Exposition of Romans 5:17: One man has done it all

What kind of legacy do you want to leave? How would you like it for people to say about you death reigned through that one man? Surely no one even wants to think about having that role.

But one man could rightly hear those words: Adam. It is fair to say that no man ever had more and did less with it than Adam. Adolf Hitler killed fewer than he did.

But God had an answer for Adam and all the harm he did. The answer was Jesus — one man above all others!

(ESV) Romans 5:17

For if, because of one mans trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

In some ways Romans 5:17 acts as a summary of this section of Romans. Paul is contrasting Adam and Christ, and C.E.B Cranfield notes the limits of this comparison: The one real point of likeness between Christ and Adam [is] the fact of one mans action being determinative of the existence of the many.[1] Adam affects all related to him by infecting them with sin and death; Jesus affects all related to him — by faith! — by giving them the free gift of righteousness and an abundance of grace.

Note carefully the two uses of the verb reign (Greek basileuo). Death reigned through Adam, because of his sinful act. But notice who reigns in the contrasting clause: those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness. That was unexpected! What would have been expected was for life to reign, but God had a better idea.

Adam sinned and caused the unraveling of humanity made in Gods image. As Genesis 1:27-28 demonstrate, humanity was designed to rule on earth under God. But Adams sin led to the rule of sin and death instead. Through Jesus, believing people are restored to reign as was originally intended. So, we find that death reigned over us through Adam, but we reign in life through Jesus Christ.

Douglas Moo draws attention to a qualification: The reign of life is experienced through choice and personal decision; it is for those who receive the gift. The importance of this qualification can hardly be overemphasized.[2]

Paul uses the future tense will … reign to describe the effect of believing in Christ. While this may be a reference to the Age To Come, the interpretive structure of salvation history leads me to think it begins with our salvation (already) and reaches full development when we are finally with Christ in the Age To Come (not yet).

Your legacy

We all start out like Adam; we are spreaders of sin and death. But God graciously gives us the chance to take advantage of what the man from heaven, Jesus, did. If we give Jesus our allegiance, we can become spreaders of his life.

1. What events or influences in your life moved you toward spreading death like Adam? Which ones still present problems for you?

2. What events or influences in your life moved you toward spreading life like Christ? What would it take for you to become more effective in doing so?

God gave you a chance to make a living legacy. Even if you have chosen life through faith in Christ, you still have a chance to expand your legacy by helping others find him. What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

Copyright 2012 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Materials originally prepared 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)287.

[2] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996)340.

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.

Exposition of Romans 5:6-8, Love and death — Christ gave both

Part of the problem in being a twenty-first century American is that the idea that God loves us has been around for a long time. Indeed, that is by far the most popular theological idea even among people who do not think Jesus is anyone special.

The amazing thing is that reasonably intelligent, well-informed people, who read the newspaper and know a little history, would find it next to impossible to give you one good reason why God should not hate humankind in view of how we have behaved!

(NET) Romans 5:6-8

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Commentary

This group of three verses is remarkable by any standard. First, Paul uses three words to describe our condition before Christ took action: we were helpless, ungodly sinners. Second, we are told that God responded to our desperate situation with love and death. Indeed, each of the three Greek sentences ends with the same Greek verb for death (ἀποθνῄσκω) — clearly intentional.

From a theological viewpoint — something you should definitely strive to develop — it is vital to see that before we trusted in Christ we were helpless (5:6) to save ourselves from God’s wrath. Osborne says, “This does not mean that human beings are incapable of good — John Calvin, the Protestant reformer, called this ‘common grace,’ the ability of the natural person to do good since all are made in the image of God — but it conveys that they can do nothing that will make them right with God.”[1]

In relation to the word translated “ungodly” (5:6), the Greek adjective ἀσεβής here means “pertaining to violating norms for a proper relation to deity, irreverent, impious, ungodly.”[2] It is more than sad that contemporary American society is filled with such people, who pay no attention whatever to God. Secularism marginalizes God more now than at any time in a thousand years.

We have looked at the bad-news part of Romans 5:6, but the good news utterly overwhelms the bad news: “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (5:6b). C.E.B. Cranfield says, “For Christ’s death on behalf of sinners compare . . . 3:25; 4:25; 6:10; 7:4; 8:32; 14:15 (in the last two of these passages [the Greek preposition] huper is used, as it is here [5:6] and also in a good many other NT passages dealing with the same subject).”[3] Next we will discuss why that is important.

Huper — meaning “for, in behalf of, for the sake of”[4] — is one of the few Greek words that every serious student of the New Testament should know about because it stresses that Jesus died as our substitute. See also 2 Cor. 5:14, Gal. 3:13 and John 11:50. The preposition also occurs three more times in Romans 5:7-8.

Romans 5:7 is a comparative verse in which Paul presents the absolute most you can expect in terms of human love. Rarely, one person might dare to die for some other deserving person, described as either righteous or good. Such behavior is rare enough that we widely honor the sacrifice it requires. Think of the firemen rushing into the burning World Trade Center to help others during the 9/11 attack by terrorists.

But God has done so much more in “his own love” (5:8) than the greatest acts of human love. Christ, the beloved Son of God, keeps on demonstrating God’s love toward us in that he died for the helpless, ungodly sinners — the very ones also called God’s enemies (5:8). Seeing the desperate plight of sinful, lost humanity, God did not sit in heaven feeling affection for us and yet doing nothing. Christ came among us to suffer and die for us.

Grant Osborne rightly says:

This is the primary point Paul is making. Christ did not die for righteous people or for friends; he died for sinful human beings in all their degrading depravity, for those who “suppress the truth by their wickedness” (1:18) and do “not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God (1:28), who are “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil greed and depravity” (1:29). Therefore we deserved to experience the wrath of God and eternal judgment, but Christ took our punishment upon himself and paid the penalty in our place, thereby procuring redemption on our behalf (3:21-26).[5]

God’s love brings death and offers life

An ancient church father known as Ambrosiaster once said: “If Christ gave himself up to death at the right time for those who were unbelievers and enemies of God . . . how much more will he protect us with his help if we believe in him!”[6]

1. We will take a moment to review: (1) the penalty for sin is death (Rom. 1:32), and (2) you may pay the penalty either with your own death or use the death of Jesus instead (Rom. 5:8). Which will you choose? Keep in mind that not to decide is a decision in itself; you are not in a fail-safe position if you have never trusted in Christ!

2. Why do you think Christ was willing to die in your place? How does the extent of God's love for you, expressed in Christ's death, make you feel?

Each day’s lesson begins with a six-word theme. Here is another one:
Jesus Christ died in your place. Praise God forever!

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

 


[1] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 132.

[2] BDAG-3, ἀσεβής, ungodly, q.v.

[3] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 264.

[4] BDAG-3, huper, on behalf of, q.v.

[5] Osborne, Romans, 134.

[6] Gerald Bray, ed., Romans, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998) 131.