We have begun to look at some consequences of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ for us His people, beginning with blessings we received the moment we trusted Him. Last month, we looked at redemption. This month, we will consider righteousness.
In Romans 5:9 we read that, “being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” The phrase “by His blood,” makes it clear that it is His death that has brought about our “being justified.” But what does “being justified” mean?
Whether we think of a noun (such as “justification”), a verb (such as “justify”), or an adjective (such as “just”), each involves the thought of righteousness; indeed, to “be just” means to “be righteous.” For example, the adjective dikaios is translated “righteous” 41 times and “just” 33 times in the New Testament, in the KJV.
Thus, in 1 Peter 3:18 we read these words: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” In the phrase “the Just for the unjust” there are no definite articles, and it could be rendered “righteous for unrighteous.” That is He, the righteous One, suffered for us, the unrighteous ones.
That the purpose of this was to “bring us to God” is clear from the verse, as we will see next month, in His will. But this month, we will see that it was also so that we might have a righteous standing before God. That is what Paul is stating in the verse (Rom 5:9) already quoted at the start of this article. We, who are now believers, who were unrighteous in the sight of God, and who, even yet, have nothing of our own to give us a righteous standing before Him, have been declared righteous by God, on the ground of the death of His Son.
In the latter part of Romans chapter 5 (vv12-21), Paul explains this in glorious detail, comparing and contrasting Adam and Christ. Adam is referred to as “the figure of Him that was to come” (v14). The element of comparison is seen in the recurrence of the word “one” throughout the passage, both of Adam and Christ (vv12, 15-19), and in the repeated use of “as … so…” (vv12, 15, 18-19, 21). However, as we shall see, what is more striking than the similarity is the distinction between Adam and Christ. Adam is indeed a figure, or type, of Christ, but it is by way of contrast, more than by way of comparison.
Paul speaks of “one man” (v12), identified as “Adam” (v14); and of “one man” (v15), identified as “Jesus Christ” (v15). He also brings before his readers one significant action that each took. In verse 18, Adam’s is described as “one trespass” and Christ’s as “one act of righteousness” (both RV). Adam’s act was what he did at the Fall, in Eden, also described as “Adam’s transgression” (v14), and Paul writes of him as “one that sinned” (v16). Christ’s one act is His death, which Paul has referred to repeatedly in verses 6 to 11. Adam’s was an act of “disobedience” (v19), while Christ’s was one of “obedience” (v19).
Paul is not writing these things merely to draw a contrast between their actions. His purpose is to show the far-reaching effects of each action – seen in the use of the words “all” (vv12, 18) and “many” (vv15-16, 19). In each case, what one man did, on one occasion, had ramifications for countless people. Adam’s act of disobedience resulted in “judgment” (v16), whereas Christ’s act of obedience resulted in a “free gift” (vv15-16). The judgment ensuing from Adam’s act was “condemnation” (vv16, 18); the free gift flowing from Christ’s was “righteousness” (v17), or “justification” (v18). Stating it another way, Paul says that Adam’s one act of disobedience had the consequence that “many were made sinners” (v19), whereas that great act of obedience by Christ means that many shall be made righteous (v19).
Adam’s sin meant that “death reigned” (v14) down through history, even before the Law came in. But now something glorious has been brought in by the work of Christ. Just as “sin hath reigned unto death,” due to Adam, now “might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (v21). Not only do we see grace reigning, but those who come into the good of it shall “reign in life” (v17).
So, that immense problem that came in for mankind as a result of Adam’s unrighteous act has been answered in the great righteous act, “the death of His Son” (v10), when He “died for the ungodly” (v6); “died for us” (v8). It is not just that He solved the problem, as if there was merely an equivalence, and nothing more. No, five times in this chapter (vv9-10, 15, 17, 20), Paul uses the phrase “much more” to show that what He has done far surpasses anything that Adam has done. As Paul says in verse 20, “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Those who trust Christ receive much more from His act of obedience than they lost by the disobedience of Adam.
How do they get it? For the answer to that we go right back to the first verse of the chapter: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is “by faith” that a person is declared righteous, on the basis of that one righteous act, done by the righteous One, when He died for us.
This verse also tells us that another consequence is that “we have peace with God.” That leads us on to another subject, reconciliation, which we will consider next month, Lord Willing.