Exposition of Romans 5:12-14, Everywhere death reigns, sin has preceded

When the great influenza of 1918 struck the world, more people died from it than even the Black Plague had taken. Everywhere the influenza pandemic spread, it came on two legs.

Sin entered the world in the same way, and it immediately became a pandemic that extended throughout humanity. You may easily identify sin’s victims they always die. Where is the cure?

(ESV) Romans 5:12-14

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

Paul decisively changes subject by analyzing the origin of sin and talking about Adam. Douglas Moo tells us what is going on in the second half of Romans 5:

In a passage that rivals 3:21-26 for theological importance, Paul paints with broad brush strokes a birds-eye picture of the history of redemption. His canvas is human history, and the scope is universal. . . . The power of Christ’s act of obedience to overcome Adam’s act of disobedience is the great theme of this paragraph [through verse 21].[1]

That 5:12 has inner logic is obvious; the structure is chiastic:

A Sin results in (5:12a)

B death (5:12b);

B all died (5:12c)

A because all sinned (5:12d)

Moo says, “If this reading of the structure of the verse is right, then verse 12d has the purpose of showing that death is universal because sin is universal.”[2] When Paul says, “death spread to all men” (5:12c), he uses the verb dierchomai, which is used for moving from one village to another to preach (Acts 10:38) or for news spreading about Jesus (Luke 5:15); death spread throughout humanity like a deadly plague moving from one village to the next. It could be found everywhere there was sin. Death is universal because sin is universal.

Romans 5:12 has spilled a lot of ink due to various attempts to explain Paul’s grammar and logic. A majority of Bible translations (ESV, NET, NASB, NIV) and commentators think Paul began to say something in Romans 5:12 and then abruptly stopped. You see, for example, the long dash at the end of verse 12 in the ESV translation above. Moo says, “Paul becomes sidetracked on this point and abandons the comparison, only to reintroduce and complete it later in the text.”[3]

Other Bible translations (HCSB, NLT) and commentators, whom I join, say Romans 5:12 is a complete sentence as it stands. The broken-sentence view (above) has insufficient respect for Paul and utterly fails to explain how the Roman recipients would have unraveled Paul’s meaning; after all, commentators over twenty centuries have been unable to agree on the resumption point for the allegedly broken sentence!

Aside from these disputes, keep your eye on the point that sin is lethal! Christians have the remedy in eternal life through Christ, but that does not alter the fact that every time we sin we spread death. That is exactly what Adam did, as we will see.

C.E.B. Cranfield makes a telling observation: “It is difficult for those who are in the habit of thinking of death as natural to come to terms with this doctrine of death [being caused by sin].”[4]

(ESV) Romans 5:13-14 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

The statement “sin indeed was in the world before the law” (5:13a) captures the main idea, but the Greek imperfect verb here can emphasize that sin continued for the duration of the period before the law. The absence of specific commands from God between Adam and Moses does not imply that sin took a vacation. This is obvious because death reigned from Adam to Moses (5:14), see below.

The clause “sin is not counted where there is no law” (5:13b) can be confusing. The Greek verb ellogeomeans: “to charge with a financial obligation, charge to the account of someone.”[5] Thomas Schreiner says, “The purpose of that verse is to explain that apart from the Mosaic law sin is not equivalent to transgression. . . . Adam’s sin was different in kind from those who lived before the Mosaic law in that he violated a commandment disclosed by God.”[6]

Paul appears to argue that, even if sin does not rise to the level of transgression, it still killed everyone between Adam and Moses (5:14). In this way Paul continues to press the idea of 5:12 that all die because all sin. That argument would be strong in relation to those present or former Jews who might claim never to have transgressed God’s law; in effect, Paul answers, neither did the people before Moses transgress, but sin still brought about their death!

Grant Osborne says, “There was still moral transgression even if there was no official law that identified it as such, and the fact of death (God’s legal punishment on sin) proves that this was the case.”[7]

To explain the relative clause about “Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” (5:14b) — Cranfield says, “Adam in his universal effectiveness for ruin is the type which . . . prefigures Christ in his universal effectiveness for salvation.”[8]

Is death natural or caused by us?

If death is a natural thing, then we may look for its cause among the ever-changing molecules that make up our bodies. A pill, perhaps, or an exercise regimen or a diet will eliminate the problem one day. Perhaps a little genetic engineering will save us all — or not!

The Bible presents a different theory of death; it reveals that sin causes death. That means death is not natural but caused by human rebellion against God. Medical care, exercise and nutrition have their place in maintaining life for a longer period, but sin is a spiritual/theological problem whose solution comes from the hand of God.

1. Read Gen. 2:16-17, Gen. 3:19 and Exod. 20:12. How do the first two verses show that death is caused by disobedience and subject to spiritual consequences? How does the last verse demonstrate that our obedience to God has an effect on the length of our lives?

2. Read Romans 8:11 and John 11:25-26. In what ways do the power of Jesus and the Spirit transcend even the bounds of human mortality?

“It is the same with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15:42-44, 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) 314315.

[2] Moo, Romans, 321.

[3] Moo, Romans, 319.

[4] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 281.

[5] BDAG-3, ellogeo, charge to the account, q.v.

[6] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 279.

[7] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 140.

[8] Cranfield, Romans, 283.

Exposition of Romans 5:11, Every Christian has reason to boast!

The Bible makes it plain that all humanity is created in the image of God. That fact explains a lot about humanity at its best and at its worst. By creation we can be both noble and tragic.

Is there more to the significance of being a Christian than that value which we have simply by being made in God’s image? Do we have a basis for becoming more in Christ than those who do not know Christ?

(ESV) Romans 5:11

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

In Romans 5:11 we encounter the very same verb (Greek kauchaomai) we found in 5:2-3, and once again ESV renders it with “rejoice” rather than the preferable meaning “boast.” The standard lexicon says that kauchaomai means “to take pride in something, boast, glory, pride oneself, brag.”[1] Unlike ESV, NIV, NET, NLT and HCSB — all of which say “rejoice” –Moo uses “boast” in his translation of kauchaomai in Rom. 5:2-3, and his translation of 5:11 is: “And not only this, but we also boast in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received this reconciliation.”[2]

Translators are probably influenced by Paul’s negative comments in Rom. 2:17-24 about the Jews boasting — wrongly — about their relationship to God on the sole basis that they possess the law. Curiously, all of the above-listed translations inconsistently render kauchaomai with “boast” in 2:17 when talking about the Jews; the only exception is NIV, which says “brag” (2:17). So, how does this verb become “rejoice” when speaking about Christians in Romans 5? Words do not always mean one thing because of context, but the justification for such changes must be considered.

Why am I beating this somewhat technical horse? Christian translators, commentators and theologians appear to be uncomfortable with pride because of the obvious dangers it presents (1 Cor. 4:6, 4:18, 5:2, 13:4; Col. 2:18; Rom. 4:2). Yet the New Testament contains a number of godly reasons for boasting or taking pride: works done for Christ (Gal. 6:4); the hope that we have because of Christ (Heb. 3:6); the faithfulness of other Christians (Phil. 2:16); Christ’s accomplishments through Paul (Phil. 1:26); and sacrifice in preaching the gospel (1 Cor. 9:15).

The point is that Romans 5:11 says we may boast in God because of the reconciliation he has accomplished for us through Jesus Christ. Yes, of course, rejoicing is also appropriate for the same reason; but boasting and rejoicing are not the same thing.

Time to do a little bragging!

We need to take a moment to reflect candidly on the contemporary scene. How is it that Iranian protestors can ascend in the night to the roofs of Tehran to shout god is great yet American Christians would be mortified to do such a thing? Clearly, the context in Iran is not the same as here in America, and that seems to include their attitude toward the one they worship.

We have every reason as Christians to hold up our heads in pride for the incomparable God that we worship! If you understood me to say that we are nothing and he is everything, then I have failed to make myself clear. Instead, “Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11b), so we may hold up our heads because he lives within us and has made us part of God’s own family. Jesus Christ is the basis for all godly pride in the life of a Christian; we are significant because he has made us significant.

So, in short, we should be proud of God and proud of what he has done in our lives!

1. What leads some Christians to be silent -- or sometimes almost apologetic -- about their faith in Jesus Christ and their pride in God? Do they realize it?

2. What do you think about the idea that Jesus Christ is the basis for godly pride as well as our personal significance?

Jesus said, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14b). To be proud of God and to boast about what God has done within those who have trusted in Christ magnifies God and so humbles us in the proper way.

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, kauchaomai, boast, q.v.

[2] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 297.

Exposition of Romans 5:9-10, God offers amnesty by Christ’s death

If the Bible shows us anything about humanity, it demonstrates humankind in rebellion against God. Disobedience was the tragic story in Eden (Gen. 3), and violence led to the destruction of the world by the great flood (Gen. 68). Even after God saved them from slavery in Egypt (Exod. 12-14), the Israelites rebelled against God (Num. 14) and perished in the wilderness during 40 years of wandering. Nor did the story change from that point forward.

Will wrath be God’s last word to a rebellious creation? What will he do to his enemies?

(ESV) Romans 5:9-10 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

We are all accustomed to reading certain formats of information. For example, a dictionary arranges word meanings in the format of alphabetic order. A cookbook briefly describes the dish, lists the ingredients, and provides a step-by-step process for preparing the food.

In Romans 5:9-10, Paul uses a format familiar to rabbinic scholars for analysis of the Old Testament. This is the way Paul had been trained by Gamaliel, the greatly respected teacher of the Mosaic law (see Acts 22:3 and 5:34). A common format was called light and heavy — arguing from the greater to the lesser or the reverse. If someone completes medical training (the harder thing), then we may argue they will certainly begin to practice medicine (the easier thing).

With the above facts in mind, Douglas Moo summarizes Romans 5:9-10:

The argument proceeds from the major to the minor: if God has already done the most difficult thing — reconcile and justify unworthy sinners — how much more can he be depended on to accomplish the easier thing — save from eschatological [end-time] wrath those who have been brought into such relationship with him.[1]

Verses 9 and 10 each independently follow the major-to-minor argument described above. We will look at these verses in turn.

In Romans 5:9a, the harder thing is described as follows: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood.” The fact that believers in Jesus have been declared righteous by faith is presented as already accomplished “by his blood” (5:9a). This last phrase is a figure of speech called metonymy, in which a part stands for the whole. Jesus shed blood represents his death.[2] An example of metonymy in contemporary life is when we call an automobile someones wheels.

The difficulty of declaring us righteous should not be understated; it took nothing less than the death of the Son of God to allow a just God to justify the ungodly (4:5).

So, if the justification of the helpless, ungodly sinners was the harder part, what is the easier part? Paul says . . . much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God (5:9b). Why is this easier? C.E.B. Cranfield says that God will save from his wrath at the last those who are already righteous in his sight.[3] Wrath was never meant for the righteous!

Moo ably discusses how Paul uses the Greek verb sozo(save) in 5:9b:

While he sometimes uses the verb to denote the deliverance from the penalty of sin that comes at conversion (e.g., Rom. 8:24; Eph. 2:5, 8), he more often uses the word . . . to depict the final deliverance of the Christian from the power of sin, the evils of this life, and, especially, judgment (e.g., 1 Cor. 3:15; 5:5; Phil. 2:12).[4]

So, salvation in Romans 5:9 becomes an example of the “already — not yet” pattern of NT fulfillment. We now (already) have some benefits from our salvation, but many other benefits will come later (not yet).

In Romans 5:10, the harder thing is described as follows: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” First, the language of reconciliation was shocking to those from Greco-Roman culture. Osborne points out, “Cranfield says reconciliation language was never used in the religious language of the Hellenistic [Greek] world because it was too deeply personal, but Paul (Rom. 5:10, 11; 11:15; 2 Cor. 5:18-20) uses it to show the new personal relationship established by God’s justification.”[5]

Did you get that? No other ancient religion imagined God having or wanting a personal relationship with anyone, so they never used reconciliation language. The Greek verb katallasso here (5:10) means: “the exchange of hostility for a friendly relationship, reconcile.”[6]

Christianity is fundamentally different because God has provided the basis for his enemies to become members of his own family (Rom. 8:1417). Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism-Taoism (the predominant religion of China), and atheism offer no such idea of a personal relationship to God.

Recall that reconciliation by the death of his Son (5:10a) was the harder task; the easier sequel is described as “much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (5:10b).

How shall we be saved by his life (5:10b)? Thomas Schreiner has the right idea when he says, “Believers are assured that they will escape condemnation since for their sake Christ died, was raised from the dead, and intercedes. . . . Christ’s death and resurrection are inseparable in effecting salvation.”[7] We will be saved in the end because the one appointed the Son-of-God-in-power (1:4, NET) will stand up for us!

God has built a bridge for our return to him

God has done the harder part of salvation and will do the easier part at judgment, but only for those who have accepted the reconciliation he offers through Christ.

1. Read 2 Cor. 5:19-20. How and when have you taken advantage of Gods reconciliation through faith in Christ?

2. If you have taken the reconciliation God offers, how are you extending this chance at amnesty to others?

The church father Origen (185-254 AD) said, Christ’s death brought death to the enmity which existed between us and God and ushered in reconciliation.[8] For a little while longer, God’s amnesty is still available. Do not miss the last call!

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) 310.

[2] Moo, Romans, 310, confirms this analysis.

[3] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 266.

[4] Moo, Romans, 310-311, footnote 91.

[5] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 135, citing Cranfield, Romans, 267.

[6] BDAG-3, katallasso, reconcile, q.v.

[7] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 264.

[8] Gerald Bray, ed., Romans, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998) 133.