A Journey Through Romans (8) – Romans 5:12-8:39

Our brother Stubbs continues his thorough exposition of the Roman eistle. With this article, he begins what most consider to be the most crucial and difficult section of the epistle.

Ch. 5:12 to 8:39 – Sanctification or Separation from sin

Analysis: The issue of:

  1. Leadership – Ch.5:12-21, – Two representative leaders or heads Adam and Jesus Christ our Lord.
  2. Life – Ch. 6, – Four steps to victory over sin leading to the enjoyment of eternal life – true sanctification.
  3. Law – Ch. 7 – I cannot live a sanctified life through legalism.
  4. Liberty – Ch. 8 – The Spirit of God frees me from the law of sin and death enabling me to enjoy sonship. God will ultimately liberate the whole creation from this bondage.

1.) The Issue of Leadership in Living a Sanctified Life.

Ch.5:12-21 looks backward to the subject that has occupied the apostle since Ch.3: 21, justification, and looks forward to chapters 6 thru 8, sanctification. At this point in Romans the subject changes from sins (plural) and their guilt, calling for justification, to sin (singular) and its domination, calling for sanctification. In these ten verses, justification (a righteous standing) is referred to seven times. But as the apostle lays the ground work for chapters 6-8, he wants us to ponder carefully this fact: our new Head (Leader), Christ, brought in the blessing of a free gift of righteousness (justification), in contrast to our old head, Adam, who brought in sin, resulting in judgment unto condemnation. And he will come to this in Ch.6: we ought not and need not continue walking under sin’s domination when we have been positioned under the glorified and triumphant Christ!

Verse 12 begins a series of five comparisons marked out by the words “as” and “so,” followed by verses 1821, with verses 13-17 being a parenthesis. This verse parallels Adam, his sin and its consequence – death, with the world, its sin, and the consequence – death. Sin entered into the world by one representative man, showing not only the entrance of sin through Adam but the transfer of sin to all the world in Adam as its leader or head.

Sin here refers not merely to Adam’s initial transgression in eating of the forbidden fruit, but to the principle of sin that Adam introduced, which principle is looked at as a law or a dominating force within us. As the law of gravity describes a force that holds matter in subjection, so sin is a law that holds the sinner in bondage.

Although Adam stands responsible for sin’s entrance, he could not control its consequence – that was of necessity God’s prerogative: “In the day that thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die.” But the “as” and “so” must be followed carefully here. Note that AS the sentence of death fell upon Adam the moment he sinned, SO the sentence of death has fallen upon the whole world, indirectly because of Adam’s sin, but primarily because “all have sinned.” We have often heard this verse quoted without this final phrase “for that all have sinned,” thus altering its message. Every person in “the world” is a sinner by nature due to Adam’s sin, but when he speaks of sin’s consequence, he emphasizes the responsibility of each individual for his own sins. Since “all we like sheep have gone astray”, the sentence of death has been passed upon all. Therefore, notwithstanding the statements that follow, the apostle establishes the point up front from Deut 24:16, “Every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” To emphasize: we sin because we are sinners, but the sentence of death hangs over us because we individually have sinned. The sinner cannot blame Adam for his sins in the day of judgment.

Verse 18. Following the parenthesis in verses 13-17, Paul picks up the comparisons, not of fact but of patter. AS one transgression against all men resulted in condemnation, SO one righteous act (His cross death) aimed at all men with a view to justification bringing life.

Verse 19. Again, AS one man’s disobedience has caused the many to be constituted sinners, SO one Man’s obedience (His cross death) has caused the many to be constituted righteous (justified).

Verses 20-21. Verse 14 says that death reigned from Adam to Moses. But through Moses the law was added that trespasses might be seen to be so, and thus the law left sin reigningthrough the power of death. The law awakened man’s conscience to right and wrong, sin consequently abounded, but grace super abounded, as explained in verse 21. AS sin reigned through the power of death, SO grace reigns as it bestows righteousness (justifies) and provides eternal life.

Paul’s normal use of the name of our Lord is “Christ Jesus”, but three times in this remarkable section He is called Jesus Christ, emphasizing His humanity and triumph in contrast to the first man Adam and his failure. The Man (Jesus) who was down here and accomplished one supreme act of obedience and righteousness is now glorified (Christ) and triumphant. He ends the section by adding “our Lord”, the one united acknowledgment of all who have followed Him – their Leader.

Verses 13-17 (a parenthesis). Verses 13-14. Those who sinned from Adam (who had one law of prohibition) to Moses (through whom the law was given) sinned without specific laws from God. But sin is always sin in God’s estimation, whether light has been given or not. Sin is defined and observed by God who has established morality – what is right and wrong. But God is also fair in judgment and therefore does not “post” trespasses to the account of a sinner if he does not know he has stepped over the mark. As well as referring to the Dispensations of Conscience and Human Government, it also applies to infants and the mentally handicapped or to “sins of ignorance” by anyone for that matter. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? So death reigned thru this period, for it is God who measures all actions and establishes the consequences, righteously and fairly Adam then is spoken of as a type of Christ, developed in the seven verses that follow. Adam brought in sin and death upon his followers as a representative man; our Lord brought in righteousness and life for His followers.

Verses 15-17 are truly remarkable. They are cumulative in wording, while contrasting Christ’s free gift of righteousness with Adam (V 16), his trespass (V 15) and the effect of both. They begin with al! of Adam’s followers dead, and end with all of Christ’s followers reigning in life. What a thrilling introduction to the subject of separation (sanctification). One can see the hosts of Pharaoh’s followers dead in the Red Sea, in contrast to the songs of salvation being sung by that separated people, having been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and by the power of God. “Let My people go that they may serve Me” was the sanctifying call!

Verse 15, then, contrasts “the trespass of one” with the free gift of the one Man, Jesus Christ, using “not as” and “so”. The trespass caused the death of the many In fuller measure the free gift, now termed by its source and character as “the grace of God” and the gift in that grace, has abounded in blessings to the many How often, like the Corinthians, we have had the impulse of grace in our hearts but failed to follow through with the gift. But the grace of God not only designed and purposed the gift, but has abundantly granted it. Blessed be God and our Lord Jesus Christ! It should be clear that the two “many”s here do not refer to the same population. The “many” who followed Adam include all the world (V 12). But the “many” who are blessed with righteousness as a free gift only include believers in Christ. The apostle pulls the rug from under the Universalist who teach from this passage that all will finally be saved.

Verse 16 contrasts “the one that sinned” with the “free gift”, again using “not as” and “so”. Through one man’s one sin, judgment issued resulting in condemnation; but the free gift of justification has been given despite many trespasses. The glory of the latter is infinitely greater than the solemnity of the former.

Verse 17 brings together the contents of verses 15-16, and focuses on the triumph of sanctification. In contrast to the one man’s one trespass resulting in “death reigning”, thru one Man, Jesus Christ, those who receive “abundance of grace” (V 15) and the gift of righteousness (V 16) shall reign in life.

(to be continued)