and through this vicarious obedience the many, all men, are placed in the rank, in the category of just and righteous people. In this way Christ earned righteousness for all men; the objective justification concerns the whole world: every person without exception belongs to the number of those for whom the benefit of Christ’s work has been obtained. Of the fact that this objective justification actually becomes the property of the individual person by faith, Paul speaks elsewhere: but here we have the full comfort of the assurance that the righteousness of Christ was sufficient to place all men in the class of those for whom the obstacles of their salvation have been removed and full righteousness obtained. Thus the comparison between Adam and Christ is closed. But the apostle had above, v.13, referred to the Law and to Moses. The question might therefore arise what connection these have with the present discussion, since they stand midway between Adam and Christ in history St. Paul states: The Law entered in addition, as an accessory or subordinate thing; it did not have the decisive significance and influence which sin had in its coming. It came only for the purpose that the trespass of Adam might be increased or augmented by actual transgressions of a fixed, written Law. For now that there was a definite norm of the will of God, the number of sins which could be shown as existing was increased enormously. But by that very fact the gracious intention of God toward men received an opportunity to reveal itself. Where, however, sin abounded, grace superabounded; it was dispensed in richest measure and in the very same sphere. And thus the Law did not frustrate, but furthered the gracious end contemplated in the work of Christ. For the dominion of sin, which was emphasized by the Law, had to yield to the dominion of grace: in order that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Death, spiritual as well as temporal, was the sphere or province in which the power or triumph of sin was exercised and manifested. But the goal, the end, of grace is eternal life. The unmerited love of God in Christ Jesus is abundantly and effectively shown in securing eternal life. This glorious effect is secured by means of righteousness, the full and complete righteousness which is through Jesus Christ, our Lord. And so the blessed results of the redemption of Jesus Christ, which are imparted to men by faith, find their glorious realization in that life of everlasting bliss which is the end of justification.
Summary. The apostle describes the blessed consequences of justification as they are guaranteed to us by the love of God and the death of Christ; he shows that, as the sin of Adam has resulted in the condemnation of all men, so the righteousness of Christ resulted in the justification of all men, whose end, for the believers, is eternal life.