Exposition of Romans 5:18-19 Jesus used obedience to bring righteousness

We have said more than once that faith is an acceptant response to what God has said and done. Since God has said a lot about what he expects of us, including many explicit commands, it is obvious that obedience plays a central role in Christian faith. Is that not what you would expect since Christ is both Lord of lords and King of kings?

After we trust in Jesus, we still have a lifetime of choices to make about how best to obey our Lord. How will we proceed?

Romans 5:18-19 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For 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.

The parallelism built into Romans 5:18 is pervasive, as shown below:

Therefore
as one trespass [led to] condemnation for all men, } Adam

so one act of righteousness [leads to] justification and life for all men. } Christ

The square brackets [ ] indicate that the verb has been supplied to make literary English because the Greek sentence has no verbs. Different English translations have supplied different verbs:
NET (came), NLT (brings), HCSB (is), and NASB (resulted). Each of these choices is reasonable.

By dissecting 5:18 in this way, we can easily spot important points. First, each single act affected all men, a comprehensive expression. As to the scope of all, C.E.B. Cranfield says:

It will be wise to take it thoroughly seriously as really meaning all, to understand the implication to be that what Christ has done he has really done for all men, that [life-giving justification HCSB] is truly offered to all, and all are to be summoned urgently to accept the proffered gift, but at the same time to allow that this clause does not foreclose the question whether in the end all will actually come to share it.[1]

Of course, we have already discussed the gift-nature of the justification and life. The gift was explicitly mentioned three times in Rom. 5:15-17. Not all accept the gift by faith.

Using the interpretive principles of salvation history (see Introduction), we point out that Adams deed came first, to the undoing of humanitys privileged position in Eden and much more. The act of Christ came later and contained such grace as to overwhelm the damage done by Adam. James Dunn says: The inaugurating act of the new epoch [i.e. the Age To Come] is thus presented as a counter to and cancellation of the inaugurating act of the old [i.e. The Present Age], Christs right turn undoing Adams wrong turn.[2] Wrong turn is just another term for disobedience.

(ESV) Romans 5:19 For 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.

Once again, Romans 5:19 has strong parallelism, but this time with actual Greek verbs:

For
as by the one mans disobedience the many were made sinners, } Adam

so by the one mans obedience the many will be made righteous. } Christ

It is clear from the parallelism that the major difference between what Adam did and what Jesus did is the difference between disobedience by Adam and obedience by Christ.

Sin wears many masks in life and in Romans, and Paul used a variety of terms to refer to it. In 5:12 we have the Greek noun hamartia meaning a departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness . . . sin.[3] In 5:15, 17, and 18 he switched to parapt?ma meaning a violation of moral standards, offense, wrongdoing, sin.[4] Here in 5:19 Paul switched to parakoemeaning refusal to listen and so be disobedient, unwillingness to hear, disobedience.[5]

We could say that hamartia means violating a revealed standard of God. The term parapt?ma is used figuratively of making a false step; think of hitting your bare toes against a chair leg and put that pain in the context of a false step in some moral situation. The word in 5:19 gives us the interesting insight that Adam failed to listen to Gods actual voice! God told him explicitly what must not be done (Gen. 2:17), and he did it anyway. Unfortunately, many people can identify!

Cranfield makes one clarification about 5:19 when he says, The many have not been condemned for someone elses transgression, for Adams sin, but because, as a result of Adams transgression, they have themselves been sinners.[6]

But the good news outshines the bad news by far: Jesus obeyed to bring righteousness to all who put their faith in him! The author of Hebrews says about Jesus: Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. And by being perfected in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Heb. 5:8-9, NET).

Following Jesus

Surely it is plain that to follow Jesus means we are obedient to the Father just as he was. As the old hymn says, Theres no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey. When you think about it, trusting and obeying are very similar because trusting is faith and obeying is faithfulness.

1. How many of us have heard Gods voice about something, but, like Adam, we come to a point at which we do not listen? When have you made that error, and what did you learn from it?

2. What do you consider a difficult thing about obedience? How do you get around that obstacle?

It is no accident that Paul begins the letter to the Romans with the phrase obedience of faith (1:5) and ends the letter with the same phrase (16:26). There is no such thing as faith without obedience!

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 290.

[2] James D.G. Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1988) 297.

[3] BDAG-3, hamartia, sin, q.v.

[4] BDAG-3, parapt?ma, offense, q.v.

[5] BDAG-3, parako?s, unwillingness to hear, q.v.

[6] Cranfield, Romans, 290.

Exposition of Romans 5:15-16 Through Jesus, grace multiplies to all

Most who read this study have never felt the terror of being caught in a hopeless trap. So, it is hard to imagine the depth of desperation involved. Thomas Howes knows, because he was held by FARC guerillas in the jungles of Colombia for over five years. Every day he wore a heavy chain which would be padlocked to a tree or some other object. Insects, heat, abuse, poor food, and boredom were his constant companions. No one was looking for him, and no one was coming.

On July 2, 2008, Howes and other hostages were taken to a FARC helicopter to be moved; they almost refused to board out of fear. Once they entered and took off, a brave group of disguised Columbian soldiers suddenly subdued the FARC guards and flew the stunned hostages to safety!

Jesus did the same thing for us, even if we never knew how hopelessly chained we were. His gracious gift made it possible for billions of people to be justified. But will they accept the rescue by faith?

(NET) Romans 5:15-16

But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many! 16 And the gift is not like the one who sinned. For judgment, resulting from the one transgression, led to condemnation, but the gracious gift from the many failures led to justification.

Romans 5:15 is arranged to emphasize the difference between the free gift from God and the willful rebellion begun by Adam. Douglas Moo says, The first contrast is one of degree: the work of Christ, being a manifestation of grace, is greater in every way than that of Adam (verse 15).[1]

Pauls subtle literary artistry is apparent. In 5:14, where death and sin are emphasized, the name of Adam appears, but Jesus is referenced indirectly. In 5:15, where Paul emphasizes the gracious gift of God, Paul overtly uses the name of Jesus and references Adam indirectly.

(NET) Romans 5:15 But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many!

Now that Moo has clarified certain general aspects of 5:15, we will dust off a few other items for clarity. The one man is a reference to Adam, whose transgression allowed the entry of sin into the world (5:12) and spread death to himself and all after him.

The gift meant by the phrase the gracious gift (5:15) is apparently the free gift of righteousness (5:17). So, Moo says the gift refers to the righteous status and life conferred on the many.[2]

Those affected by Adam, the many (Greek hoi polloi), is clearly a reference to all humankind. Moo represents one group who agree with that comprehensive scope but hesitate to apply the same meaning to the same Greek phrase when it relates to those affected by the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ (5:15b).[3] In other words, they say the many means all humanity in the first half of the sentence, but less than that in the second half.

What is the concern that drives them to reject a conclusion so compelling (the many equals humankind) which is also supported by the words one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men (Rom. 5:18, ESV)? The concern goes by the name universalism, which means every human being will receive righteousness from God and ultimately go to heaven.

The Bible does not teach universalism. For example, in Matthew 25:3146, Jesus taught about those who will go away into eternal punishment (Matt. 25:46). As for Paul, he was referring to a distinct group of people when he spoke of Gods wrath against human sin (Rom. 1:18-31). So, what is the resolution of this conflict of ideas?

Theologians come in all kinds, including some who say God saves all (i.e. universalism) and other theologians who say Paul contradicts himself. In the final analysis — and there has been extensive review — neither of these positions is worth further attention here.

How is the issue to be resolved? Does the many refer to all humankind or not? The solution comes in two steps. C.E.B. Cranfield quotes the reformer John Calvins remarks: Many is put, not for a definite number, but for a large number, in that He sets himself over against all others. And this is its meaning also in Rom. 5:15, where Paul is not talking of a part of mankind but of the whole human race.[4] So, the many in Rom. 5:15 uniformly refers to the whole human race. That is the first step.

The second step is that we must account for the fact that the grace Christ brought came in the form of the gracious gift (5:15). Some accepted the gift by faith and some rejected it. Note carefully that it is those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness [who will] reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ (5:17). Not all receive the gift of God because they do not want to honor him as God or give thanks to him (1:21). But we who trust in Christ are different; we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand (5:2).

So, we find that the offer of Gods grace is made to all humanity, but the acceptance of it is limited to those willing to respond by faith. Universalism fails due to unbelief. In terms of faith as a response to Gods gracious gift, Thomas Schreiner says, The use of [the Greek verb lambano, to receive (Rom. 5:17)] in Paul confirms that the reception of what God has given is prominent.[5]

(NET) Romans 5:16 And the gift is not like the one who sinned. For judgment, resulting from the one transgression, led to condemnation, but the gracious gift from the many failures led to justification.

Paul continues the uneven comparison between Adam and Christ in 5:16. Adam sinned and ultimately brought condemnation for all, but the gracious gift through Christ overturned Adams sin and all other sins to bring about justification.

Cranfield ably says: That one single misdeed should be answered by judgment, this is perfectly understandable: that the accumulated sins and guilt of all the ages should be answered by Gods free gift, this is the miracle of miracles, utterly beyond human comprehension.[6]

Two men two destinies

Adam is the head of a race of people; he is the head of all who are dominated by sin and subject to the penalty of spiritual death. Jesus is the head of another race; he leads all who have put their faith in him, experienced his rescue from their sins and expectantly wait for a day when their salvation will be complete.

1. How have you taken advantage of the gracious gift which came to you through faith in Jesus Christ?

2. You undoubtedly know someone still in chains, and they may not even know it! What might you do to help them?

When the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared,
5 he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7, NET)

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 334.

[2] Moo, Romans, 335, footnote 96.

[3] Moo, Romans, 336-337.

[4] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 285, footnote 1.

[5] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 292.

[6] Cranfield, Romans, 286.

Exposition of Romans 4:4-5 Since God provides all, believe him!

A powerful image in late 20th century politics was the welfare-cheat, someone who was getting something for nothing. It was easy to say — and was sometimes true — that people on welfare were not willing to work. They were all cast in a negative light.

In America we have historically believed in self-reliance, hard work, and pulling ourselves up by sheer effort. Our media regularly praise such qualities.

Whatever the political value of these concepts, they present exactly the wrong idea with respect to attaining salvation. In attaining salvation, we are both helpless and ungodly. Gods way of solving our problem demands that we be counter-cultural and substitute his efforts for our own.

(ESV) Romans 4:4-5 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

Paul continues his argument concerning Abraham by using common knowledge about the nature of work and wages (4:4). One word that is central to Pauls analysis is the now-familiar verb logizomai which here (4:4) means to determine by mathematical process, reckon, calculate.[1] This verb is the very one used in Genesis 15:6 in the Greek version — called the LXX or Septuagint — that Paul is quoting in Romans 4:3.

We could translate Romans 4:3 by saying, Now to the one who works, his wages are not calculated according to grace but according to obligation. Grace is something freely given, but an obligation is a debt which is owed. Paul forces his Jewish opponents to face the fact that attaining salvation-righteousness by works has the inescapable baggage that it means God owes that righteousness to the one who works. Since Paul knows Jewish theology fiercely rejects the idea of God as debtor, the logic forces his opponents to disavow works as playing any part when God credited (logizomai Gen. 15:6) Abraham with righteousness.

But if works were not pivotal to the reckoning of righteousness to Abraham, what was? The answer is found in Gen. 15:6 when Abraham believed God. C.E.B. Cranfield summarizes the message of Romans 4:4-5 when he says, The best explanation of Pauls exposition of Gen. 15:6 in these two verses would seem to be that which understands it to turn upon the fact that the Genesis verse makes no mention of any work of Abraham but simply refers to his faith.[2]

(ESV) Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

If Romans 4:5 explicitly mentioned the name of Jesus Christ, it might be even more famous than John 3:16. The phrase him [i.e. God] who justifies the ungodly (4:5) is absolutely astounding! Grant Osborne expresses the natural reaction: At first glance this does not seem right. It should be the godly, the pious who should be justified.[3] That would work fine if anyone were pious enough.

Romans 4:5 first forces us to realize that no matter what we think of ourselves, we come to God as those who are ungodly. Second, we see that God can justify the ungodly, declaring them to be righteous. Later Paul will explain how God could possibly justify the ungodly: For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6, NET). That leads us to ask: how can we receive such profound benefit?

Paul says that we the ungodly obtain Gods justification the same way Abraham did. We do not work for it, but believe in the gracious God who made our justification possible through Jesus Christ. Romans 4:5 uses both the verb pisteuo (believes in him) and the noun pistis (his faith is counted as righteousness) to nail down the central importance of faith to our justification.

Remember who is reckoning

The church father Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD) said, The root of righteousness does not spring from works; rather the fruit of works grows from the root of righteousness.[4] So, it is God who provides the way for us to become righteousness, and then our works can honor the one who saved us.

1. How do you think the merciful character of God figures into his counting (or reckoning or crediting) our faith as righteousness?

2. Do you think that the faith God wants from us is merely mental assent to an idea (e.g. Jesus died for my sins), or is there more to it than that? Explain.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 3:23-24, HCSB)

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] BDAG-3, logizomai, reckon, q.v.

[2] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 231.

[3] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 109.

[4] Gerald Bray, ed., Romans, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998) 112.